The following consists of excerpts from studies made by Geo. Barna. His web site is www.barna.org I think you will be surprised by many of the findings.

Sent by Bob Dreyfus

George Barna, whose company has been conducting this research for more than twenty years, commented, "The consistency of people's religious beliefs over time is a tribute to the fact that beliefs are formed when people are young and maintained for the duration of life. Recent studies we have conducted show that the beliefs a person holds at age 13 vary little during their adult years. The most effective way to influence such beliefs is by teaching people when they are young and still in a spiritually formative stage.

Adults essentially carry out the beliefs they embraced when they were young," he explained. "The reason why Christians are so similar in their attitudes, values and lifestyles to non-Christians is that they were not sufficiently challenged to think and behave differently - radically differently, based on core spiritual perspectives - when they were children. Simply getting people to go to church regularly is not the key to becoming a mature Christian. Spiritual transformation requires a more extensive investment in one's ability to interpret all life situations in spiritual terms."

Reaching People When They're Young

Barna's research discovered that a person's lifelong behaviors and views are generally developed when they are young - particularly before they reach the teenage years. As evidence of this, Barna provided research that showed four critical outcomes.

First, a person's moral foundations are generally in place by the time they reach age nine. While those foundations are refined and the application of those foundations may shift to some extent as the individual ages, their fundamental perspectives on truth, integrity, meaning, justice, morality, and ethics are formed quite early in life. After their first decade, most people simply refine their views as they age without a wholesale change in those leanings.

Second, a person's response to the meaning and personal value of Jesus Christ's life, death and resurrection is usually determined before a person reaches eighteen. In fact, a majority of Americans make a lasting determination about the personal significance of Christ's death and resurrection by age 12.

Third, Barna showed data indicating that in most cases people's spiritual beliefs are irrevocably formed when they are pre-teens. Upon comparing data from a national survey of 13-year-olds with an identical survey among adults, Barna found that the belief profile related to a dozen central spiritual principles was identical between the two groups. Those beliefs included perceptions of the nature of God, the existence of Satan, the reliability of the Bible, perceptions regarding the after-life, the holiness of Jesus Christ, the means of gaining God's favor, and the influence of spiritual forces in a person's life.

"In essence," the researcher noted, "what you believe by the time you are 13 is what you will die believing. Of course, there are many individuals who go through life-changing experiences in which their beliefs are altered, or instances in which a concentrated body of religious teaching changes one or more core beliefs. However, most people's minds are made up and they believe they know what they need to know spiritually by age 13. Their focus in absorbing religious teaching after that age is to gain reassurance and confirmation of their existing beliefs rather than to glean new insights that will redefine their foundations."
Citing research showing that a large proportion of church-going people dropout of church between the ages of 18 and 24, Barna stated that the research underscored the importance of families, not churches, taking the lead in the spiritual development of children. " A majority of teenagers attend a Christian church today, but only one-third is likely to do so once they reach adulthood.

Barna statistics show that the percentage of teens who are evangelicals - i.e., those who are not only born again but also believe in the accuracy of the Bible, personal responsibility to evangelize, believe in salvation by grace alone, and possess orthodox biblical views on God, Jesus and Satan - have declined from 10% in 1995 to just 4% today. This demise is attributable to growing numbers of teenagers who accept moral relativism and pluralistic theology as their faith foundation.
Notional Christian are neither evangelical nor born again, but are affiliated with a Christian church. This group is the majority of those who are labeled "Christian," representing 39% of the adult population.

Just less than half of the country (44%) believes that Jesus Christ committed sins during His time on earth. Forty-eight percent disagree with this contention. Two out of every five adults (39%) strongly oppose this idea.

Based on interviews with 601 Senior Pastors nationwide, representing a random cross-section of Protestant churches, Barna reports that only half of the country's Protestant pastors - 51% - have a biblical worldview. Defining such a worldview as believing that absolute moral truth exists, that it is based upon the Bible, and having a biblical view on six core beliefs (the accuracy of biblical teaching, the sinless nature of Jesus, the literal existence of Satan, the omnipotence and omniscience of God, salvation by grace alone, and the personal responsibility to evangelize), the researcher produced data showing that there are significant variations by denominational affiliation and other demographics.

