While Christians and documentaries try to prove the resurrection of Christ this Easter, a surprising new study reveals they may not need to. Many already believe Jesus rose from the dead 2,000 years ago.
According to recent research by the Center for Missional Research of the North American Mission Board – the Southern Baptist domestic mission agency – 75 percent of Americans who say they are not born-again Christians still believe the biblical account of Jesus literally coming back to life in his physical body.
"It really stunned us to learn that 75 percent of those Americans claiming not to be born-again still believe in the resurrection," said Phillip Connor, research missiology manager for the Center for Missional Research, according to Baptist Press.
Moreover, 59 percent of those who rarely attend church believe in the resurrection of Christ and 39 percent of those who never attend also believe. Among non-Protestants, 67 percent still believe in the resurrection.
"Apparently, our contemporaries are less skeptical of scriptural events like the resurrection than we may often realize," stated the study report.
Nearly 100 percent of those identifying themselves as born-again Christian believe in the resurrection of Jesus.
The research center went further to measure the influence of the controversial Jesus Tomb documentary in which filmmakers claimed to have discovered the ossuary containing the skeletal remains of Jesus.
According to the study, 57 percent of the population either read about, heard about, or watched the documentary – "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" – which recently aired on the Discovery Channel. Still, familiarity with the documentary had no impact on the public view of the resurrection, the study reported.
About 75 percent of both those with and without knowledge of the documentary believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ.
Although the documentary received wide criticism with both Christian and secular scholars rejecting the evidence presented and calling it sensationalism, churches are likely to see higher attendance this Easter.
The recent study found that 35 percent of the population said they were more likely to attend an Easter service after hearing or watching about the documentary. Among those who do not claim to be born again, 23 percent said the same. Only 7 percent of the population said it decreased the likelihood they would attend church this Easter.
"We should not always be quick to judge the apparent influence of secular films concerning Christ, such as this documentary or the Da Vinci Code, but instead see the missional opportunities that emerge in their wake," the study reported.
Based on response from the study, the research center suggests Easter messages may not require a defense of the physical resurrection. Instead, the preachers may want to focus more on the meaning and redemptive power for the individual.
Results are based on a telephone survey conducted among 1,204 randomly selected American adults by Zogby International March 22-26.