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Research: Pastors not seen as trustworthy

New findings from the Barna Research group indicate that church leaders are no longer viewed as reliable sources of insight in American communities.

Barna researcher the Rev. Glenn Packiam has just published a new book, The Resilient Pastor, and research he included in it indicates that non-Christians are most likely to find pastors completely untrustworthy, but even among Christians, less than half would now rate them as entirely reliable.

A lack of trust in these figures of religious authority reflects a society with less interest in religion overall. Part of this distrust comes from high-profile scandals involving spiritual leaders, such as the infamous sexual abuse scandals involving the Catholic Church.

Milton Quintanilla of Christian Headlines writes:

“Pastors are no longer perceived as a credible voice or a trustworthy source of wisdom on much,” Packiam wrote in an excerpt of the book. “Churches don’t have much of a role in a community unless they can provide tangible help or practical care. And people aren’t likely to turn to a church for help when facing difficulties or crises,” he continued. “In fact, Christianity is just one way of making meaning of this world, and it isn’t really even a respected way. For many, it is archaic and outmoded, prude and rude,” Packiam concluded.


The research, which asked whether pastors are seen as trustworthy sources of wisdom, found that 57 percent of Americans generally agreed that pastors were “somewhat” reliable and 23 percent of American adults agreed that pastors are “definitely” a “trustworthy source of wisdom.” Thirty-one percent of Christians said pastors are “definitely” trustworthy, while just four percent of non-Christians said the same thing.


According to The Christian Post, the data also revealed that 40 percent of believers said pastors are “somewhat” trustworthy sources of wisdom. Overall, non-Christians were found to be the group who most doubted the credibility of pastors, with 29 percent saying that pastors are “definitely not” trustworthy sources of wisdom.


“That may be unsurprising in our present culture, but it is still telling and discouraging,” Packiam says.

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