AT WHAT AGE
ARE CHRISTIANS SAVED?
Approximately 76% of American adults consider themselves
Christians. But only about 40% consider themselves as having been saved
or "born again." That is because the concept of being "saved" is
restricted to Fundamentalist, other Evangelical, and other conservative mainline
denominations. Many members of Roman Catholic, mainline/liberal Protestant
denominations, and followers of other religions do have religious conversion
experiences. However, they do not necessarily involve being "born
again" in the
religiously conservative sense. Barna Research, the largest religious
polling agency in the U.S. found that the overwhelming percentage of those who are
saved have experienced salvation before reaching their 14th
About being saved:
Conservative Christians typically believe that one must be
"saved" in order to attain heaven. Since they believe that the only
alternative to spending eternity in heaven is to be perpetually
isolated from God in Hell, they have a very strong motivation to make certain
that their children are saved. Otherwise, their family will be eternally divided
in the future and some members will be eternally lost. These concerns are
particularly acute for Fundamentalist parents who interpret the many
descriptions of Hell in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) literally. They
believe that the inhabitants of hell are tortured forever without any hope of
cessation or relief. They suffer from whippings, sensory depravation due to the
darkness of Hell, unbearable heat,
terrible thirst, and flesh-eating worms. Beliefs in heaven and hell motivated most
conservative Christian parents to continually urge their children to be saved.
Most of their children comply.
Setup of the Barna poll
Barna Research is a leading religious polling group. In 1999-NOV-12 they
announced the results of their most recent religious survey. They interviewed
over 4,200 individuals: over 3,000 adults and over 1,200 youths. Sampling error
is within 2 percentage points at the 95% confidence interval. Subjects were
considered to have been saved:
||if they agreed that they had made a personal commitment to Jesus
Christ that is still important in their life today, and
||if they selected a specific statement from among seven options provided. It was:
"When I die I will go to Heaven because I have confessed my
sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as my savior."
Results from the poll
The Barna Research study , announced on 1999-NOV-12, shows that the vast
majority of those who are saved experience the conversion during childhood --
before the age of 14. A person who is
unsaved at the age of 14 only has a 10% chance of being "saved"
later in life. The survey also showed that about 40% of all American adults
consider themselves as having been saved during their lifetime. This number
agrees with previous surveys.
||% who experience salvation within that age range
|5 to 13 years
|14 to 18 years
|over 19 years
Should evangelism be concentrated on children?
Barn Research concluded:
||"The data also challenge the widely-held belief that the teenage
years are prime years for evangelistic activity."
||Most church efforts to evangelize the unsaved is directed at adults -- an
age group which is relatively resistant to the message.
They concluded that more evangelical programs should be directed at children
Should evangelism be concentrated on teens and adults?
An alternative way of looking at the same data is to consider the total percentage
of individuals who are saved by the time that they attain certain ages:
||% who experience salvation before
|Current age (adults only)
The data can be interpreted as showing that, by the age of 18, essentially all members of Evangelical
churches have probably already been "saved." More intensive evangelizing of
their congregation's youth and adults would not result in many additional
Perhaps a conservative Christian
congregation can make the most effective use of their resources by directing
their evangelism programs outside their denomination, at adults who are are
members of other faith groups.
By the age of 19, the vast majority of unsaved are probably:
Although this is where the vast bulk of unsaved individuals are located, it
is particularly difficult to evangelize them, for a
number of reasons:
||Many conservative Christians have little in-depth knowledge
of non-Christian religions. Many of the resource books and web sites written
by conservative Christian authors are
deeply flawed and unreliable.
||Many conservative Christians lack thorough knowledge of the beliefs
and culture of mainline and liberal Christian faith groups.
||Most followers of non-Christian religions have no concept
of the divinity of Jesus Christ, original sin, and other important Christian
topics. Many religions, such as Buddhism
and Hinduism believe
in reincarnation, rather than heaven or hell. Convincing them to accept the gospel message is
||Almost all non-theists (Agnostics, Atheists,
Humanists, etc) who do not identify with an
organized religion have already considered and rejected Christian teachings about
heaven, hell, original sin, the
Trinity, salvation, and a host of other
historical Christian beliefs. To
them, the thought of a God who accepted only a small minority of persons
into heaven while consigning the vast majority of humanity to punishment in hell is
profoundly immoral. The concept of eternal torture for a finite thought
crime (i.e. not accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before their
death) is abhorrent. Many non-theists have an intense concern for civil
rights. Their rules of ethical behavior are generally derived more from human rights
legislation than from the Bible. They tend to hold liberal views
concerning current controversial religious
topics: access to abortion, equal treatment for gays and lesbians,
physician assisted suicide, etc.
"Teens and adults have little chance of accepting
Christ as their savior," Barna Research press release, 1999-NOV-15.
This release is no longer available online. However, it was publised in the
1999-OCT issue of Barna Reports, which can be ordered at:
Copyright © 1999, 2000, & 2002 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 1999-NOV-12
Latest update: 2002-SEP-12
Author: B.A. Robinson