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Spiritual Growth among Evangelicals a ‘Mixed Bag’ New Study Finds


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Spiritual Growth among Evangelicals a ‘Mixed Bag’ New Study Finds

Contributions from FāVS from readers like you make this news story possible. Thank you.

News Brief by Cassy Benefield

A new national study by Grey Matter Research shows evangelical Christians display a wide range of spiritual growth and maturity with some surprising results.

Uneven Study
Cover of “Uneven: Success, Stagnation, and Delusion” / Contributed

The “Uneven: Success, Stagnation, and Delusion” study report, released this month, illustrates the wide gamut of this growth, calling it “a mixed bag” according to the study’s press release. The study surveys more than 1,000 adults with evangelical beliefs and details their spiritual activities, attitudes and perspectives.

“Some are thriving spiritually while others have essentially given up on having their beliefs be an active part of their life,” the release said. “A majority are somewhere in the middle, struggling with a variety of spiritual issues.”

While spiritual growth is measured by much more than activities, an example of how varied things are in the evangelical population is the “spiritual engagement” measure. Someone is considered to be fully engaged (on a scale of 0 – 25) if they typically:

  • Read the Bible daily
  • Study the Bible (beyond just reading it) multiple times per week
  • Attend worship (in-person or online) weekly
  • Attend a small group Bible study or prayer group weekly
  • Pray multiple times per day

The release said the study found just 11% of evangelicals have full spiritual engagement, although another 22% are highly engaged.  On the other end of the spectrum, 24% have low engagement, while 4% have none at all.  Most common (38%) is to be moderately engaged: doing only a few of these activities regularly, or engaging on a sporadic or infrequent basis.

The study divided the evangelical maturity levels into three categories: success, stagnation and delusion.

For example, success shows up in regular readership of the Bible, which showed up higher when leaders regularly encourage them to do so.

Because only a minority of evangelicals are highly engaged spiritually, lay leaders in churches only have moderate or low levels of engagement with those attending their churches, which indicates stagnation in growth.

As far as delusion, most evangelicals who don’t attend church or who don’t read the Bible regularly don’t see the opposite actions as necessary for spiritual growth.

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, explains in the release that while the study points out numerous concerns, there is positive news as well. 


“One-third of evangelicals are highly involved when it comes to spiritual activities,” Sellers said. “Church lay leaders are far more likely than others to be spiritually mature, which is as it should be.  We’ve demonstrated the clear link between accountability/encouragement and spiritual growth. And most evangelicals realize they are not where they could be spiritually, which is a necessary foundation for growth.”

The research for “Uneven” was conducted in conjunction with Pastor Bill White of Christ Journey Church (Coral Gables, FL), as part of the work surrounding his recent book “Mature-ish: Your Mission from God, Should You Choose to Accept It.”

Information about the full research report is available at https://greymatterresearch.com/spiritual-growth/.

Cassy Benefield
Cassy Benefield
Cassy (pronounced like Cassie but spelled with a 'y') Benefield is a wife and mother, a writer and photographer and a huge fan of non-fiction. She has traveled all her life, first as an Army brat. She is a returned Peace Corps volunteer (2004-2006) to Romania where she mainly taught Conversational English. She received her bachelor’s in journalism from Cal Poly Technical University in San Luis Obispo, California. She finds much comfort in her Savior, Jesus Christ, and considers herself a religion nerd who is prone to buy more books, on nearly any topic, than she is ever able to read. She is the associate editor of FāVS.News.




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Charles McGlocklin
Charles McGlocklin
6 months ago

I wish that someone would do a study on how many “Christians” feel they are succeeding in their battle with sin (selfishness). Do we have victory over the besetting sins that interfere with living a Christ centered life, being loving, kind, patient and generous to even those that hate us?
To me, that is the markier of living a successful Christian life.
Let me be clear. No one has arrived. But are we making progress?
It was the standard Jesus used: do we love one another?

Lynn Kaylor
Lynn Kaylor
6 months ago

It’s a mixed bag indeed. But looking at the page about the study, I sense a foundational bias when it comes to what counts as “maturity” and what counts as “delusion”. Who defined these categories? Was it Pastor White himself? The link doesn’t point to a detailed report describing the undergirding philosophy and methodology. I do find the factors expressed in the study depending upon “activities”, “attitudes”, “knowledge”, and “submission” with “other factors” not defined on the page. So does maturity depend upon knowledge? Why, then are people counted as “more mature” if they don’t study at a level that includes Greek and Hebrew when those who do uncover inconsistencies that make them persona non grata in a church, somethingn that happens far more often than church people admit? Does it depend upon submission? Submission to which? God or the church leader, and does Pastor White recognize any difference between them? What kinds of “activities” are counted as “maturity”? Attendence at studies as expressed in these categories? Do we count those who attend to gain social respect any differently than those who intend because they’re hungry to understand the Bible?

So if needs are not met and one doesn’t attend activities that Pastor White counts as evidence of “maturity” but of “delusion”, then what is that delusion? Is it a matter of counting oneself as “Evangelical” while not meeting the pastor’s standards? If so, then by using the category of “delusion”, he conflates those ostracized or disilusioned with his church’s fellowship with the disintegration of the personality manifest in a schizophrenic. It’s a term that degrades and stigmatizes free thinkers. That alone makes this study fall more in line with the contempt manifest in the kind of stigmatization too often bestowed by religious leaders to foist their control over individuals and their families, many of whom have been harmed by such tactics. I have seen it before many times in missionary work. Let’s not pretend this doesn’t happen.

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