What’s Wrong With America’s Pulpits?

30% of Evangelical pastors believe in works-based salvation

What’s Wrong With America’s Pulpits?

30% of Evangelical pastors believe in works-based salvation

Parishioners in the United Kingdom were shocked and appalled in November to hear a University of Cambridge student pontificate during his chapel message that Jesus Christ is transgender. 

Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, was quick to rebuke the absurdity of the claim in a Facebook post, calling the sermon “blasphemous.” 

“This is repulsive and shameful,” Franklin wrote. “To insinuate that Jesus Christ, the Holy Son of God, is transgender or to sexualize in any way His sacrificial death on the Cross for the sins of mankind is utter heresy.”

While chapel speakers on secular university campuses have hardly been known for faithfully espousing God’s Word, what’s more alarming is an increasing unfaithfulness to the Scriptures by pastors of Christian congregations across the United States.

A 2022 survey of 1,000 Christian pastors across seven major groupings of denominations revealed that only 37% of clergy have a Biblical worldview. Most surprising was the percentage of pastors in evangelical denominations who don’t uphold Biblical beliefs. Meanwhile, pastors of nondenominational and independent Protestant churches scored the highest for upholding Biblical beliefs.

“The American Worldview Inventory 2022,” conducted by George Barna, director of research with the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University and senior fellow at the Center for Biblical Worldview with the Family Research Council (FRC), analyzed 51 beliefs and behaviors, including salvation through Jesus Christ alone, absolute moral and Biblical truth, human purpose, sanctity of human life as well as other Biblical doctrines.


Among evangelical pastors surveyed, 30% said they don’t believe that their salvation is based exclusively on confessing their sins through repentance and accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Similarly, 39% of evangelical pastors reject that there is absolute moral truth and instead contend that each individual must determine their own truth. And only 62% agree that human life is sacred, while 37% said that having a faith matters more than which faith you have. 

Defining a Biblical worldview as “a way of experiencing, interpreting and responding to reality consistent with Biblical perspectives,” Barna said that only about one in three pastors surveyed interpret the world through the lens of Scripture.

“Only 37% of all pastors of Christian churches in America today have a Biblical worldview,” Barna explained during FRC’s Pray, Vote, Stand Summit in September. “That’s barely one of every three who buy into God’s Word to such an extent that their life is driven by Biblical truth. It’s appalling. Think about that for a moment. What does evangelical even mean if the pastor doesn’t buy into the Scriptures and teach those things to his people?”

Barna said 51% of adults surveyed claim to live according to a Biblical worldview. However, when their beliefs and behaviors are measured by what he calls the “seven cornerstones of a Biblical worldview” only 6% of American adults actually have a Biblical worldview.

Barna’s seven cornerstones of a Biblical worldview are:

  • God is the eternal, omniscient, omnipotent and just Creator.
  • Humans are sinful by nature.
  • Jesus Christ grants forgiveness of sin and eternal life when sinners repent and profess their faith in Him alone.
  • The Bible is true, reliable and always relevant.
  • Absolute moral truth exists.
  • Success is defined as consistent obedience to God.
  • Life’s purpose is to know, love and serve God with all one’s heart, mind, strength and soul.

Franklin Graham asserts that an individual with a Biblical worldview looks at the world and sifts all information through the lens of God’s Word. “Scripture informs his thinking and behavior, guiding his intellect and moral determinations,” he said. “The Bible is the bedrock that undergirds his entire life. Over and against every competing worldview, the Bible forcefully declares, ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind’ (Romans 12:2, ESV). In other words, the only way to see all of life accurately is through the transforming lens of Scripture.”


Yet the prevailing worldview for 88% of Americans, Barna said, is syncretism, defined as a personalized or customized worldview dictated by an individual’s preferences, desires and subjective truth claims. “Worldview is important because you do what you believe,” he said. “So, if you believe God’s truths, you can act upon those truths.”

“Because pastors teach what they believe, many churches are becoming centers of syncretism and secular thought,” Barna continued. “Perhaps without even realizing it, thousands of pastors have become leaders of a movement away from God, toward narcissism.”

FRC President Tony Perkins contends that the survey’s findings reveal that secular culture is influencing Christians more than Christians are influencing the culture, and the problem lies in the pulpit. 

“There are many pastors today who are very tentative and hesitant to preach the full counsel of God’s Word,” he said during the FRC summit. “As a result, we have Christians who are hesitant to live out their faith. We need pastors who understand the Bible and its application to the world in which we live.”

“People need the truth of the Word of God that has the power of God to change hearts and lives for eternity,” Franklin wrote on Facebook. “The Bible warns us to beware, ‘there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction’” (2 Peter 2:1, ESV).


Michael Brown, founder and president of Fire School of Ministry in Concord, North Carolina, and host of the daily syndicated radio program “The Line of Fire,” said the survey’s worrisome results call into question the state of theological education in America.

“As disturbing as Barna’s data is, it’s not surprising given the rising tide of Biblical illiteracy, the liberalizing of many seminaries and Christian universities, and the desire for some pastors to appear ‘woke’ and enlightened,” Brown said. “At the same time, there is a strong core of solid pastors and leaders who are grounded in the Word and solid in their theology. In the days ahead, I believe they will stand out for their faithfulness to Scripture while others fall away.”

Barna’s research also showed a correlation between a pastor’s rejection of Biblical doctrine and the failure to practice spiritual disciplines in one’s personal life.

“While studying the spiritual behavioral patterns of pastors it became evident that a large share of them does not have a regular spiritual routine,” Barna observed. “There was a correlation between possessing Biblical beliefs and a consistent regimen of Bible reading, prayer, worship and confession.”

Citing the survey’s findings that “one-third of all pastors do not read the Bible during a typical week,” Barna likened such a dereliction of duty to surgeons not washing their hands before surgery. “It’s unthinkable, almost unimaginable,” he said. “Given that Bible reading is a major source of spiritual nourishment, no wonder so many pastors are spiritually weak and ineffective. Add to that their frequent failure to pray, to connect with God through worship and thanksgiving, to spend time seeking God’s direction and will, or regularly returning to Him to confess their sins and ask for forgiveness—it’s no wonder so many pastors struggle.”


“To see American culture transformed,” Barna concluded, “will require a time of Christians and pastors devoted to repentance and the Scriptures unlike anything we have seen in more than a century.”

But Barna contends that a majority of Bible-believing Christians is not a prerequisite for revival in the church or another spiritual Great Awakening across America. “God never waits until He has a majority to get His job done,” he said. “He always uses a remnant, just a small portion of the total population—those individuals who are completely sold out to His way of understanding, His way of looking at life, His worldview that He wants us to possess.”

And Brown is convinced that God will continue accomplishing His purposes, asserting that Biblical prophecy is still being fulfilled in this generation even while the times are dire.

“Paul did warn about deceiving spirits and false teachers in latter times and the last days,” Brown said. “The New Testament is filled with such warnings, just as the Old Testament often warned about false prophets. It is clear that just as the end-time outpouring of the Spirit will increase before the Lord’s return, so also will deception and apostasy. All the more then should we take real pains to be people of the Word—grounded, immovable and unshakable. The need is urgent.” ©2022 BGEA

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