NASHVILLE (BP) — While not all churchgoers are particularly transparent or open about their faith, mature Christians are consistent in character and identity around non-believers, LifeWay research reveals.
The survey of Protestant churchgoers identifies “unashamed” as one of eight attributes of discipleship that consistently show up in the lives of maturing Christians. Being unashamed connotes a boldness to stand for one’s beliefs in conversation and lifestyle, LifeWay Research director Scott McConnell said.
“There are two elements to this discipleship attribute: being unashamed of Jesus Christ around nonbelievers and showing transparency among other Christians,” McConnell said. “This transparency is seen when a mature disciple is open to spiritual accountability and willing to share about challenges with other believers.”
Churchgoers also seem to think they live out their faith in a manner that is evident to others. Just 14 percent of churchgoers agree with the statement: “Many people who know me are not aware I am a Christian,” while 72 percent disagree with the statement.
Churchgoers often leave important elements of faith unspoken, the survey shows. Nearly a third (29 percent) agree that “spiritual matters do not tend to come up as a normal part of my daily conversations with other Christians,” while 50 percent disagree.
According to the survey, 66 percent of American churchgoers believe Christians should seek out honest feedback about their spiritual life from other Christians. Similarly, 57 percent of churchgoers say they openly discuss their difficulties with Christian friends. Only 1 in 4 does not, according to the survey.
“It is easy for Christians to put their ‘church’ face on at church and pretend everything is fine,” McConnell said. “But without transparent interaction among followers of Christ, blind spots are left unattended and opportunities for change are unsupported.”
“The other temptation for Christians is to pretend to be ‘not-too-religious’ when they are around neighbors and co-workers,” he said. “Yet, Scripture calls believers to not be ashamed of the gospel and its work in our lives.”
“This research aligns with the biblical accounts of Peter’s three denials of Christ with the ever-present struggle and temptation believers face to hide their relationship with Christ,” he said.
The research uncovers several characteristics that best predict being unashamed, including reading the Bible frequently, spreading the Gospel, being discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian, confessing sins to God and praying for fellow Christians, McConnell said.
Only 34 percent of churchgoers surveyed indicate they pray for fellow Christians they know every day. Ten percent say they do this “once a month” or “rarely/never.”
The survey of 2,930 American adults who attend a Protestant church once a month or more was conducted Oct. 14-22, 2011.
To help pastors, churches and individuals measure spiritual development, LifeWay Research used the study’s data to develop a questionnaire for believers, called the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA). The online evaluation delivers both individual and group reports on spiritual maturity using the eight attributes of biblical discipleship, and gives helpful and practical suggestions on appropriate next steps for spiritual development.
To learn more about the transformational discipleship research visit LifeWayResearch.com. The TDA is available at tda.lifeway.com.
Russ Rankin writes for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).