I have heard this stat for years: 75% of churches are plateaued or declining. Here is the latest: Based on our research of 557 churches from 2004 to 2010, nine out of ten churches in America are declining or growing at a pace that is slower than that of their communities. Simply stated, churches are losing ground in their own backyards.[1] Surely Effective Bible Teaching would help with that.

With young people, the situation is even worse.

Another way of looking at it is generationally. About two-thirds of the Builder generation, those born before 1946, are Christians. But only 15 percent of the Millennials are Christians. The Millennials are the largest generation in America’s history with almost eighty million members. They were born between 1980 and 2000. And we have all but lost that generation.[2]

Surely Effective Bible Teaching would help.

Do church goers believe differently?

If we could get them to church, would it matter? Let’s look at this in two ways: first, we will look at what church goers believe. Then, we will take a look at how they behave.

Brad Waggoner reported the findings of a survey of church goers in his book, The Shape of Faith to Come. Here are some highlights of his findings:

  • “The Bible is the written Word of God and is totally accurate in all that it teaches.” About half strongly agreed.
  • “Christians must continually work toward their salvation or risk losing it.” Only 23% got it right.
  • “If a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity?” Only 32% got the right answer, disagreeing strongly.
  • “Every person is born a sinner due to the sin of Adam being passed on to all persons.” About half got this right and half got this wrong.[3]

Notice these are central doctrines of the faith and the survey is among church goers. Overall grade of church goers seems to be about 50%. That was flunking when I was in school.

Do church goers behave differently?

We are actually doing better than some people report.

It has been widely reported that there is no difference between the behavior of Christians and the behavior of non-Christians. That is not exactly right. Here is the more accurately stated truth: there is little difference in behavior between those who claim to be Christians and those who don’t. Key words: “claim to be Christians.” When we dig a little deeper and compare people who. . .

  • Claim to be Christians
  • Read their Bibles
  • Go to church each week

with people who don’t do these things, some significant differences start to show up. For example:

  • Christians live together outside of marriage about half as often as do non-Christians.
  • Those who don’t go to church were about 50% more likely to divorce compared with church goers.
  • Christians are about half as likely to commit acts of domestic violence.
  • People who attend church regularly are half as likely to commit adultery.
  • Not only did Protestants commit less crime, but also the Protestants who attended church on a weekly basis did so far less than other Protestants. For example, 4% of the weekly attendees had been arrested, compared to 8% of the monthly attendees, 12% of the yearly attendees, and 15% of those who never attend.[4]

In every arena, active church attendance tends to predict good behavior, and absence of church attendance tends to predict bad behavior.

Still, the differences are not as great as any of us would like to see. Effective Teaching can make a difference. Imagine if everyone who attended church was engaged in thoughtful, convicting, Spirit-anointed teaching.

[1] Rainer, T. (2013). I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the difference. Nashville: B&H.

[2] Rainer, T. (2013). I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the difference. Nashville: B&H.

[3] Waggoner, B. J. (2008). The Shape of Faith to Come. Nashville: B&H.

[4] Bradley R.E. Ph.D. Wright. Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media (p. 145). Kindle Edition.