Research from other organisations

Churchgoers Express Hope, Sadness Over Leaders Who Leave the Faith

Lifeway Research - Thu, 09/07/2020 - 2:50am

By Aaron Earls

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In recent months and years, several high-profile Christian pastors and musicians announced they no longer identify as Christian or believe in core doctrines of the faith.

These public pronouncements are met with a mix of emotions from churchgoers, according to a new survey.

Nashville-based LifeWay Research asked more than 1,000 Protestant churchgoers how they feel when a person well-known for their work in Christian ministry announces they no longer accept their previous faith.

“Rather than speculating on the impact of those leaders who turn away from the faith, we wanted to know from churchgoers what they think,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

More than 3 in 5 churchgoers say they hope the former ministry leaders come back to the Christian faith someday (69%) or are sad they’ve abandoned their faith (63%).

Concern would also be on the minds of many churchgoers. Fewer than half say they feel concern for the ex-leader’s eternal destiny (44%) or concern they may lead others astray (40%).

Some question the validity of the leader’s now-rejected faith. More than 1 in 6 churchgoers (17%) believe leaders who leave Christianity must never have really had Christian faith.

Fewer than 1 in 10 churchgoers say they are happy for leaders finding a belief system that works better for them (9%), are angry at whoever or whatever pushed them away (9%), or identify with the leader’s doubts (8%).

Few say none of these (2%) or that they’re not sure (3%).

“The predominant reaction among churchgoers when they see a leader walk away from their faith is to maintain hope for them while grieving the decision they are making,” said McConnell.

“The big question is, will this leader cause others to also walk away? The data doesn’t answer that directly, but we see 8% of churchgoers currently have similar doubts and could be considered vulnerable,” he said. “Also, the 2 in 5 who fear others could follow the leader away from Christianity may simply be speculating or they may know some of those who have these doubts.”

Different responses

Older churchgoers, those with evangelical beliefs, and those who attend services more frequently are likely to respond differently to a ministry leader leaving their faith than those who are younger, who aren’t an evangelical by belief, or who attend less often.

Churchgoers 65 and older are most likely to say they hope the former ministry leader will come back to Christianity someday (77%). They also express higher concern for the leader’s eternal destiny (54%) and are more concerned they may lead others astray (50%).

Those in the upper age range are also the least likely to say they identify with the doubts of the ministry leaders leaving the faith (2%).

Churchgoing adults under 34 are the most likely to say they are happy former ministry leaders found a belief system that works better for them (19%).

They are also the least likely to say they are sad the former identifying Christians abandoned their faith (50%).

Those who attend a worship service at least four times a month are more likely than those who attend less frequently to say they are sad the ministry leaders abandoned their faith (67% to 56%), have concern for their eternal destiny (49% to 37%), and are concerned they may lead others astray (46% to 29%).

More frequent church attenders are less likely to say they are happy those who left the ministry found a belief system that works better for them (7% to 12%).

Churchgoing evangelicals by belief are more likely than other churchgoers to say an announcement about leaving the faith makes them feel hope the former leader will someday come back to Christianity (75% to 62%), sad they abandoned their faith (72% to 53%), concern for their eternal destiny (59% to 27%), concern they may lead others astray (51% to 27%), and have the belief that the ministry leader must never have really had Christian faith (20% to 13%).

Those with evangelical beliefs are also less likely to identify with the doubts of those leaving the ministry (6% to 11%) and say they are happy the former leaders found a belief system that works better for them (4% to 15%).

“Churches want to reach and minister to those who are not yet followers of Christ and those who have honest struggles with the truths Jesus taught,” said McConnell. “A leader abandoning the faith may be a distressing situation, but it should also serve as a reminder for Christians to only put their trust in Jesus.”

Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends and a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.

Methodology:
The online survey of 1,002 American Protestant churchgoers was conducted September 20-27, 2019 using a national pre-recruited panel. Respondents were screened to include those who identified as Protestant/non-denominational and attend religious services at least once a month. Quotas and slight weights were used to balance gender, age, region, ethnicity and education to more accurately reflect the population.

