The Barna Research group just released statistics earlier this month about the changing trends in religion. One of the emerging people groups in this new religious landscape are people who Love Jesus but not the church. These types of people would classify themselves as spiritual though not religious.
Of the people surveyed that classified themselves as “Loving Jesus but not the church” an interesting trend emerged that I didn’t expect. The highest percentage of people that chose to affiliate themselves this way were Baby Boomers and not Millennials! Boomers make up the most with 44% of this group while Xers made up 36%. Throughout the course of my research and reporting, much of the discussion I am hearing regarding people leaving the church is centered around Millennials, but this research is showing that the problem is much larger. It is affecting the whole church.
It’s true that Millennials are not in church in the same numbers and generations before them, and that should cause some concern, but that is because these young people aren’t joining the church in the first place. This makes me wonder if this exodus from the church is coming from the older generations who have just had enough with the institution of church.
The people that consider themselves to Love Jesus but not the church have the highest general orthodox beliefs of any Christian group, next to the evangelicals. They believe that there is only one God, he is all powerful, and he is everywhere. But the statistics break down when they are asked about the specifics of their faith. They differ on the practice. So that leads me to ask- in what ways are these people Christian practically?
Do we live in a religious Christian environment that places such emphasis on the doctrinal beliefs we hold that we forget that orthopraxy and the way that we walk out our faith needs to play a part? Also, do the ways that we practice our faith need to be in unity and agreement with other Christians? Does this group of Jesus loving, spiritual people look like the larger example of American Christianity at large? If so, should that concern us one way or another? What needs to change for the church to keep people engaged within the walls of their congregations. Why are they walking away?
For more information, be sure to check out the research at Barna.com