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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., is the Dean of Talbot School of Theology at Biola Univeristy and Scholar in Residence & Teaching Pastor at Mariners Church. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches; trained pastors and church planters on six continents; earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates; and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the Editor-in-Chief of Outreach Magazine, and regularly writes for news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. Dr. Stetzer is the host of "The Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast," and his national radio show, "Ed Stetzer Live," airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates.