NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Most Canadian churchgoers have no hesitation in being open about their faith, according to a new survey. And many say their faith is well known by friends and acquaintances. But that doesn’t mean faith is a part of their daily conversations.
Those are among the findings of a major study on Christian spirituality. The “Transformational Discipleship” study from Nashville-based Lifeway Research looked at the spiritual habits and attitudes of 1,000 pastors and 4,000 Protestant churchgoers in North America.
They included 1,068 Canadian lay people who go to church at least once a month.
Researchers looked at eight attributes they say are common to spiritually mature Christians. Among them is “Unashamed”—a measure of how public believers are in talking about their faith.
The idea is based on a passage found in the New Testament book of Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation….” (Romans 1:16).
Being unashamed means being bold in talking about faith and living it out, said Scott McConnell, vice president of Lifeway Research.
“There are two elements to this discipleship attribute: being unashamed of Jesus Christ around nonbelievers and showing transparency among other Christians,” he said. “This transparency is seen when a mature disciple is open to spiritual accountability and willing to share about challenges with other believers.
Canadian churchgoers say they are transparent about their faith in public.
Only three in 10 agree with the statement, “Many people who know me are not aware I am a Christian.” More than half (51 percent) disagree.
More than half also say they want feedback about their faith from other churchgoers. Fifty-four percent agree with the statement, “I expect my Christian friends to challenge me if I make unwise choices.”
But faith isn’t a normal part of day-to-day conversations for many churchgoers, according to the survey.
About half (48 percent) agree with the statement, “Spiritual matters do not tend to come up as a normal part of my daily conversations with other Christians.” A third (31 percent) disagree.
Less than half say they share their doubts and struggles with other Christians. Forty-four percent agree with the statement, “I openly share about difficulties I am experiencing when I talk with Christian friends.” One in three (33 percent) disagree.
“It is easy for Christians to put their ‘church’ face on at church and pretend everything is fine,” McConnell said
By doing so, however, McConnell said churchgoers miss out on the chance to grow their faith with the help of other believers.
McConnell said reading the Bible more often, being mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian, and having a habit of confessing sins to God, tend to predict higher scores in the “Unashamed” category.
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.