The holidays are a time when many people are more attuned to religion and Christians are more prone to sharing the gospel with non-believers – or are they?
That note of doubt arises from new research released by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) showing that surprisingly few adults – including born again Christians – feel a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with non-believers. The survey also revealed that while most of the nation’s evangelistic efforts by adults are made toward other adults, most decisions to follow Christ are made by children.
Number of Christ Followers Has Dropped
The new ACFI research was developed by George Barna, who founded the Barna Group in 1984 and sold it in 2009. During his quarter-century at the helm of the eponymous company one of the many religious attributes tracked was the number of born again adults in the US. Since joining ACFI the veteran researcher has continued to track some of the same core religious factors he pioneered at the Barna Group. One of those is the number of born again Christians in the United States, a statistic that is based not on self-report by survey respondents but on their theological perspective about sin and salvation.
The well-known researcher developed and continues to use a measure that evaluates if a person has confessed their personal sin, asked Jesus Christ to save them, and believes they will live eternally in Heaven only because of His grace toward them. Barna reported that the proportion of adults who meet the born again criterion has been on a downward trajectory since 2010. For the 15 year period from 1991 through 2005, an average of 40% of the adult population qualified as born again. That average rose slightly, to 44%, during the five years from 2006 to 2010. Since that time, however, the mean has plummeted to just 36%, with 2017 producing the lowest proportion of born again adults since Barna began the tracking process in 1991. The 2017 average indicates that just 31% of adults are born again.
Is this trend likely to reverse itself in the near future? Based on demographic data, the answer is “no.” An analysis of faith by age group indicates that America’s two older generations are more likely to be born again than are younger adults: 33% of those 65 or older and 37% of people 50 to 64 are born again. In comparison, 31% of those in their 30s and 40s are born again while only 23% of adults under 30 fit the criteria. As older Americans pass away, the population proportion of younger adults will increase, continuing to drive down the born again proportion in the years to come. Children and teenagers are exhibiting a lower likelihood of becoming born again, too, further limiting the possibility of the growth of this segment.
Ethnic and racial patterns of the U.S. population also support the continued decline in the born again constituency. Non-Hispanic whites have an above-average likelihood of being born again (33%) but their proportion of the adult population will consistently decrease. Blacks are also more likely than the norm to be born again, but they are not growing as a proportion of the population. The two segments that are growing, and will account for a larger share of the nation’s future population, are the groups least likely to be born again – Hispanics (24%) and Asians (17%).
SOURCE: American Culture and Faith Institute