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I am so thankful for the work of LifeWay Research. I worked for them until February of this year, so I’m biased, but I think the work they do is beneficial for pastors and church leaders around the world.
Recently, they released their 2016 State of Theology study, on which they partnered with Ligonier Ministries. The two organizations partnered last year for a similar project.
Ligonier created some pretty beautiful graphs to depict some of the data, but if you’d rather access the more straightforward white paper, that’s available too.
There’s a ton of data I could spend hours mining, but here are five of the more fascinating insights I encountered:
Considering the study found that 70% of Americans believe in “one, true God,” 64% of Americans believing the resurrection is a real event is quite remarkable. Not only that, these 64% of Americans believe that the Bible’s account of the event is accurate.
This point was interesting, and somewhat encouraging. I definitely did not expect 64% of Americans to affirm the resurrection and the Bible’s account of it.
This is depressing.
Now, surely some percentage of Christians affirming that Jesus was the “first and greatest creature created by God” is simply because people read the question too fast. It would be easy to skim this question and think, “Of course Jesus is the greatest being to exist,” not realizing that the question says “created by God.” So, that may be why this number is so high in part. But still, this number is really high.
At any rate, is is problematic that even half of American Evangelicals believe Jesus was created.
A number of statistics in this study are troubling when it comes to the authority and importance of the local church and worshiping with the body of Christ.
Approximately two-thirds of American evangelicals do not recognize the authority of the local church to decide who can and cannot be part of its gathering and take the Lord’s Supper.
This is an issue, but not surprising given the anti-institutional and pro-individualistic nature of the faith of many Christians today. Further, it explains why church discipline seems like such a harsh, primitive practice in the eyes of many today.
This is not a surprise, but it is still heartbreaking. The stereotypical American works-based view of self-worth makes a gospel of grace sound foreign and illogical.
Regardless, the gospel is the power of salvation, and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit can transcend American cultural norms. The grace of God offers salvation without asking for a payment of works in return.
Now, upon first glance, this number may seem encouraging to you. Only 37% of American Evangelicals believe in a form of the false, heretical prosperity gospel. The number could be (and likely is, in some parts of the world) much higher.
But this statistic is not encouraging to me because only 25% of all Americans believe that God will always reward true faith with material blessings. This means that more “Americans with Evangelical Beliefs” believe in the prosperity gospel than all Americans. This is not surprising, in some sense, but it is sad nonetheless.
Americans on the whole are more aware of the lie of the prosperity gospel than evangelicals are. Lord, help us when we are tricked into believing our actions pressure you to make us healthy or wealthy.
If you have five minutes, you should take a peek at the report from LifeWay and see if any statistics stick out to you as encouraging or discouraging. If you’re so inclined, feel free to comment below with your thoughts.