Denying self is key to serving Christ, most churchgoers say

A majority of Protestant churchgoers believe making sacrificial decisions to serve Christ is essential to their faith, and most try to avoid situations that might lead to immoral thoughts or actions, according to a new study.

The 2019 Discipleship Pathway Assessment study from LifeWay Research found two-thirds (66 percent) of Protestant churchgoers agree with the statement: “A Christian must learn to deny himself or herself to serve Christ,” with 38 percent strongly agreeing. The survey was conducted Jan. 14–29.

Only 6 percent strongly disagree denying self is essential to serving Christ, while 10 percent somewhat disagree.

The study identifies obeying God and denying self as one of eight signposts that consistently show up in the lives of growing Christians.

“Choosing God’s agenda over our own is not natural,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Many churchgoers understand this tradeoff and are willing to say they should deny their own desires to serve God. But most churchgoers acknowledge they are not completely letting go.”

Researchers also asked Protestant churchgoers if they try to avoid situations in which they might be tempted to think or do immoral things. Nearly 8 in 10 (77 percent) churchgoers agree they try to avoid these situations, with 41 percent strongly agreeing. Another 6 percent somewhat disagree, while 3 percent strongly disagree.

“Walking with Christ involves our beliefs, desires and actions,” McConnell said. “When it comes to obedience, our desires are reflected in how much we want to obey and are trying to avoid things that may lead us astray. The majority of churchgoers admit they could be trying harder.”

Two-thirds (66 percent) of Protestant churchgoers say they live as if they exist to praise and glorify God. A third strongly agrees, with another third somewhat agreeing.

“Being a disciple of Christ is more than a label. It is living out one’s purpose. That purpose is not one we design for ourselves, but one God created for us,” McConnell said.