When it comes to personal spiritual growth and discipleship, black Christians are more likely than their white counterparts to consider those aspects in relation to community, according to a recent Barna Group study.
The study found that black Christians were more likely than white Christians to prefer or already be engaged in community-based spiritual growth such as mentorship and group studies. For instance, 38 percent of black Christians said that they are currently being mentored and discipled by another Christian, as opposed 19 percent of white Christians. Black Christians (18 percent) also were more likely to prefer “group-based discipleship” than white believers (4 percent). In contrast, white Christians were more likely to prefer being discipled by themselves (39 percent), a slightly higher percentage than that of black Christians (31 percent).
Black believers were also more likely to say that their spiritual lives influence others around them. White Christians (42 percent) were more likely to say that their spiritual lives are “entirely private,” as opposed to 32 percent of black Christians. More black Christians believe that their “personal spiritual lives have an impact on broader society” (46 percent), while 27 percent of white Christians say the same, according to the study. Black Christians were also more likely to believe that their spiritual lives have an impact on their relatives (52 percent, as opposed to 35 percent of white Christians) and their friends (47 percent, as opposed to 36 percent of white Christians).
White and black believers responded in similar proportions that their friendships are “valuable to their spiritual journey” (43 percent of white Christians, 41 percent of black Christians).
However, black Christians were more likely to say that “‘negative peer relationships’ pose a major obstacle for people’s growth as disciples” (73 percent) than white Christians (48 percent), the study showed. Black Christians were also more likely to say that their friends were “not too valuable” or “not at all valuable” to their spiritual journey (26 percent, as opposed to 14 percent of white Christians).
“This outlier of friendships for black Christians is an interesting shift in narrative,” the study states. “Black communities clearly appear to have robust formal relational networks for spiritual development (mentorship structures, family networks or small groups), but it appears their informal relational networks, specifically friendships, is more likely to be a source of spiritual hindrance.”
Meanwhile, the study also examined other aspects of spiritual development, such as how white and black Christians define the term “spiritual progress,” and the term “discipleship.” The study also revealed differences in the two groups’ views on spiritual education.