"The most important point," Barna argued, "is that you can't give people what you don't have. The low percentage of Christians who have a biblical worldview is a direct reflection of the fact that half of our primary religious teachers and leaders do not have one. In some denominations, the vast majority of clergy do not have a biblical worldview, and it shows up clearly in the data related to the theological views and moral choices of people who attend those churches."
The Southern Baptists had the highest percentage of pastors with a biblical worldview (71%) while the Methodists were lowest among the seven segments evaluated (27%).

Among the other segments examined, 57% of the pastors of Baptist churches (other than Southern Baptist) had a biblical worldview, as did 51% of non-denominational Protestant pastors, 44% of pastors of charismatic or Pentecostal churches, 35% of pastors of black churches, and 28% of those leading mainline congregations.

The largest gap related to gender. Whereas 53% of male pastors have a biblical worldview, the same can be said for just 15% of female pastors.

"The research also points out that even in churches where the pastor has a biblical worldview," he continued, "most of the congregants do not. More than six out of every seven congregants in the typical church do not share the biblical worldview of their pastor even when he or she has one. This intimates that merely preaching good sermons and offering helpful programs does not enable most believers to develop a practical and scriptural theological base to shape their life. Our research among people who have a biblical worldview shows that it is a long-term process that requires a lot of purposeful activity: teaching, prayer, conversation, accountability, and so forth. Based on our correlations of worldview and moral behavior, we can confidently argue that if the 51% of pastors who have a biblical worldview were to strategically and relentlessly assist their congregants in adopting such a way of interpreting and responding to life, the impact on our churches, families and society at-large would be enormous."

"If Jesus Christ came to this planet as a model of how we ought to live, then our goal should be to act like Jesus. Sadly, few people consistently demonstrate the love, obedience and priorities of Jesus. The primary reason that people do not act like Jesus is because they do not think like Jesus. Behavior stems from what we think - our attitudes, beliefs, values and opinions. Although most people own a Bible and know some of its content, our research found that most Americans have little idea how to integrate core biblical principles to form a unified and meaningful response to the challenges and opportunities of life. We're often more concerned with survival amidst chaos than with experiencing truth and significance."

The proportion of households that tithe their income to their church - that is, give at least ten percent of their income to that ministry - has dropped by 62% in the past year, from 8% in 2001 to just 3% of adults during 2002.

One of the most striking insights from the research was the influence of such a way of thinking upon people's behavior. Adults with a biblical worldview possessed radically different views on morality, held divergent religious beliefs, and demonstrated vastly different lifestyle choices.
People's views on morally acceptable behavior are deeply impacted by their worldview. Upon comparing the perspectives of those who have a biblical worldview with those who do not, the former group were 31 times less likely to accept cohabitation (2% versus 62%, respectively); 18 times less likely to endorse drunkenness (2% versus 36%); 15 times less likely to condone gay sex (2% versus 31%); 12 times less likely to accept profanity 3% versus 37%); and 11 times less likely to describe adultery as morally acceptable (4% versus 44%). In addition, less than one-half of one percent of those with a biblical worldview said voluntary exposure to pornography was morally acceptable (compared to 39% of other adults), and a similarly miniscule proportion endorsed abortion (compared to 46% of adults who lack a biblical worldview).

Among the more intriguing lifestyle differences were the lesser propensity for those with a biblical worldview to gamble (they were eight times less likely to buy lottery tickets and 17 times less likely to place bets); to get drunk (three times less likely); and to view pornography (two times less common). They were also twice as likely to have discussed spiritual matters with other people in the past month and twice as likely to have fasted for religious reasons during the preceding month. While one out of every eight adults who lack a biblical worldview had sexual relations with someone other than their spouse during the prior month, less than one out of every 100 individuals who have such a worldview had done so.

