Author archives: George Barna

Understanding Millennials and Loving Them Into the Kingdom of God

by George Barna

May 11, 2022

Generations fascinate Americans. Among other things, we study them for clues about who we are becoming as a nation. The recent research report from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, entitled Millennials in America: A Generation in Crisis, reveals new insights into where the nation is heading as the individuals in the youngest adult generation take on a growing number of positions of power and influence.

Defining Millennials as those born between 1984 and 2002, keep in mind that this group constitutes the largest generation living in the United States today. Some 80 million strong (and growing, thanks to immigration), they are roughly one-quarter of the nation’s total population and about one-third of the adult population. They currently outnumber Baby Boomers by some eight million people, a gap that is expanding by more than one million people per year. Their influence in the marketplace is already substantial: they are four out of every 10 working-age Americans, three out of every 10 registered voters, and the prime segment of consumers in a nation driven by consumption. They are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in our history.

Like every generation before them, they have been shaped by world events and how their nation and family responded to those events. Among the most significant life-shaping events they have experienced during their formative years are the end of the Cold War; the Rodney King beatings and subsequent riots; the introduction and rapid growth of the internet; the mass shooting at Columbine High School; the 9/11 terrorist attacks; the introduction of groundbreaking technology such as the iPod, tablets, digital video game consoles, and smartphones; game-changing social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter; the destructive fury of numerous hurricanes, including Katrina and Sandy; the economic crisis of 2008; and the election of Barack Obama.

Considering the impact of those life-shaping events helps us to understand some of the life choices and goals that are defining Millennials. For instance, they have been actively redefining and redesigning family through their beliefs about the value of life, marriage, the appeal of raising children, and even their ideas about sexual identity and behavior. They have struggled to experience healthy relationships, at least partly due to their immersion in and reliance upon digital technology.

Millennials are known as poster children for the narcissistic lifestyle. That encompasses their pervasive yet uncomfortable materialism; hypersensitivity to criticism; and inconsistent and fluid norms, values, attitudes, and lifestyles. They are seeking to rewrite employment norms by valuing achievements (rather than hours worked) and the social value of the tasks performed. They are leading the “cancel culture” movement. Millennials are redefining religious norms as well, responsible for a long list of faith-related transitions. These include fewer self-professed Christians, less acceptance of the Bible and absolute moral truth, severely diminished interest in organized religion or institutional faith commitments (e.g., church engagement, prayer, Bible reading), strikingly low levels of trust in Christian pastors, common perceptions about Christians being hypocrites, and record levels of biblical illiteracy.

The research contained in Millennials in America: New Insights into the Generation of Growing Influence provides specific evidence of these trends. The analysis describes how all those conditions are summarized in four major symptoms of a deeper crisis. Those symptoms are the generation’s lack of a sense of purpose to life (acknowledged by 75 percent); the widespread, constant fear and anxiety they experience (admitted to by 54 percent); the struggle most of them have making, maintaining, and enjoying personal relationships; and the absence of a life-sustaining religious faith alluded to by more than three-quarters of them.

But if those are the symptoms, what do they indicate? The data produce an inescapable conclusion: the absence of a biblical worldview.

Worldview Is the Root Issue

Given the breadth and depth of the changes characterizing Millennials, some people question how worldview can be the central issue behind those transitions. The explanation, though, is deceptively simple. Worldview is the foundation of every decision made by every person every moment of every day! Understanding what motivates a person to make their choices, no matter what kind of choice it may be, requires an understanding of their worldview. There are numerous worldviews from which people may pick and choose desirable options. Some of the best-known are postmodernism, secular humanism, modern mysticism, biblical theism (i.e., the biblical worldview), and Marxism. Groundbreaking research by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University has shown that almost nine out of 10 American adults select appealing ideas from a variety of worldviews and create a unique, personally appealing worldview that is best known as syncretism. Even four out of every five born-again Christians have syncretism as their guiding philosophy of life.

How, then, do we explain the fact that seven out of every 10 American adults claim to be Christian but so few—just six percent of all adults and only nine percent who claim to be Christian—have a biblical worldview? The answer is that families and churches have been neither intentional nor strategic at shaping the worldview of their children; it has largely developed by default, influenced primarily by media, government, and schools.

Millennials fit the same pattern as everyone else. Slightly fewer of them claim to be Christian than is true among older adults, and slightly fewer of them (only four percent) possess a biblical worldview.

Because one’s worldview drives their choices every minute of every day, why would we expect our nation to reflect biblical behavior when we do not accept biblical principles? After all, we do what we believe. Most Americans do not really believe biblical principles; therefore their behaviors do not reflect those principles. Millennials are simply a more extreme example of these realities in practice.

The Millennial Worldview

To gain insight into Millennials—and the future they will create in America—let’s take a look at a few of the most significant spiritual perspectives of the generation. What we are about to examine are the most common perspectives; millions of Millennials are exceptions to every one of these views, but we are seeking to understand the flow and momentum of the generation’s thinking.