The completed sample is 1,002 surveys. The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error from the panel does not exceed plus or minus 3.2%. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

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Barna’s Perspective on Race and the Church

Barna Blog - Thu, 18/06/2020 - 8:25am

The past few weeks have been a time of listening, learning, repentance and lament for the Barna team. As social researchers who seek to equip the Church to effectively engage with the world, we find ourselves standing alongside other believers in an effort to right the wrongs of racial injustice. As a team, we have begun with deep soul searching. About how we have contributed to problems of racial inequity, whether implicitly or explicitly. About how we can better listen to and serve our Black and brown brothers and sisters in Christ.

This soul searching is more than a few days or weeks of processing and then getting back to business as usual. We commit ourselves to both short-term actions and long-term results as we seek to be a catalyst for genuine and lasting change in the Church.

Even as we are early in this process of self-reflection, we believe we can serve the Church. First, we can issue an urgent call to action regarding the deep gaps our research reveals between Black Christians and white Christians. Simply put, most white Christians miss and misunderstand the lived experience of Black Christians. We’ve been tracking this gap for years, including the higher degree to which Black Christians perceive police brutality, experience the effects of racism and believe the effects of slavery continue to this day. We encourage leaders, especially white leaders, to use this research to broaden your perspective and the perspectives of those whom you lead. Feel the weight of these gaps. You can start by downloading the report Where Do We Go From Here?, a digital resource we’ve made available at no cost.

Research is an invitation to share the truth, even when it is unpopular or challenging, and Barna aspires to report fairly and fully on how the Church is addressing racial injustice and inequity. It is the Church’s responsibility to reject racism, embrace responsibility to tear down unjust and white-centered systems and, in the Spirit’s power, advance justice and reconciliation.

A second thing Barna can do is broadcast the strength and vitality of Christianity among Black Americans. Research shows that Black Christians far outpace the spiritual vibrancy of white Christians on almost every measure of faith we use. For example, there is great trust in and use of the Bible among Black Christians. The broader Church has much to gain by following the model of Black believers and their leaders, and we are eager to highlight different facets of that story.

As such, we see our existing initiatives in a new light and feel the weight of stewarding the stories these projects are uncovering. One is The State of the Black Church, with research led by Rev. Dr. Brianna K. Parker and produced in partnership with Urban Ministries, Inc., Movement Day, American Bible Society and Compassion. This national study listens to leaders and laypeople in the historic Black Church to find out how these communities are thriving and where they are struggling.

Another study is part of a larger research and training collaboration with the Racial Justice & Unity Center, funded by the Lilly Endowment, which uniquely emphasizes understanding the dynamics of multiethnic congregations. (You can preview some of those findings here.) We’ll be reporting on these projects in the coming months and into 2021, and we’re hopeful they will sharpen the lens through which Christians view our present moment.

Further, we recognize church leaders’ urgent need for insights right now. You can’t lead well in this moment without better understanding the context in which you lead. In light of this, Barna and our technology partner Gloo have created a free Faith & Race Check-In for pastors and congregations. This includes two anonymous polls that can help pastors listen to and learn from the experiences of their peers, collaborate to respond with wisdom and facilitate constructive conversations in their own churches.

These tools are available in Barna Access, alongside a curated channel dedicated to covering Race and the Church, which features Barna’s past research and reports as well as new workshops and video content. We invite you to learn alongside us.

Beyond all this, our team is engaged in a frank self-assessment with the help of Black and other leaders of color. We’re stepping back to listen and be led. We want to help churches navigate these crucial conversations, and that means sharing with our audience about our team’s opportunities for growth. As social researchers, we work hard to ensure the voices of people of color are heard through all our studies and reporting. Yet the fact is that we’ve been most comfortable interpreting and applying the data for majority white culture. No longer. We will take proactive measures to create a different future for Barna’s work.

We’re in the early stages of change, starting with reflection, training and advisement, with the long-term goal of representing the Church’s God-given diversity in our team, in our partnerships, in our research and in our public-facing resources.

There’s no doubt this will be a lengthy and demanding journey, one that will call us all to continuous repentance, reflection and response. But we are up to the challenge and hope to encourage other followers of Christ to commit to the same journey.

—David Kinnaman
President, Barna Group

Feature image by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

The post Barna’s Perspective on Race and the Church appeared first on Barna Group.

