NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Canadian churchgoers believe they know how to explain their faith in Jesus to other people. But they seldom do it, according to a survey of Canadian Protestants.
The survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research found that more than half (58 percent) of churchgoers feel comfortable in effectively sharing their faith.
But most (78 percent) have not shared that faith with anyone over the past 6 months. And more than half (59 percent) say they haven’t invited anyone to church in that same time frame.
These results came from an extensive discipleship research project focused on measuring spiritual maturity.
As part of the project, researchers interviewed 1,086 Canadian lay people who attend church at least once a month.
Researchers wanted to measure eight biblical attributes they say are found in the lives of spiritually mature believers. Among those attributes is “Sharing Christ.” That category has the lowest average score among Protestant churchgoers, researchers said.
The survey reveals a disconnect between what churchgoers say about sharing their faith and what they do about it.
More than four in 10 churchgoers (43 percent) say they feel a “personal responsibility to share my religious beliefs about Jesus Christ with non-Christians.”
But when asked how many times they’d “shared with someone how to become a Christian,” 78 percent say “Zero.” About 10 percent say they’d shared with one person in the past six months.
Nearly six in 10 (59 percent) say they’d not invited anyone to church, while about one in five (21 percent) say they’d invited one person in the past six months.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said the researchers did find that mature Christians are more likely to share than those who are new to the faith.
“Many times we’ve been told new Christians are most active in sharing their faith,” said Stetzer. “In reality, people who have been a Christian longer have higher responses for Sharing Christ than newer Christians.”
Stetzer said researchers also found a link between prayer and sharing the faith.
About one in 10 of those surveyed say they’d prayed for non-Christians every day, while three out of 10 prayed for non-Christians a few times a week or once a week.
That’s a good start, said Stetzer.
“If you are going to be intentional about sharing your faith, praying for others is a great way to start,” he said. “We often acknowledge the importance of prayer in people coming to faith in Christ, but we also found it has an impact on the person praying.”
These findings on sharing Christ are part of the largest discipleship study of its kind, including surveys of more than 1,000 pastors and 4,000 Protestant churchgoers in North America.
LifeWay Research used the study’s data to develop a questionnaire for believers, called the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA). This online evaluation delivers both individual and group reports on spiritual maturity based on eight factors of biblical discipleship. The TDA also provides practical suggestions for continued spiritual development.
For more information, visit LifeWayResearch.com. The TDA is available at TDA.LifeWay.com.
Methodology: LifeWay Research surveyed a representative sample of 1,086 Canadian adults as part of the Transformational Discipleship study. Participants attend a Protestant church at least once a month. The sample included churchgoers from a range of Protestant denominations, including mainline and evangelical churches. Interviews were conducted in English, Spanish and French. A demographically balanced online panel was used for the interviewing. Surveys were conducted Oct. 14-22, 2011.