March 22 (Charisma)--Forget all the talk about revival in America. Individual churches may be growing, but overall the numbers simply don't support the claims of a national awakening, nor has the men's movement made as much impact as has been suggested.

Those are two of the sobering conclusions of a leading Christian research team that dismisses claims of revival and a large-scale men's awakening as "myths." The Barna Research Group's (BRG) annual survey of religious beliefs and behavior finds no significant change in recent years, other than a "comeback" in regular Bible reading.

BRG President George Barna said Tuesday: "There does not seem to be revival taking place in America. Whether that is measured by church attendance, born again status, or theological purity, the statistics simply do not reflect a surge of any noticeable proportions. The increase in Bible reading may be setting the stage for such a revival, but it does not appear to be occurring at the moment."

Only a small increase in the proportion of men who are born again was recorded between 1990 and 2000--half that noted among women. Church attendance, Sunday school attendance and church volunteerism by men actually dropped in the last decade, according to the BRG random study of 1,000 people.

"Some good things have happened among men during the 1990s, but it does not appear that there has been a massive reawakening of the male soul in the last 10 years," Barna said. But he also offered some encouragement, pointing to some "signs of continued interest and growth"--such as the "very high" importance rating 66 percent of those surveyed gave to their faith.

"Spirituality remains important to people, but we're still in a shake-up period where people are trying to discover how to fit it into their increasingly fragmented, busy and changing lives. Few people are seeking to remove God from their life," he said. "They're just not sure when and how often they will pencil Him into their schedule."

The California-based team found no change in nine of 10 factors surveyed annually--including church attendance (40 percent), born-again Christians (41 percent), regular giving (54 percent) and small-group participation (17 percent). Only Bible reading has gone up, with 40 percent involvement in a typical week.

"If there is comfort in stability, then there is little doubt that Christianity in America is in the comfort zone," concluded the report, titled "The State of the Church, 2000." But the study did reveal some "intriguing results."

One finding was that four out of 10 people in church on a typical week were not classed as born again, according to answers to researchers' questions about salvation. "They certainly represent an accessible and fertile mission field for churches that have a desire to introduce people to the notion of salvation by grace," Barna said.

Another surprise was that Catholics are much more likely to attend a megachurch--one with more than 1,000 adults attending weekend services--than Protestants. Although Catholics make up only 22 percent of the adult population, they made up 47 percent of those attending a megachurch. "Even though megachurches are seen as a Protestant phenomenon, barely half of the adults attending megachurches go to a Protestant church," Barna said.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad