The Next American Spirituality by George Gallup

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Gallup’s contention, based upon numerous surveys and research, is that Americans are more spiritual than ever. As a matter of fact, it is trendy to be spiritual. But to be spiritual must be distinguished from being a Christian, or for that matter, even religious. The author writes, “Contemporary spirituality can resemble a grab bag of random experiences that does little more than promise to make our eyes mist up or our heart warm.”

As the church attempts to reach out to those in the American culture we must recognize this salad-bar approach to spirituality. People seem to want some kind of spiritual encounter; they are just not too particular as to what kind. In addition, while a large percentage of Americans claim to be born again (47%) and go to church (44% each week) and read the Bible regularly (38%), nevertheless biblical illiteracy is epidemic. Most Americans have no clue of even basic biblical stories, much less the theological concepts found in Scripture. And the lives and beliefs of those claiming to be saved differ little from nonbelievers.

So the news of this book is both good and bad. On the one hand, Gallup believes that a window of opportunity has been opened to the church. People do not have to be convinced of the supernatural—they already believe in God and angels- and they have a great spiritual thirst. The bad news is that they are attempting to quench that thirst at the empty cisterns of multiple spiritual sources rather than at the Spring of Living Water.

Gallup offers a number of suggestions for reaching this generation. Some are helpful, others are debatable, still others would take us in the completely wrong direction. The discerning reader should be able to sort through these suggestions. If they can, then Gallup has presented us with a helpful tool to discern our times and confront them with the timeless truths of God.

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