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Barna: Only half of nation’s senior pastors hold biblical worldview

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Barely half of the nation’s senior pastors — but a leading 71 percent of Southern Baptist pastors — hold to a biblical worldview, a new study by Christian researcher George Barna shows.

The poll of 601 randomly selected senior pastors, representing some 50 denominations and conducted in November and December, showed that only 51 percent of the nation’s pastors held to a biblical worldview.

Significantly, the entire sample included pastors from conservative, moderate and liberal backgrounds.

While Southern Baptists had the highest percentage, United Methodist pastors had the lowest (27 percent). In fact, only 28 percent of pastors from mainline denominations held to a biblical worldview. Mainline church pastors are those in the American Baptist Churches USA, United Church of Christ, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Methodist Church.

“Worldview” is a term used to describe the belief system by which a person understands or makes decisions about the world.

For the Barna poll, the requirements for holding to a biblical worldview were minimal. Those holding to such a view had to embrace the accuracy of biblical teaching, the sinless nature of Jesus, the literal existence of Satan, the omnipotence and omniscience of God, salvation by grace alone and the personal responsibility to evangelize.

In December, Barna released another poll showing that only 9 percent of people categorized as “born-again” held to a biblical worldview.

“George Barna has discovered a critical issue in the American church today: Many senior pastors do not hold to the basic tenets of historic Christianity,” said Thom Rainer, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

“In this age of ‘doctrine really doesn’t matter,’ Barna has shown us it does indeed matter. If senior pastors do not believe the key doctrines of the faith, the millions in the churches will never be taught that which defines our faith. It is little wonder that many churches today mirror the values of the world.”

Among other denominational segments, 57 percent of Baptist (non-SBC) senior pastors held to a biblical worldview, as did 51 percent of nondenominational Protestant pastors, 44 percent of charismatic/Pentecostal pastors and 35 percent of black church pastors.

Among geographic regions, senior pastors in the South (57 percent) and West (58 percent) led the way, while senior pastors in the Midwest (49 percent) and Northeast (43 percent) trailed.

Pastors under 40 (56 percent) were more likely to hold to a biblical worldview than were those 40 and older (50 percent).

Russell Moore, assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary, said true biblical preaching is essential to a congregation holding a biblical worldview.

“All that a pastor must do to ensure that his people embrace an unbiblical worldview is to stop preaching all of the Bible,” Moore said. “The culture is glad to fill in the rest. But I am optimistic when I see churches led by men of God who are afraid of nothing and no one but the Lord, and who are willing to shepherd the flock of God with the truth.

“Pastors who preach the Bible recognize that the church is not just a collection of religious people; it is a declaration of war on the prince of the power of the air. If that is the case, preaching means equipping men, women and children not just to know something, but to confront the powers of this age with the Gospel of a resurrected Christ.”

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust