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Poll: Majority of Churchgoers Treat Sunday as the Sabbath

First Lutheran Church Middleton, Wisconsin

In his book 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law, Dr. Thomas Schreiner, professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote, "I do not believe the Sabbath is required for believers now that the new covenant has arrived in the person of Jesus Christ."

According to a new survey conducted by LifeWay Research, Dr. Shreiner is in the minority among American Protestants. According to the survey, 56 percent of Protestant churchgoers believe that the Bible commands Christians to take a day of Sabbath rest each week. Nineteen percent are not sure. Only 25 percent agree with the esteemed theologian.

Whether they believe the Bible commands Christians to take a day of Sabbath rest each week or not seems to be irrelevant to the actual practice of the majority of Protestants in this country. The survey reveals:

Seventy-seven percent of churchgoers say they take an intentional day of rest and most do so on Sunday, according to a new study of Protestants who attend church once a month or more from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

Seven in 10 churchgoers take their Sabbath on Sunday. Few take it on Saturday (5 percent), Friday (1 percent) or Monday (1 percent). For 23 percent, they don’t take a day of rest.

Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research's executive director, points out that with state and local blue laws being overturned around the country, "Taking a Sabbath may be something people have to become even more intentional about."

The survey provides an interesting breakdown of how the Sabbath is observed by those who do so:

Going to church is the primary way most churchgoers say they observe a Sabbath. Almost 8 in 10 (79 percent) of those who observe a Sabbath say attending a religious service is part of their Sabbath-keeping. Two-thirds (65 percent) say they do so by spending time with family.

Fewer say avoiding paid work (33 percent), taking a nap (30 percent) or avoiding labor or chores of any kind (25 percent) are part of how they observe a Sabbath day.

A small number say they avoid shopping (11 percent), refrain from attending paid events or entertainment (6 percent) or refrain from media of some kind, like TV, radio or social media (3 percent).

It's interesting that 33 percent say that they avoid paid work, yet only 11 percent say that they avoid shopping. Even assuming that everyone who makes up the 11 percent is also included in the 30 percent, that's still a lot of people who believe that they shouldn't work on Sunday but still engage in activities that require others to work. I wonder how often they hear sermons about hypocrisy while at church on the Sabbath? However, it's encouraging that attending church is the most common way that Protestants observe the Sabbath. Although, it would be nice if that number was 100 percent.