Faith Conversations

June 6, 2019

Barna: Millennial non-Christians More Open to Faith Conversations

I really enjoy reading Barna Group’s research. It is fascinating how they answer important questions about Christianity and our society that I never thought to ask. Sometimes the news can be discouraging, such as when they find that skepticism is increasing and Bible-centered adults are decreasing. But newly-published research reveals hope and excitement about both millennials and the younger Generation Z.

Recently, Barna published research that gave me a lot of hope for Christianity among young people. The study revealed that millenial non-Christians are more likely than older adults to explore and ask questions about their faith. They are also twice as likely to express personal interest in Christianity.

As millennials age and assume positions of societal leadership, it is hopeful to know that they are becoming more willing to discuss faith. The numbers aren’t incredibly high, but they are positive, which is what matters. Seventy percent of millennial non-Christians have had one or more conversations about faith as opposed to the 52 percent of older non-Christians.

In our seemingly ever-secularizing society, it is more important than ever to share Christ with others. While we may think that people are turned off by conversations about faith and spirituality, Barna suggests differently. This is important information that can be used to change the way we interact and share our faith with non-Christians. Of course, not everyone is open to talking about faith, but when valid research shows that non-Christian millennials are open to hearing about faith through a one-on-one conversations with a Christian, we cannot ignore that.

As Christians, we have an obligation to share the Gospel with others. Barna reports that 36 percent of young non-Christians are open to learning about Christianity. As scripture says in 1 Peter 3:15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” There are so many people who need Christ. We must be willing and ready to share the Gospel.

Barna reveals that 67 percent of millennial non-Christians have had someone share the Gospel with them in some capacity, while only 51 percent of older non-Christians can say the same. Whether the Gospel is being shared with millennials or older adults, it is encouraging to know that people are hearing the Gospel in some way. These percentages will hopefully increase as more people hear the message of Christ.

One things that needs to be addressed is that Barna reports that 53 percent of non-Christians would prefer to hear the gospel from a one-on-one conversation with a Christian. It can be difficult to open up to someone about faith when it is simply through a pamphlet on the street or a quick conversation in a crowded church service. Christians must recognize the impact that personal relationships with non-Christians can have. Once people know they are loved and cared for within a relationship, there is freedom to open up about deep questions they may have about faith and religion. Then Christians also have an opportunity to speak the truth of the Gospel in a way that these non-christian friends will hear it and feel safe rather than confronted.

Some U.S. Christian churches have reported declines in membership in recent years. Now more than ever we need people who will share the love of Christ with non-Christians and help them step into the church and into a life of freedom and grace. There is always work to be done for the kingdom on God, so I pray that Christians who see this research will be encouraged by the increasing curiosity of non-Christians and that the people from this research who reported that they heard the Gospel will accept it and continue to then share it with others.

In light of this report and our understanding of the world’s need for Christ, we can remember His words from the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:14-16. Be encouraged to have more conversations about faith so that millennial and older non-Christians will hear and know the love of Christ. 

One Response to Barna: Millennial non-Christians More Open to Faith Conversations

  1. Lee D. Cary says:

    The demographics profile of the UMC is aging. Evangelism among Methodists was once…energetic. That shifted when the denomination became more social-justice active, particularly in the 1960’s and beyond. And, at the same time, amped up its “business” practices through the professional, centralized “Board & Agencies”.

    I once attended an Annual Conference where I dedicated myself to keeping a log on theological word usage during the business sessions. I counted the word uses of concepts such as prevenient grace, resurrection, incarnation, Trinity, Holy Spirit. They were so infrequent as to be negligent. I don’t think that was an anomaly. And I think it’s telling.

    “Oh, but that’s language for the daily sermons,” you reply. Right.

    If I was a potential candidate for Methodist evangelism, and asked what the evangelist’s church was all about, the current most honest answer would be, “Well, right now we’re trying to reverse a long-held, but unenforced, provision that same-sex marriages and gay & gay/lesbian clergy are not a part of our church doctrine or polity.”

    The candidate – as I play that role – for conversion – cause that’s what we’re talking about here – either says, “Oh, that’s wonderful. I’m all for that!” as their face lights up, or “Oh, I see. Well thanks for dropping by,” as their eyes gloss over.

    Click on the “declines in membership” link in the 8th paragraph of this fine article. That’s where the UMC is headed.

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