More American adults are "born again Christians" than ever before, according to a recent Barna study that has tracked the measure since 1983.
The Barna Group found in a sample of 1,003 adults that 45 percent are classified as "born again" based upon their beliefs which are measured by the research institute's criteria. Up from 31 percent in 1983 and the 36 to 43 percent range that was measured in the past quarter century, the current figure is the largest single-year increase since 1991-1992.
The research study attributed the increase to a 16-point rise among Baby Boomers since the beginning of the 1990s. While 48 percent from the preceding pair of generations and slightly more than one-third of the younger generations met the born again criteria, 53 percent of Baby Boomers met it.
Among people groups, women are 16 percent more likely than men to be born again, African Americans are the most likely among other ethnic groups to be born again with 59 percent, and residents in the South were most likely than residents in other regions to be born again with a measured 57 percent.
Meanwhile, notional Christians, which are people who describe themselves as Christian but do not meet the born again criteria, have declined from 46 percent in 1991 to 36 percent today.
Researcher George Barna concluded that this is a positive first step toward a deeper, more mature Christian faith.
"The same tracking survey shows us that people's faith is not at all deep, but at least more people are becoming attuned to the importance of the life, death, resurrection and message of Jesus Christ," said Barna. "The worst thing would be for millions of people to accept Christ as their savior and then live the remainder of their life as if nothing had changed other than their eternal destiny.
"The challenge to faith communities, at this point, is to help people realize that you cannot be a follower of Christ by taking the free gift of salvation and then continuing to pursue the same life trajectory as before making that decision, he continued. Embracing Christ as your savior is not the end of the story. It's the very beginning point of a transformed life that centers on constant worship of God, serving other people, investing personal resources in the values of God, deepening their relationship with God every day, and creating families that place God at the center of their shared experience.
"Faith is a progressive journey," Barna added, "so we are hopeful that the recent surge in the number of adults who say they have committed themselves to following Jesus Christ is the first in a series of steps toward maturity in their faith and relationship with Christ."
According to The Barna Group, "born again Christians" are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.