Barna Finds 51% Pastors Hold “Biblical Worldview”

A national survey by Barna Research Institute found that only half of Protestant pastors possess a biblical viewpoint, Jan. 12. The results correlate with the December findings, that only 9 percent of adults and 7 percent of Protestants possess that view.

“The low percentage of Christians who have a biblical worldview is a direct reflection of the fact that half of our primary religious teachers and leaders do not have one,” said Barna.

The survey, based on phone interviews with 601 Senior Pastors nationwide, represented a random cross section of Protestant Churches. Of them, only 51% believed in the existence of absolute moral truth, and the 6 core beliefs that define Barna’s interpretation of “Biblical Worldview.” The views are: the accuracy of biblical teaching, the sinless nature of Jesus, the literal existence of Satan, the omnipotence and omniscience of God, salvation by grace alone, and the personal responsibility to evangelize.

Barna also noted denominational and demographical differences in the results.

“In some denominations, the vast majority of clergy do not have a biblical worldview, and it shows up clearly in the data related to the theological views and moral choices of people who attend those churches,” said Barna.

The survey included pastors across four-dozen denominations, each of which was represented in proportion to the number of churches it his in the U.S. The founding showed considerable differences in worldviews held, especially between the two largest denominations.

The Southern Baptist Church, the largest protestant denomination with 42,000 churches held the highest percentage of pastors, 71%, with a biblical worldview. The United Methodist Church, the second largest with 35,000 churches, held the lowest percentage of pastors, 27%, with the view.

The five other denominations evaluated showed: 57% of the pastors of Baptist churches (other than Southern Baptist) had a biblical worldview, 51% of non-denominational Protestant pastors, 44% of pastors of charismatic or Pentecostal churches, 35% of pastors of black churches, and 28% of those leading mainline congregations.

There were also several demographical differences found through the survey.

In comparing genders, 53% of male pastors have a biblical worldview, while only 15 % of female pastors held the view. However, because only 6% of Senior Pastors are women, the results have a higher room for error.

In comparing race, 55% of White Senior Pastors held a biblical worldview while only 30% of Black pastors held the same view.

Geographically, fewer than half of all Senior Pastors in the Northeast, 43% and Midwest 49% have a biblical worldview, compared to majorities in the South 57% and West 58%.

The experience and training of pastors also showed several variations. Educationally, the pastors least likely to have a biblical worldview are those who are seminary graduates with 45%. In contrast, three out of five pastors who have not attended seminary operate with a biblical worldview with 59%. Also, pastors who have five years or less experience in leading churches have a higher rate of biblical worldview possession with 58%, than do other pastors.

The national survey of pastors was conducted in November and December 2003. Statistically, the maximum margin of sampling error associated with that sample is ±4.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. In addition, telephone surveys were conducted with a national random sample of 2033 adults during September through November 2003. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with that sample is ±2.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

“The most important point,” Barna argued, “is that you can’t give people what you don’t have.

“A biblical worldview must be both taught and caught – that is, it has to be explained and modeled. Clearly, there are huge segments of the Christian body that are missing the benefit of such a comprehensive and consistent expression of biblical truth.”

The Barna Research Group, Ltd. is an independent marketing research company located in southern California. Since 1984, it has been studying cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.