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Private Spiritual Life Counters Christians’ Role as Disciples—Barna

Many Christians believe that their spiritual lives should be a private affair, but a new study shows that this is counterproductive to their mission in society.

The latest report from Barna Research found that 56% of Christians in America feel their spiritual life is private. While they protect their faith’s privacy, half of this group (51%) say they are less likely to have weekly time with God, 45% are less likely to say their faith is very important in their life today, and only 30% see progress is very important in their spiritual life.

“The idea that faith should be kept private is one part of a bigger swirl of negative conditions that need to be addressed for people to see spiritual growth,” explained Barna.

The results prove that keeping one’s spiritual life confidential is not beneficial since it interferes with what Jesus wants—for Christians to reach out to others and share the Good News.

The idea that faith should be kept private is one part of a bigger swirl of negative conditions that need to be addressed for people to see spiritual growth. —Barna Research

In an article, author J.Warner Wallace wrote about the significance of discipleship in Christianity. “Jesus understood the importance of discipleship (the process of making disciples). In fact, it was so important, He made sure it was His last directive to those who followed Him.”

According to Matthew 28:18-20, Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

On Friendship and Discipleship

“Discipleship is a powerful way to meet a communal need for vulnerability and companionship,” Barna said.

Barna’s report, Growing Together, showed that Christian adults want friendships that challenge their faith to grow. However, most of the older generation of Christians are not part of a discipleship community, so opportunities of having other people to help strengthen their faith are limited.

Boomers are the generation least likely to be part of a discipleship community and 63% of them believe their spiritual life is private. Compared to Gen Z who are more than twice as likely as Boomers to be part of a discipleship community and only 46% of them see their spiritual life as private.

Growing Together described “people who are in discipleship relationships have at least one connection marked by mutual accountability, encouragement, support and spiritual growth.” This means friendship is a foundation of healthy discipleship since people can create intimate connections with like-minded individuals.

More than four out of five Christians (82%) agree that friends should challenge each other in healthy ways. Almost half of Christians who belong in a discipleship community strongly agree with this idea, compared to 20% of those not engaged in discipleship.

The study pointed out the best role model for Christians is Jesus. He didn’t keep his spiritual life private and instead, discipled 12 people and instructed them to spread the Gospel. Everyday concerns are merged with their spiritual life. Jesus preached the Gospel and engaged with people even during mealtime. “Meals and miracles, frustration and affection, sermons and naps, trials and celebrations—they shared it all,” Barna noted.

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