Millennials perceive themselves to be “good” people. Sin is not a concept with which they are comfortable, and thus they do not dwell on it. They do not believe that we are born into sin; they believe that every person makes life whatever they choose it to be, and most of them dismiss the idea of having a sinful nature.

They believe the purpose of life is to experience as much happiness as possible. They expect such experiences to come from personal accomplishments and material goods. Most Millennials contend that wisdom, insight, and meaning in life are the products of dialogue and voluntary acts of goodwill.

The much-discussed Millennial identity crisis is due to their excessive and biblically-unwarranted trust and belief in themselves. As a result of that self-reliance, they define their identity based upon a variety of self-determined attributes: gender, education, wealth, personal accomplishments, titles, and so forth.

Their relational challenges are not surprising in light of their worldview. After all, young adults typically harbor intolerance of opposing ideas and a conditional disrespect for the value of life. The Cultural Research Center data even show that most Millennials are indifferent to the “Golden Rule,” instead indicating that their response to other human beings should be driven by their emotions at the moment.

We might like to think that if they would just turn to God and understand who He is and how He is involved in their life, things would be better. Unfortunately, the foundations for such insights are missing. Consider the implications of these beliefs:

  • 74 percent believe that all religious faiths are of equal value.
  • 56 percent reject the existence of absolute moral truth; they list feelings, personal experiences, and advice from family and friends as their most trusted sources of moral guidance.
  • 35 percent believe that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, just and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules that universe today.
  • 40 percent are “Don’ts”—that is, people who don’t know if God exists, don’t believe that God exists, or don’t care if He exists; they are increasingly inclined to think of themselves as being their own “higher power.”
  • 16 percent believe that when they die, they will spend eternity in God’s presence because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.
  • 22 percent believe that life is sacred.
  • 11 percent define “consistent obedience to God” as the best indicator of a successful life.

In essence, then, the Millennial worldview can be summarized in four words: “life is about me.” Consequently, it is not surprising that this is a generation known for doing what is right in their own eyes.

See the Connections

Can you see the connections between Millennial’s worldviews and their life challenges?

No wonder many lack a sense of direction, purpose, and meaning in life. They have closed their eyes, ears, and hearts to their Creator. They have rejected His words. They believe that success is experienced through temporal pursuits driven by their intelligence and abilities.

No doubt they are having relational troubles. They have not invested in their relationship with God. They have placed themselves at the center of their reality and expect everyone to serve and care for them. They place the ultimate value upon themselves and little (if any) value upon others.

Of course, they are mired in emotional and mental health issues. They embrace wacky ideas from worldly philosophies, such as karma. That philosophy teaches that you get what you deserve. Naturally, a majority of young adults are troubled by anxiety and depression; what else would the notion of karma possibly produce? Our young adults fail to see that one of the beauties of a relationship with Jesus is that through His forgiveness and restoration, we do not get what we deserve! Instead, we get eternal life, forgiveness, hope, a special calling, and the gifts to carry out that calling. What a relief!

The anxiety and depression that most Millennials admit to is a natural consequence of a worldview that submits the God of Israel does not exist. Imagine waking up every morning thinking that it all depends on you, that there is no higher power to control evil or supply truth and guidance; you’re it! How could anyone possibly come to such an inane conclusion? Ask the millions of young adults who freely entertain the principles of Marxism, postmodernism, secular humanism, or nihilism, because those popular worldviews propose such foolishness. These fundamentally-flawed philosophies shape the decisions of Millennials and cause debilitating outcomes such as mental illness and emotional dissonance.

It is no surprise that young adults are feeling spiritually bankrupt. They have rejected the God of all creation. They have rejected the Savior of humankind. They have denied the existence of the Holy Spirit whom God has graciously sent to help us from moment to moment. They see themselves as good and ignore their sin and its implications.

They have bought into the notion of love as a feeling. They do not realize that God helps us understand that love is a commitment made real by doing what is best for others. Millennial love is narcissistic; Christian love is sacrificial.

Millennials are self-centered enough to think that because they choose a sexual identity based on emotion and desire, that is their identity. They fail to recognize the One who created them defines every element of their being, based on His perfect wisdom and purposes. As created subjects of the Master, we have no authority, competence, or capacity to determine our sexual identity.

How heartbreaking it is to watch a large majority of an entire generation so completely and unknowingly miss the truth of life and eternity. Contrary to their grand conclusion—“life is about me”—nothing could be further from the truth. Life is about God. We simply have the privilege of taking part in His universe, for His purposes, to enjoy and serve and glorify Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Anything else is just wasting time and opportunity.

Can They Become Disciples of Jesus?

Those with eyes to see and ears to hear understand Jesus is the only hope for deliverance from the devastating lies of the world. But most Millennials—24 out of every 25 of them, according to the research—do not have the eyes and ears to perceive truth. Can we do anything to help them see God’s truth?

