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'Refreshingly Open to Jesus': Barna Study Reveals 'Tremendous' New Opportunity for the Church

01-24-2023
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(Image credit: Pedro Lima/Unsplash)

The Church in the U.S. has seen a dramatic shift within the last ten years including a decline in attendance and the rise of "religious nones", but a recent study shows that nearly 75 percent of adults still have the desire to grow spiritually and more than 40 percent of people are "more open" to God.

According to a new Barna study, three out of four adults say they want to grow spiritually. Additionally, the same proportion (77%) say they believe in "God" or "a higher power" and nearly half (44%) say they are "more open" to God today than before the pandemic.

David Kinnaman, CEO of Barna, believes the research proves that there is "tremendous opportunity for faith leaders."

"They are open to more that truly satisfies," he wrote. "The challenge facing the Church and parachurch ministries is whether they are ready and able to meet the spiritually open—where they are, as they are. Our data show the Church has real work to do to bridge the trust gap for people who are spiritual but not religious."

Kinnaman explains that it is pivotal for the Church to reach the younger generation.

"Overwhelmingly, Christian teens today say that Jesus still matters to them; 76 percent say 'Jesus speaks to me in a way that is relevant to my life,'" he shared.
 
"In a culture that has generally downgraded the reputation of Christians and relegated Sunday worship and other church-related activities to the sidelines of society, teens remain refreshingly open to Jesus as an influence in their lives," he adds. 

In the study, more than 80 percent of Gen Z and Millennials believe a supernatural dimension exists. 

And while "supernatural" doesn't always mean faith or Christian-based, it does mean according to Kinnaman that the church has a clean slate. 

"The teens in our study are not jaded or cynical," the Barna CEO wrote. "They are open to different faiths, including Christianity, and they're open to friends, causes, and ideas. Though parents, educators, and others who mentor young people have a tall task to provide wise guidance to emerging adults, today's teens are confronting the church with something that I think we haven't seen before—a kind of blank slate; a chance to imagine a different future."

Since 2000, the number of practicing Christians in the U.S. has nearly dropped in half.

But Kinnaman sees that decline as a signal that those who call themselves Christians can step up in sharing their passion for Jesus. 

He explains, "We have an unprecedented opportunity to share Jesus with a world in need. But how will we do anything unless we are desperate for Jesus ourselves? As we embark on this journey to meet, know and love people who may be on the cusp of integrating spirituality into their life and discovering the transforming power of Jesus, may we be found ready and able to guide them."

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