U.S. adults who say they “love Jesus but not the church” represent a growing percentage of the population, according to the Barna Group.
They are predominantly female (61 percent) and white (63 percent), with “Boomers,” those born between 1946 and 1964, representing the largest generation (44 percent).
Barna defined this group as adults “who self-identify as Christian and who strongly agree that their religious faith is very important in their life, but are ‘dechurched’ – that is, they have attended church in the past, but haven’t done so in the last six months (or more).”
Though they no longer regularly attend church, they retain orthodox beliefs and a positive view of religion, and they also engage in personal spiritual practices.
When asked if they believe there is only one God, 93 percent agreed (compared to 100 percent of evangelicals, 90 percent of all practicing Christians and 59 percent of all U.S. adults).
Similarly high levels of affirmation were seen when asked about God being all-knowing and all-powerful (94 percent) and God being everywhere (95 percent).
This group retained largely positive views of religion, with 71 percent disagreeing with the statement that religion is mostly harmful (compared to 79 percent of evangelicals, 71 percent of all practicing Christians and 49 percent of all U.S. adults).
A majority (67 percent) talk to friends about spiritual matters often or sometimes (compared to 84 percent of all practicing Christians and 98 percent of evangelicals), and 83 percent affirm that they have an active prayer life (compared to 83 percent of all practicing Christians and 98 percent of evangelicals).
“This group represents an important and growing avenue of ministry for churches,” Roxanne Stone, editor in chief of Barna Group, stated. “Churches need to be able to say to these people – and to answer for themselves – that there is a unique way you can find God only in church. And that faith does not survive or thrive in solitude.”
The full report is available here.