The Foster Letter

Religious Market Update

The FOSTER Letter is a bi-weekly e-mail religious market intelligence report targeted to Christian market channel and ministry leaders.  Each issue reports on news, trends, events and research that will directly or indirectly impact your audiences and businesses in a convenient summary format  Better informed leaders make better choices!

Researched, Edited & Published by Gary D. Foster


Excerpts from the

October 25, 2018 edition of

The FOSTER Letter—Religious Market Update


We Have a Biblical Illiteracy Problem Christians claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word. We claim its God’s divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet, we aren’t reading it. A LifeWay Research study found only 45% of regular church attenders read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40% read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 20% of churchgoers say they never read the Bible, essentially the same number who read it daily. If we don’t read it, we don’t know it! The UK Bible Society surveyed British children and found given a list of common Bible stories, 33% didn’t choose the Nativity as part of the Bible and 59% didn’t know Jonah being swallowed by the great fish is in the Bible. British parents didn’t do much better. 30% don’t know Adam and Eve, David and Goliath or the Good Samaritan are in the Bible. Even worse, 27% think Superman is or might be a biblical story. 33% and 54% respectively, believe the same about Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Our lack of biblical literacy has led to a lack of biblical doctrine. LifeWay Research found that while 67% of Americans believe heaven is a real place, 45% believe there are many ways to get there, including 20% of evangelicals. 59% of evangelicals believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being. Sadly, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity and the Bible itself. Yet 90% of churchgoers “desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do.” 60% agree with the statement, “Throughout the day, I find myself thinking about biblical truths.” ( 6/1/15)

Breaking The Curse Of Knowledge We all tend to forget that the knowledge we possess is not common to everybody. We automatically assume everyone knows the same things we do. When we fall prey to the Curse of Knowledge, we phrase ideas as they exist in our own mind instead of expressing them in a way that appeals to the minds of others. The ‘Curse’ leads us to abstraction and separates us from our audience. I can help you communicate in a way that will connect with and appeal to your audience. Contact 419-238-4082, or (Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip & Dan Heath, Random House, ’07)


Witchcraft & Paganism Growing Trend-spotters say millennials, especially young women, are drawn to Wicca, astrology and new-age spirituality. About 1 to 1.5 million Americans label themselves Wiccan or pagan. That’s more than the membership of some mainstream Christian denominations in the U.S. In a trio of surveys conducted from 1990 to 2008, Trinity College watched Wicca rise from 8,000 practitioners to 340,000 over the course of those years. Pew reported in ’14, that number had risen to 1.5 million. According to the Pew study, members of new age religions, (46% of whom are millennials) tend to trust their common sense over Scripture or religious teachings. The rise of witchcraft is attributed to several factors, including decreased interest in religion and increased interest in spirituality. Other factors include the wellness and mindfulness movements, female-empowerment efforts and even the uncertain political climate. Psychic and metaphysical services now generate $2 billion annually. ( 10/11/18)


Prayer & Church Attendance Benefits Mental Health Forbes reports a new Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study found those raised religious or spiritual as children are more likely to have happier lives as adults. Those who attended religious services with parents or prayed or meditated on their own had healthier lives and improved mental health. Those who attended church at least once a week as children or teens were 18% more likely to report being happy as 20-something adults than those who never attended services. After reaching adulthood, church-attending kids were 30% more likely to do volunteer work and 33% less likely to use drugs. Also, those who prayed or meditated daily as children or teens were also more satisfied with their lives as adults. They were better able to process emotions and more likely to forgive others. Praying and meditating also reduced the likelihood someone had sex at an early age or contracted a sexually transmitted disease. (Facts & Trends 9/24/18)


When Was The Last Time You Read A Book? For almost 1 in 4 of us, it was more than a year ago, according to Pew Research. That’s 3 times higher than it was in ’78. ( 6/1/15)

Black Men More Religious According to Pew Research, men in the U.S. are generally less religious than women. Yet, black men are more religious than white men and women. They are also more religious than Hispanic men and at least as religious as Hispanic women on a number of key indicators. 69% of black men say religion is very important to them vs. 80% of black women. But black men place more importance on religion than white women (55%) and Hispanic women (65%), according to the 2014 Religious Landscape Study. 78% of black men say they believe in God with “absolute certainty” vs. 86% of black women, 67% of white women and 65% of Hispanic women. (Pew Research Center 9/26/18)


Americans Are Carrying More Credit Card Debt than at any other time in history, $1.023 trillion at last count. Student loan debt has topped $1.5 trillion. Nearly 8 in 10 people are living paycheck-to-paycheck and a Federal Reserve survey finds nearly half of Americans do not have enough money to cover a $400 emergency. They’re one bad day away from a financial catastrophe. (Outreach 9/27/18)


Not Just a Guy Issue Studies disagree on the age most students first look at porn, some say 11, while others say as early as 8. Between the ages of 18 to 30, 79% of men and 76% of women say they look at porn at least once a month. That is only 3% less women than men, so it’s not just a guy issue, it affects all of our students. Studies show 90% of teens are either encouraging, accepting or neutral when they talk to friends about porn. That means only 1 out of 10 sees something wrong with viewing it. ( 9/26/18)


