Blog Tal — 30 March 2016

CongregationLast year the Pew Research Center published the results of a survey taken in 2014 gauging the levels of involvement of the members of various American church denominations in their congregations. They rated members as involved at high, medium, and low levels. Pew defined the high category as being officially a member of the church, attending worship weekly and attending a prayer or Bible group at least monthly. The low category is for those who not members and who seldom or never attend worship or study groups. Mediums are those between the two.

 They found that the “Christian” groups with the greatest levels of “High Involvement” are the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Neither, of course, are theologically orthodox. The data showed that 67% of Mormons said they were highly involved in their congregations. Another 29% claimed medium involvement. Only 12% admitted low involvement. The Jehovah’s Witnesses report 64% of their members are highly involved and 29% medium. Only 4% are low.

 How do those compare to other Christian denominations? The survey showed that among conservative Evangelical churches an average of 43% are highly involved and 49% medium. The average of historically black Protestant churches is 41% high and 53% medium. Mainline Protestant denominations claim only 20% high and 61% medium (19% low).

 The Eastern Orthodox churches in American only claim 20% high and 68% medium. Lowest of all in high involvement is the Roman Catholic Church with only 16% highly involved and 70% medium.

 So why the differences? Well, several facts need to be considered in looking at this data. To start with, for someone even to be considered a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses he or she must be highly involved. If they are not actively attending services, going to studies, and doing door-to-door witnessing, they may be dropped from the rolls. 

As for Mormons, there is strong pressure put on members to attend. Members are regularly visited by church leaders in their homes. Nonetheless, I really have to ask, where and how were they surveyed? I doubt seriously that 67% of the members of the LDS are that highly active.

 In any case, the results for evangelicals are mixed. Less than half of members attend worship and are in Bible studies. That is probably because many people in those groups attend worship fairly regularly but aren’t necessarily in study groups. The same may be true of the historically black denominations. Still, more than 40% of those Christians are weekly attenders of worship and attend Bible study at least monthly. Not too bad, but it needs to be better.

 That leads us to ask, why are the mainline Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic denominations rating so badly? For one thing, Orthodox and Catholic churches do not emphasize Bible study, just attendance at weekly mass (which most members don’t do).

 In Protestant churches, I think one important point is not revealed explicitly in the data. Most of the leaders and ministers (but not all) in mainline Protestant denominations, sadly, no longer encourage strong emphasis on Biblical truth, doctrinal teaching, and evangelism. That’s probably the main reason those groups have been losing members at alarming rates over the past half century,

 Anyway, let’s all think a moment about our own levels of involvement. How often do you attend worship services in your church? Are you a part of a regular Bible study and/or prayer group? Where do you fall on the survey? High? Medium? Or, and I sure hope not, Low?


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Tal Davis

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