Among the laity, how informed they are about the culture does not vary significantly according to how long people have attended their current church, whether they are involved in a mainline or evangelical congregation, how often they attend or whether they are in a volunteer leadership position within the church.

Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, pointed out that the survey raises the question of whether churches are having an impact on how people interact with culture.

“There’s a long-term debate within Christendom about what is an appropriate level of involvement in popular culture. Some Christians believe separation from the world is part of godly behavior, while others believe involvement in the world is necessary in order to reach out to the world,” Sellers observed. “Either way, one might logically expect church involvement to change how a person looks at culture – either becoming more involved in order to have more effective outreach, or becoming less involved as they seek to lead a less worldly lifestyle.

“But the data shows no difference in cultural awareness according to how frequently people attend church, how long they’ve been there, or whether they are in a leadership position,” Sellers said. “This raises the question of how much churches actually impact how people live their daily lives.”

Sellers also noted that one criticism people often have about churches is that they are out of touch with the world around them. “The data shows ministers are, generally speaking, not all that informed about the culture in which they seek to minister. The people in the pews feel much more informed about the Internet, movies, videogames and other expressions of popular culture than do their pastors. People are definitely impacted by the culture they consume – the websites they visit or the music they listen to, for instance. Pastors need to be informed about what’s out there in order to understand how the culture is influencing the people they are trying to reach,” Sellers said.

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