14) The Last Bit: Barna’s "Reviving Evangelism" Study is Disturbing

This past week, I (Doug) read through every word of Barna’s report on the “Reviving Evangelism” survey results. In a word, it’s a disturbing commentary. According to their data, nearly half of Millennial practicing Christians say it is wrong to evangelize (47%). Almost two in five practicing Christians (of all ages) say they have no non-Christian friends or family members (30%). More than half of all practicing Christians report having two or fewer conversations about faith in past year (56%). Overall, the study revealed a general erosion in understanding and motivation for evangelism, especially in the hearts and mind of younger generations. Where have we gone wrong? The study tries to guess (making it clear that they’re only guessing). To us, these are some of the most disturbing trends of our day. We could probably survive if political figures stop treating one another with adequate civility. The truth is — we shouldn’t fixate on saving faith for the next generation. But if, as the years tick by, we “forget” (or stop caring) about evangelizing (as it appears we are) and if, in the process, we forget how to tell the Good News (as it appears we are), we would be placing the Kingdom of God in a precarious position. What do YOU think we should do about the study? How would YOU guess we respond?

7 Responses to 14) The Last Bit: Barna’s "Reviving Evangelism" Study is Disturbing
  1. Doug Reply

    The Millennial generation has bought into the idea that social justice IS evangelism for one. To open one’s mouth and declare someone needs God would lead to my next point.

    Secondly, moral relativism pervades this group lock, stock and barrel. To tell someone they need to change by the power of God would be considered a moral judgement which would be anathema to them.

  2. Eric Reply

    John the Baptist wouldn’t be too popular with this group? And neither would Jesus? And I guess Paul would also be on the black list with them? So what part of the NT would be acceptable to this group?

    But WAIT..
    There are still some of them, a certain percentage of this group that adhere’s to their Master’s teaching and example, so maybe there is hope. Let’s train them.

  3. Dave Schertzer Reply

    Sometimes revival and evangelism levels are low for a generation, only to increase for the next generation.

    My response to this study would be:

    Continue focus on children’s ministries in churches. This is the future of every church. A dead church usually has poor children’s ministries, while growing churches have investments in children’s ministries. Sometimes the kids have to remind their parents what is important. Often children attend a VBS without the parents and become a Christian.

    Participate and Invest in evangelism globally, which will encourage and promote evangelism here at home. People need some good news to keep sharing the Good News.

    Remember “God is God and I am not”. God has purposes for all groups in all cultures. Sometimes a group has to experience the ‘bottom’ to rise up and respond to Jesus. Imagine a strong revival of Millenials overloading social media circles – news media would have to report on it.

    I would be interested in the study shows Baby Boomers coming back to Jesus, having spent years avoiding “organized religion” and now needing purpose for life since they did not find it in eastern mythology, drugs and greed.

    Final note: Generalizing Millenials is damaging to those who are faithful to Christ and feel painted by a broad brush with the rest. Individuals come to faith in Christ, and a personal approach is the way to focus results. Once you find yourself saying “they”, be cautious to avoid sounding judgmental.

  4. Mike Reply

    I recently did a survey of 180 members of my church in Chicago (actually in Chicago, not in the suburbs) regarding their relationships with Muslims and I was much more encouraged by their responses than what I see here from Barna. Of all survey responses, 75% were born later than 1980 (so, basically millennials). Of all responses, 68% personally know a Muslim and 75% have had a spiritual conversation with a Muslim. I don’t necessarily think this is due to something exceptional about my church. Before Chicago, I lived in a part of the country that was much more culturally “Christian” and yet I noticed less spiritual vibrancy there and less interest in evangelism. I wonder if my research could reveal something about greater passion for evangelism and mission among evangelicals who live in urban areas where Christians naturally encounter a variety of religions, philosophies, and worldviews in everyday life.

    • Dave Schertzer Reply

      Totally agree – proximity helps engagement, sounds like your church population does well to ‘lean into life’ with non-Christians.

      Could it be that “cultural Christians” have a fairly set comfort zone to buffer out people, plus little margin to spend time with non-Christians?

  5. Reinhard Leistner Reply

    Evangelical Christianity sadly lived in the Christian sub culture and had to „evangelize“ (leave the ghetto and reach the unreached). Peter was our hero – confrontative evangelism. The missional paradigm coupled with the commission to make disciples is the long term viable paradigm.Barna studys a North American cultural setting. Millennials want to live and believe an integrated life of faith and life. They are the closest to the missional paradigm. If they truely believe in Christ and understand the mission deo then „evangelism“ is built into their lifestyles. Sadly political correctness and the tolerance ideology also has its side effects.

  6. Julia Schmoyer Reply

    Barna studies often leave a lot of room for interpretation. One question to ask would be, what do these millennials think evangelism is, vs. what do their predecessors think it is? How people define an ambiguous word can make a big difference in their responses.

    Another research project out of Harvard offers differing views: https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2018/january/surprising-harvard-study-american-religion-persistently-and-exceptionally-intense

    As an early millennial myself, it’s hard not to take offense at sweeping generalizations of my generation. I encourage us to look deeper and with a critical eye at the assumptions of surveys that claim such generalized conclusions.

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