Barna’s Perspective on Race and the Church

Barna - Thu, 18/06/2020 - 8:25am

The past few weeks have been a time of listening, learning, repentance and lament for the Barna team. As social researchers who seek to equip the Church to effectively engage with the world, we find ourselves standing alongside other believers in an effort to right the wrongs of racial injustice. As a team, we have begun with deep soul searching. About how we have contributed to problems of racial inequity, whether implicitly or explicitly. About how we can better listen to and serve our black and brown brothers and sisters in Christ.

This soul searching is more than a few days or weeks of processing and then getting back to business as usual. We commit ourselves to both short-term actions and long-term results as we seek to be a catalyst for genuine and lasting change in the Church.

Even as we are early in this process of self-reflection, we believe we can serve the Church. First, we can issue an urgent call to action regarding the deep gaps our research reveals between black Christians and white Christians. Simply put, most white Christians miss and misunderstand the lived experience of black Christians. We’ve been tracking this gap for years, including the higher degree to which black Christians perceive police brutality, experience the effects of racism and believe the effects of slavery continue to this day. We encourage leaders, especially white leaders, to use this research to broaden your perspective and the perspectives of those whom you lead. Feel the weight of these gaps. You can start by downloading the report Where Do We Go From Here?, a digital resource we’ve made available at no cost.

Research is an invitation to share the truth, even when it is unpopular or challenging, and Barna aspires to report fairly and fully on how the Church is addressing racial injustice and inequity. It is the Church’s responsibility to reject racism, embrace responsibility to tear down unjust and white-centered systems and, in the Spirit’s power, advance justice and reconciliation.

A second thing Barna can do is broadcast the strength and vitality of Christianity among black Americans. Research shows that black Christians far outpace the spiritual vibrancy of white Christians on almost every measure of faith we use. For example, there is great trust in and use of the Bible among black Christians. The broader Church has much to gain by following the model of black believers and their leaders, and we are eager to highlight different facets of that story.

As such, we see our existing initiatives in a new light and feel the weight of stewarding the stories these projects are uncovering. One is The State of the Black Church, with research led by Rev. Dr. Brianna K. Parker and produced in partnership with Urban Ministries, Inc., Movement Day, American Bible Society and Compassion. This national study listens to leaders and laypeople in the historic black Church to find out how these communities are thriving and where they are struggling.

Another study is part of a larger research and training collaboration with the Racial Justice & Unity Center, funded by the Lilly Endowment, which uniquely emphasizes understanding the dynamics of multiethnic congregations. (You can preview some of those findings here.) We’ll be reporting on these projects in the coming months and into 2021, and we’re hopeful they will sharpen the lens through which Christians view our present moment.

Further, we recognize church leaders’ urgent need for insights right now. You can’t lead well in this moment without better understanding the context in which you lead. In light of this, Barna and our technology partner Gloo have created a free Faith & Race Check-In for pastors and congregations. This includes two anonymous polls that can help pastors listen to and learn from the experiences of their peers, collaborate to respond with wisdom and facilitate constructive conversations in their own churches.

These tools are available in Barna Access, alongside a curated channel dedicated to covering Race and the Church, which features Barna’s past research and reports as well as new workshops and video content. We invite you to learn alongside us.

Beyond all this, our team is engaged in a frank self-assessment with the help of black and other leaders of color. We’re stepping back to listen and be led. We want to help churches navigate these crucial conversations, and that means sharing with our audience about our team’s opportunities for growth. As social researchers, we work hard to ensure the voices of people of color are heard through all our studies and reporting. Yet the fact is that we’ve been most comfortable interpreting and applying the data for majority white culture. No longer. We will take proactive measures to create a different future for Barna’s work.

We’re in the early stages of change, starting with reflection, training and advisement, with the long-term goal of representing the Church’s God-given diversity in our team, in our partnerships, in our research and in our public-facing resources.

There’s no doubt this will be a lengthy and demanding journey, one that will call us all to continuous repentance, reflection and response. But we are up to the challenge and hope to encourage other followers of Christ to commit to the same journey.

—David Kinnaman
President, Barna Group

Feature image by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

The post Barna’s Perspective on Race and the Church appeared first on Barna Group.

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