Fifty-two percent of Americans said Jesus speaks to them by influencing or connecting directly with their mind, emotions or feelings, according to a survey conducted by The Barna Group. Slightly more than two in five people said Jesus communicates with them through the Bible passage they read or that is read to them.
And more than one-third of the population said Jesus communicates to them through signs; sermons or teachings that address their immediate situation; miraculous circumstances or outcomes; and through words spoken to them by someone else.
Less than one-fifth of the population said God communicates with them through an audible voice or whisper they could hear.
The findings are part of a study, conducted on a random sample of 1,002 U.S. adults, that found two out of three adults (67 percent) claimed to have a “personal relationship” with Jesus that is currently active and that influences their life.
American adults who are likely to say they have a personal relationship with Jesus tend to be female (72 percent), Protestant (82 percent), and those who describe themselves as mostly conservative on social and political matters (79 percent).
Notably, the study found that the younger someone is the less likely the person is to claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Among adults 65 or older, 72 percent said they have an active and personal bond with Jesus. The percentage drops slightly to 70 percent for boomers (ages 46 to 64), 65 percent for busters (ages 27 to 45) and 52 percent for Mosaics (ages 18 to 26).
Though the latest Barna survey shows that the majority of Americans believe they have a personal relationship with Jesus, it did not ask respondents how important that relationship is in their life.
But two years ago, Barna conducted a study that asked that question and found that the majority of Americans did not rank their relationship with God as the most important in their life.
Seven in 10 American adults said their family was more important than their relationship with God. Only 19 percent said their relationship with God, Jesus Christ, the Trinity, or Allah is the most important in their life.
The March 2008 study also found that people over the age of 40 are most likely to set God as the highest on their relationship list.
Among subgroups, evangelicals had the highest percentage of people who said their relationship with God was the most significant in their life. Seventy percent of evangelicals put God at the top of their list, compared to 30 percent of Protestants and nine percent of Catholics.
The Barna Group, which conducted both studies, primarily researches cultural change, leadership and spiritual development as it relates to Christianity. The California-based group has been conducting and analyzing research related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.