Change Worth Believing
By Bill MacLeod, Director, MissionConnexion
Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher from the city of Ephesus was famous for saying “The Only Constant in Life Is Change.”
There is no doubt that we have all been through much change over the last 3 years, so I was recently very encouraged reviewing some data on the state of the church since all this change took place.
The American Worldview Inventory is the first-ever national survey conducted in the United States measuring the incidence of both biblical and competing worldviews. The current wave of worldview research, the American Worldview Inventory 2023, was undertaken in January 2023 by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University in Glendale, Arizona, which conducts the annual American Worldview Inventory as well as other nationwide surveys regarding cultural transformation.
The first national post-pandemic study of Americans’ worldview has found that not only has the incidence of biblical worldview dropped slightly (from 6% to 4%), but there have been more changes than usual in people’s religious beliefs and behaviors.
Among more than four dozen beliefs and behaviors evaluated in the tracking study, four beliefs generated significant movement toward biblical thinking. Consider the following findings:
- The biggest change among those four relates to truth. Whereas just one-third of the adult population in 2020 dismissed the idea that there are no moral truths that are the same for everyone, the proportion of people who rejected that notion rose to almost half of the population in 2023 (46%).
- Another similar sizeable shift occurred in how many adults now reject the belief that eternal salvation can be earned through good works. That number jumped to just under half of adults (45%) from the one-third (35%) who denied that possibility in 2020.
- The research also showed a 7-percentage point increase in the number of adults who accept the idea that the purpose of life is to know, love, and serve God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength— one of the Seven Biblical Worldview Cornerstones. Despite the 7-point rise, only about one-third of adults (36%) currently accept that idea.
- The final significant positive change was a 5-point increase in adults who contend that the Bible is the true and completely accurate word of God. Since the start of the pandemic that proportion has climbed closer to the halfway mark, with 46% now holding that belief.
Additionally, two specific behaviors among those tested showed more people engaging in a biblical approach than three years ago.
- First, the most significant growth was an increase in adults who believe sexual intercourse between two people who are not married to each other is morally unacceptable.
- Second, the other positive shift was a 6-point increase in adults agreeing that it is morally unacceptable to intentionally lie to protect your reputation or best interests. The 2023 survey was the first time since the start of the American Worldview Inventory that a majority of adults agreed that lying is wrong.
All of this bodes well for the American Church, and ultimately, the role of Biblical missions. A return to seeking after truth that is grounded in the Bible is a foundation that anything lasting can be built upon. The difficult times we have persevered through have convinced us that true salvation cannot be found through any effort of our own!
These times have also confirmed our resolve that real purpose in life can only be found, as Moses laid out in the Greatest Commandment of Deuteronomy 6:5 nearly 3000 years ago: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
That the pandemic and the untold disruption it caused worldwide would allow this kind of heartfelt transformation to take root and bloom here in the United States, and that other biblical behaviors would follow, is indeed encouraging news for those urgently seeking the Lord for something of eternal value to emerge.
It is my hope that we will see a fresh return to the Lord as a Nation, and that many would desire to discover their role in the Great Commission… and that MissionConnexion would help facilitate that discovery and mobilization in a small, yet eternal way.