Practicing Christians are not seen as ideal conversation partners on matters of faith, according to a Barna Group report published Feb. 19.
Based on a survey of respondents who are not practicing Christians, the results presented “a striking picture of disconnection between Christian ideals of what it means to share faith effectively and the experience of non-Christians – and between non-Christians’ expectations of Christians and Christians’ perceptions of themselves.”
An ideal conversation partner about faith would listen without judgment (63 percent of respondents affirmed this view), would not force a conclusion (50 percent) and would allow others to draw their own conclusions (43 percent).
Christians that respondents knew personally did not stack up well against these most highly sought-after characteristics.
Only 34 percent knew a Christian who listened without judgment, while 26 percent knew one who wouldn’t force a conclusion and 22 percent who allowed others to draw their own conclusions.
Christians known to respondents were more closely aligned with certain ideal characteristics than others; there were only two qualities in which Christians known to survey respondents met or exceeded expectations.
Eighteen percent of survey takers said an ideal faith conversation would be with someone who knew their story, with 20 percent saying they knew a Christian who fit this description.
Fifteen percent of those surveyed sought to converse with someone who “exhibits a vibrant faith,” and 25 percent affirmed knowing a Christian who exhibited this quality.
The survey was given to both non-Christians (people from other faith traditions, as well as atheists, agnostics and nones) and “lapsed Christians,” which Barna described as people who “identify as Christian but have not attended church within the past month. Only 4 percent consider their faith very important.”
The margin of error for the survey is plus-or-minus 3 percent.
The full report is available here.