When it comes to marks of congregational vitality, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Episcopal Church congregations rank themselves lowest on evangelism, according to a recent survey.
PC(USA)’s Research Services department released an analysis of the U.S. Congregational Vitality Study centered on PC(USA) and the Episcopal Church congregations.
The survey, released Monday, included 156 congregations, 78 from PC(USA) and 78 from the Episcopal Church, with the opinions of about 9,000 church members taken, according to Presbyterian News Service.
PC(USA) looked at responses centered on what they described as the “Seven Marks of Congregational Vitality,” which include “caring relationships,” “ecclesial health,” “intentional, authentic evangelism,” “lifelong discipleship,” “outward incarnational focus,” “servant leadership,” and “Spirit-inspired worship.”
Taken on a scale of 1-100, the survey found that of the congregational vitality marks, “evangelism” was ranked the lowest at 69, deemed the equivalent of a D+ grade.
Within the overall questions pertaining to evangelism, the statement “I try to ensure that visitors to my church feel welcome” was the most popular of the responses, while “I invite people who do not attend church to come visit mine” was the least popular.
The highest of the vitality marks was caring relationships, scoring at 81 percent, or a B to B-, followed by worship and ecclesial health, both at 79 and servant leadership at 78.
Angie Andriot, a research analyst with the PC(USA)’s Research Services, said in comments to Presbyterian News Service that this marked “the first deep analysis” of the congregational vitality data, with more analysis expected in the near future.
Regarding differences in responses between Presbyterian and Episcopal congregations, Andriot said both denominations tended to have similar responses.
“We think we are better at outward focus,” Andriot told Presbyterian News Service. “They think they are better at worship.”
Over the past several years, much has been made about the decline of membership for both PC(USA) and The Episcopal Church.
While still the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States, last April PC(USA) reported losing 143 churches and about 5% of its active members in 2018.
This means that PC(USA) ended 2018 with 9,161 member congregations and approximately 1.35 million active members.
In a statement released last year, PC(USA) General Assembly Stated Clerk, the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, said he felt “encouraged” that the decline in members appeared to be slowing.
“The church of the 21st century is changing and we still believe God is preparing us for great things in the future,” he said.
“God is moving through churches, presbyteries and synods, finding new, innovative ways to share the Gospel with a lost world and we are thankful for that.”
PC(USA) and The Episcopal Church are not the only denominations that appear to have issues with evangelism, according to Kevin Palau, president and CEO of the Luis Palau Association.
In an interview on the Dallas Theological Seminary podcast "The Table" last September, Palau said he believed most American Christians “are skittish about evangelism.”
"They hope someone else will do it, they hope the pastor will do it. They really don’t want to do it themselves," Palau said at the time.
"With all the cultural pressures, young people, even if they live in the Bible Belt, they’re affected very much by social media, and it’s just not comfortable to express clearly the uniqueness of Jesus Christ."