What does it mean to be an “evangelical”? Well, that can depend on who you ask. LifeWay Research put together a US study to determine the number of self-professed evangelicals and the number of evangelicals who belong to that group based on what they believe. The results were rather surprising.
LifeWay Research based the survey of Americans on a set of four questions, developed in partnership with the National Association of Evangelicals, about the Bible, Jesus, salvation, and evangelism. Only those who “strongly agree with all four are considered to be evangelicals by belief.”
The study found
1 in 4 Americans claim to be evangelical Christians.
Fewer than half of self-professed evangelicals “strongly agree with core evangelical beliefs.”
A mere 15% of Americans are evangelical by belief.
Only 69% of evangelicals by belief claim to be evangelicals.
Evangelicals by belief are a much more diverse group than the group of self-professed evangelicals.
Confusing? Well, commenting on this research, Scott McConnell, the executive direction of LifeWay Research, says, “There’s a gap between who evangelicals say they are and what they believe.” People will claim the label “evangelical” without actually believing the historic and biblical doctrines that are associated with being evangelical. And many who actually are evangelical refuse to call themselves evangelical, probably due to some of the negative connotations the term “evangelical” now has in our culture.
It’s sad, but not surprising, that only 15% of Americans are actually evangelicals—meaning they hold to the basic biblical and historic Christian doctrines. We’re seeing the decline of Christianity in the West, and I believe a big part of the problem is the church’s compromise on God’s Word. When you open the door to compromise in Genesis regarding millions of years and evolution, why not interpret other parts of the Bible to mean whatever you’d like them to mean—or to fit with the views of the culture? Or why not just throw out the Bible altogether? After all, if man determines truth, God’s Word is irrelevant.
Generations of Christians who have not stood on the authority of God’s Word have contributed to this decline, and, sadly, we’re only going to see it continue if the church in America and abroad continues to ignore God’s Word and not train up generations of young people who know what the Bible teaches and know how to defend what they believe.
And this responsibility lies heavily with parents!
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4, NKJV)
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul. . . . You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 11:18–19)
You see, the family is one of God’s primary ways of raising up believers (Malachi 2:15). After all, the family is the first and most fundamental of all human institutions God ordained in Scripture. The influence of parents and grandparents in the lives of children can’t be emphasized enough! Recent research from the American Culture and Faith Institute found that 68% of born-again believers in the United States were born again before they turned 18! Children are much more likely to come to faith in Christ than adults, which is why Jesus said,
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)
Nearly 30% of born-again believers in the United States said that their parents were the dominant influence in their decision to follow Christ, with other family members and friends trailing this number. In total, half said a friend or a relative drove their decision to embrace Christ.
Parents and other family members have a huge influence on the spiritual lives of their children, yet American pollster George Barna says,
Parents, who have more influence on the spiritual choices and development of their children than anyone else, are ill-prepared these days to lead their children to a genuine, life-changing relationship with Jesus. . . . Worse yet, surveys conducted by ACFI earlier this year revealed that most American parents are not interested or engaged in helping their kids to know Jesus personally.
Parents, I can’t stress this strongly enough—your job, given to you by God himself, is to raise your children in the training and admonition of the Lord. That is your first and primary responsibility! No wonder the church in America is in such a mess if parents aren’t interested or engaged in raising up generations of young people to love the Lord!
Parents, I urge you to get equipped to think biblically, to know what God’s Word teaches, and to teach your children to love God and obey his Word. Of course the first and most important thing is to read God’s Word and spend time in prayer. Nothing can (or should!) replace that. But we also have an online bookstore full of resources to help you think biblically and be equipped to help your children do so as well. I could list so many resources, but I will just highlight a few for you:
The Lie: Evolution. Other than the Bible, this book is really the “textbook” of our ministry. It will encourage you to start with God’s Word in all areas, beginning in Genesis.
Already Gone. Learn why two-thirds of young people in America are leaving the church—and what you can do about it!
Answers magazine. This award-winning family creation worldview magazine comes six times a year, equipping your whole family to think biblically on the issues of our day.
The 10 Minute Bible Journey. Take your family chronologically through God’s Word with 10 minute lessons that will help you understand the flow and core message of God’s Word like never before. And get the bookmark that turns any Bible into a chronological Bible so you can read through Scripture in the order the events actually happened.
ABC: Adult Teacher Kit. You'll love learning the very same topics at the same time as your children with this unique Sunday school curriculum. Your entire family can easily discuss the Bible throughout the week!
You can see hundreds of other resources when you visit AnswersBookstore.com.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.