Of course we can. There is a remnant of believers in America— you are likely among them—who are called to be the salt and light so desperately needed by these young adults.

Here are four ideas for you to consider as you pray and prepare for your role in renewing the heart and soul of America, especially through your interactions with Millennials.

1. Know what you believe and why

This suggestion is neither new nor groundbreaking. Unfortunately, it is inadequately practiced by the Christian body, an unfortunate consequence of only six percent of American adults possessing a biblical worldview. The ability and bold willingness to articulate and demonstrate God’s principles and truths to a doubting and hurting world is crucial to Christ becoming more real to the people we encounter.

With the local church having a limited impact on our culture today, the importance of the roles of advocate, evangelist, role model, and disciple-maker is magnified for each of us who claims Christ as Savior. To be effective in that multifaceted role, we must be able and willing to make the case for the relevance and reliability of the Bible and to share and explain its meaning to a world that is doubting and largely ignorant of its content.

Those conversations will enable us to reshape peoples’ notions of purpose and success and make God real to others. But we must be alert to those opportunities and be prepared to exploit them out of our genuine love for God and people.

 2. Build relationships based on trust

Young adults these days are suspicious of other people’s motives; that’s part of their daily fear and anxiety. We are most likely to defuse their suspicions if we do not perceive them as evangelistic projects but as the beloved sons and daughters of God whom we have the privilege of getting to know, love, and serve.

The research indicates that the most effective form of outreach is Socratic dialogue. That practice relies upon objective listening, followed by non-aggressive responses in the form of questions. Beware: seeking to be an agent of transformation without first investing in bridge-building usually produces disappointment. The process takes time; there are no shortcuts to loving people into the presence and kingdom of God.

3. Tell your story

Millennials are sensitive to what postmodernists call “the grand narrative”—an explanation of the big picture of life and its foundations. The arc of the Christian story represents a grand narrative. Consequently, our hope to lead young adults into a deep, life-transforming relationship with Christ can be more easily accomplished by placing biblical life principles within the larger context of the creation-fall-restoration account.

Millennials are an anecdotal generation. They often adopt principles based on someone’s example. In such an environment, linking personal stories to biblical principles becomes invaluable. Making the stories personal is crucial because most Millennials do not believe there are absolute moral truths or principles, yet they also believe “your truth” is irrefutable for your life. Conveying your story and seamlessly weaving biblical truths into it is putting your best foot forward.

4. Model it

Millennials are famously judgmental of others, but that often simply means they are looking for people, practices, and philosophies that seem genuine and authentic. Their immersion in the brutal world of social media exposes them to constant judgment, personal drama, and conflict.

Disciples of Jesus who are confident but humble regarding their worldview and immune to the criticisms of the world arrest their attention. When those people prove to be authentically in love with Christ and fully devoted to being Christ-like, Millennials will not instantly surrender to Christ, but they are likely to closely observe the believer in question as they seek to understand the motivation and means to such a life. If that Christ-follower remains true to the ways of Jesus and does not engage in evangelistic pandering, harsh criticism, or biblical compromise, meaningful and pointed dialogue is a frequent outcome.

Additional Pieces to the Puzzle

Other courses of action may be important in pointing Millennials toward Jesus and life lived through a biblical worldview. For instance, because most people’s worldview was developed on the run, anyone who can winsomely and strategically guide them toward connecting biblically-based life principles to a more compelling worldview is likely to have influence.

Also, because a person’s worldview is almost completely formed by the age of 13, working with people younger than Millennials is particularly productive. One way to reach Millennials is by working with their children. Most Millennials cannot guide their children to a biblical worldview because they cannot impart what they do not have. Working with Millennials’ children will sometimes cause Millennial parents to traverse that discovery journey alongside their youngsters.

Further, having reliable metrics to evaluate how you are doing in your quest to be an agent of transformation is crucial. After all, you get what you measure: unless you objectively measure outcomes that matter, it is unlikely that those outcomes will emerge.

Most Parents Have Worldview Confusion. Is It Any Wonder That Kids Do Too?

by George Barna

May 4, 2022

Do you ever wonder why Little Johnny or Little Suzie does not obey their parents or consider them their primary role models?

New research from the American Worldview Inventory conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University reveals that children’s disregard for their parents often has to do with the worldview confusion caused by the parents.

More than nine out of 10 parents of preteens (94 percent) have a syncretistic worldview—a grab bag of beliefs and behaviors taken from a variety of philosophies of life. Most parents mix some biblical ideals with elements drawn from comprehensive philosophies ranging from Marxism to Eastern Mysticism and everything in between. The result is a hot mess of guidelines that parents use when trying to make sense of their own lives and craft decisions that seem right and feel good.

One of the inevitable consequences of living by syncretism is contradictions. Most people who embrace syncretistic thinking not only hold conflicting beliefs but also say one thing while doing another. The research confirms that such conflicts among an adult’s thoughts, words, and deeds generate little concern—as long as they feel they are doing what is right in that context, at that moment.

