Theme #3: Biblical literacy is low and will remain so.
Barna’s findings related to Bible knowledge and application indicate that little progress, if any, is being made toward becoming more biblically literate.
Barna notes, “Bible reading has become the religious equivalent of sound-bite journalism. When people read from the Bible they typically open it without much regard for the context, and consider only the primary thought or feeling that the passage provided. If they are comfortable with it, they accept it; otherwise, they deem it interesting but irrelevant to their life, and move on.”
Some of the survey-based results that led Barna to his conclusions included:
- Just half of all self-identified Christians firmly believe that the principles the Bible teaches are totally accurate.
- Only 27% of adults are confident that Satan exists.
- Only 4% believe that poverty is an issue that is primarily the responsibility of the Church.
Theme #4: We have little understanding of or interest in spiritual maturity.
Barna concludes, “Our studies this year showed that almost 90% of senior pastors asserted that spiritual immaturity is one of the most serious problems facing the Church. But few pastors have gone so far as to give their congregants a specific written statement of how they define spiritual maturity, how it might be measured, the strategy for facilitating such maturity, or what scriptural passages are most helpful in describing and fostering maturity. Overall, less than 10% of pastors said they were completely satisfied with how they assess the spiritual condition of their congregation.
“Not surprisingly,” Barna continued, “our research found that a majority of churchgoing adults are uncertain as to what their church would define as a ‘healthy, spiritually mature follower of Christ’ and they were no more likely to have personally developed a clear notion of such a life. In other words, as we examine the discipleship landscape, what we see is what we get – and what we will keep getting for some time.”