For me, 2017 was not a good year for tracking trends in religion, though much has been happening in the U.S. and around the world. As chairman of my church, I was responsible for guiding it through a process of “succession planning” over the last three years. Sadly, but with confidence in God's leading, we ended up selling the property, and “passed the baton” to a like-minded, growing church that had been renting space. Proceeds of the sale will be used to continue support of missions for up to ten years through the Evangel Baptist Foundation.
Through much of 2017 this process became a nearly full-time activity for me. I was not able to maintain updates of the Religion in America page or blog on research reported last year. In 2018, I hope to update the Religion in America page and get back to producing regular updates on research about trends in religion through the InfoMatters Blog.
MAJOR TRENDS FROM 2017 RESEARCH
Following are excerpts from Year in Review: Barna’s 10 Most-Read Articles of 2017 – The Barna Group, December 27, 2017
To get a quick tutorial in important trends in 2017, the Barna Group provided this article on the top-10 articles based on their research. We have excerpted that summary here. Follow the link above for the full summary article or click on the title to see the individual articles.
10. Meet the “Spiritual but Not Religious”
Spiritual practice is increasingly moving away from the public rituals of institutional Christianity to the private experience of God within. Barna took a close look at this segment of the American population who identify as spiritual, but hold unorthodox views about God, are ambivalent toward religion and take part in more informal and individual modes of spiritual practice.
9. Behaviors Americans Count as Harassment
In October, the New York Times reported more than a dozen initial allegations of sexual harassment, assault or rape against film producer Harvey Weinstein. Those revelations prompted other victims to come forward in unprecedented numbers and public fashion, sparking the #MeToo hashtag and almost daily reports of the sexual misconduct of high-profile figures. The flood of new allegations caused many to ask: What counts as sexual harassment? A national survey of American adults conducted by Barna between October 19-25, 2017 (shortly after the original Weinstein report) asked American adults to identify specific acts they consider to be harassment. The top five were touching or groping, being forced to do something sexual, someone touching themselves sexually, flashing or exposure, sexual comments about looks/body. See the full report for a graph with the full list of 20 items, broken down by responses from women and men.
8. 6 Tech Habits Changing the American Home
Parents today believe it is harder than ever to raise children—and technology isn’t helping. This article was a sneak peak at That’s a key finding at the heart of The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place, a new book by Andy Crouch, combining Crouch’s clear and incisive thinking with original Barna research.
7. The Aging of America’s Pastors
In 1992, the median age of Protestant clergy was 44 years old; 25 years later, the average age is 54. Pastors are getting older, and this has important implications for the future of the church. In partnership with Pepperdine University, Barna conducted a major study into how today’s faith leaders are navigating life and leadership in an age of complexity.
6. State of the Bible 2017: Top Findings
Americans overwhelmingly believe the Bible is a source of hope and a force for good even as they express growing concern for our nation’s morals. These and other snapshots are included in Barna’s list of top 10 findings from 2017’s State of the Bible report.
5. 2017 Bible-Minded Cities
We live in an age when the Bible is read and understood very differently in cities across the country. For the second year in a row, Chattanooga, TN was the most Bible-minded city in America, and at the other end of the spectrum, Albany / Schenectady / Troy, NY was the least Bible-minded city—also for the second year in a row. Other top cities, all in the southeastern U.S. were Birmingham / Anniston / Tuscaloosa AL, Roanoke / Lynchburg VA, Tri-Cities TN, and Shreveport LA. Rounding out the bottom five were Buffalo NY, Cedar Rapids / Waterloo IA, Providence RI / New Beford MA, and Boston MA / Manchester NH. See the article for a chart with all 100 cities.
4. Meet Those Who “Love Jesus but Not the Church”
We live in an increasingly secular American culture. In this new age, religion is in retreat from the public square, and traditional institutions like the church are no longer functioning with the cultural authority they once held in generations past. But even though more and more Americans are abandoning the institutional church and its defined boundary markers of religious identity, many still believe in God and practice faith outside its walls.
3. Church Attendance Trends Around the Country
Making it into the top three this year is Barna’s ranking of the nation’s largest cities according to church attendance. Americans are attending church less, but those shifts have occurred in varying ways and at different rates throughout the diverse regions and cities across the country. The top five Most Churched Cities were Chattanooga TN, Salt Lake City UT, Augusta / Aiken GA, Baton Rouge LA, and Bimingham / Anniston / Tuscaloosa AL.
2. Competing Worldviews Influence Today’s Christians
Barna conducted research among practicing Christians in America to gauge how much the tenets of other key worldviews—including new spirituality, secularism, postmodernism and Marxism—have influenced their beliefs about the way the world is and how it ought to be. Barna’s research, conducted in partnership with Summit Ministries, shows that Christians who consider their faith important and attend church regularly don’t always hold traditional biblical views. So, if Christians are open to nonbiblical perspectives, what are they believing?
1. The Most Post-Christian Cities in America: 2017
The most-read article of the year was our list of the most post-Christian cities in America, a metric Barna has developed to measure the changing religious landscape of America. To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals must meet a set of criteria which identify a lack of Christian identity, belief and practice. These include whether individuals identify as atheist, have never made a commitment to Jesus or have not read the Bible in the last week. According to the study, the most post-Christian city in America is Portland-Auburn, ME, followed by a handful of cities in New England and the Northeast and two on the West Coast. Where does your city rank?
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