Those choices are perceived and interpreted quite differently by their children. Because a worldview is fully developed before the age of 13, young children listen to and watch their parents for clues on how to live an appropriate and successful life. The problem they often encounter is the inconsistency between what their parents say and do. The cute expression “do as I say, not as I do” is inadequate to alleviate the cognitive dissonance and confusion such inconsistencies cause within children.

How do youngsters reconcile the parental inconsistencies? Many of them conclude that their parents are just as confused about life as they are, and that sends the child deeper into the surrounding culture to search for sources of clarity and wisdom. In fact, the research suggests that millions of children go so far as to conclude that because their parents claim to be Christian (as 67 percent of the parents of preteens do), the Christian faith must not have the answers to life that they so desperately need to make sense of the world and their place within it. Usually, their limited experience with the Christian faith and the Bible provides nothing to override that skepticism, and they decide they must look elsewhere for wisdom and guidance.

Enter the arts and entertainment media.

Past studies have shown that of the many entities that affect children’s worldview, arts and entertainment media have the greatest influence. Why? One reason is because entertainment media—television shows, current music, movies, social media videos, video games, etc.—typically provide a unified worldview message. When children watch a television program that provides a postmodern perspective that is carried throughout the entire performance, children will consider that point of view because it is coherent and consistent. When children listen to a pop song that makes a simple set of assertions about life, they absorb the message if it provides a unified point of view. They are attracted to social media personalities who have a consistent message that underlies their presentations. Some media are rejected by children not because of issues of taste or sophistication level but because the messages provided are confusing or inconsistent. So, even media producers have to be careful about the substance they are developing for their young audience if they want to do more than simply entertain the audience.

Can parents recover from their own inconsistencies to more effectively shape the worldview of their young children? Of course. To do so, however, requires a series of integrated commitments.

For starters, parents have to possess a biblical worldview in order to impart one to their children. Currently, just two percent of parents of preteens have a biblical worldview as their dominant philosophy of life. Before parents can be instrumental in developing a biblical worldview in the mind and heart of their child, they must wholeheartedly embody that same way of life. That’s a big task, but one that every human being can accomplish. God wants each of us to thrive. Because one’s worldview determines every decision one makes, pursuing His principles and commands will bear incredible benefits to those who make the investment.

Second, to shape their child’s worldview, parents have to embrace it as a high-priority life goal. It will demand constant time and energy, and the results will not be immediate; just ask Jesus, based on His investment in His disciples.

Third, parents will need a viable and measurable plan for accomplishing the long-term task. One of the reasons why churches can be ineffective at this process is because they plan to simply provide loads of information to people and hope they figure out how to use it. Parents will require a more thoughtful and strategic plan in order to foster a biblical worldview in their children.

Next, parents will need a process and tools to evaluate how well they are doing and what tactics in worldview development seem to work best for their child. Keep in mind, “you get what you measure.” Figure out what outcomes matter and how to assess whether or not you are making progress toward those desired outcomes. If not, re-strategize and keep moving forward.

Finally, making a long-term commitment to this process is imperative because shaping a worldview takes years. There are starts and stops along the way. Prepare to be frustrated—and to nevertheless stick with the task. The life of your child is at stake. Should they develop a biblical worldview, they will experience what God has for them in this life: the ability to thrive. We thrive when we work within God’s plan. Possessing a biblical worldview facilitates that capacity.

For a parent who loves God and loves their child, that is worth committing to.

Anticipating Gen Z

by George Barna

March 11, 2022

Millennials, the generation born between 1984 and 2002, are a very significant force in American culture. Let’s consider the tail end of the Millennial generation, those aged 18 to 24. That segment represents the latter third of the generation, comprising roughly 30 million individuals.

Based on historical tracking, this segment represents a bridge between their generation and the succeeding generation (widely known as Gen Z). Such a bridge group is often a hybrid, torn between the norms of their own generation and the new thoughts and ways of the upcoming group. As such, they give us both a helpful guide to what is coming as well as hints as to how to have a positive impact on their development.

Data from the American Worldview Inventory, conducted annually by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, shows that this “bridge” segment is shockingly distant from biblical orthodoxy in its beliefs and practices. Almost six out of 10 of them describe their faith as Christian (58 percent—alarmingly low in itself), yet less than two percent of bridgers have a biblical worldview. Bridgers who qualify as Don’ts (i.e., don’t know, don’t care, or don’t believe that God exists) outnumber born-again Christians by a two-to-one margin (31 to 16 percent).

We might consider what it will take to draw bridgers—and Gen Z—closer to a worldview that is consistent with Scripture. To do so, let’s consider three types of measures: basic Christianity, applied biblical principles, and life metrics.