Yet, those same studies revealed that less than half of the people who describe themselves as Christian also described themselves as "absolutely committed to the Christian faith." Less than one out of every ten regular attenders of Christian churches give 10% or more of their income - a "tithe" - to their church. A majority of teenagers attend a Christian church today, but only one-third is likely to do so once they reach adulthood.

Almost everyone in the U.S. believes that truth exists. However, a large majority of both adults and teenagers, Christian and non-Christian, contends that there is no absolute moral truth. More than two out of three adults and more than four out of five teenagers argue that truth is always relative to the individual and the circumstances. While most of these people describe themselves as followers of Christ and say that the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings, they nevertheless believe that truth is based on feelings, experience or emotion.

"This is one of the great deceptions of our age," Barna pointed out. "Embracing relativism under the guise of Christian faith facilitates comfort with sin. By claiming the authority to determine right from wrong, we crown ourselves the kings and queens of reality, yet we have no such authority and we constantly pay the price for the arrogance of believing and acting like we are in control of our destiny and experience. What an affront it is to God for us to claim His name and protection but to resist His moral truths on the basis of human feelings."

Barna Identifies Seven Paradoxes Regarding America's FaithDecember 17, 2002 (Ventura, CA) - After reviewing three dozen survey-based reports he wrote during 2002, researcher George Barna noticed a pattern running through most of the studies. That pattern was one of paradoxes, contradictions and deception in people's attitudes, opinions and beliefs related to their faith. Until these misunderstandings and misperceptions are addressed, he contends, it will be difficult for churches and individuals to focus effectively on faith development.The Success ParadoxIn one national study Barna discovered that people's views of success had little to do with their faith and spiritual wholeness. People focused on personal accomplishments, family solidarity and emotional fulfillment.Barna notes that only 7% identified spiritual wholeness and development as the factor that will produce a successful life. "The Christian faith commends sacrifice, servanthood and sharing as the means to significance," he noted. "How is it possible to have more than 120 million adults attending Christian churches on a regular basis, but only 15 million who grasp the message that success is not about personal accomplishment or material possessions?"

The Commitment ContradictionVarious studies conducted by Barna during 2002 pointed out how much Americans identified faith as a key factor in their life. Large majorities claimed that their "religious faith is very important" in their life and described themselves as "deeply spiritual."Yet, those same studies revealed that less than half of the people who describe themselves as Christian also described themselves as "absolutely committed to the. A majority of teenagers attend a Christian church today, but only one-third is likely to do so once they reach adulthood..Deceptions Regarding TruthAlmost everyone in the U.S. believes that truth exists. However, a large majority of both adults and teenagers, Christian and non-Christian, contends that there is no absolute moral truth. More than two out of three adults and more than four out of five teenagers argue that truth is always relative to the individual and the circumstances. While most of these people describe themselves as followers of Christ and say that the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings, they nevertheless believe that truth is based on feelings, experience or emotion.

The Deception of the Worship WarsThe bigger issues were people not understanding what worship is and who it is for - resulting in the failure to connect with God through genuine worship - and the widespread use of "blended worship," which winds up hindering rather than helping people's worship."The worship wars research is another example of the media creating a false reality on the basis of anecdotal analysis," commented Barna. "The most important issues are sometimes the ones we're most likely to ignore. In this case, the fact that most churches assume people know what worship is, that it is for God's benefit and pleasure, and how to engage with God through worship has left millions of individuals spiritually crippled rather than spiritually empowered. Study after study emphasizes that we make assumptions about people's spiritual understanding that are unjustified. The American Church desperately needs a back-to-basics movement to fill in the cracks in our spiritual understanding."

