A new survey shows that many adults identify themselves as Christians, but no longer attend church because they've been wronged by fellow believers.
According to the survey conducted by the Barna Group, 28 percent of the adult population (roughly 65 million people) has not attended any church activities in the past six months. Also, the survey discovered a large majority of the country's un-churched population consider themselves to be Christian.
George Barna, president of the Barna Group, says the study found that many of those who no longer attend church dropped out because they were hurt by someone in the congregation.
"Among those individuals, almost 4 out of 10 of them say that they had gone through painful experiences while they were affiliated with a congregation," he reports. "And it was that that hurtful episode, or series of episodes, or period in their life that really drove them out of the church."
The Christian pollster says it was not necessarily that those individuals wanted to drop out of the church. "They just felt like they were too hurt, too disrespected," she offers. "There were all kinds of things wrapped up in that pain they had experienced."
Church leaders can learn a great deal from the survey, says Barna. "They can recognize that we're working with people in the church and people don't do everything exactly right," he states. "They hurt other people -- sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.
"But as the leader of a congregation, it's one of the tasks of that leader to be aware of this and to be trying to shape the kind of behavior that takes place within that congregational setting."
More than 4,000 adults were questioned for the survey.