Basic Biblical Truths

People are unlikely to develop a biblical understanding of life until they can piece together some of the foundational principles God has provided to us. As you consider how to dialogue with young adults and teenagers about life, keep in mind that most of them do not have a grasp of some of the most basic biblical principles and teachings.

The Definition of God. Less than four out of 10 bridgers believe that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect, and just Creator of the universe who rules that universe today. Nearly as many of them doubt or reject His existence. Without belief in a holy, omniscient, and omnipotent creator, life is a free-for-all, and the world revolves around our personal thoughts and feelings.

Creation Narrative. Bridgers are more likely to believe in chance and randomness than in the authority and creative yet orderly power of God. Only about four out of 10 embrace the biblical account of creation as valid. If it is not God’s universe, and He does not have control of it, then mankind has no obligation to believe in, much less obey Him.

Basis of Truth. Just three out of 10 bridgers contend that God Himself is the foundation of truth. Six out of every 10 don’t believe in absolute moral truth. Bridgers are most likely to believe that they have the capacity and responsibility to determine truth, which has become the basis of the growing levels of current conflict and confusion in our nation.

The Bible. Less than three out of 10 bridgers accept the Bible as the true and accurate words of God and therefore authoritative and relevant to how we live. Without Scripture as our touchstone for understanding, truth, purpose, and morality, we have no reliable guidance and boundaries for life.

Purpose of Life. Most bridgers contend that the ultimate purpose of life is happiness and pleasure. Only one out of every six believes we exist to know, love, and serve God with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul. The result is selfishness and pride. Any type of community, be it a nation, family, church, or government, cannot be sustained when everyone only looks out for themselves.

Applied Biblical Truths

A benefit of God’s truths and principles is that they are practical and designed to be implemented in our lives. Conversely, rejecting those norms results in accepting and applying deficient and detrimental alternatives, resulting in an unsatisfying and unfulfilled life.

Commitment. Humans are spiritual beings made for spiritual purposes. Yet, a minority of bridgers claim to be deeply committed to practicing their faith—and a significant share of the religious beliefs and practices they embrace are not drawn from biblical Christianity. The insight is that they devote little, if any, time and energy to the Christian faith.

Marriage. A mere one out of every five bridgers believes the marriage of one man to one woman is God’s creation design for all cultures. In essence, bridgers argue that love is a feeling, and marriage is an option whose contours we may define. They have little understanding and appreciation of the nature and role of the family or human sexuality in God’s universe, or the implications of substituting human concepts of human roles for God’s perfect and purposeful design.

Morality. Most bridgers accept as morally legitimate behaviors God defines as unacceptable (e.g., lying, cheating, stealing, sexual experiences outside of marriage, divorce, abortion, drunkenness). Again, they calculate morality based on a fluid formula incorporating circumstances, personal feelings, and outcomes. Instead, God’s righteousness is based upon known and unchanging standards that reflect His character and our best interests.

Salvation. Only one-sixth of the 18-to-24s believe that they will experience eternity in the presence of God solely as a result of confessing their sins and asking Jesus Christ to save them. Almost none of the bridgers believe they will experience Hell. Most of them either believe they will simply cease to exist, be reincarnated, or experience Heaven for any of a variety of reasons other than being forgiven and born again through Christ. American Christians and churches have done a sub-par job of leading sinners to Christ and applying an effective discipleship process.

Evaluating Life

In my business (social research), we live by the expression “you get what you measure.” What do bridgers measure to evaluate their life? As reflected in the minuscule two percent who have a biblical worldview, they do not embrace the measures indicated by Scripture.

Defining success. Less than one out of every 10 bridgers defines success in life as “consistent obedience to God.” Instead, they rely on measures such as wealth, happiness, accomplishments, fame, and comfort level. Shifting their metrics to be based upon God’s expectations rather than their feelings and reputation will make all the difference.

Avoiding sin. Less than half of bridgers say that they make a conscious effort to avoid sinning because they know it breaks God’s heart. In fact, millions of these young adults do not believe that “sin” exists. Changing their yardstick of righteousness from how they feel about themselves to how robustly they honor God and adhere to His guidelines would not only change their lives but also help to transform the world.

Intentional Christianity. About six out of 10 bridgers believe that all faiths are of equal value, so one’s faith of choice doesn’t matter. This corresponds with their widespread belief that there is no absolute moral or spiritual truth. Helping bridgers to understand that God’s way is the only way is offensive to this niche of young people who argue for inclusiveness and tolerance of all points of view. Effectively explaining that there are many roads that lead to destruction but just one path that leads to real life is an insight that millions of Americans desperately need to adopt.

Bless the Bridgers

God’s plan for us is like a complex puzzle in which every piece has just one proper location and brings beauty and greater clarity to the ultimate puzzle. Rejecting or replacing any piece ruins the perfection of the puzzle and robs us of the joy of experiencing it in its fullness.

