Matt Bush, FISM News
A recently released report from Grey Matter Research and Infinity Concepts revealed that 99% of evangelical protestants in America believe that spiritual disciplines positively impact physical and mental health.
“To see such a nearly unanimous belief on this was really surprising,” said Ron Sellers, founder and president of Grey Matter Research.
To break down the numbers a little further, when it comes to mental health, believers are in almost complete agreement. In fact, according to the study, “Only 1% of all evangelicals do not believe a strong Christian faith, praying, or reading the Bible contribute to positive mental health. Over nine out of ten believe each of these strongly.”
Sellers was quick to point out that this does not mean that evangelicals deny the existence of mental health issues or expect immediate, miraculous healing when it comes to mental health. The study simply shows that evangelicals believe that spiritual disciplines like prayer, church attendance, and reading the Bible help to promote better mental health.
As it pertains to physical health, the study shows,
Not quite as many, but still a clear majority, also strongly believe faith contributes to positive physical health. Ninety- six percent (96%) believe a strong Christian faith contributes to positive physical health, and the same proportion say this about reading the Bible. For prayer, 98% affirm this belief.”
In the introduction of the study, the point is made that it is difficult to get a diverse group of people to completely agree about anything, and evangelical believers are a very diverse group of people. This is one of the things that make this study so unusual and at the same time so impactful.
When it comes to the effect of spiritual disciplines on mental and physical health, this diverse group of people almost universally agrees.
BELIEF AND ACTION
While evangelicals universally agree that spiritual disciplines produce positive outcomes on mental and physical health, the resulting actions lag far behind the stated beliefs. The study showed many Christians shared common incongruencies in their beliefs and actions, including:
- 42% are obese and, on any given day, 37% consume fast food
- 21% experienced mental illness in the last 12 months and only 46% of those who did received any treatment for it.
- 91% do not eat enough fruits and vegetables.
- 76% do not get the recommended amount of exercise.
Those same types of incongruencies apply to the spiritual lives of evangelicals as well, and the numbers from the study bear that out:
- Only 39% of evangelical Protestants read the Bible on a daily basis while 28% read it outside of church less than once a week (if at all).
- Just 15% have full spiritual engagement (regularly attending church and small group, reading and studying the Bible, and praying). Twenty-two percent (22%) have low or no spiritual engagement.
- 59% of evangelicals who are confident a strong Christian faith can benefit them mentally and physically have moderate or low spiritual engagement.
WHAT IT MEANS
There is one overarching difference between the incongruencies of a person’s spiritual life and health and the incongruencies of a person’s physical or mental life and health.
The difference is eternity.
Getting it wrong when it comes to mental and physical health can be devastating to numerous people, but only for a fleeting moment. Getting it wrong spiritually, on the other hand, can be devastating for numerous people in an eternal and permanent way that separates a person from their Creator, Savior, and King.