The Barna Research Group reports that in the United States about 10 million self-proclaimed, born-again Christians have not been to church in the last six months, apart from Christmas or Easter. (Barna defines "born-again" as those who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important today, and believe they will "go to heaven because I have confessed my sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.")
Nearly all born-agains say their spiritual life is very important, but for 10 million of them, spiritual life has nothing to do with church.
About a third of Americans are unchurched, according to Barna's national data. Approximately 23 million of those35 percent of the unchurchedclaim they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their lives today.
I can easily put a face on that number. I think of Duncan (not his real name), a guy I got to know through coaching kids' basketball. When Duncan found out I was a Christian, he quietly let me know he was one too.
"Julie and I met the Lord through a Bible study," he said. At the time, he and Julie attended a Lutheran church. He stopped going when they got divorced. I was invited to the service when he got remarried, to Rene, in a lovely outdoor ceremony. I don't think the Lutherans quite connected with Rene, though. It's been years since the two of them have attended church.
Is Duncan a Christian? He thinks he is. He would even say that faith is important to him. But like 23 million other Americans, faith doesn't necessarily involve church.
Duncan is not a new phenomenon. We have always had people who kept their distance from the church, even though they professed faith. We have never, however, had them ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more