The actual number of Christians are few

A recent article in The Christian Post discussed findings by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University that found while 61% of American millennials consider themselves to be Christian, just 2% of them were found to hold a biblical worldview. Conducted by Dr. George Barna, the study also reported that just 6% of American adults overall hold a biblical worldview.

“Profoundly disturbing”, said Barna.

Courtesy of Robin Schumacher

While disappointing, I’ll risk having angry arrows rain down on me by saying the low percentage of Christian worldview holders makes complete biblical sense. Let me explain why.

A nomizo faith

When confronted by numbers showing Christianity being the number one religion in the world, atheists and skeptics will oftentimes counter by saying that’s mostly people checking off a religion box on a survey based on their family history.

Much as we may hate to admit it, they’re right.

The Hellenistic and classical Greeks actually had a word for such a thing: nomizo. The term described a type of faith held only because it was passed along by custom and tradition (e.g. by parents).

That said, plenty of people become Christians who either had or didn’t have a family history in the faith, with the growing church numbers in Communist China and Iran being clear examples of the latter. That kind of faith is described by the Greek term found everywhere in the New Testament, pistis, which comes from the verb peitho that means “to be persuaded”, and denotes trust, confidence, conviction, reliability and something worthy of belief.[1]

While nomizo is never used in the Bible to signify Christian faith, when you have over 60% of a group claiming to be Christian, but only 2% saying they actual believe in bedrock Christian teachings, then a false, nomizo-type faith is likely all they have.

What constitutes a biblical worldview?

So how does Barna define a biblical worldview? He begins with a belief that absolute moral truths exist, and that such truth is found in the Bible, and then includes doctrines such as God being the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe, which He stills rules today; the Bible being accurate in what it says; Jesus Christ living a sinless life; salvation being a gift from God that cannot be earned; a belief in a literal Satan; and a responsibility of Christians to share their faith.

In a culture where post-truth thinking infects everything, it’s not hard to see how millennials would reject – at minimum – absolute moral truth as well as the Bible being correct in what it teaches. But here’s the thing: when you give even just these two doctrines the heave-ho, instantly you become a person “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14).

Definitely not a good place to be and not how the Bible defines a person of faith.

Just a Few Christians

While we have plenty of studies purporting to tell us the sum total of all Christians alive today, what does the Bible say about the number of true believers, both now and for all time?

It says there will be just a few of us.

In His most famous discourse, Jesus said: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

It’s interesting to understand what the term ‘few’ in the Greek – oligos – means. It means ‘few’.

Jesus repeats the fact that the actual number of God’s elect will be small when He says, “For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14), and “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32, my emphasis). Once someone asked Him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Luke 13:23-24).

After all the thousands He preached to, fed, and healed, on the heels of His resurrection the Bible tells us there were only a little over 100 persons gathered together as a believing group (Acts 1:15). I have a strong feeling that after 2,000 years and billions being exposed to the gospel message, the number of actual born-again believers is just as small percentage-wise, much like Paul (quoting Isaiah) said about Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved” (Rom. 9:27).

When speaking about His return, Jesus often referred back to the days of Noah and Lot (e.g. Matt. 24). Peter references Noah as well in one of his letters and adds this important fact: “In it [the ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water” (1 Pet. 3:20).

Studies like Arizona Christian University’s that demonstrate how rare it is for a person to hold a biblical worldview remind us that it is likely only a few will actually be saved in eternity and how the majority of people who love darkness rather than light (John 3:19) will be lost.

Don’t let yourself be one of them.

[1] The same is true of the Hebrew term for faith (ěměṯ), which denotes firmness, trustworthiness, constancy, duration and truth. 

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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