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Pastors: That Divorce Stat You Quoted Is Probably Wrong

Since I have written quite extensively about the abuse of stats by evangelicals and the media in the past, it was refreshing to see a recent article at the Gospel Coalition show some new data correcting some erroneous divorce rate statistics that seem to get thrown around the Internet, in the media and, unfortunately, in the pulpit. The stat in question was that Christians divorce at roughly the same rate as the world.

But what did the actual research show—particularly concerning practicing Christians?

People who seriously practice a traditional religious faith—whether Christian or other—have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population.

The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice.

What appears intuitive is true. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes—attend church nearly every week; read their Bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples but serious disciples—enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public and unbelievers.

The article draws from research found in Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told, the 2010 book by Bradley Wright (and for which I wrote the foreword), as well as an article by W. Bradford Wilcox and Elizabeth Williamson in American Religions and the Family.

Specifically, the research shows couples who are active in their faith are much less likely to divorce. Catholic couples were 31 percent less likely to divorce; Protestant couples 35 percent less likely; and Jewish couples 97 percent less likely, which in itself is quite impressive, I must say.

So what does this mean for you, for me and for our churches?

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books.