When Barna asked those same 40% to identify themselves as defined by the following 9 points, the answer he got, was only about 8% do indeed affirm all 9 basic Christian principals. My guess is that a majority of 'Christians' have a problem with point 8, which asks one to believe in the infallibility of the Bible. 8% is more what you'd expect, given the faith v. secular battle raging in the USA.
Thus, the answer to the question of why 'Christians' have a declining relevance in today's post modern society. If one cannot affirm basic tenants of scripture and disagree among themselves over what they believe in, it becomes difficult to convince skeptics your view is the right view.
He chose to determine who exactly was an "Evangelical" rather than simply a "Christian" because Evangelicals were supposed to be closer to the definition of someone who practiced what they preached rather than merely being a cultural Christian in name only or someone who just "goes to church". Barna developed a set of criteria he calls "the 9-point evangelical". Such people are defined according to the following rules:1. They say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today.2. They believe when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Christ as Savior.3. They say their faith is very important in their life today.4. They believe they have a personal responsibility to share their beliefs with non-Christians.5. They believe Satan exists.6. They believe eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works.7. They believe Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth.8. They assert that the Bible is accurate in all it teaches.9. They describe God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.In other words, if you ask everyone in a given room if they consider themselves to be a "Christian", practically all the hands will instinctively go up. If you then ask, "How many of you are 'Evangelical' Christians?" the majority drop their arms and only 38% of hands are still in the air. But if you ask everyone to keep their hand in the air to affirm they believe in each of the above nine points as they are read one by one, the end result will be that only about 8% of the room will still be holding up a hand to affirm all nine of the basic criteria. By what standard do you determine whether or not someone or something is "Christian"? If Barna hasn't provided the minimum requirements for the members of the faithful remnant, what would you add or change? I think these are minimally basic.
For a long time many of us have followed the work of George Barna, the Christian researcher who knew that there was something wrong when most Americans identified themselves as "Christian". Common sense tells us something is wrong with that kind of response because if the majority were truly "Christian" then how could we be experiencing so many moral and spiritual problems today? Why wouldn't every law passed in America conform to scriptural standards? How could America not obviously be anything other than "Christian" if such a majority claimed to be so? Why would we ban prayer in school, the Ten Commandments from courtrooms, or promote Islamic practices in our schools? Barna realized that he had to narrow the requirements in order to uncover the truth.
Barna also documents other statistics among the so called 'born agains'. Behavior has changed in America over time, and like most cultures the move has been away from Christ and the Church as wealth and prosperity has become more prevalent.
Born Again Christians
This category is comprised of people whose beliefs characterize them as born again; it is not based on people calling themselves “born again.” This segment, which now stands at 40% of all adults in the U.S., experienced significant changes in relation to all six religious behaviors tracked by the Barna Group.
Only one of the seven religious beliefs measured among born agains shifted significantly in the last two decades. That was the nine-point drop in the percentage of those who firmly believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. In 1991, three-quarters of born again adults held that view, but it has declined to two-thirds of them today (65%).
- The largest shifts in behavior pertained to the 14-point decline in adult Sunday school attendance (now 26%) and the 12-point drop in volunteering at church (down to 29%).
- Attendance at church services in any given week decreased by seven percentage points over the last two decades among born again Christians, falling from 66% to 59%.
- The proportion of born again adults who read the Bible during a typical week, not including when they are at a church event, has decreased by nine percentage points since 1991. The weekly average now resides at 62%.
- Two behavioral statistics increased since 1991, one for the worse and the other of little consequence. The unfortunate shift is the increase in the unchurched among born again adults, which has risen by five percentage points to 19%. The neutral transition is the eight-point increase in born again adults who attend a large church (600 or more people).
Check out the rest of Barna's survey here.