The State of the 2016 American Church

Uncertain times for the U.S. church?

In God we (still) trust?

Here are some highlights from the 2016 Barna Group research report on the state of Christianity in the US (September 15, 2016). Whether you’re a fan or not of said research group, the findings are nonetheless interesting. Sometimes self-contradictory, other times (this depends on the value you attach to these kinds of surveys) depressing. On the one hand, the levels of generosity of those who identify themselves as Christians are more than double that of non-Christians. On the other hand, almost half of all American adults are classified as “post-Christian”. Evangelism is frowned upon by 54% while 46% maintain they have a responsibility to share their faith. Interestingly (or alarmingly) 55% do not all to the orthodox belief in salvation. A person who is generally good or does good things for others during their life can in this way secure a place in heaven.

The Post Christian Individual

The report highlights the notion of “post-Christianity” individuals. This category of individuals comprise 48% of the American population. In order to qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals had to meet 60% or more of the following factors (nine or more). “Highly post-Christian” individuals meet 80% or more of the factors (12 or more of these 15 criteria):

  • Do not believe in God
  • Identify as atheist or agnostic
  • Disagree that faith is important in their lives
  • Have not prayed to God (in the last year)
  • Have never made a commitment to Jesus
  • Disagree the Bible is accurate
  • Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
  • Have not attended a Christian church (in the last year)
  • Agree that Jesus committed sins
  • Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
  • Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
  • Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
  • Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
  • Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
  • Do not participate in a house church ( in the last year)

Inspite of this very alarming trend there still seems to be a silver lining on the periphery of this receding christian cloud.

In God we (still) trust?


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The majority of Americans (73%) profess Christianity. One fifth (20%) claim no faith (this includes atheists and agnostics) with 6% going towards Islam, Buddhism, Judaism or Hinduism. 1% is undecided.

The (non) priority of church and Scripture and the myth of the mega-church norm

The relationship of the “Christians” with their church as well as the Bible is 31% and 34% respectively. The mirage that every church in the US is a mega-church, an idea probably proliferated by our exposure here in Africa to “christian television” is obliterated by the data: more than 80% of church attendance is at churches of 100 or fewer to a maximum of 499.

Prayer and Giving are important

The data on prayer and monetary giving, in light of a relatively gloomy summary above, was surprising. The definition of a “practising Christian” would have a South African falling off her chair.

In summary, the decline appears to be doctrinal in nature. Popular misconceptions  of God rather than a biblically informed theology seems prevalent (granted, the sample size from which the data was drawn was a relatively small; a total of 5,137 interviewees,among a random sample of U.S. adults, ages 18 years of age or older).

You can read the full report by going to:

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September 20, 2016