Despite worries that millennials have given up on Christianity, or that they're too focused on social justice campaigns, young adults are sharing their faith the most frequently. By contrast, evangelism is fading fastest among the middle class.
At least, according to a new survey from Barna Group. "Is Evangelism Going Out of Style?" explores habits among "born-again" Christians who believe in evangelism—but may or may not actually do it. (See infographics below.)
"When asked if they have a personal responsibility to share their faith with others, 73% of born again Christians said yes," Barna states. "When this conviction is put into practice, however, the numbers shift downward. Only half (52%) of born again Christians say they actually did share the Gospel at least once this past year to someone with different beliefs, in the hope that they might accept Jesus Christ as their Savior."
Based on Barna's definitions of religious groups, evangelicals are most likely to believe evangelism is their personal responsibility (100%), but also have the highest rate of failure to follow through (31% did not evangelize in the past year). By contrast, Catholics are the least likely to believe evangelism is their personal responsibility (34%), but have the highest success rate (33% did evangelize in the past year).
Surprisingly, millennials are the one generation of "born-again" Christians where "the practice of evangelism is notably on the rise." Despite being known as the "social justice" generation—alleged to be trading spiritual causes for physical ones—evangelism among millennials increased nine percent in recent years, according to Barna. Other generations either stayed the same or declined in their evangelism practices.
Millennials' evangelism has increased from 56 percent in 2010 to 65 percent in 2013, in contrast to the national average of 52 percent among "born-again" Christians. Among two other generations, evangelism has declined: Busters (who are in their 30s and 40s) went from 63 percent in 1998 to 48 percent in 2013, and Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) decreased by 16 percent since 2007. But Elders (ages 68 and older) remained consistent in their evangelism at just above the national average (53%).
David Kinnaman, president of Barna, said this rise in evangelism among millennials should be encouraging to Christian leaders:
One way to understand this trend is that there are proportionally fewer born again and evangelical Christians among Millennials than is true among older generations. So part of the explanation may be that those who remain committed to these theological perspectives are all the more motivated to make a 'case' for their faith among their peers. In other words, in the middle of a generation defined by their religious indifference, these Millennial evangelists stand in stark contrast.
Another surprising finding from the study: middle-class "born-again" Christians have the lowest rate of evangelism among other household income groups.
This is particularly paradoxical since born again, middle-income adults are the most likely out of all income groups to affirm their personal responsibility to evangelize—76% do so. Yet only 37% of those adults have shared their faith this past year. Furthermore, born again, middle-income adults are evangelizing less and less. For example, from 2010 to today alone, their outreach efforts dropped from 51% to 37%.
In contrast, "born-again" Christians who make the least amount of money ($39,000 per year or less) evangelize the most (57 percent), followed by upper-income Christians (52 percent).