In spite of America’s “Christian” self-description, there is a growing sense among North American Christ-followers that the culture is changing faster than we can keep up with or respond to—and we’re not always sure how to live faithfully in a world that feels like it’s headed off the rails. Not too many years ago, church attendance and basic Bible literacy were the cultural norm. Being a Christian didn’t feel like swimming against the cultural current. But now?
Churchless confirms that the world has, indeed, altered in significant ways during the last few decades. It’s not just your imagination. Real data confirm how drastically the moral, social and spiritual lives of Americans have changed and are changing.
The raw number of unchurched people in the United States is staggering. Most of what gets counted as “church growth” is actually transfer growth, rather than conversion growth—that is, people transferring their allegiance from one church to another, not transitioning from non-Christian to Christ-follower. If churches hope to grow by discipling new believers, we must improve our ability to attract those who are intentionally avoiding a connection with a church.
The younger the generation, the more post-Christian it is. Nearly half of Mosaics—also called Millennials—qualify as post-Christian (48%), compared to two-fifths of Busters or Gen-Xers (40%), one-third of Boomers (35%) and one-quarter of Elders (28%). Tracking data allows us to trace the increase of anti-church attitudes and behaviors over the past 50 years. And as today’s young adults show, there is no end in sight.
Over the past three decades, Barna Group has conducted tens of thousands of interviews with unchurched people to discover their hurts, needs and hopes, with the aim of equipping the church to become more effective at connecting with them.
Churchless is an up-to-the-minute snapshot of the perceptions, beliefs, behaviors, choices, experiences, expectations and hopes of a nationally representative body of churchless adults. Based on our data, Churchless compares the backgrounds, behaviors and beliefs of the churched and the unchurched.
But more than that, Churchless points to how you can build spiritually meaningful relationships with your unchurched family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. Because the truth is, most of them are already looking for a connection with God.