Christianity Today recently published a brief article highlighting several results from a 2019 LifeWay Research survey that finds that “Nearly two-thirds of churchgoers (65%) agreed with the statement, “I can walk with God without other believers.”**
I can’t say that this surprises me. However, I’m not certain the wording of the question and its corresponding result brings to light a real issue. Obviously, I am not in the survey industry, so fell free to fire a warning shot over the bow before taking a more precise aim.
Last year, I spent a few hours (and I stress a few mere hours) researching the ideal that many Christians are not leaving the faith but simply leaving the church, for alternatives. An example would be that of Christians more frequently joining and attending small group bible studies, in place of going to church.
Now, my self-proclaimed A.D.D., prevents me from spending much time researching “numbers & figures” or even sharing them. That said; what information and articles, I was able to grasp, leads me to believe my own stated conclusion.
I don’t believe Christians are giving up their faith. I simply believe, as it appears numerous organizations (and some prominent Christian figures) also believe, these Christians, who may often be called, “Religious nones and unaffiliated,” are merely turning to other modes of practicing their faith.
I don’t believe the issue is being conveyed correctly. I don’t think these people are going it alone, I just think they’ve decided to go it –without an organized church. As a matter of fact, LifeWay Research was one of my sources, I mentioned earlier, that I came across in my own research.
It was Bruce Raley, director of church education ministry for LifeWay that told us, “Whether they meet on Sunday Mornings or during the week, small groups are the best way to learn the habits of the faith, such as prayer, bible study and serving others.”
It was my intention to take Mr. Raley’s comment out of its context. In fairness to Mr. Raley, here is his continuing thought, “those that belong to a bible study group are more likely to go to church at least four times a month and to read the bible daily.”
Although I agree with the first of Mr. Raley’s statements, as I shared here, I believe it may lead to a different conclusion than it presents. I believe as more people have discovered the concept of small-group bible studies, they also may have discovered that they are reaping more benefits in the small group than they were in the larger setting of church.
From TheFederalist.com, Glenn T. Stanton wrote in an article earlier in the year; “Mainline churches are tanking as if they have super-sized millstones around their necks. Yes, these churches are hemorrhaging members in startling numbers, but many of those folks are not leaving Christianity. They are simply going elsewhere.”
In 2012, Mrs. J.F wrote to Billy Graham with a question referencing the joining of a small group bible study. ** I will highlight just three points of his response to her;
- “You may not know much about the Bible, but others in the group probably don’t either, and a small group Bible study can be an excellent place to learn.”
- “I hope you’ll take this as a God-given opportunity and enter into it with a sense of adventure and expectancy.”
- “Don’t become a “pew-sitter” – someone who just attends church but never allows God’s Word to enter their hearts and change them.”
A study by Gallup Polls states “Although about 40 percent of Americans are regular church attendees, it doesn’t necessarily mean 40 percent are in church on any given Sunday,” he explains. “The most regular church attendee gets sick or sleeps in. The other reason may be people who tell us they go to church but are worshiping in non-traditional ways, such as small groups, people meeting in gyms or school libraries.” (My Emphasis)
I don’t believe 76 Million Americans are actively trying to hide from their religion; from their God. I believe they are sincere about their Christian faith. I think they are finding it more and more difficult to share it in today’s environment.
I don’t see Small Group Bible Study as the new fad on the block. It has been around even before the era of Christianity. I believe that a small group of people can share an experience just as much in a bible study meeting as in a church setting. I believe these people can even enhance their experience; and in a more meaningful and personal way.
Tell me what you think…
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