Church Attendees Believe... What?!
It is not hard to claim, from one’s own experience, that we live in strange and confusing times. But on occasion, you get demonstrable proof that we do. In June 2023, Family Research Council conducted a national survey of approximately 1,000 adults who attend church at least once a month, asking them questions on a range of social issues.
This data holds much insight into the modern American church. In what follows, I will highlight and then briefly comment on four of the most surprising finds of the survey. It is at this point that I urge you to buckle up because the data is about to get bumpy.
First, 30% prefer capitalism over socialism.
In distressing terms, this finding shows us that the church is slouching toward socialism. What a travesty!
At a basic level, churches are not educating people about the goodness of the free market. Although God gave mankind work to do even prior to the Fall (Genesis 2:15), our churches do not articulate the dignity of work. Although stealing and coveting what our neighbor has are serious sins (Exodus 20:15, 17), few challenge these common socialist commitments. Although Scripture does not present being rich as evil and instead warns against the love of money (1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19), our culture targets the rich. Although investment and stewardship are presented in positive terms (Matthew 25:14-30), churchgoers fall prey to a mindset that exalts collectivism, regulation, and the nanny state.
In failing to outline a biblical theology of the free market (which is begging to be preached!), pastors render their hearers soft targets for socialism. Instead of teaching people to work, help, and build, it preaches a false gospel that — like the devil himself — honors those who steal, kill, and destroy. In such a climate, we need churches that teach the dignity of work, the rightness of personal possessions, the blessedness of appropriate financial flourishing, and the need for sound stewardship. We need, to be more succinct, serious worldview formation.
Second, only 52% believe life begins at fertilization.
This simply does not do justice to basic Bible teaching. God knew us in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). From the very start, we were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Tragically, it seems that many churchgoers don’t know how to connect the dots here. If life doesn’t begin at fertilization, when does it begin? When does a supposedly non-human being become a human being? Although the Word is clear, I sense that many professing Christians live in confusion on these counts.
To address this issue, we need churches that teach a pro-life ethic unequivocally. Abortion is the killing of an innocent person. As those given life in the Spirit by God, true believers cannot fail to celebrate the life given to all people. In general, we are not a people who love death; we are the people who love life. Are our churches making such an ethic clear? Are they boldly teaching people to value life, love children, and care for babies? Shockingly, I fear many are not.
Third, just 52% believe that the Bible is clear and decisive on the moral status of transgenderism.
You cannot get much clearer than what Scripture says. God has made every person either male or female (Genesis 1:27). There are not many options; there are, in fact, just two sexes. In the old covenant law, cross-dressing is an “abomination” to God (Deuteronomy 22:5). We’re not bound by this law, but it still instructs us, showing us that our bodily presentation matters greatly to God.
The same principle is found in the new covenant. Writing to a church that found itself in a deeply pagan culture, the apostle Paul taught that men are not to look like women, for the longer hair of women is a clear marker of distinctive womanly beauty (1 Corinthians 11:14-15). The point is simple: the way we present our God-given sex matters to God, and should matter for us. There is no freedom in the Bible for believers to embrace androgyny, let alone “transition” to a different identity altogether.
Does sin confuse and corrupt us? Yes. Do people who suffer from gender confusion deserve our compassion? Also yes. But giving God glory in the body as a man or a woman is not a small matter. It is a key part of discipleship to Christ. We thus cannot be unclear about transgenderism; we have to make clear that God calls us to embrace our God-given sex for his glory and our flourishing. The fact that only about half of churchgoers understand these matters is troubling.
Fourth, 56.6% claim they have a biblical worldview.
In the simplest terms, this is not a heartening number. Yet, even as we cite this troubling response, we cannot fail to note the following two responses from a healthy majority of respondents:
- 70% want their church to provide additional worldview training on life
- 68% want their church to provide additional worldview training on sexuality
If pastors feel like they need a mandate to teach truth, here it is. Churchgoers know they need worldview help. They want worldview help. Those appointed by Almighty God to provide it to them are pastors. Pastors do not make things up as they go; they follow the ultimate truth-teller, the unsurpassed worldview-builder, the Son of God. He did not skate lightly over the earth’s crust; when his ministry began, he cracked like thunder, speaking truth that was, as the English used to say, chased in silver, and carved in stone.
By the power of God’s grace, let the church and her shepherds emulate him. Let us bring many into the piercing clarity and healing balm of the Word and gospel. Let us form a biblical worldview in our people. All around us is sinking sand, but on Christ the solid rock, the true church stands. So, roaming devil notwithstanding, it always will.
Owen Strachan is Senior Fellow for FRC's Center for Biblical Worldview.