The Barna Group researches American religious attitudes and practice. It’s Evangelical, with a high commitment to excellence and accuracy. Last year I read its serious work on the black hole opening up in 18-30 US discipleship demographics. Members of this age group, including those within the churches, report six overwhelming turn-offs about the Church:
fuelled by some well-known scandals, there is increasing scepticism about inauthenticity among Evangelical Christians
- Too focussed on gaining converts
Many people, including those who have been members of Evangelical Churches, feel they are not taken seriously as people, but rather prized as converts
Barna takes a Conservative line on homosexuality itself, but notes popular disgust at the way American Evangelical Christians appear to look down on gays and lesbians, with bigoted fixations about them. Simply announcing they are not bigoted does not dispel the overwhelming impression they are.
Old-fashioned, boring, and out of touch with reality, with a preference for shallow solutions over searching spiritual and moral questions.
Motivated by a right wing political agenda, including support for the Iraq war, and Conservative social policy
Swift to judge others, dishonest, and fixated on rules rather than people
One thing’s for sure, bearing in mind recent discussions of church size. To the extent that people are accepted and respected as they are Churches seem to flourish qualitatively within their contexts. Pushy sectarian ones (whether they do it for “Evangelical” or Social clique-serving reasons) gather birds of a feather up to a point by being distinctive and driving hard, but plateau within a niche with eclcetic congregations along with a high and increasing churn rate. A small residual core of heavies reinforce their own sense of righteousness by ranting and bearing down hard on others, but with diminishing self-awareness on their way to the ghetto. The Crass utilitarian welcome and the tale their leavers tell says it all..