By Dr. Tracy F. Munsil, Executive Director | May 26, 2022|CRC, American Worldview Inventory 2022
From the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University
Barely half of evangelical pastors—only 51%—have a biblical worldview, and the levels are even lower in other denominations, according to the latest research from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University.
This new research reveals that many American pastors are proving to be incapable of resisting the pressure of cultural influences when it comes to worldview. Instead, it appears that the nation’s pastors are in fact doing what they believe, but those beliefs are simply not in harmony with biblical teaching.
A previous release of American Worldview Inventory 2022 data from veteran researcher George Barna showed that just 37% of all Christian pastors have a biblical worldview. The alarming findings were dismissed by some as unsurprising given the degree of “wokeness” that has invaded Christian churches.
But seeing the low levels of biblical worldview among pastors in evangelical churches, which by definition believe that the Bible is God’s true and reliable words to humanity, is particularly shocking, according to Barna, CRC Director of Research.
With respect to other denominations, the research found that biblical worldview levels are slightly higher among pastors of non-denominational and independent churches (57%), but are even lower than the evangelical norm among pastors of mainline Protestant, Catholic and other categories of churches.
According to the study, denominational affiliation and congregation size are the most significant indicators of biblical worldview among pastors. The study found biblical worldview to be highest among more conservative congregations (such as evangelicals and Baptists), and smaller churches fared better than large ones. In churches with 250 or fewer congregants, 42% of pastors possessed a biblical worldview, compared to only 15% in churches with more than 250.
So, when it comes to pastors’ levels of biblical worldview, the study found that smaller is better.
Overall, 41% of the pastors of churches that average 100 or fewer adults at their weekend services are Integrated Disciples—i.e., have a biblical worldview, having successfully integrated their biblical beliefs into their daily behavior. The numbers were best among the churches that attract 101 to 250 adults per weekend; 45% of those pastors have a biblical worldview. In this post-pandemic era, about nine out of 10 Christian churches in the United States has 250 or fewer adults attending on a typical weekend.
The most disappointing statistics related to the pastors of mid-sized and large churches, according to the report. In churches with more than 250 but no more than 600 adults per weekend, only 14% of pastors are Integrated Disciples, while a similar 15% of the pastors of congregations averaging more than 600 adults fit the profile.
ACU President Len Munsil noted the connection between the spiritual crisis in the church and these new findings regarding worldview and pastors.
“We’ve spent the past two-plus years studying the rapid decline in biblical worldview levels among American adults, and now we see this latest study showing how low it is even among American pastors,” Munsil said. “We’re at a whole new crisis point, given that we now have stark evidence that many pastors no longer embrace biblical beliefs and behaviors.”
Munsil continued, “We are in desperate need of a wholesale revival and awakening in America – and as always in history and in Scripture, it must begin with us – the church.”
Barna echoed Munsil’s concerns. “When it comes to biblical worldview, you can’t give what you don’t have. If pastors don’t hold to biblical beliefs and behaviors, it’s impossible for them to do a good job training their congregation in biblical worldview.”
The veteran researcher shared a key takeaway from the research: When it comes to churches, “don’t assume” churches are doing things right in this area. “Very few churches are getting the job done,” he said.
Barna encouraged congregants to listen carefully to sermons to make sure they consistently align with biblical beliefs and behaviors in a systematic way, especially when it comes to children’s and youth programs. As previous research has shown, some of the lowest incidence of biblical worldview are among children’s and youth pastors (only 12% have a biblical worldview).
“It’s not a good idea to just drop kids off at these programs,” Barna said. “It’s important for parents to know what’s being taught in children and youth programs, rather than assume kids are learning the biblical worldview.”
The American Worldview Inventory 2022 Release #06: “Only Half of Evangelical Pastors Possess a Biblical Worldview; Incidence Even Lower for Most Denominations,” ” is available here.