Pastors believe their primary role is getting people prepared for eternity, survey finds


BETHLEHEM, Ga. — Researchers from the Barna Group have identified stark differences of opinion about ministry between pastors and unchurched people in the communities they serve.

“Eighty-four percent of pastors believe the church’s main role is to tell others about Jesus,” Barna said in an article published last week. “Non-Christians, on the other hand, think local churches should focus outward, providing practical help for people in their community.”

Barna, a research organization that monitors cultural and religious trends in America, found that nearly 80% of non-Christians believe churches should be providing hands-on help and practical assistance.

Jon Reed, a full-time evangelist and president of the group Georgia Baptist Evangelists,  said it’s not surprising that pastors see the role of the church very differently than non-Christians.

“People outside the church tend to be self-focused,” he said. “Pastors are God-focused.”

Pastors understand that their role is to prepare people for eternity, Reed said, not just to make them comfortable in the here and now.

“That’s the disconnect,” he said.
Among rank-and-file Christians, about 60% believe that telling people about Jesus is the primary role of the church compared to nearly 40 percent who think the primary role is to provide helping hands to people in need.

“Most pastors don’t disagree that the local church has external and tangible needs to meet in the community, but those roles definitely fall lower on their priority list than they do for non-Christians,” Barna said.

Barna also found that pastors who have considered quitting in the past year are most likely to be the ones who feel their churches are ineffective.

Nearly 70% of pastors who’ve considered quitting say their church is either not very or not at all effective at reaching out to the community,” Barna said. “It may be tough to tackle a pastor’s personal weariness without addressing these ministry concerns, or vice versa.”

Barna said it “would be impossible” for pastors to cater to every expectation.

“There are ways for pastors and communities to get on the same page — or at least in the same chapter — about the role of the church in their communities, but it’s going to take some humility, introspection and, most importantly, open communication to get there.”