Lost In Church: Are Half of Churchgoers Not Saved?
by Michael J Vlach
- How would your approach to evangelism be different if you knew that up to one-half of the people attending your church were not Christians?
As startling as this idea may appear, recent research indicates it may be a hard reality for many churches in the United States. Researcher George Barna has discovered the disturbing fact that “half of all adults who attend Protestant churches on a typical Sunday morning are not Christian.” He also points out that people who call themselves Christians but are not born again are “a group that constitutes a majority of churchgoers.”
Barna’s findings are similar to those reported by Bill Bright, founder and fifty-year president of Campus Crusade for Christ. According to Bright, “Our surveys suggest that over 50% of the hundred million people in church here in the United States every Sunday are not sure of their salvation.”
In addition to discovering that 50% of people in church are “lost churchgoers,” the Barna Research Group has also revealed that 44% of Americans are “notional Christians.” These 90 million notional Christians are people who describe themselves as Christians but do not believe that their hope for eternal life is based on a personal relationship with Jesus and the belief that He died and rose again from the dead.
According to On Mission magazine, published by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, “notional Christians” do not know “whether they will experience eternal life, eternal damnation or some other outcome.”
Barna says that many who attend Protestant churches have been “anesthetized” to the Gospel. Many have mentally accepted correct beliefs but have “lived without a shred of insight into what a relationship with Christ was all about.”
This shocking discovery that there are large numbers of lost churchgoers is not inconsistent with what the Bible says. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” He also says that many will cry out, “Lord, Lord,” only to hear Him say, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:22-23). It appears that Jesus’ solemn warning may apply to many who fill the church pews on Sunday mornings.
Barna notes that if non-Christian church members continue along their current path “their chances of coming to grips with the truth about Christ and their own mortality are slim.”
Christians have often been stirred to evangelism by being asked the question, “How far will you go to reach lost people with the Gospel?” Today, another question must also be asked- “How close will you go to reach the lost for Christ?”