As you have opportunities to question the choices bridgers make and discuss biblical alternatives to their choices, you have the privilege of blessing them with insights God has given to you and from which you and others have benefitted. Exchanges with young adults can be frustrating, confusing, and even produce self-doubt, but stay the course of God’s ways and allow the Holy Spirit to lead the way.

The Daunting Journey of Millennials

by George Barna

November 15, 2021

The Millennials have come of age—and they need our support. A new report about America’s youngest adult generation from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University reveals that tens of millions of Millennials are having a hard time making life work.

The nationwide study, Millennials in America: New Insight into the Generation of Growing Influence, describes a generation affected by world events that occurred during their formative years. Those include the Rodney King beatings and subsequent riots; the mass shootings at Columbine and other schools; the birth of the internet; the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; the spread of groundbreaking technology such as digital music devices, video game consoles, and smartphones; social media apps like Facebook and Twitter; devastating hurricanes such as Katrina; and the economic crisis of 2008.

But the most significant influence on their thoughts and behavior comes from the worldview they have been taught and have embraced. It is their worldview that has produced the generational mindset and consequent lifestyles we see today.

The combination of lackadaisical worldview development and global events has generated some devastating outcomes. Among the most serious challenges Millennials must confront is a crisis of meaning. Three-quarters of the young adult segment, currently 18 to 37 years of age, contend that they are searching for their purpose in life. One cannot help but wonder how much that absence of a clear and compelling direction in life has contributed to the generation’s record-breaking rates of suicide.

Another significant challenge Millennials allude to is their struggle with relationships. Although they are a generation that believes in the importance of friendships and other close ties, it is also a group struggling to experience lasting, meaningful relationships. It appears that much of this struggle is due to their reluctance to trust and respect other people. Another shocking outcome—that three out of every 10 identify as LGBTQ—reminds us that this is a group desperate to belong to a community that accepts them for “who they are.” While the vast majority of that 30 percent is not personally living a homosexual or bisexual lifestyle, they want to be seen as accepting, tolerant, understanding, and compassionate when it comes to the causes and issues championed by the LGBT movement. They would rather fit in with their peers than stand firm for God’s truth and endure conflict or rejection over their choices.

One of the most disturbing revelations from the research relates to the mental health of the nation’s young adults. A majority admits to having mental health issues in the form of frequently feeling anxious, depressed, or unsafe. This concern is echoed by data from the National Institute of Mental Health, which also reports large-scale issues among young adults with such troubles.

On top of these points of discomfort and adversity lies the dramatic reshaping of the faith foundations of the generation. Millions of them are consciously distancing themselves from God. Forty percent can be classified as “Don’ts”—individuals who either do not know, do not care, or do not believe that God exists. A historically-low proportion of the generation (16 percent) qualifies as born-again Christian based on their beliefs about sin and salvation. And a substantial majority does not believe that absolute or objective moral truth exists. Interestingly, they have favorable opinions of Jesus and the Bible, but not of pastors, Christian churches, and Christian individuals.

As the report concludes, the fundamental crisis facing Millennials is their worldview. Currently, only four percent of Millennials possess a biblical worldview. According to the American Worldview Inventory, nine out of 10 Millennials possess a syncretistic perspective—the personalized blend of many worldviews with no particular philosophy of life dominating the others. Think about how their worldview contributes to their life challenges:

  • It’s no wonder they face fear, anxiety, and depression. Without belief in a loving, powerful God who wants to guide and protect us, the world is a scary and overwhelming place. Without the truth principles provided in the Bible and the continual empowerment and guidance provided by the Holy Spirit, making sense of the world and thriving in it are unlikely outcomes.
  • The hardships they experience in making and maintaining deep and lasting relationships are a predictable outcome of their belief that life has no inherent value, that people cannot be trusted, that biblical marriage is outdated and unworkable, and that personal relationships should not be restrained by biblical moral principles regarding matters such as lying, stealing, and sexual conduct. Add their strong reliance on technology as their vehicle for developing or maintaining relationships, and the probability of relational breakdowns seems inevitable.
  • It must be difficult, if not impossible, to identify purpose when you dismiss God, reject the Bible, believe success is the outgrowth of personal accomplishments rather than obedience to God, and consider life to be about you rather than your Creator. The world must seem out of control and hopeless. Suicide and substance abuse are logical reactions but are nevertheless heartbreaking—and avoidable.
  • It is not surprising that Millennials are far more likely to be politically liberal than conservative and to be the generation most supportive of socialism. What else could be expected of a group that harbors a limited sense of responsibility and a knee-jerk reaction to the traditions of prior generations? Further, a group that dismisses biblical norms and values, such as the inherent dignity of individuals and the unassailable value of human life, would naturally support abortion as a reflection of the primacy of personal choice.
  • The episodes of violent protest and property destruction that filled the news recently is a predictable outcome for people who possess a heightened degree of self-righteousness, a belief in human sovereignty, a rejection of the legitimacy of institutional authority, and antipathy toward law and order agencies and officers.

