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Most pastors say they often preach about unity among members

While nearly half of pastors and Christians say the term unity speaks to “agreement,” and a majority of pastors say they often preach about unity between members of their church, less than half of Christians say their pastors often preach about unity between church members, a new report from Barna shows.

Citing recent data on the views of Christians and pastors about unity, Barna researchers found that while a significant minority of pastors and Christians see unity as “agreement,” there was no consensus on what unity should look like among pastors or Christians.

Some 70% of pastors associated unity with harmony, another 52% connected the term with “reconciliation,” and 41% joined the term to “sacrifice.” Some Christians, 39%, view unity as an “alliance,” while another 31% associate the term with “sameness.”

Regardless of how unity is viewed, however, regarding preaching about unity among church members, 62% of pastors say they do this often. Still, only 48% of Christians report their pastors to address this kind of unity often.

In Anxiety as the Main Cause of Church Conflicts Based on Bowen Family Systems Theory, researcher Angella Son concluded that “chronic anxiety present in a minister’s life and within churches can bring conflicts that can escalate to the highest level and cause a decline in church attendance.”

“Regrettably, churches see conflicts within congregations as problematic but do not see these problems as a call to action. Beyond a widespread refusal to seek resolutions within, they often accepted the conflicts as the fate of a fallen state. A spiritual hermeneutic of which party is evil represents the main discourse,” she wrote.

“By amply showing anxiety in action that causes relationship conflicts and disasters in churches as a system, it is clear how crucial it is to pay attention to the dynamic of anxiety, including how churches bind anxiety instead of directly addressing it,” she added. “In doing so, it makes it obvious how dealing with anxiety can bring about a change for the good and proposes several pastoral strategies to advance a flourishing congregation in which people act rather than react to one another, and the difficulties are handled with level-headedness and a firm and peaceful attitude.”

The Barna study further notes that pastors rarely address unity beyond the inter-congregation level “when it involves bridging actual differences or distances.”

“This suggests there might be limits to the unity pastors feel compelled or qualified to address,” Barna researchers said.

Some 30% of pastors said they often speak of unity between people with different political beliefs, but only 23% of Christians say they hear this. And while 28% of Christians say they listen to their pastors promote unity between congregants and people of other faiths, only 12% of pastors say this is true.

“The lack of clarity around the definition of unity may be a contributing factor,” Barna noted. “Perhaps pastors think they speak more on a topic than they actually do, or maybe Christians have diminished interest or recall for sermons on forms of unity that don’t resonate with them.”

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