Is Christian media a better tool for discipleship or evangelism? A new study released at the 2015 NRB convention examines just who exactly engages with Christian books, radio, TV, and movies.
“Christian media delivers teaching, music, and entertainment to a predominantly Christian constituency,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Not surprisingly, those who embrace Christian teaching will value and consume these the most.”
However, approximately one-third of the audience for Christian media qualifies in LifeWay’s eyes as “unchurched.” The study found:
- 35 percent of those who saw a Christian movie last year are unchurched.
- 31 percent of those who watch Christian TV frequently or sometimes are unchurched.
- 28 percent of those who read Christian books frequently or sometimes are unchurched.
- 26 percent of those who listen to Christian radio frequently or sometimes are unchurched.
- 26 percent of those who listen to Christian podcasts frequently or sometimes are unchurched.
Compare that to weekly churchgoers and those who identify as evangelicals:
- 64 percent of weekly churchgoers watched a Christian movie in the past year, as did 74 percent of evangelicals.
- 22 percent of weekly churchgoers frequently watch Christian TV frequently, as do 26 percent of evangelicals.
- 29 percent of weekly churchgoers read Christian books frequently, as do 34 percent of evangelicals.
- 27 percent of weekly churchgoers listen to Christian radio frequently, as do 33 percent of evangelicals.
- 11 percent of weekly churchgoers listen to Christian podcasts frequently, as do 15 percent of evangelicals.
Christian media’s biggest supporters (by demographic): African Americans.
About one-quarter of African Americans (21%) frequently watch Christian TV programming, while only 8 percent of Asian Americans, 7 percent of whites, and 3 percent of Hispanics do so. One-fifth (20%) of African Americans frequently listen to Christian radio programs, and 9 percent say they frequently listen to Christian podcasts.
Nearly one-quarter of African Americans (23%) frequently read Christian books; only 9 percent of white respondents, 8 percent of Asian American respondents, and 2 percent of Hispanic respondents said they do. More have watched Christian movies in the past year: 59 percent of African Americans, 44 percent of Hispanics, 43 percent of Asian Americans, and 36 percent of white respondents.
However, whites still comprise the biggest share of the Christian media audience by sheer numbers. Those who frequently or sometimes tune in to Christian TV or radio are 58 percent white, the podcast audience is 45 percent white, book readership is 60 percent white, and the Christian movie audience is 59 percent white.
While the LifeWay study doesn’t delve into reasons for media consumption, researcher Eric Jones found in a 2011 study that media use among black churchgoers in a Baptist community was shaped by social, theological, and personal factors. TV shows featuring evangelists such as T.D. Jakes and Eddie Long and gospel music by black musicians were particularly popular in the community Jones studied.
The results of the full study can be found here.