Work and Worship Practicing Christians have a deeper vocational awareness and satisfaction and overall seem to both receive from and give to their churches often in relation to their God-given gifts. The majority of churched Christians Barna is studying strongly agree their churches help them understand how to live out their faith in the workplace (53% “strongly” agree). 80% are at least interested in using their work-related gifts at their churches, including 39% who already do so. Regular attendees in turn feel their churches are supportive of them in their career (45% “definitely”), often by providing specific training on vocation (63%). However, the majority of Christian workers, particularly those who aren’t engaged in a church, still fight to discern and act on a calling in their professional lives. Young adults, though ambitious and idealistic, lack some spiritual inclinations as workers. Older adults, with one foot out the door of the workplace, might need some encouragement to finish strong. (Barna 10/2/18)

Business Intelligence
(customer and market information) is a key and necessary strategic element for every Christian ministry and product company. I can provide a full-fledged scan of the environment facing your organization, plus give seasoned advice on what it means and how to best respond.  Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


Institutional Confidence Decline Gallup finds 48% of U.S. adults express “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in higher education this year, down from 57% in ’15. No other institution has shown a larger drop in confidence over the past 3 years than higher education. The next-largest decline was a 4-point decrease in confidence in the church or organized religion. Since 2015, there has been a 5-point increase in confidence in the Supreme Court and 4-point increases for the presidency and big business. On average, confidence in the institutions Gallup tracks annually shows a 1-point increase in confidence since ’15. (Gallup Blog 10/9/18)


Boys Who Have Been Abused grow up to have more addictive personalities, their alcohol and drug abuse rates are 25-to-50% higher than average and they are 12 times more likely to commit suicide and three times more likely to be depressed. ( 10/3/18)


The New Moral Landscape Though still in a formative stage of life, the leading edge of Gen Z, along with Millennials, appear to hold notably different views about morality than other generations. Barna’s Gen Z report reveals 24% of Gen Z strongly believes what is morally right and wrong changes over time based on society vs. 12% of Boomers. 21% of Gen Z and 23% of Millennials believe each individual is his or her own moral authority, though Gen X (18%) and Boomers (17%) aren’t far behind. Keep- in mind, these are only the proportions who strongly agree. Just 34% of Gen Z believes lying is wrong vs. 61% of Elders. Other troubling Gen Z moral positions include: just 29% believe abortion is wrong, 38% believe marriage ought to be a lifelong commitment between a man and woman, 21% believe sex before marriage is wrong, 20% strongly opposed same sex relationships. (ECPA Rush to Press 10/15/18)


What Americans Think of the Bible 7% of U.S. adults describe the Bible as harmful or bigoted (8%) vs. 52% who think it is a good source of morals. 37% also say that despite the fact it was written so long ago, its content is still helpful today and 36% say the Bible is actually true! (CT Exchange 9/25/18)


Why Pastors Leave Pastoring Before Retirement. A recent Lifeway Research study found these 5 leading causes: 1. 60% of pastors who leave the pastorate feel isolated. 2. 48% of the pastors who leave the pastorate feel they were misled by search teams. 3. 48% of the pastors who leave the pastorate do not feel prepared to deal with inevitable and painful conflict and in leading people. 4. 48% of the pastors who leave the pastorate feel overwhelmed. 5. 72% of pastors who leave the pastorate are worried about finances. ( 10/8/18)


The #1 Reason for a Decline in Church Attendance LifeWay Christian Resources’ Thom Rainer says, “It’s not people dropping out of church. It’s not people necessarily getting mad, though there might be a little bit of that. It’s not necessarily that people are saying that they’re less committed to Christ. It’s people attending less frequently.” LifeWay has identified these 5 types of people who likely attend church less frequently: 1: The fading church member. Someone who may or may not be a believer but for life reasons, spiritual reasons, sometimes family difficulties, they are just fading away gradually. 2: The “church is just another activity” church member. They will stay away from church for many reasons, where they would never stay away from a school or sports activity. For them it is just fine to take a break from church. 3: The unbeliever or seeker. This is someone who is not yet a believer. 4: The anti-structure church member. This one feels like church is too structured or institutional, particularly popular among baby boomers and millennials. 5: The special events only church member. Also, often known as the “Christmas and Easter” Christians.  (Facts & Trends 10/9/18)


Think Outside the Box Tyranny of the urgent results in costly mistakes, squandered resources and lost opportunities. I can bring you a fresh set of eyes that will help uncover the less obvious solutions. Contact me at 419-238-4082, or


Why Americans Don’t Go to Church In recent years, the percentage of U.S. adults who say they regularly attend religious services has been declining, while the share of Americans who attend only a few times a year, seldom or never has been growing. A new Pew Research Center survey of those who attend no more than a few times a year, 3 in 10 say they do not go because they are not believers. But a much larger share stay away not because of a lack of faith but for other reasons. This includes many people who say they practice their faith in other ways. Others cite things they dislike about particular congregations or religious services. Still others name logistical reasons, like being in poor health or not having the time to go. (Pew Research Center 8/1/18)


Why Americans Do Go to Church 8 in 10 regular U.S. adult religious service attenders say their top reason for going is to become “closer to God.” 66% attend to give their children a moral foundation, to become better people, and for comfort in times of trouble or sorrow. Smaller majorities credit valuable sermons and being part of “a community of faith.” Far fewer cite their family’s religious traditions (37%) or a feeling of religious obligation (31%), socializing and meeting new people (19%) or pleasing their spouse or family (16%). (Pew Research Center 8/1/18)


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