We can go so far as to say that all the current “crises” facing America—economic, moral, familial, political, and so forth—would be mitigated if we solved the real crisis facing America: the worldview crisis. Because worldview is the basis of all choices we make, a wrong worldview produces bad choices. The answer to our national dilemma will not be found in Washington, D.C. It will be found in God’s words to His people and their willingness to live in harmony with those principles.

George Barna is Senior Research Fellow at FRC’s Center for Biblical Worldview and is also a Professor at Arizona Christian University. To read or download the report, Millennials in America, go to culturalresearchcenter.com. The report is available at no cost.

Through the Center for Biblical Worldview, FRC is working to educate and equip Americans with a biblical worldview. For more on the current state of worldview in America and the church, see our 2021 study Perceptions about Biblical Worldview and Its Application: A National Survey from the Center for Biblical Worldview.

Worldview is Central to Determining Views on Abortion

by George Barna

October 6, 2021

The month of October kicks off “Respect Life Month” in the Catholic Church, and with the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled to hear the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case on December 1, Christians across the country have begun praying in earnest for the case that could overturn Roev. Wade. How will Americans react to the possibility of the Court altering the long-standing Roe ruling concerning abortion?

Many Americans wonder why abortion remains such a high-profile issue after all these years. The explanation is simple. Almost 50 years ago, seven appointed—not elected—justices decided that killing unborn babies should be a constitutionally-protected act. Since that time, more than 62 million unborn babies have been killed in our nation.

Rest assured, that fact has not gone unnoticed by the God who knitted together those babies in the wombs of their mothers.

Recent worldview research provides helpful insight into Americans’ views about abortion. The annual American Worldview Inventory undertaken by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University shows that after a half-century of energetic public debate about abortion, the abortion perspectives of millions of Americans remain surprisingly tenuous and pliable.

Keep in mind that very few adults are capable of applying a biblical worldview to this (or any other) issue. Although 51 percent of Americans think they have a biblical worldview (according to a Center for Biblical Worldview survey), the American Worldview Inventory reveals that only six percent of Americans actually have one. Since most Americans (88 percent) are driven by a Syncretistic worldview—an inconsistent, unpredictable combination of elements originating in various competing worldviews—the nation’s thinking about the morality and permissibility of abortion is more likely to be based on current emotions and popular thought, not on biblical principles related to life.

Indeed, the American Worldview Inventory underscores the morally wayward thinking of Americans. Not quite four out of 10 adults (39 percent) believe that life is sacred. An equal proportion of Americans argue that life is what we make it or that there is no absolute value associated with human life. The remaining two out of 10 adults possess a variety of other views about life, including outright uncertainty as to whether or not life has any intrinsic value.

Views about life are closely related to worldview and faith commitments. For instance, more than nine out of every 10 adults (93 percent) who have a biblical worldview believe that human life is sacred. Eight out of every 10 (81 percent) SAGE Cons (i.e., the Spiritually Active, Governance Engaged Conservative Christians) possess that view as well. Surprisingly, only six out of 10 theologically-determined born-again Christians (60 percent) say that human life is sacred. Those proportions dwarf those among people associated with non-Christian faiths (25 percent) or those who are spiritual skeptics (15 percent).

Many people are surprised to discover that Millennials are not a pro-life generation. Less than one-quarter of them (22 percent) believes that human life is sacred. Meanwhile, twice as many in Gen X and a slight majority of Boomers and their elders contend that human life is sacred.

Americans’ views about abortion continue to shock many observers. For instance, two out of three adults (64 percent) either say that the Bible is ambiguous in its views about abortion or that they don’t know what those views are. For a nation where roughly seven out of 10 adults call themselves “Christian,” that represents a mindboggling degree of biblical ignorance concerning one of the most high-profile social issues of the past half-century.

Not everyone falls into that vacuum of wisdom, though. More than nine out of 10 people who have a biblical worldview—a group known as Integrated Disciples—reject the notion that the Bible contains ambiguous ideas about abortion. Similarly, eight out of 10 SAGE Cons reject that position as well.

But the idea that the Bible is ambiguous about abortion is held by a variety of population segments. More than 70 percent of people who draw heavily from non-biblical worldviews—specifically, Marxism, Secular Humanism, Modern Mysticism, Postmodernism, and even Moralistic Therapeutic Deism—believe the Bible can be interpreted multiple ways regarding abortion. At least seven out of 10 adults aligned with a non-Christian faith or spiritual skeptics also embrace that point of view. And two-thirds of adults under the age of 50 harbor that misconception as well.

Given these perspectives, then, it should not shock us to find that nearly six out of 10 adults (57 percent) believe that a woman who chooses to have an abortion because her partner has left and she believes she cannot reasonably take care of the child is making a morally acceptable decision. Again, the survey shows that such a decision is a direct reflection of one’s worldview. Just two percent of the Integrated Disciples support abortion under such circumstances. In contrast, more than eight out of 10 who are adherents of other worldviews support that decision. That includes 89 percent of those who often draw their worldview from Postmodernism; 88 percent who often rely upon Secular Humanism; 82 percent who draw frequently from Modern Mysticism; and 81 percent who lean heavily upon Marxist philosophy.