The Contradictions Regarding Religious BeliefsMore than four out of five Americans claim to be Christian and half as many can be classified as born again Christians. Nine out of ten adults own a Bible. Most adults read the Bible during the year and a huge majority claims they know all of the basic teachings of the Bible. How, then, can most people say Satan does not exist, that the Holy Spirit is merely a symbol, that eternal peace with God can be earned through good works, and that truth can only be understood through the lens of reason and experience? How can a plurality of our citizens contend that Jesus committed sins and that the Bible, Koran and Book of Mormon all teach the same truths?"In a sound bite society you get sound bite theology," Barna lamented. "Americans are more likely to buy simple sayings than a system of truth that takes time and concentration to grasp. People are more prone to embrace diversity, tolerance and feeling good than judgment, discernment, righteousness and limitations. People are more focused on temporal security than eternal security and its temporal implications. Hopefully, once Christian leaders and teachers comprehend this we can be more devoted to effectively challenging the superficial spirituality of our nation. As Paul wrote in the letter to the Galatians, we are only fooling ourselves; God will not be mocked."

1. When people who regularly attend Christian church services were asked to describe the importance of various spiritual endeavors, a minority of regular attenders described evangelism, having meaningful relationships with other people in their church, and giving 10% or more of their income to their church as very important endeavors.
2. After studying more than three dozen different faith practices and biblical beliefs, adults under the age of 35 were the least likely to have a biblical perspective or consistent participation in each of the factors examined.
3. Forty one percent of the adults who attend Christian church services in a typical week are not born again Christians - meaning they have not embraced Jesus Christ as their savior.
4. After exploring the religious life of adults attending a variety of Protestant churches, only three types of churches - Pentecostal, Assembly of God, and non-denominational churches - had a majority of adherents who had shared their faith in Christ with a non-Christian in the past year.
5. Based on people's reactions to a series of moral issues, Americans are comfortable legalizing activities - such as abortion, homosexuality and pornography - that they feel are immoral.
6. Religious teaching or values minimally affect people's moral choices. The major influences on such decisions are the expected personal outcomes of their choices, minimizing conflict over their choices, and the values their parents taught them.
7. Compared to two years ago, just half as many Americans believe that absolute moral truth exists, dropping from 38% in January 2000 to only 22% in November 2001.
Barna noted that this list suggests that "faith is just one component in people's lives that helps them to interpret and cope with reality - and it certainly is not the central shaping influence for most people. The data regarding young adults also pose the possibility that churches are losing ground in terms of influence and may need to consider new approaches to making ancient truths more vivid and comprehensible in a technology-drenched, relativistic global community."

The 7 Most Controversial Statistics

Based upon the letters, phone calls and e-mail messages received in response to the bi-weekly Updates released during the year, Barna identified the statistics that got the greatest number of people exercised.

1. Among adults who have been married, born again Christians and non-Christians have essentially the same probability of divorce.
2. Mormons are more likely to read the Bible during the week than are Protestants or Catholics.
3. Adults who attend charismatic or Pentecostal churches were more likely to possess biblical beliefs than were those attending other Protestant and Catholic churches.
4. By the end of the decade, 50 million Americans will seek to have their spiritual experience solely through the Internet, rather than at a church; and upwards of 100 million Americans will rely upon the Internet to deliver some aspects of their religious experience.
5. Roman Catholics represent the second-largest denominational group of born again Christians in the nation - trailing the Southern Baptists, but way ahead of Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and others.
6. Although one-third of all born again adults claim to tithe their income, only 12% actually do so.
7. Just half of all home schooling parents are born again Christians.

"One of the greatest values of research is that it can identify myths that we hold on to - myths that often prevent us from seizing opportunities, or that prevent us from responding appropriately to the world around us," Barna explained. "A lot of the anger that was expressed to us in reaction to these findings reflects the difficulty we sometimes have in changing our predispositions and coming to grips with a world that is rapidly changing and does not conform to the rules we believed were firmly entrenched. Knowing the reality, rather than the myth, can help us address reality and, if need be, redirect it."

