How Biblical is this Church? September 3, 2008

How Biblical is this Church?

Granger Community Church near South Bend, Indiana recently surveyed their members. They wanted to know the actual beliefs of the congregation.

Among the surprising results were the following:

  • 57% of attendees do not believe in the authority of the Bible.
  • 56% of attendees do not believe that Jesus is the only way to eternal life.
  • 47% of attendees do not believe in salvation by grace.

There are a variety of explanations for these results, and I’d love to know why you think they came out this way.

The GCC isn’t happy about this. But they’re spinning this to say it’s a good thing — it gives them somewhere to go:

But I can think of some worse statistics. I would much rather be in a church where 57% don’t believe in the Bible than in a church where 100% of those attending do believe in the Bible. That would be awful!

Imagine a church that was completely filled with those already convinced…where no one invited an unchurched friend…where the Christians had grown stagnant in their pursuit of knowledge and stopped putting the gospel into practice…where the church had made Jesus so unattractive that no one on a search for purpose or meaning would consider coming. If I found myself in such a church, I would be weeping.

Maybe atheists should take that same tactic.

What’s that you say? Only 20% of young adults are atheists?

Well, if all of them were, there would be no real need for atheist bloggers, atheist organizations, The God Delusion, secular student groups, or Pat Condell.

See? We ought to consider ourselves lucky for being in the minority 🙂

(via Justice and Compassion)

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  • timplausible

    I’d venture the first point has to do with the survey not allowing for shades of gray. I bet most church goers believe in the Bible having some kind of authority, but not literal truth on all issues. I mean, who wants to stone their kids to death because a book says so?

    Second point: just a variation on the first. People don’t like to believe that their loving god will send their friends to hell. I know a lot of people who waffle on this because they just can’t accept that their all-loving friend up there is that much of a son-of-a-bitch.

    Salvation by grace? For starters, doesn’t this contradict 2? I mean, if 2 and 3 add up to more than 100%, something’s wrong, isn’t it? But salvation by grace also goes against what people want to believe. “Why the heck do I have to do X or believe Y if it isn’t necessary to be saved? Screw that!”

  • David D.G.

    Maybe that church should just consider changing its affiliation to that of Unitarian Universalist. It sounds as if the congregation’s about halfway there already.

    ~David D.G.

  • Richard Wade

    ATHEIST FOR HIRE: If a local church with a stagnant, too-self-agreeing congregation needs some unbelievers to stir things up and shake them out of their sheep-like stupor, I am available on Sunday mornings for only $100 dollars per hour, plus free food. I’ll be happy to sit through the services and then chat with the nice folks over coffee, cookies or better ham and eggs, all the while politely but clearly indicating that I am not convinced, and telling them exactly why, if they are interested. I’m pleasant, personable, intelligent, articulate, and come with a money back guarantee that I won’t be converted. I require a contract stating that neither my person, family, friends nor my property will be attacked in any way. Is your flock too complacent? Revive it with Heathens for Hire!

  • Darryl

    Richard, Heathens for Hire is taking Hemant’s approach to the next level. It just might work. I’d be willing to bet that some churches would take you up on your offer. Why not? It would at least be interesting for all involved.

  • Lynn

    I think some people remain in or seek out faith communities based on cultural/social traditions more than strictly doctrinal issues.

    Also, as more people are living side by side with people from all kinds of religious, political, social, cultural, etc. backgrounds, they tend to mellow out a bit about the kinds of strict religious dogma involving judgment and condemnation of particular kinds of people.

    It is a good thing, just not for the reasons this particular church thinks.

  • That seems like some really weak spinning by them. It would be more believable if a one-digit number of church goers didn’t believe in the Bible, but saying they’re satisfied with 57% not believing just seems like blatant lying.

    (I bet timplausible is onto something about the survey not considering “shades of gray,” but it’s the church’s responsibility to clarify this)

  • Loren Petrich

    This sort of Pollyannaishness reminds me of what Vladimir Lenin said about his more moderate colleagues:

    When a liberal is abused, he says: Thank God they didn’t beat me. When he is beaten, he thanks God they didn’t kill him. When he is killed, he will thank God that his immortal soul has been delivered from its mortal clay.

    It also makes me wonder what they think Heaven will be like — if there is nothing but their idea of virtuous people there, then it would be just like their idea of an awful church.

  • Karen

    It would be more believable if a one-digit number of church goers didn’t believe in the Bible, but saying they’re satisfied with 57% not believing just seems like blatant lying.

    If any of the churches I used to attend came up with numbers like this, the pastor would fall on his (biblical) sword. Much wailing and gnashing would occur and the devil would be cast out of the auditorium.

    The fact that they’ve got a few nonbelievers in their ranks that they can evangelize to – sure, they’d think that’s great. But more than half!? Something’s not sinking in there, and I’m sure they’re putting a happy face on it out front while anguishing behind the scenes.

  • I agree with timplausible. It is difficult to interpret the results without seeing what the survey questions where and what shades of grey they allowed for. For example, there are some of us that say the text is intrinsically authoritative, others of us that say its only authoritative when the text is read in context, others of us who say its only a guideline. I go for option 2. Which camp would I be included in under this survey? I hope it would be amongst those who consider it authoritative, but who knows without more detail?

    On face value though, I agree it does look pretty woeful. I noted with interest that the pastor subscribes to “Purpose Driven” style services. I wonder if this is the fallout of dumbing down to cater for market tastes?

  • Richard Wade

    One obvious question has either not been asked or the results have not been published:

    What percentage of the attendees do not believe in God?

    Maybe 47% to 57% responding “no I don’t believe” to that one would be too much for the congregation to handle and too much for the leadership to spin.

    I haven’t been able to find the entire survey anywhere. Anyone know a source?

  • I’d like to see what sort of instrument did they use to get those statistics.
    As Timplausible said at the very beginning, it all depends on the structure of the questions.

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