Wednesday, March 04, 2015


Producing Change

Whether evangelical or mainline, white or black, Catholic or unaffiliated, a new survey finds that many Americans have one thing in common: We exaggerate our church attendance.

But the degree depends on denomination.

White evangelicals are twice as likely to admit they rarely go to church if asked online (17 percent) vs. over the phone by a live human being (9 percent). Black Protestants display a similar split (24 percent online vs. 14 percent by phone).

But the greater exaggerators (based on differences of 17 to 18 percentage points): white mainline Protestants, Catholics, and the unaffiliated. (See full findings below.)

Americans inflate their responses to religious questions in telephone surveys compared to online surveys, according to Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). In its latest study, "I Know What You Did Last Sunday," PRRI found that 36 percent of all telephone respondents said they attend a religious service weekly, while 30 percent said they "seldom or never" attend a religious service. But among online respondents, only 31 percent say they attend weekly, while 43 percent admit seldom or never.

The split was even more noticeable among the religiously unaffiliated. About 73 percent told a human surveyor that they seldom or never attend religious services, compared with 91 percent who said the same thing online.
The Christianity Today piece goes on to lay the lying at the feet of social pressure - that church attendance is still expected in America. But there are other questions to be asked out of this survey.

If most church attendance is exaggerated, who precisely are churches responding to when they make church easier to attend? These days churches fiddle about with service times, "worship styles," child care, and all sorts of ancillary stuff to keep the numbers up. In other words the church caters to the "social pressure" attender. That is to say the church is trying to make it easy for people that attend for social pressure reasons, as opposed to genuine commitment, to show up. The less "churchy" it is, the more they are likely to enjoy it since they do not come to church because they want to be at church.

Yes, the church needs to reach such people, but at what cost? If we stop being church so people that don't particularly care about church will come, what have we won?

Now, what do I mean by "stop being church?" It's simple really, the church is Christ in the world today. The grace of Christ demands change from us. Therefore, church should demand change from us - even if it is something as simple as being slightly inconvenienced by the time of the church service.

Ask yourself this, "Did your best teachers cater or demand from you?" Not the teacher you liked the best, the one that taught you the most.

We are not trying to sell a product - we are trying to change lives. I wonder if the church focused on the people that are genuinely interested in changing their lives if it might not have more success in changing lives?


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