Growing number of Americans 'love Jesus, but not the Church,' new study finds

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A growing minority of Americans are 'spiritual but not religious' and 'love Jesus, but not the Church' according to a new study by the Barna Group.

Some 11 per cent of those surveyed say they are 'spiritual but not religious' and 10 per cent say they 'love Jesus, but not the Church'.

The latter group are Christians who say their faith is important to them, but have not attended church in six months or more.

They do, however, share many core beliefs with their church-going neighbours: nearly all of them (around 95 per cent) believe in only one God, that he is omnipresent, and that he is the 'all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect creator of the universe who rules the world today'. Meanwhile, 89 per cent of them are committed to Jesus.

'They still love Jesus, still believe in Scripture, and most of the tenets of their Christian faith. But they have lost faith in the Church,' said Roxanne Stone, editor in chief of Barna Group.

The group who 'love Jesus, but not the Church' has grown from seven per cent in 2004, according to Barna.

'While many people in this group may be suffering from church wounds, we also know from past research that Christians who do not attend church say it's primarily not out of wounding, but because they can find God elsewhere or that church is not personally relevant to them,' said Stone. 'Churches need to be able to say to these people—and to answer for themselves – that there is a unique way you can find God only in church. And that faith does not survive or thrive in solitude.'

The 'love Jesus, but not the Church' group is mostly white (61 per cent) and mostly female (63 per cent), according to the new research.

They are nearly as likely to identify as Republican (25 per cent) as Democrat (30 per cent).

Believers who have given up on the Church still pray (83 per cent) and consider themselves 'spiritual' (89 per cent) about as much as fellow Christians, Barna reported.

But they are only half as likely to read Scripture and a quarter as likely to pick up spiritual books, and they will not attend religious groups or retreats.

'Spiritual leaders should not discount [the] group of the "spiritual but not religious,"' Stone added. 'They are distinct among their irreligious peers in their spiritual curiosity and openness. The majority of those who have rejected religious faith do not describe themselves as spiritual (65 percent), similarly two-thirds of those with no faith at all do not identify as spiritual. So those who do – this group of the spiritual but not religious – display an uncommon inclination to think beyond the material and to experience the transcendent. Such a desire can open the door to deep, spiritual conversations and, in time, perhaps a willingness to hear about Christian spirituality.'

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