Study Says Steep Decline in Practicing Christians Will Have Major Repercussions for Church Leaders

New research from the Barna Group found that the share of practicing Christians in the United States has nearly dropped in half over the last two decades — a shift the group warns will have “major repercussions” for church leaders.

The latest research from the evangelical Christian polling firm, which examined the role of Christianity in the American Church, reveals that that just 25 percent of Americans are practicing Christians, compared to 45 percent in 2000.

Barna defines a “practicing Christian” as someone who identifies as a Christian, agrees strongly that faith is very important in their lives and has attended church within the past month.

According to Barna, half of those who identified as practicing Christians in 2000 fell away from consistent faith engagement, essentially becoming non-practicing Christians (2000: 35 percent vs. 2020: 43 percent), while the other half moved into the non-Christian segment (2000: 20 percent vs. 2019: 30 percent).

David Kinnaman, president of Barna, said the findings indicate a “major reshuffling of Americans’ spiritual lives.”

“Monthly, committed churchgoers are now about half as common as they were two decades ago,” he said. “This shift has major repercussions for church leaders as there is increased struggle to attract and retain the active segment of churchgoers.”

The findings are part of the State of the Church 2020 study, a year-long examination of the spiritual and religious trends that define American life these days. For the report, Barna explored data collected among 96,171 surveys over more than 20 years.

The report also found that while 36 percent fewer Americans attended church weekly in 2020 than in 1993, consistency of Bible reading has remained steady for nearly a decade. Nearly the same percent of U.S. adults today report reading their Bibles weekly as did in 1993 (2020: 35 percent vs. 1993: 34 percent).

Additionally, large majorities of Americans still say that prayer is something that they do on a weekly basis: From 1996 to 2010, there “was no statistical difference in the percentage of Americans who prayed, with the number hovering around 83 percent,” notes Barna.

The research indicates that Americans are “softening in their practice of Christianity,” according to Kinnaman. He said it “raises urgent questions for church leaders about the nature of the relationship Americans have to Christian practice.”

“What redefines and what anchors the churchgoing, Bible reading and prayer of adults? Among the interesting stories in the data is that private practices of faith—such as prayer and Scripture intake—aren’t sliding as much as church attendance,” he said.

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Source: Christian Post