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A recent report from WND left readers stunned with the results of polling by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, directed by George Barna, that found only 37% of American Christian pastors holding a biblical worldview.
Instead, a majority believe what they want to believe, a “blending of ideas and applications from a variety of holistic worldviews into a unique but inconsistent combination that represents their personal preferences.”
Now, an expansion on that poll reveals that the only categories for pastors where more than half identified as holding a biblical worldview were those identifying as non-denominational, independent, and those calling themselves evangelical.
The results are from Barna’s American Worldview Inventory 2022.
The results reveal barely half, 51%, of evangelical pastors hold a biblical worldview, and 57% of those who are non-denominational and independent.
For charismatic and Pentecostal pastors, the number matches the national average: 37%. for mainline Protestant pastors that number is 32%, for holiness pastors it’s 28%, for traditionally black Protestant pastors it is 9% and from Roman Catholic pastors it is 6%.
Evangelical churches, by definition, believe that the Bible is God’s true and reliable words to humanity.
The poll report explained, “Baptist churches, which are widely regarded as among those most likely to embrace the Bible as God’s inerrant word, did not live up to that stereotype. Less than half of the pastors serving at Baptist churches (48%) have a biblical worldview—the exception being pastors of Southern Baptist churches, where about three-quarters (78%) have consistently biblical beliefs and behavior.”
Some might be reassured by that 78% figure, Barna said, but others still have questions because of the recent investigative report detailing cases of sexual abuse by several hundred Southern Baptist pastors.
“Pastors who possess a biblical worldview would be extremely unlikely to engage in or condone sexual abuse or other predatory behavior,” the widely published researcher stated. “But in a church association that has more than 50,000 pastors, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, 400 abusive pastors is a fraction of the total. Yet, that relatively small proportion of the group has inflicted lifelong pain and suffering on the lives of hundreds of people, transforming the lives of their victims for the worse. Perhaps that underscores just how imperative it is that churches screen pastors and other leaders for worldview before hiring or promoting them.”
The report explained there’s a “very strong correlation between the size of the congregation and the worldview of the pastor leading it.”
The survey found 41% of the pastors of churches with 100 or fewer adults both possess a biblical worldview and have integrated their biblical beliefs into their daily behavior.
The best result came from churches with 101-250 adults attending, where 45% of pastors held a biblical worldview. For churches with 251-600 adults, it was 14%, and for those churches with 601 or more adults, it was 15%.
“In this post-pandemic era, about nine out of every 10 Christian churches in the United States has 250 or fewer adults attending on a typical weekend,” Barna reported.
Barna’s report explained, “In light of these findings, how should American Christians view the denomination and sizes of the country’s congregations?”
“First, the old labels attached to families of churches are not as useful as they were in the past,” Barna said. “The best example is the term ‘evangelical,’ which has traditionally connoted churches where the Bible is revered and is taught as God’s reliable and relevant word for our lives. With barely half of evangelical pastors possessing a biblical worldview – and that number continuing to decline – attending what may be considered an ‘evangelical’ church no longer ensures a pastoral staff that has a high view of the scriptures.”
He said, “Some critics have said that megachurches attract people by compromising the gospel, teaching what people want to hear rather than what the Bible actually says. While this research does not directly touch on that argument, the data does show that larger churches are less likely to have pastors who maintain a biblical worldview. You cannot give what you do not have, so it is plausible to suggest that some of the more popular churches attract people by teaching a cultural standard, rather than a biblical standard. There are obviously some great Bible-teaching churches and pastors among the nation’s largest congregations, but the data suggests it is more common to find pastors with a biblical worldview in smaller churches.”
The survey asks 54 belief and behavior questions grouped into categories concerning, “purpose, calling,” “family, value of life,” “God, creation, history,” “faith practices,” “sin, salvation God relationship,” “human character and nature,” “lifestyle, behavior, relationships,” “Bible, truth, morals.”
The report continued:
In total, the survey indicates that 67% of Christian congregations are white-dominant; 10% are black dominant; 4% are Hispanic dominant; 3% are other minority-dominant; and 16% are mixed. Among the mixed congregations, 7% are primarily whites and blacks; 5% are mostly whites and Hispanics; 3% are mainly whites and Asians; and 1% are various other combinations. In total, 42% of pastors serving white-dominant congregations have a biblical worldview. That eclipsed the 27% of pastors serving predominantly black congregations and the 7% serving primarily Hispanic congregations. The statistics for churches with mixed congregations were not as expected. In congregations comprised mostly of whites and Hispanics, 34% of the pastors in those ministries have a biblical worldview. The proportion dropped considerably in churches where the body is a mixture of whites and blacks (23% of those pastors have a biblical worldview) or a combination of whites and Asians (also 23%).
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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.