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  • Diana Chandler

Most evangelicals chose Christ during childhood, new study finds



EXPORT, PA (BP) – Most adult evangelicals were saved in childhood with several factors influencing their decisions, according to newly released findings from Infinity Concepts and Grey Matter Research and Consulting.


More than 90 percent of the 59 million adult evangelicals in the U.S. each said several factors motivated them to accept Christ as Savior, the study found, with parents, churches, other family members, individual Bible reading and pastors ranking highest.


A total of 72 percent of adult evangelicals were saved before 18, and only 4 percent of respondents said they chose Christ in the four years preceding the study.


The age of belief and the factors influencing belief are valuable insights in designing evangelism strategies, researchers said.


“Parents are an enormous influence on their children. Do you try to reach adolescents directly,” researchers posed, “or do you also invest in teaching or training parents or other family members how to have spiritual conversations with their children?”


The influence of both parents was cited as the strongest factor in their faith decision by a plurality of those polled, 28 percent, followed by 16 percent who cited the church they attended as the strongest factor for them personally. Other family members were cited as the strongest factor by 11 percent of respondents, followed by 10 percent who cited their personal Bible reading, and 7 percent who referenced pastors.


Researchers were not discouraged by the low percentage of evangelicals saved in the four years preceding the study, as 16 million respondents were saved in adulthood.


“Adult evangelism is far from futile,” researchers wrote. “But by far, the biggest impact is among youth and children, especially between the ages of 5 and 12. Half of today’s evangelical adults came to their beliefs during these formative years; a total of around 43 million evangelical Protestant adults came to their faith before adulthood.”


Other significant factors leading people to salvation were life’s difficulties, events, spouses, friends, other church leaders, direct experiences with God, radio or television, and books other than the Bible. “Something online” ranked lowest.


The numerous factors in play in salvation can encourage evangelicals in ministry, researchers said, and understanding the findings can help evangelicals reach the unsaved.


“One commonly expressed frustration Christians have with evangelism is the failure to see results. They plant a seed, and hope or expect to see something sprout directly from that effort,” researchers wrote. “You may not see the plant actually sprout, but you may be one of those important factors influencing someone’s eventual decision.”


Only 46 percent of evangelicals point to a specific time when they were saved. Instead, 37 percent said they were raised as Christians, and 16 percent said their decision to follow Christ was gradual.


Researchers defined evangelicals to encompass 23 percent of the population, using a definition developed by Lifeway Research, which is racially inclusive. Specifically, evangelicals are considered those who view the Bible as the highest authority in their beliefs, say it’s important to them to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus as their Savior, cite Jesus’ work on the cross as the only sacrifice for forgiveness of sin, and that salvation is in Christ alone.


The online study was conducted in early 2023 among 1,010 evangelical Protestants, using several research access panels and using stringent quality controls, researchers said. The study did not include non-Protestants such as Mormons, Roman Catholics or Orthodox Christians.


The study’s findings are available here.


 






ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.




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