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Evangelicals Are Ten Times More Likely to Switch Churches Over Doctrine Than Politics

Since President Donald Trump's election, "evangelical" has almost become a dirty word. Many biblical Christians have rejected the label due to political connotations, but a new report suggests evangelicals value politics far less than they value Christian doctrine. Ten times less, in fact.

When asked what would cause them to "strongly consider changing churches," evangelicals valued Christian teaching far above anything else — worship style, a pastor's departure, even politics.

According to a LifeWay Research survey, American Christians overall proved most likely to consider changing churches if the church altered its doctrine (54 percent). Only changing residences (46 percent) came close to this level of impact. About a fifth (19 percent) said they would strongly consider switching churches if the preaching style changed, while even fewer said a pastor leaving would have the same impact (12 percent).

American Christians overall proved rather unlikely to consider a church change if a family member suggested it (10 percent), if "political views were expressed that are different from mine" (9 percent), if they didn't feel needed (6 percent), if the music style changed (5 percent), if they had a relational conflict with someone (4 percent), or if friends stopped attending (3 percent).

Overall, American Christians proved about six times more likely to change churches for doctrinal reasons over political ones. That gap widened even further among those with evangelical beliefs.

Evangelicals proved more likely (59 percent) than other Christians (48 percent) to say they would consider changing churches if the church altered its doctrine. Evangelicals also proved far less likely (6 percent) than other Christians (13 percent) to consider leaving a church over political beliefs. That means evangelicals were ten times more likely to consider leaving a religious body over doctrine than over politics.

Evangelicals were also less likely to say they would consider a church change if they moved residences (42 percent versus 56 percent), if the preaching style changed (16 percent versus 22 percent), if a pastor left (9 percent versus 16 percent), or if they don't "feel needed" (4 percent to 8 percent).

Churchgoers with evangelical beliefs were also more likely to describe themselves as completely committed to their church (67 percent). Only 45 percent of other Christians said they were completely committed.

It matters a great deal how you define "evangelical." LifeWay asks respondents a set of four questions regarding the Bible, the need to reach out to non-Christians with the gospel, Jesus' death on the cross as the only way to remove the penalty of sin, and the need for people to "trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior to receive God's free gift of eternal salvation." Only those who "strongly agree" with all four statements count as evangelical.