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TORI HARPER

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A growing number of people who are active in their Christian faith and view it as important are also turning away from actively sharing that faith with others. 

benwhitea (Ben White Photography)

That's the findings in a new report by the Barna Group called Reviving Evangelism. The report was commissioned by Alpha USA.

The study surveyed 992 practicing Christians in the United States in 2018. They also surveyed 1,001 adults who did not meet criteria as a practicing Christian. The results were broken down by generations of Millenials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and Elders.

Millennials confident and active in faith

All groups surveyed agreed that part of their faith meant being a witness for Jesus. 94 per cent of Christian Millenials agreed that "the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus."

The results also showed that Millenials are the most confident of all groups in their ability to share their faith with others.

However, a growing number say that evangelizing others in order to convert them from their faith to Christianity is wrong.

47 per cent of Millenials at least somewhat agreed with the statement "it is wrong to share one's personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith." Gen X was the next highest group at 27 per cent.

While some might be tempted to point to Millennials and fault them for the findings, Millennials continue to be one of the most active generations in Christianity.

In 2016 Barna found that Christian Millennials have the strongest beliefs in the Bible, and read it more than any other generation group. 87 per cent of Millennials read their Bibles multiple times a week. 

Sharing the gospel harder today

Barna says that "Younger Christians tend to be more personally aware of the cultural temperature around spiritual conversations. Among practicing Christians, Millennials report an average (median) of four close friends or family members who practice a faith other than Christianity; most of their Boomer parents and grandparents, by comparison, have just one. Sharing the gospel today is made harder than at any time in recent memory by an overall cultural resistance to conversations that highlight people’s differences."

40 per cent of Christian Millennials feel that if somebody disagrees with another's viewpoint they are judging them. While Millennials might not mind being judged themselves, they don't want to be viewed as judging people of other faiths.

"Society today also casts a negative light on proselytization that many older Christians do not fully appreciate," Barna says.

What it means

Barna President, David Kinnaman, says this study highlights a need for Christians to bolster their confidence in certain convictions—among them, the belief that “evangelizing others is good and worthy of our time, energy and investment.

“To start, we must pass on resilient faith to Christian young people (this is also a form of evangelism), planning especially for the pivot point of the high school and college-age years,” Kinnaman says. “The dropout problem is real, and it has a chilling effect on the overall evangelistic environment. It is impossible to exactly trace the impact of lapsed Christians on non-Christians, but sobering to consider the ‘de-evangelistic’ clout of those who leave the faith.

Related

“Even after they are committed to sustaining resilient faith, we must persuade younger Christians that evangelism is an essential practice of following Jesus,” Kinnaman continues. “The data show enormous ambivalence among Millennials, in particular, about the calling to share their faith with others.

“Cultivating deep, steady, resilient Christian conviction,” Kinnaman concludes, “is difficult in a world of ‘you do you’ and ‘don’t criticize anyone’s life choices’ and emotivism, the feelings-first priority that our culture makes a way of life. As much as ever, evangelism isn’t just about saving the unsaved, but reminding ourselves that this stuff matters, that the Bible is trustworthy and that Jesus changes everything.”