Home > Spirituality > State of the American Church: 2010

State of the American Church: 2010

December 17, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

How does the American Church look in 2010? Not too good according to a recently posted study by the Barna Group on the state of the church. About the only positive comment in this study was a greater desire for involvement in community issues.  Yet, without a biblical understanding of why the church should be involved in community issues, Barna warns that this will likely not be sustainable.

Here are the six megathemes identified by Barna’s study:

  1. Trip over the cross by david Hayward at nakedpastor.com

    1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.

  2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.
  3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.
  4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
  5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.
  6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.

A few of the words used to describe the church in this study:

  • biblically illiterate
  • lack of spiritual confidence
  • in a theological free-for-all
  • possessing unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency
  • more spiritually isolated from non-Christians
  • reticence of Christians to engage in faith-oriented conversations
  • people with little time for spiritual practices like contemplation, solitude, silence, and simplicity
  • superficial approach to faith
  • compartmentalized spirituality
  • fear of being labeled judgmental
  • tolerant of a vast array of morally and spiritually dubious behaviors and philosophies
  • in desperate need of a more positive and accessible image
  • possessing a need to revisit criteria for “success”

Ouch! Thanks to my wife for the heads up on this rather depressing article!

Can anyone out there help to identify the good things happening in the American church in 2010?

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  1. Andrew
    December 17, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Obviously the first point to make is that the American Church cannot be painted with a broad brush (even though I myself love to do so!) Trends in Baptist or “Bible Churches” are not necessarily the same as those in mainstream Episcopal/Lutheran which are not necessarily the same as those in PCA/Reformed traditions. I’d be interested at seeing more data from Barna drawing out those distinctions.

    That said, many of his conclusions are obviously true, simply on the basis of ever-present anecdotal evidence.

    Of course, I will take issue with the idea that “The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.” is always or necessarily a bad thing. God has great tolerance for us, as Paul reminds us in Romans, and we would do well to learn this aspect of his character as well.

    • December 17, 2010 at 7:16 am

      Actually, the implication in the original is that this refers not just to the American church when the data is based soley on the American church. So, would these things be true of American evangelical churches–of course then we get into a problem of definition again!

  2. Charlie
    December 22, 2010 at 9:59 am

    We read a good bit these day about young people leaving the church in droves. There is of course some truth to this, but of those who are staying many are nonetheless not continuing in what has become so much of evangelicalism today. They are eschewing the showy, pop-oriented, pragmatic “event”. They want quality teaching, not the “felt-needs” based stuff that is so prevalent today. They want to participate rather than be spectators. Yes, they are big into social action and justice, but it seems that they are trying to ensure that such action is rooted in healthy kingdom theology. They are desirous of respecting the traditions of the early church while assuming their place in contemporary society and practice.

    If they will press on in humility and avoid going overboard then I can see this being a very positive thing.

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