Are US Christians too busy for discipleship?

Courtesy Pexels
Courtesy Pexels

A new book released by Barna Group aims to help Christians who think they're too busy for disciplemaking or don't know how to begin. 

Written in partnership with The Navigators, the book, titled Growing Together: A Three-part Guide for Following Jesus and Bringing Friends on the Journey, reveals that two in five Christians (39%) are not engaged in discipleship. 

“More than half of Christians feel their faith is entirely private. But according to Barna’s research, spirituality loves company — and going solo means missing out on greater fulfillment in faith and in friendship,” a description of the report states. 

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“Jesus modeled a powerfully different approach, one where Christianity is practiced and deepened in community. In today’s society, this may seem like a tough task — but you’re not alone on this journey.”

The guidebook looks at three areas of discipleship: “How Discipleship Can Transform Your Life,” “What Day-to-Day Discipleship Can Look Like” and “Why You’re More Ready Than You Think for Disciplemaking."

Barna Group also analyzed data from two surveys for the guidebook. The first survey of 2,930 adults living in the United States was conducted between June 1 and July 4, 2020, and had a margin of error of +/-1.5 percentage points. The other survey, based on the responses of 2,511 self-identified Christian adults, was conducted between Dec. 22, 2020, and Jan. 18, 2021, and had a margin of error of +/-1.8 percentage points.

Barna elaborated on the results of the research in an article published on its website last week. Among the many findings included in the report, Barna revealed that one-third of Christians (33%) are categorized as a disciplemaker, meaning they are “actively helping someone else grow in faith while moving closer to Christ themselves alongside the person they are guiding.”

In its research, Barna found that 7% of Christians said lack of time deters renders them unable to engage in discipleship.  

“It’s no secret our lives are often busy and distracted. So lack of time and competing daily priorities may seem like obvious obstacles to developing discipleship community. However, [most] Christians don’t see lack of time as a huge barrier to their discipleship,” according to Barna. 

The Barna Group research also found that even though some Christians seem to value their time to the point of not finding any time to engage in discipleship, Christians who do make time for discipleship often “want time investments in discipleship to feel like a meaningful addition.”  

Barna Group added that one-in-three Christians who have interest in disciplemaking worry about “how to keep things engaging for the long haul” (33%) or how to prioritize disciplemaking in light of all the other things going on in their lives (32%).

While discipling others through community is a Scriptural command from Jesus as found in Matthew 28:19, the Barna Group study found that those who struggle the most with making time for Christian community are those engaging in discipleship by both receiving and giving discipleship in their relationships because their pace of life is considered very busy.

"They are actively prioritizing this spiritual exchange in their busy schedules, which isn’t easy but, as the research has shown us, produces deep rewards,” the Barna Group adds. “These disciples and disciplemakers are more likely than other Christians to know the struggle of prioritizing spiritual growth and friendship in their fast-paced lives — yet it doesn’t stop them."

“This is a key lesson in realizing the calling of day-to-day discipleship: Those who experience discipleship community have the time or will make the time. Or perhaps even reimagine or divvy up that time! Barna’s findings suggest the decisive factor is not who has the hours in the day, but who is willing to creatively commit from the hours they do have to growing in their faith and becoming qualified or equipped to help others grow, too.”

Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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