“Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center published some data on what American Christians value in everyday life. The data is fascinating, and I’d encourage you to read the summary here or the full report here.”
That Instagrammed photo of your girlfriend with her Bible and coffee the other morning was probably staged…so kinda like every other perfectly groomed post upholding our never-ending pursuit of social acceptance and apparent perfection.
When you imagine “a week in the life of a Christian” you might imagine a church visit, an occasional Bible reading before bed, and some community involvement after school or work. However, this is not likely the case, if American Christians act in accordance with what they find essential to their faith.
Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center published some data on what American Christians value in everyday life. The data is fascinating, and I’d encourage you to read the summary here or the full report here. Today, I want to look at just one of the graphs they provide.
86% of American Christians think that “believing in God” is an essential part of what it means to be a Christian. (This post isn’t even about that statistic that, while higher than the rest, is troublingly low.)
Following “believing in God” the four “essential parts” that received the most votes were: “being grateful for what you have,” “forgiving those who have wronged you,” “being honest at all times,” and “praying regularly.”
Obviously, all four of these actions are admirable and should be present in anyone who calls him- or herself a follower of Jesus. Any day of the week I can carry out one of these actions with some success I consider it a good day as far as obedience is concerned.
However, the intrigue in this graph is not so much in what is valued, but rather, what is not valued by a majority of American Christians.
Less Than Half of American Christians Find Church Attendance, Bible Reading, or Service to Be Essential
Here are the stats plainly listed for you:
- 42% of American Christians find “reading the Bible/religious materials” to be an essential part of what it means to be a Christian.
- 35% of American Christians find “attending religious services” to be an essential part of what it means to be a Christian.
- 28% of American Christians find “helping out in congregation” to be an essential part of being a Christian.
Now, if you’re like me, you may think what I thought at first, “Well, to be fair, the way the question is asked, maybe the respondents think ‘essential’ means “necessary for salvation.” That’s a fair point. Christians don’t need to be saying reading the Bible daily, attending church weekly, or teaching a Sunday school class is essential for salvation—so, in that way, these actions aren’t “essential.”
That may be the case. But these statistics are evidence of an epidemic Christian leaders have recognized for some time: American Christianity has been hijacked by the individual at the expense of the whole.