Previous research by the Cultural Research Center also revealed that national opinion is roughly equally divided as to whether the Supreme Court should overturn its disastrous Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. The subgroup numbers line up similarly to the segmentation patterns related to the responses to the other abortion-related questions described earlier. In general, those most desirous of the Court overturning the 1973 ruling are led by Integrated Disciples (67 percent consider a reversal of Roe to be a priority) and by SAGE Cons (74 percent). Those who want the Court to affirm Roe are led by groups that are not favorable to Christianity.

The Court’s ultimate decision, whatever it may be, will not satisfy everyone—or, perhaps, even a majority of Americans. But for biblically informed Christians, the abortion issue is not about pleasing a majority of the public or persuading a majority of jurists; it is a matter of understanding and obeying God’s principles and standing for His truth.

Most Americans Think They Have a Biblical Worldview. But Do They?

by George Barna

August 18, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.

A recent nationwide survey conducted by Family Research Council’s Center for Biblical Worldview asked respondents to determine what the term “biblical worldview” meant to them and whether they fit the definition they embraced. The survey revealed that 51 percent of American adults believe they have a biblical worldview.

To make sense of that statistic, context comes from the annual American Worldview Inventory conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University. That national assessment, which is based on more than 50 questions used to track the worldview of American adults, reveals that only 6 percent actually have a biblical worldview, regardless of whether or not they think they have such a foundation.

So, should we be pleased that most Americans think they have a biblical worldview when they clearly do not?

My viewpoint is that the 51 percent figure is more problematic than encouraging. Here’s why.

At the simplest level, the fact that most people think they have a biblical worldview indicates that a large share of those adults probably do not know what the biblical worldview is.

Experience—and common sense—suggests that if someone believes they already have a biblical worldview, they are unlikely to examine and seek to improve their worldview. After all, the widely embraced axiom instructs us: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Between the half of all adults who believe they have a biblical worldview and the minority who either don’t care or don’t want one, a large majority of Americans argue that they do not have a worldview problem to solve.

Roughly 70 percent of U.S. adults claim to be Christian. Of those, 84 percent claim to have a biblical worldview. However, the American Worldview Inventory reports that only 9 percent of self-professed Christians actually hold a biblical worldview. That is a remarkable level of self-deception and represents a huge educational challenge for those responsible for biblical worldview development—i.e., Christian churches, schools, and families.

We may narrow our scope of concern to those who are more deeply committed to the Christian faith. Based on beliefs about sin, repentance, and salvation (rather than mere self-identification), we can determine that approximately 30 percent of adults are likely born-again Christians. Once again relying upon data from the two independent studies, the Center for Biblical Worldview research shows that 47 percent of born-again adults claim to have a biblical worldview. Yet, the American Worldview Inventory reveals that just 19 percent of born-again Christians actually do. That’s a substantially smaller self-deception gap than among all self-identified Christians, but it is perhaps even more significant in its implications for the church and the spiritual trajectory of the nation.

Given our research revealing that few adults ever meaningfully alter their worldview, increasing a biblical worldview in our society is a daunting challenge for those who will attempt to change the existing conditions. The current situation suggests that biblical worldview facilitators are relying upon ineffective approaches and thus must re-strategize.

In subsequent posts, I will write more about the substance and process of developing the biblical worldview. In the meantime, consider these two challenges.

First, write down some of the critical elements of your worldview. You could describe your perceptions about:

  • the existence, nature, character, and purposes of God;
  • the nature, character, and purpose of human beings;
  • the existence, source, and application of absolute moral truth;
  • the reliability, relevance, and validity of the Bible;
  • whether or not people need to be saved from their sins, and if so, how that process works;
  • the existence of life after death, and the dynamics of that experience;
  • any existing spiritual or supernatural authorities, and define their powers and domains of influence; and
  • the definition of success for your life on earth.

Although worldview is more comprehensive than the sum of your responses to these questions, specifying your beliefs on these matters will provide a useful initial profile of your worldview. Our team will address many of these matters in forthcoming posts and has, in fact, already addressed some of these matters in articles currently on the Center for Biblical Worldview site.  We hope these resources will enable you to compare your worldview to biblical teachings and principles.

Second, identify the dominant worldview of those around you. How do their worldviews differ from yours? How do their specific beliefs and behaviors reflect or reject biblical perspectives? If nothing else, this thought exercise might help you identify useful conversations to have with others.

A biblical worldview enables you to think like Jesus so that you can live like Jesus. Because your worldview is the filter through which you make all of your decisions, developing a biblical worldview is one of the foundations of a truly Christian life.

George Barna is Senior Research Fellow for the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council.

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