In 2011, George Barna published the results of a six-year research project involving sixteen scientifically conducted national telephone surveys that were aimed at (1) identifying the major milestones or “stops” people typically pass on their way to fully experiencing the transformed life God offers in Jesus Christ, and then (2) measuring the proportion of American adults who are at each milestone or “stop” along the way.
The 10 stops Barna identified are shown in the list below. Going into detail about his findings is beyond the scope and purpose of this blog, much as I would like to do so. Thus, I strongly encourage you to read it for yourself, particularly pages 17-24, where he gives the powerful and penetrating descriptions of his 10 Stops. (Maximum Faith: Live Like Jesus, George Barna, 2011)
Stop 1: Ignorant of the concept or existence of sin
Stop 2: Aware of and indifferent to sin
Stop 3: Concerned about the implications of personal sin
Stop 4: Confess sins and ask Jesus Christ to be their Savior
Stop 5: Commitment to faith activities
Stop 6: Experience a prolonged period of spiritual discontent
Stop 7: Experiencing personal brokenness
Stop 8: Choosing to surrender and submit fully to God: radical dependence
Stop 9: Enjoying a profound intimacy with and love for God
Stop 10: Experiencing a profound compassion and love for humanity
For the most part, Barna’s descriptions of the stops are self-explanatory. But I encourage you to bookmark this post and come back to it, because the descriptions are easily forgotten as one reads the abbreviated descriptions which I will use in the table below and going forward. Referring back to these fuller descriptions can help to avoid any misunderstanding.
It is important to note that these milestones are not necessarily “one-way”; that is, a person may move up to a given “stop,” but then not pass through it and stay “stuck” there, or even move back to a previous stop. This is particularly the case up through Stop 6.
The list below summarizes the distribution of American adults across these 10 stops, based on Barna's research.
1% - Stop 1: Unaware of sin
16% - Stop 2: Indifferent to sin
39% - Stop 3: Worried about sin
The above suggests that 56% of all American adults have not gone beyond Stop 3. These were looking for answers, but saw virtually no difference in everyday lives of believers. Continuing on ...
9% - Stop 4: Forgiven for sin
24% - Stop 5: Engaged in faith activities
6% - Stop 6: Holy discontent
3% - Stop 7: Being broken by God
1% - Stop 8 Surrendered & submitted to God
0.5% - Stop 9: Profound love of God
0.5% - Stop 10: Profound love of people
This suggests that 44% of all Americans are believers (Stops 4-10). Allow me to make a few observations.
The information is about American adults, i.e., men and women. Based on every other study I’ve seen where the data is differentiated for men and women, I know that this distribution would be significantly shifted toward the lower “stops” for men compared to women. For example, although 44% of all adults have a saving faith in Jesus Christ, this is probably about 60/40 between women and men. This means approximately 53% of women in America may have a saving faith, while only 35% of men do. Given the social and spiritual leadership that God has intended men to bear, it is critical that we recognize this significant difference between men and women in order to understand the accelerating decline of our society. At the root of every social problem we face in America (and the world!) are unbelieving OR undiscipled men!
The sad news is that 56% of Americans do not have a saving faith in Jesus Christ. The good news is that 44% do. And even among the 56% who do not, the large majority (39% of the population, or 7 out of 10 unbelievers) recognize the reality of personal sin and are troubled about it. This means they would seem to be open to hearing the good news of the Gospel. What a potential opportunity!
Unfortunately, 39% of the population are believers who do not have lives that look enough different to be credible messengers for the message they “know.” (Note how this is consistent with what we saw back in an earlier post about the lack of differences between believers and unbelievers on those 15 behaviors and 42 attitudes, opinions, and values.) What a barrier for the previous group, who are looking for an answer! What is the chance an unbeliever in the group above will think some believers he or she knows have a credible answer when their lives look so little different (other than where they spend Sunday mornings -- or that they don’t drink alcoholic beverages!)?
Notice that this group of believers comprises nearly 9 out of 10 of all believers! Here, then, is the tragic root problem in our nation, namely, the high number of undiscipled believers, especially among men.