Our Faith Inside and Outside the Church

Sam Rainer

January 10, 2008

New NAMB and LifeWay research adds statistical meat to the ongoing conversation: unchurched Americans are open to spiritual matters, but not the institutional church. Below are some data blurbs from the study:

79% of the unchurched agree that “Christianity is more about organized religion than about loving God and loving people.”

89% of the unchurched agree that “I have at least one close friend who considers himself or herself a Christian.”

78% of the unchurched agree that “if someone wanted to tell me what he or she believed about Christianity, I would be willing to listen.”

86% of the unchurched agree that “I can have a good relationship with God without being involved in church.”

71% of the unchurched agree that “believing in Jesus makes a positive difference in someone’s life.”

61% of the unchurched agree that “the God of the Bible is no different from gods or spiritual beings depicted by world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.”

48% of the unchurched agree that “there exists only one God, the God described in the Bible.”

There are some hard to swallow dichotomies uncovered in this study. On the one hand, 9 of 10 people outside of the church think they know a Christian. But on the other hand they clearly don’t know the one true God that makes the Christian. On the one hand, 7 of 10 people outside the church maintain a positive view of Jesus. But on the other hand, many of the Christians they know aren’t conveying the most important message of all time, Jesus’ good news. On the one hand, HALF of those outside the church are close to an understanding of our God, the God of the Bible. But despite this closeness, it doesn’t appear that there are any Christians in proximity to them willing to help guide them to know our God!

Without a doubt, we’ve got work to do concerning the views of the church from the outside. But we’ve also got to work harder at telling others about what we truly believe, what’s written on the inside of our hearts. After all, it’s the same faith on the inside of the church as the outside. The church is critically important. But perhaps we need to begin personally with telling outsiders about the faith that’s on the inside. Then maybe the world will realize that the “church” is “us.”

Pithy and challenging as usual, Ed Stetzer sums it up well: Increasingly, the God Americans believe in looks less like the God described in the Bible. They are a long way from where people were 100 years ago, when there was more of a consensus about who God is. That is a rebuke to us as Christians and, at the same time, a challenge. What is it about the faith we live that causes our culture to like Jesus but reject the church?

What’s your take on these latest statistics?

3 comments on “Our Faith Inside and Outside the Church”

  1. kdb1411 says:

    Fascinating information Sam. I can’t say I’m really surprised though. BTW, I am very appreciative for all that you and Ed Stetzer do to keep us informed. You two are my favorite researchers. Keep up the good work.

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