What American’s Want

What is the “American Dream” for most Americans? What do they really want? In Barna’s latest study, he looks at what Americans want when they dream of their ideal life. Here is what they found:

There were six specific conditions that at least three-quarters of all adults identified as being very important elements in their ideal life. Those included having good physical health (listed by 85%), living with a high degree of integrity (also 85%), having one marriage partner for life (80%), having a clear purpose for living (77%), having a close relationship with God (75%), and having close, personal friendships (74%).

There were another half-dozen items listed by at least half of the adults interviewed. Those conditions included having a comfortable lifestyle (mentioned by 70%), having a satisfying sex life with their marriage partner (66%), having children (66%), living close to family and relatives(63%), being deeply committed to the Christian faith (59%), and making a difference in the world (56%).

The survey uncovered seven conditions that only a minority of Americans deemed worthy of including in their vision of their desired future life. Those conditions included having a college degree (named by 46%), being personally active in a church (45%), traveling throughout the world for pleasure (28%), working in a high-paying job (28%), owning a large home (18%), owning the latest household technology/electronics (11%) and achieving fame or public recognition (7%).

There are some fascinating trends here in this study.

One example is that having a close personal relationship with Christ was very important and yet being personally active in a church was very low. It is an interesting disconnect that people see the church as an impediment to their relationship with Christ. It also shows how individualistic we are in our relationship with God. The community and body of Christ doesn’t in the minds of many Christians connect, as it should, to their relationship with Christ.

That is a shame.

We are not merely individuals in a privatized relationship with God but rather we are part of a “community”. And as such we need one another to grow and be encouraged toward become more Christ-like.

I know that part of this disconnect has been the church’s fault. We have made church an activity to do, merely a place to go, and simply a club to join. Rather, the church is called to Love God through our worship, to Love One another through real, authentic friendships, and to Love the Community by going and serving the least, the last and the lost.  These things are on the very heart of God.  It should be on our heart as well.

May we as a church reclaim that vision and purpose again.

Bill Reichart is a pastor at Big Creek Church in Forsyth County, GA. He blogs at his personal blog, Provocative Church and his ministry blog, Ministry Best Practices.


4 thoughts on “What American’s Want

  1. Bill,

    I read this the other day on one of your blogs and was hoping you would post it here.

    You have hit the nail on the head for me in your last paragraph.

  2. It’s a very interesting trend indeed. I think it’s important to consider what people would put down on a survey as opposed to what they are really after. It seems to show that we are after the best things in life for ourselves, and we don’t really have the heart of service and worship that we should. As people can’t really control the way they feel about something, the question then is, what brings about that needed change?

  3. Hi!

    I agree that we need one another – that is a given. However, they way church has become an institution, rather than a living organism made up of individual followers of Christ, is to me fundamentally very wrong. That is what I believe has caused the disconnect.

    Church should not be a creator of programs and a provider of spiritual services. Church should not be a consumer product which can be purchased, either by money or attendance. Church should not have a CEO or Director.

    That’s where the difference of opinion comes in. People like me, who do not want to purchase the product or “get involved” in the vision of somebody else, but want fellowship for the journey and people to have mutual accountability with, are pushed to the outer of many traditional church environments. Church is seen as the destination rather than a place to rest for the journey ahead. Church leaderships and programs are held sacrosanct. Church members are not sent out as they were commissioned to, they are held close and not allowed past the fenceline, and instead, others are invited in. The whole model is flawed – it’s like backwards evangelism.

    I think you’ll find more people like me took part in this survey, people to whom “a close personal relationship with Christ was very important and yet being personally active in a church was very low”. This is not because fellowship is unimportant – it’s because of these fundamental differences in ideology. It’s the whole “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians” thing over again.

  4. Heather – I agree, the church has become an organization that delivers goods and services. I just saw a sign for a local mini-megachurch that boasted over 129 ministry programs available. What? is that what the church is about? NO, certainly not. But it feeds into our consumerist mindset. But here is the tension that I live in…yet I know all the problems with the church…it is still Christ’s church. Was it St. Augustine who said, or maybe Luther…the church is a whore, but she is my mother.

    I won’t give up on the church because it is Christ’s, I will though challenge the “church” as it is represented as an “institution”. The institution of church has a lot to repent of…we have become separate, inward, fat and lazy.

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