The 7 Most Surprising Findings

Barna acknowledged that after more than two decades of conducting research on faith matters, it is unusual for surprises to emerge from the research. However, he listed the following seven unexpected outcomes:

1. The percentage of US Hispanics affiliated with the Catholic church has declined from 68% in 1991 to just 53% today.
2. Since 1993, the number of pastors who say they have the spiritual gifts of preaching/teaching, pastor/shepherd, discernment, and leadership has risen significantly.
3. Despite their evangelistic reputation, just four out of ten adults attending a Baptist church shared their faith in Christ with a non-believer in the past year - less than the proportion of adherents of many other denominations.
4. A higher percentage of adults are against legalized abortion in all or most circumstances (55%) than supports it (42%).
5. A plurality of adults support the legalization of same-gender sexual relations, and even one-third of born again Christians support this aspect of gay rights.
6. Four out of ten Senior Pastors do not have a seminary degree.
7. Despite sales that top 5 million units, The Prayer of Jabez was known to only 13% of adults; and despite sales exceeding 20 million units, the Left Behind books were known to only 24%. In contrast, the Harry Potter books were known to 69% of Americans - and that was before the movie release and related hype.
Barna stated that these findings tended to remind us that American culture as well as people's faith is constantly changing, and assumptions need to be continually re-examined to assess their validity.
The 7 Most Significant-But-Not-Surprising Insights
There are some conditions that have been assumed or anticipated, yet having factual evidence of their existence does not diminish the significance of such knowledge. Among the figures Barna cited that meet this description were these seven:
1. After the 9-11 attacks, religious activity surged, but within two months, virtually every spiritual indicator available suggested that things were back to pre-attack levels.
2. Just 12% of Senior Pastors say they have the spiritual gift of leadership; only 8% say they have the gift of evangelism; in contrast, two-thirds say they have the gift of teaching or preaching.
3. There is a fairly strong correlation between regularly reading the Bible and having conservative theological, moral, social and political views.
4. Less than 5% of the nation's churches have youth groups that attract 100 or more teenagers.
5. The gap between Protestants and Catholics in terms of religious practices and beliefs remains quite substantial.
6. From 2000 to 2001, there were no significant changes in 12 out of the 13 core religious practices tracked; only 2 factors have changed significantly in the past five years.
7. Less than 1% of Hispanics attend a mainline Protestant church, and less than 1% attend a Baptist church.
"Sometimes, it is the things that we have suspected but failed to act upon due to lack of factual support that have the greatest potential for impact in ministry," the researcher noted. "Some of these findings are perhaps obvious but are nevertheless critical elements in facilitating strategic responses."

The 7 Most Challenging Outcomes

Barna closed out his lists with one describing the greatest challenges churches face based on the year's research findings.

1. There has been a substantial deterioration regarding people's understanding of spiritual gifts, with a five-fold increase in born again adults who are aware of gifts saying God did not give them one, and half of all born again adults listing gifts they possess which are not among the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible. Even one-quarter of all Protestant pastors listed one or more gifts that they possess which are not identified in the Bible.
2. Financial support of churches dropped substantially between 1998 and 2000 - and will likely decline again this year, as a result of changed giving patterns related to the 9-11 attacks.
3. At least three out of ten born again adults say that co-habitation, gay sex, sexual fantasies, breaking the speed limit or watching sexually-explicit movies are morally acceptable behaviors.
4. Half of all adults maintain a non-biblical perspective on the moral acceptability of four or more of the eight core moral behaviors evaluated.
5. Although attending church as a child increases the likelihood of a person attending as an adult, that affect is declining substantially.
6. The religious beliefs of people who have attended church since childhood are no different than those of people who did not attend when young but attend as adults.
7. Compared to teens throughout the past 20 years, today's teenagers have the lowest likelihood of attending church when they are living independent of their parents.

