Most Americans Believe Pro Athletes Have More Societal Influence Than Pastors

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A new study from the Barna Group revealed that two-thirds of Americans believe pro sports figures influence society more than faith leaders.

A new study from the Barna Group revealed that two-thirds of Americans believe pro sports figures influence society more than faith leaders. Eight percent of Americans believe their influence is equal, and ten percent are not sure.

Most adults (61 percent) also say they are OK with sports figures displaying public expressions of their faith or talking about their faith in interviews. A quarter of Americans are undecided on this, and 12 percent oppose it. Even 34 percent of atheists and agnostics say athletes should be allowed to speak of their faith in public events. Among those who favor public expressions of faith, 40 percent say they do so because they believe athletes should have freedom of speech. Among those who oppose it, 45 percent say a person’s faith is personal and they shouldn’t force their beliefs on others.

About a third of adults say when an athlete speaks of or displays their faith, it makes the viewers more spiritually minded. Eleven percent said people should talk about their faith, and 10 percent said talking about faith can have a positive effect on listeners.

Players that are most recognized for their faith include pro football players Tim Tebow, Kurt Warner, and Robert Griffin III; pro baseball players Albert Pujols and Clayton Kershaw; pro basketball player Jeremy Lin; and professional golfer Bubba Watson.

David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, concluded that “most Americans are comfortable with a mash-up of their faith and their sports. That there’s such a strong and positive awareness of Tim Tebow and his faith reveals Americans — and particularly Christians — desire for an authentic role model who is willing to so publicly connect his faith and life.”

“American’s are keenly aware of and concerned about maintaining religious liberty,” Kinnaman also mentioned. “Even if they didn’t agree with or particularly care for an athlete’s faith declarations, Americans would be hesitant to limit that person’s ability to speak up about their faith.”

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  • Deana Callins

    From the Beginning their has been a war for the “Souls” of man. Between God and the devil. The Great Commission from God to the saints was with his spirit, we have the ability and power to help one another. Help those who are sick(suffering from dis-ease, deeply disturbed, disgusted by an excess of excuses, weak, broken down, delicate, suffering from poor health). There are more people sick in their soul; than in hospital beds. If their sick, then their also poor. Poor(lacking in quality; love, affection, education(spiritual, knowledge, and understanding) hope, guidance, ect. Poor meaning inferior, pitiful, below par, forgotten man, second class, under dogs, needy. If God is in so many christians. Why do you see so many sick people. Should not they Lift up a standard against the adversary. But we cant do that if were too busy, distracted, or struggling ourselves within. We must be effective in winning souls. And like Jesus, it takes Love, Action, and Focus on the purpose in which we were called and sent.

  • Tim

    Duh…this really isn’t surprising on any level. First of all, these guys are celebrities. Given that society worships celebrities…and sports for that matter…this is not new news and really, as a pastor, it doesn’t shock me or concern me for that matter. The church that is a man in the front and people gathered singing and worshipping and listening to the Word of God being rightly divided, is not the part of the “church” that affects culture. It’s essential for maximum societal impact, but those gatherings don’t directly impact society. In directly? ABSOLUTELY! It’s when the people leave those gatherings and live out the Gospel of Christ and it’s mission, that the culture is affected. So this article is completely absurd, because these athlete’s pastors and their preaching of God’s word more than likely had a profound affect on them which in turn has caused them to have societal impact on a stage that no pastor will ever possess. That’s the way it should be. Pastors have huge societal influence because they affect the way some people think, and how they view the world around them and their own participation in the sport they apply themselves to. That’s why James said that we should not desire to be teachers, because greater is our condemnation. It’s a very weighty place to be, if we take it serious at all. We need to be so careful! Preach the Word and nothing else!
    So, I think that the title of this article is more problematic because it assumes that these athletes came to be passionate about their faith in a closet (hence, the “faith should be kept private” argument). People do not grow deeply in their faith outside a community of faith. It won’t happen in a vacuum.
    If this was supposed to insight concern…I remain unconcerned…I’m even encouraged. And the pastors of these guys should be too.

  • Tim Ghali

    It would be interesting to see the results of a poll that asked, “Do pro sports figures influence YOU more than faith leaders?” as opposed to the one that used “society” as the target.

  • Godlytalk3

    Maybe we need to solicit topics to write on if you run out. Some of the things that contributed to the current state of the church is that we want to say what is popular or what people will read. I will not have of a problem with using attractive headlines that wisely present the gospel to readers in the end for he that winneth soul is wise.. But to just write for the sake of popular opinion is a double waste of time(the time of the writer and the time of the reader). Yyu