One in five Americans share their faith online according to a PEW Research Center survey on “Religion and Electronic Media” that was conducted during May and June 2014. Forty-six percent of U.S. adults see someone share their faith online in a typical week. Those who see faith shared online are believers and non-believers.
The percentage of Americans who reported that they shared their faith online (20%) is similar to the percentage of people who reported that they watched a religious TV program (23%), listened to religious talk radio (20%) or listened to Christian rock music (19%) in the previous week.
There is a generational difference in how adults encounter faith electronically with younger adults more likely to engage online and older adults more likely to engage in the older media formats. Adults under 50 say they saw someone share faith online in the previous week (58%), while 31% of those over 50 did so. In contrast, approximately one-third of Americans over 50 watched religious television compared with 15% of adults under 50.
One of the interesting points surfaced by the study was that online and offline sharing of the faith in a real-life setting seems to be complementary rather than a replacement. The two groups with the highest church attendance were the most active in faith sharing online. Among white evangelicals, 34 percent said they shared faith online, and 59 percent did so in person. Black Protestants were also avid about sharing their faith: 30 percent shared online and 42 percent in person. Coming in third, 38% of Catholics shared something about their faith off-line in the past week and 15% shared something about their faith online.
It won’t surprise anyone that Americans who say they attend services frequently are more likely to engage in electronic forms of religious activity than those who attend services less often. For example, of those who say they attend religious services at least once a week, 31% report sharing their faith online in the previous week, compared with just 8% of those who seldom or never attend religious services.
Why is this data important to us who are charged to bring the Good News to the ends of the earth? Engaging in faith outside of religious services is one way to strengthen one’s faith. Religious engagement whether it is online, offline, on the TV, radio or through Christian rock music is a positive way to build up the kingdom of God. We do well to support and encourage such engagement anyway we can. Obviously, if we want to support the younger adult members of our churches, ministers would do well to be active online as well as offline.
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