Only half of evangelical pastors have a biblical worldview: survey

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Once considered the “denomination” of bearers of biblical truth, evangelical Christians could be in danger of losing their theological reputation.

In what researchers described as a “shocking” finding, a new report from the Cultural Research Center (CRC) at Arizona Christian University indicated that just over half of all US pastors of evangelical churches (51 %) have a biblical worldview.

The study, released Tuesday, builds on an earlier report from CRC’s “American Worldview Inventory 2022,” which showed that only 37% of Christian pastors bring a biblical worldview with them to their pulpits.

Launched as an annual tracking study in 2020, the American Worldview Inventory is a survey that assesses the worldview of American adults. It is based on 54 worldview questions that measure both beliefs and behavior in eight worldview application categories: purpose and calling; family and value of life; God, creation and history; religious practices; sin, salvation and relationship with God; character and human nature; lifestyle, behavior and relationships; and Bible, Truth and Morals.

The nationwide survey of about 1,000 Christian pastors conducted between February and March found that 57% of pastors leading nondenominational, independent churches had a biblical worldview, which the researchers called “biblical theism.” Non-denominational and independent churches were even more likely to subscribe to a biblical worldview than leaders of evangelical churches, 51% of whom adhere to biblical theism in their daily lives.

Perhaps most surprisingly, only 48% of Baptist church pastors, widely considered the most enthusiastic about embracing the Bible as God’s Word, held a biblical worldview. Ministers of Southern Baptist churches, on the other hand, were much more likely (78%) to hold consistent Bible beliefs.

Much smaller shares of pastors in other denominational categories held a biblical worldview, according to the report. Just over a third of pastors of charismatic or Pentecostal churches – 37% – hold a biblical worldview, slightly higher than that of pastors of mainstream Protestant churches (32%) and those aligned with “theology of the holiness” (28%), which is generally aligned with Pentecostal theology. teachings but promises that believers can attain a “sinless state” after their conversion.

Pastors associated with “traditionally black Protestant” churches and Catholic priests were found to be the least likely to embrace biblical theism, with the incidence of biblical worldview measured in single digits. Nine percent of pastors leading traditionally black churches had a biblical worldview, along with 6 percent of Catholic priests.

“The old labels attached to church families are no longer as useful as they once were,” lead researcher George Barna, research director for the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, said in a statement. “The best example is the term ‘evangelical,’ which has traditionally connoted churches where the Bible is revered and taught as the reliable and relevant word of God for our lives.”

“With barely half of evangelical pastors possessing a biblical worldview—and that number continues to decline—attending what can be considered an ‘evangelical’ church no longer ensures pastoral staff who have a high scriptural view. “

The research also examined the worldviews of pastors based on the size of the congregation they serve. In churches with an average of 100 or fewer adults attending weekend services, 41% of pastors were designated as “embedded disciples,” meaning they have a biblical worldview that has been successfully translated into their daily behavior.

Larger congregations of 101 to 250 adults fared even better, with 45 percent of their pastors having a biblical worldview. However, only 14% of pastors leading medium-sized churches of between 250 and 600 people had a biblical worldview, while 15% of pastors of congregations with more than 600 adults were considered integrated disciples.

“You can’t give what you don’t have, so it’s plausible that pastors in some large churches are attracting people by teaching a cultural norm rather than a biblical norm,” Barna explained. “There are obviously large churches and pastors who teach the Bible among the largest congregations in the country, but the data suggests that it is more common to find pastors with a biblical worldview in smaller churches.”

Beyond community size, the impact of a biblical worldview also varied depending on the race and ethnicity of the congregation served.

The survey found that a majority of American Christian congregations (67%) are predominantly white, followed by 10% who are predominantly black, 4% who are predominantly Hispanic, and 3% with another minority group making up the majority. Another 16% are mixed ethnic congregations.

Of these mixed scholarships, 7% are predominantly white and black, 5% are predominantly white and Hispanic, 3% are predominantly white and Asian, and the remaining 1% have various other combinations.

Describing the results as “not as expected,” the report found that 42% of pastors who led all or most white churches held a biblical worldview. In contrast, 34% of pastors of mixed congregations made up primarily of whites and Hispanics held a biblical worldview, followed by 31% of major churches attended by multiple ethnic groups, 27% of pastors of primarily black churches, 23% for churches where the body is a mix of white and black or white and Asian and only 7% of pastors serving primarily Hispanic churches.

Another study released last month showed more pastors now say they are considering quitting their jobs compared to a year ago, citing stress, loneliness, political divisions and other concerns like decline. of their church as reasons why they want to take a different path. The share of pastors who have seriously considered leaving full-time ministry in the past year has risen from 29% in 2021 to 42% in March this year.

Barry F. Howard