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How Many Christians Are There in America?

John on November 8, 2007 at 10:22 pm

I’m stealing this from Scott who sent it to me earlier today.

The number of Christians in America has always been an interesting question to me. My suspicion has been that the number is much lower than some polls would lead us to believe. Now, we have some answers in the form of fresh research commissioned by Christianity Today:

The United States is described in mainstream media as largely Christian (between 70 and 80 percent, depending on the study, identify themselves as “Christian”), and compared to the rest of the world, this is certainly the case. However, not all within this vast group of Christians are alike.

To understand the range and differences among American Christians, Christianity Today International (publisher of Leadership) recently partnered with Zondervan Publishers to commission Knowledge Networks to conduct attitudinal and behavioral research of U.S. Christians. In September 2006, more than 1,000 self-identified Christians 18 years of age and older were surveyed on their religious beliefs and practices… [P]ortraits of five distinct segments emerged from the study. We have named them Active, Professing, Liturgical, Private, and Cultural Christians.

Each group represents about one-fifth of those identifying themselves as Christian, with Active Christians most likely to have a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that affects their beliefs and inspires an active church life; Cultural Christians are least likely to align their beliefs or practices with biblical teachings, or attend church. Between the two is a range of beliefs, commitment levels, and public practice of the faith.

The survey shows that for nearly half of Christians, involvement in a local church body is a minimal part of their daily lives.

Here are the five categories with church attendance and participation information:

I assume “Liturgical” is largely a cipher for Catholic. If so, it seems by the numbers that Catholics are more involved than all but the “active” Christians on the far left.
In any case, it’s telling that only about half of all self-identified Christians attend church. The bottom line is that there is no such thing as “lone ranger” Christianity. One works out one’s salvation as part of a community of believers. It’s a non-negotiable part of the faith.

Take a look at that chart again and this time compare it with this paraphrase of Jesus’ words from Mark 4:

“The farmer plants the Word. Some people are like the seed that falls on the hardened soil of the road. No sooner do they hear the Word than Satan snatches away what has been planted in them. “And some are like the seed that lands in the gravel. When they first hear the Word, they respond with great enthusiasm. But there is such shallow soil of character that when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it. “The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it. “But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams.”

I think we can see something very like this 2,000 year old breakdown in this survey.

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Category: Religion & Faith |

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