A majority of Christian pastors in the United States do not hold a biblical worldview, according to surprising new research from pollster George Barna, who says the data shows a spiritual awakening is “needed just as desperately in our pulpits as in the pews.”
Among senior/lead pastors, 41 percent possess a biblical worldview – the highest percentage within the sub-groups of pastors. Less than one-third of associate/assistant pastors (28 percent), teaching pastors (13 percent) and children’s/youth pastors (12 percent) hold a biblical worldview, the data found.
An accompanying report labeled the findings “shocking.”
“This is another strong piece of evidence that the culture is influencing the American church more than Christian churches are influencing the culture,” said Barna, director of research at the university’s Cultural Research Center.
The survey’s findings were based on 54 questions in eight categories related to a biblical worldview. Within those eight categories, the only one where a majority of pastors affirm a biblical worldview is related to the purpose and calling of life (57 percent). A minority of pastors hold a biblical worldview in the other seven categories: family and the value of life (47 percent); God, creation and history (44 percent); personal faith practices (43 percent); sin, salvation and one’s relationship to God (43 percent); human character and human nature (40 percent); lifestyle, personal behavior and relationships (40 percent); and beliefs and behaviors related to the Bible, truth and morality.
The data on children’s pastors and youth pastors, Barna said, is particularly discouraging.
“Keep in mind,” Barna said, “a person’s worldview primarily develops before the age of 13, then goes through a period of refinement during their teens and twenties. From a worldview perspective, a church’s most important ministers are the children’s pastor and the youth pastor. Discovering that seven out of every eight of those pastors lack a biblical worldview helps to explain why so few people in the nation’s youngest generations are developing a heart and mind for biblical principles and ways of life, and why our society seems to have run wild over the last decade, in particular.”
Despite the gloomy data, Barna offered a glimmer of hope by noting that “you cannot fix something unless you know it’s broken.”
“God is in the transformation business,” he said. “Pastors who are willing to allow Him to transform their thinking and behavior can emerge from that process as a powerful example of what can happen when one’s heart, mind and soul are surrendered to God. It certainly seems that if America is going to experience a spiritual revival, that awakening is needed just as desperately in our pulpits as in the pews.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.