The Barna Group – Barna Studies the Research, Offers a Year-in-Review Perspective.
Four major themes are addressed in the above end of year review:
- Theme 1: Increasingly, Americans are more interested in faith and spirituality than in Christianity.
“One of those assumptions relates to how we develop our faith. These days,” he continued, “the faith arena is a marketplace from which we get ideas, beliefs, relationships, habits, rituals and traditions that make immediate sense to us, and with which we are comfortable. The notion of associating with a particular faith – whether it is Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or some other strain – still has appeal because that connection provides a discernible identity and facilitates the possibility of belonging to something meaningful. But the actual components of what we choose to belong to are driven by our momentary needs and perceptions.
- Theme 2: Faith in the American context is now individual and customized. Americans are comfortable with an altered spiritual experience as long as they can participate in the shaping of that faith experience.
“Now that we are comfortable with the idea of being spiritual as opposed to devoutly Christian,” Barna pointed out, “Americans typically draw from a broad treasury of moral, spiritual and ethical sources of thought to concoct a uniquely personal brand of faith. Feeling freed from the boundaries established by the Christian faith, and immersed in a postmodern society which revels in participation, personal expression, satisfying relationships, and authentic experiences, we become our own unchallenged spiritual authorities, defining truth and reality as we see fit.
- Theme 3: Biblical literacy is neither a current reality nor a goal in the U.S.
“Bible reading has become the religious equivalent of sound-bite journalism. When people read from the Bible they typically open it, read a brief passage without much regard for the context, and consider the primary thought or feeling that the passage provided. If they are comfortable with it, they accept it; otherwise, they deem it interesting but irrelevant to their life, and move on. There is shockingly little growth evident in people’s understanding of the fundamental themes of the scriptures and amazingly little interest in deepening their knowledge and application of biblical principles.
- Theme 4: Effective and periodic measurement of spirituality – conducted personally or through a church – is not common at this time and it is not likely to become common in the near future.
“It may well be that spiritual evaluation is so uncommon because people fear that the results might suggest the need for different growth strategies or for more aggressive engagement in the growth process. No matter what the underlying reason is, the bottom line among both the clergy and laity was indifference toward their acknowledged lack of evaluation. That suggests there is not likely to be much change in this dimension in the immediate future. In other words, as we examine the discipleship landscape, what we see is what we get – and what we will keep getting for some time.”