Barna George; The State of the Church 2002; Issachar Resources. Ventura, 2002. pp.143 price 20.95
George Barna- Directing leader of the Barna Research Group Ltd. Ventura, California.
Section 1. The Religious Practices of Americans.
Ch.1. Going to Church
Church attendance (not spirituality) is one of the easiest indicators to track. 43% of adults attended church once a week in 2000. The percentage in the last five years has varied by only three percent 40-43%. In the last decade the percentage of unchurched has risen from 24% to 34%.
Ch.2. Bible Reading.
9 out of 10 households have Bibles. Bible reading is on the increase. Bible reading is highest among older people. Of the three ethnic groups, white, black, Hispanic, blacks have the highest percentage re; Bible reading., 63% in 2000.
Ch. 3. Volunteering at a Church.
This practice has changed very little in the last decade.
Ch. 4. Prayer.
This is the most common practice among Americans.
Ch. 5. Involvement in Small Groups.
Only 18% of adults are involved in a small group. This practice is more common among Protestants than Catholics.
Ch. 6. Attending Sunday School.
There has been a substantial (6%) increase in S.S.. attendance in the last year. A large growth came from the Boomers.
Ch. 7. Personal Evangelism.
Boomers as a group have experienced the greatest change in evangelical fervor.
Section 2. The Religious Beliefs of Americans.
Ch. 8. The Importance of Faith.
The percentage of those who consider a religious faith important has not changed in the last decade. "The younger a person is, the less likely they are to portray religious faith as a very important element in their life." p.42. More women consider faith important than men, 73% cf. 58%.
Ch. 9. Commitment to Christianity.
Commitment is not a popular topic.
Ch. 10. Who Is God?
96% believe in God. 27% believe in a non-biblical God.
Ch. 11. Jesus; Sinner or Savior?
A surprisingly high percentage of people believe that Jesus was a sinner while on earth.
Ch. 12. A Personal Commitment to Jesus Christ.
Two thirds of all adults claim they have made this commitment. Making a commitment is pretty much a Protestant concept.
Ch. 13. Is Satan Real?
Six out of ten adults believe Satan is a symbol not a reality. Born again Christians are not exempt from this group.
Ch.14. The Bible’s Accuracy.
Less than half of all adults agree that the Bible is "totally accurate in all of its teachings". p.70.
Ch. 15. Earning Salvation.
Over half of adults believe that salvation can be earned. The statistics on this topic are really quite disturbing and are a serious reflection on biblical teaching or the lack thereof.
Ch. 16. The Responsibility to Evangelize.
Adults are quite evenly divided about the matter of feeling a responsibility to evangelize. In recent years it has improved in many subgroups.
Section 3. Other Measures of American Faith.
Ch. 17. Different Flavors of Christianity.
The term Christian is widely used and is often considered synonymous with American. The primary denominations are Catholic and Protestant with about 25% of adults being Catholic and 50% Protestant. A number of comparisons are made between these two groups. Evangelicals make up only 5% of the population. Non-evangelical born again Christians make up 35% of the population and notional Christians make up 35%. note;
Non-evangelical Christians "have made a personal commitment to Christ (etc.) but they do not meet all of the other criteria that define evangelicals."p.8. Notional Christians "consider themselves to be Christians but do not meet the born again criteria". p.8.
Ch. 18. Teenagers and Their Faith.
Teenagers have always had an interest in spiritual things. There has been a significant decline in the number of evangelical teenagers in the past decade. Church affiliation has remained unchanged. There seem to be two reasons why teenagers are involved in church related activities. One has to do with the opportunity to be with friends (relationships) and the other is a genuine desire to have a God experience.
Ch. 19. Protestant Congregations.
There are about 320,000 churches in America. In this last decade church attendance has dropped. Statistics are given about church finances, theological leanings, pastoral compensation and pastoral background..
Section 4. Charting the Course.
Ch. 20. Challenges to the Church.
Nine core issues have surfaced from the studies leading to this book. 1. There is a lot of sameness pertaining to the last decade which suggests a real resistance to change. 2. Evangelicals are in decline. 3. Ethnic groups are growing rapidly. 4. We have many Bibles but not much knowledge about Bible truth. 5."Christianity has no cost in America." p.125. 6. Knowledge about the power and significance of the supernatural is sadly lacking. 7. The young people are having a greater impact on the church culture than we realize. 8, Churches aren’t really having an impact on society. 9. There is a great need for real leaders in our churches.
The significance of statistics depends on what people do with them. They can be used for support or for illumination. The closing section is helpful in determining the importance of these statistics. The state of the church is really not that great. It was a real surprise to me learn that evangelicals make up only 5% of the population. As I read about America I am wondering how Canada compares.