Update October 2010
We are completing a new study on what influences the Millennial Generation to follow Jesus. As one might expect, the results are somewhat different than the population as a whole (see below). I am personally excited about this project, and the implications it has for ministry. Stay tuned for updates.
A study on the conversion process was conducted to determine what influences people to follow Jesus. Former unbelieving people were asked what factors prompted them to become disciples of Christ. The goal was to learn how to intentionally influence people to follow Jesus. The following is a brief outline of what was revealed in the study.
1. RELATIONSHIP IS CRUCIAL. The question was asked, “Was there someone who was influential in leading you to Jesus?” Seventy percent of respondents indicated that there was someone who was influential.
2. A “DISCIPLER” MODELS JESUS. For our purposes, someone who is primarily influential in an unbeliever’s conversion is called a discipler. The study revealed that this person is most effective when he or she emulates the characteristics of Jesus. The top three characteristics that influenced unbelievers were revealed to be love, faithfulness, and authenticity.
3. MAKING DISCIPLES IS A PROCESS. Conversion is not an event; it requires an investment of time. To the question, “How long was it from the time Jesus first came up in conversation with this person until you gave your life to him?”, 51 percent of former unbelievers said it took over a year.
4. RELATIVES HAVE THE GREATEST INFLUENCE. Former unbelievers indicated that the majority of the time (52%), relatives were the ones who had the greatest influence on their decision to follow Jesus. Twenty percent were friends of unbelievers, and eighteen percent were ministers. It is likely that we already have a close relationship with an unbeliever!
5. “DISCIPLERS” MAKE THE FIRST MOVE. Eighty four percent of former unbelievers said the faith conversation was initiated first by someone else, not them. This puts the burden on us, as followers of Jesus, to initiate conversations about Jesus.
6. AGE IS SIGNIFICANT. We have the strongest influence on those who are in our age range. For example, the research revealed that fifty six percent of 29-43 year olds were influenced most by others in their same age bracket. This should not imply that we should ignore those who are significantly younger or older than us; however, we should be aware of the influence we have on people around our own age, and give them special attention.
The full results of the study on conversion are included in my new book, Living Dangerously: Seven Keys to Intentional Discipleship. It also reveals how to share your faith, and introduces a model for making disciples that emphasizes relationships. You can learn more about it here.
A random sampling method was used. The sample size consisted of 1,436 respondents from 49 states. Data were described by frequencies and cross-tabulated using Chi-square. All correlations included in the analyses were determined to be statistically significant with at least 95 percent confidence.