Research: Spiritual maturity tied to strong doctrinal beliefs

By Russ Rankin

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Professing Christians progressing toward spiritual maturity will have a firmer grasp on important doctrinal positions, according to findings from LifeWay Research. However, plenty of churchgoers still struggle with basic truths about God, the Bible and salvation.

The LifeWay Research study on “Doctrinal Positions” shows that while 81 percent of churchgoers say “When you die, you will go to heaven because you have confessed your sins and accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior,” 26 percent agree “If a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity.” Fifty-seven percent disagree.

“Consumers in America are accustomed to having endless combinations of choices for every want in life,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “Biblical truth is radical because it teaches that eternal life is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ alone.”

Other responses given regarding beliefs about life after death include:

  • When you die, you will go to heaven because you have tried your best to be a good person and live a good life (selected by 7 percent of churchgoers).
  • You have no way of knowing what will happen when you die (5 percent of churchgoers).
  • When you die, you will go to heaven because God loves everyone and we will all be in heaven with Him (4 percent).
  • When you die, you will go to heaven because you have read the Bible, been involved in church, and tried to live as God wants you to live (2 percent).
  • There is no life after death (1 percent).

Churchgoers strongly hold to the accuracy of the Scriptures, the survey reveals. Eighty-two percent agree with the statement: “The Bible is the written word of God and is totally accurate in all that it teaches.” Ten percent disagree and 8 percent neither agree nor disagree.

While the majority of churchgoers (75 percent) strongly hold the God of the Bible is not the same god worshiped in other world religions, 13 percent say the God of the Bible is no different from the gods or spiritual beings depicted by world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. Another 12 percent neither agree nor disagree with the uniqueness of the God of the Bible.

The study also shows nearly two-thirds (71 percent) agree with the statement: “God is just and sin has to be punished.” However, 13 percent of churchgoers disagree and 16 percent neither agree nor disagree with the statement.

The research found churchgoers responded better to the questions when engaged in activities including reading the Bible, participating in small groups or classes such as Sunday school, reading a book about what’s in the Bible, confessing sins to God and asking for forgiveness, or going through a class or training group for new believers.

“If churches stopped to assess their congregation on these biblical truths, many would be surprised to find out how many are struggling with basic doctrinal issues,” Stetzer said. “Every church has a different mix of mature disciples and spiritual infants who still need a diet of the basic gospel message. A discipleship process must help every person take the next step in his or her spiritual journey. Too many churchgoers are stuck on square one.”

These findings on “Doctrinal Position” are part of the largest discipleship study of its kind. To learn more about the transformational discipleship research visit The TDA is available at


2 Responses to “Research: Spiritual maturity tied to strong doctrinal beliefs”

  1. Bill Lawson

    Why did you cut me off? I would appreciate it if you would allow me to finish my comments before you “moderate” my comments. I won’t waste your time or mine any further than than this journalistic truth: One of the ways for a surveyor, or a reporter of the results of a survey, to get their personal agenda point across ios to use journalistic trick called “lumping”. Lumping is that ploy that attempts to apply assumed truth to some kind of desired result based on a broad base of questionable informtion from many divergent sources. In the case of this survey the information comes from unknown sources of a broad specrtrum of possible respondents, which is the worst kind of lumping.

    As a Baptist for for 77 years, I resent your implications as they might be applied to my church, and I hope the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, and other Baptist conventions show the necessary mettle to officially rebut the extremely questionable results as applied to Baptists.

    (Please Note: Any errors in spelling or format in my previous comments “awaiting moderation” are due to the fact that I was not able to finish those comments and proof them for submittal before they were removed from my ability to review.)

  2. Bill Lawson

    I find it tragically ludicrous that LifeWay would conduct a survey on “Doctrinal Positions” with such statistics presented in this article. Nowhere do I find an indication of what kind of church you were surveying, not is there any practical application to any specific kind of church. Is your survey group of “Professing Christians” from all denominations or just Baptists? Is your
    results to be applied to Baptist doctrine, Methodist Doctrine or Catholic, Presbuyterian, Lutheran, or any one or all of the other church groups (In the small print at the top of the “Doctrine” chart I found the words “Survey of 2,930 American Protestant Churchgoers”.)

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