Barna commented that such data underscore the magnitude of the challenges facing American ministries. "This is an exciting time to be alive for religious leaders who understand the spiritual search that millions of Americans have embarked upon and are willing to engage with people who do not necessarily accept pat answers or traditional solutions to spiritual problems. Our society offers people a plethora of choices. Helping people to comprehend that spectrum of options and the consequences of their choices is one of the exciting challenges facing the religious leaders of our nation."

It is widely held that conservative born again Christian households dominate home schooling. The Barna study did find that home school parents are almost twice as likely to be evangelical as is true within the general population. However, only 15% of home school parents are evangelicals (compared to 8% nationally). Ninety-one percent of home school parents describe themselves as Christian, but a surprisingly small proportion (just 49%) can be classified as born again Christians. In other words, a slight majority of the families who teach their children at home is not born again Christians (51%). The almost-even split between born again and non-born again parents in the home school camp may help to explain why they were no more likely than the population at-large to state that they are "absolutely committed to the Christian faith" - and why just 48% of all home schools parents made such a claim. Among the home school parents who described themselves as something other than Christian, 3% are Jewish, 3% are atheist, and the remaining 3% are associated with other faith groups.

(In the survey, people were not asked if they were born again, but were classified according to their answers to two questions concerning having made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ and their belief about what will happen to them after they die. For the explanation of how the survey measured "evangelicals" and "born again" Christians, see the Research Methodology section below.)

While home school parents were five times more likely to describe themselves as "mostly conservative" on political matters than as "mostly liberal," the data indicate that only a little more than one-third of the home school parents (37%) adopt the "mostly conservative" label. Half of all home school parents said they are "somewhere in-between" being politically conservative and liberal.

Just as surprising is the revelation that home school parents are only slightly more likely than other adults to engage in religious activities during the course of a typical week. Home school adults had levels of church attendance, church volunteerism, prayer, Sunday school attendance, and personal devotional times that were statistically indistinguishable from national norms. They did have a higher incidence of Bible reading during the week and greater levels of involvement in a small group that meets outside of church during the week for religious purposes.

The theological perspectives of home school parents are, however, notably different than the national norm. Home school parents were more likely to contend that the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches; to claim a personal responsibility to share their religious faith with non-believers; to consider their religious faith to be very important in their life; to deny that Jesus Christ committed sins while on Earth; and to have an orthodox view of God. Their views were similar to those of other Americans on the reality of Satan (most deny Satan exists) and regarding salvation by grace alone (half believe salvation can be earned through good works).
One way of measuring the significance of spirituality in their lives is to explore their goals for their future. When the national sample of teens was asked to rate the desirability of each of 19 outcomes, the spiritual outcomes included in the list were of moderate significance, at best. Highest among the three religious-oriented outcomes was "having a close, personal relationship with God," which ranked just eighth out of the nineteen possibilities. "Being deeply committed to the Christian faith" was in the bottom third of the future possibilities, ranked fourteenth. "Being personally active in a church" placed even lower, placing sixteenth. Overall, the highest-ranking options related to strong relationships and lifestyle comforts. Faith matters were substantially less compelling considerations.

In fact, although an overwhelming majority believes in God, just two out of three teens strongly desire having a personal relationship with Him. Similarly, although nearly nine out of ten teenagers believe that Jesus was real, and more than eight out of ten describe themselves as Christian, only half say they are very eager to be deeply committed to the Christian faith. Even fewer - just four out of ten - are excited about being active in a church.

Overt Commitments

Three key measures of faith further reveal the true nature of the spirituality of teens. Although four out of five say they are Christian, only one out of four (26%) also claims to be "absolutely committed to the Christian faith." That is only about half the percentage found among adults - and a strong indicator of the flagging depth of loyalty Americans have in relation to its dominant faith group.

Another measure is that of born again Christians. Survey respondents were classified as born again if they had made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life and if they believed that after they die they will go to Heaven solely because they have confessed their sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Using this classification method just one out of every three teens (33%) is born again. Amazingly, less than half of the born again teenagers (44%) said that they are absolutely committed to the Christian faith - yet another harbinger of trouble for the future Church.