I recently heard yet another sermon (no, it wasn’t in my home church) telling the congregation that “statistics show” that North American evangelicals are just as worldly as everyone else: just as quick to fornicate and divorce, just as tight with their charitable dollars, just as reluctant to volunteer in their communities, etc., etc. In short, evangelicals are hypocrites and worthy of a sound scolding, which the preacher was only too happy to provide.
I’ve heard this “fact” a dozen different times over the last few years, and it has become what I call a “church myth,” resembling an urban myth in ubiquity and plausibility.
And, like urban myths, it isn’t true.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an evangelical, and I’m not especially holy. I know lots of evangelicals, and we all struggle with sin.
But if, cumulatively, our evangelical convictions do not cash out into a measurable difference of lifestyle, then they can’t be worth much. If evangelicals do not, in fact, tend to have less promiscuous single people, more faithful marriages, higher rates of charitable giving, higher volunteerism, and so on, then what are we preaching? Literally, what in the world are we doing?
Books & Culture recently published my investigation into the statistics that purportedly show that evangelical convictions mean so little–statistics proffered by the likes of George Barna, George Gallup, and others. Perhaps you’d like to take a look here.