Barna Finds One-Third of Americans Unchurched

The Barna Research Group, which analyzes trends in the U.S. Christian community, recently found that one-third of Americans remain “unchurched” despite national efforts to increase attendance.

It notes that this proportion "has changed little" during the past five years. In addition, the number of unchurched adults continues to grow by nearly a million people annually due to the nation’s population growth.

The study group is made up of 56 percent who consider themselves Christians, 15 percent who are born again Christians, 20 percent who profess a non-Christian faith, and 24 percent who are atheists and agnostics.

Therefore, those with high degrees of religious activity and doctrinal beliefs accounted for 91 percent of those surveyed.

The report organizes the data on unchurched believers into three sections: their religious activity, religious beliefs and emerging patterns.

In terms of religious activity, the Barna report states that "millions of unchurched people are spiritually active." In a typical week, one out of every five in the study reads the Bible, and six out of ten surveyed pray to God week. During the past year, 5 percent have shared their faith in Jesus Christ with nonbelievers.

The unchurched are also donating to causes. Nearly one million unchurched adults pay tithe – they “donate at least 10 percent of their annual household revenue to non-profit entities” - usually to parachurch ministries that serve worldwide.

In addition, in a typical month, 40 percent pay attention to Chrisian media which includes faith-based television, radio, magazines or websites. In addition, one-quarter of them had conversations with one or more friends who held them accountable for carrying out their faith principles.

In terms of religious beliefs, Barna states, "the belief profile of unchurched Americans veers from mirroring the beliefs of most Americans to differing substantially." The unchurched are similar to most, believing Satan is a symbol of evil but not a living entity (67%), that people can earn their way into Heaven (61%), and that Jesus committed sins (51%).

They [are different in that they] do not believe that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches (75%). They are also less likely to possess a biblical view of God (only 46% see Him as the “perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe” who still rules His creation today).

In addition, they’re less likely to believe that the most important purpose of life is to “love God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul” (63% agree)." These perspectives have not changed much in the past decade according to the Barna report.

The report has also identified a few "shifts" in the unchurched. Those who define themselves as "middle-of-the-road" politically drop out of church ((what does “politically drop out” mean?)) faster than conservatives or liberals.

Young adults are more resistant to church life than are people from older generations, and Barna has found it surprising (The word “surprising” in the previous sentence should be in quotes because if they specifically said it. Otherwise, it’s your opinion) that individuals on the lower end of the socio-economic ladder are much more likely to be unchurched than their counterparts.

The Northeast continues to harbor the largest percentage of the unchurched, 42%.

Visit www.barna.org for the complete study.