American public discourse is in a state of crisis. Hostility and division along political, ethnic and economic lines are growing by the day—with little hope of easing. Breaking these cycles of incivility will require a reset—and perhaps a radical reorientation toward virtues like forgiveness and kindness. Along these lines, Barna conducted a nationwide study, in partnership with author Jack Alexander, on how American Christians and pastors connect to biblical concepts of mercy, justice and truth.
The study found, encouragingly, that most pastors and Christians still believe mercy has an influence on their everyday behavior. In fact, more than eight in 10 pastors (83%), and more than six in 10 Christians (63%) say that mercy often influences their words and actions. However, another four-in-10 Christians are less likely to characterize their words and actions as merciful. It remains part of their belief, but they either don’t really think about it that much, or it simply doesn’t influence their actions. The apathy in this sizeable minority is reason for concern among a faith group that professes a commitment to a merciful God.
The full findings of the Barna study on mercy and forgiveness will be released in spring 2019, providing a fuller picture of U.S. Christians’ and Protestant pastors’ perspectives and practices in these areas.
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Alexander’s book, The God Impulse: The Power of Mercy in an Unmerciful World provides a realistic assessment of where our churches and our society fall short in extending true biblical mercy. Recently, Barna president David Kinnaman sat down with Jack Alexander to discuss Barna’s upcoming study and Alexander’s book. View the video interview here.
About the Research
The research was conducted among a representative sample of 1,502 Practicing Christian adults in an online survey. Similar questions were asked among a representative sample 515 of Protestant Senior Pastors by telephone and online. Both surveys were conducted from April 12-May 2, 2018. The maximum sample error for practicing Christians is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The maximum sample error for senior pastors is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Practicing Christians identify as Christian, have attended church within the past month and strongly agree that their faith is very important in their life today.
Barna Group is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2018
Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.
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