Average Church: Practices

Christians lie the most on Sunday mornings. Week after week, millions of believers sing songs that claim abiding love and devotion to God, but live lives that proclaim different priorities. I’m not casting stones. I’ve been guilty of it myself. However, the hard truth is, the Average American Church goer says one thing about their devotion to God and lives another.

This is the second in a three-part series on The Average Church. In PART ONE we zoomed in on average church beliefs and detailed the source of these statistics. Be sure to read (or reread) it if you missed it. In sum, we discovered that a full 1/3 of church goers believe salvation can be earned, nearly 1/3 believe God is impersonal, and over half do not believe in the authority of the Bible. Today we'll look at the Average Practices of church-goers. Beliefs drive behavior, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that today’s view isn’t encouraging.

Nothing reveals priority as clearly as practice. In faith, practice uncovers the degree to which we’ve personalized our beliefs. A belief that’s personal shows up in our lives. I may say I believe the Bible is essential in following Jesus, but if I never read it then my actions tell a truer story. I may proclaim that I can do nothing without Jesus (John 15:5), but without a consistent prayer life my actions betray my words. The link between priority and practice is inescapable.  

For a Christ-follower some foundational practices reveal and cultivate depth in our relationship with Jesus. Three of those practices are reflection on Scripture, prayer for guidance, and tithing our money. So, how is the average church-goer doing in those areas?

According to the REVEAL database averages:

Only 23% reflect on Scripture daily. This practice is THE silver bullet to spiritual growth. We saw before that half of church-goers believe in the authority of Scripture, but less than half of those reflect on it. Imagine the impact of raising reflection from 23% to 50% or even to 75%!

Only 50% pray daily for guidance. Each day we're confronted with frustrations, needs, and important decisions, so why aren’t we praying more? Part of the issue goes back to disciple making’s biggest obstacle. When every free moment is given over to life's demands and screens, the bandwidth we have to engage with God in prayer is sapped.

Only 40% tithe. Since God and money often compete for the top spot in our heart (Matthew 6:24), tithing is a practice that displays the depth of Christ’s work in our life. Anecdotally, several pastors in Dayton, Ohio have expressed that this percentage seems high compared to what they see in their church.

So what good are these statistics? Hopefully, they lead us to action. We must examine our own practices. Do your practices align with what you say you believe or the things you sing about on Sunday mornings? If not, what can you do this week to begin closing the gap between your beliefs and your actions? If so, great, and keep going! But don’t stop there! God has called you to help make disciples of others. How can you loving enter another’s life to help them develop spiritual practices that will help them develop a strong relationship with Jesus? If you’re not sure how to do this, who can you ask for help?