Barna's Revolution - a book report

This is the spiel from Barna's website:
"There is a new breed of Christ-follower in America today. These are people who are more interested in being the Church than in going to church. They are more eager to produce fruit for the kingdom of God than to become comfortable in the Christian subculture. They are focused on the seven spiritual passions that facilitate their growth as genuine people of God and citizens of the kingdom. These people are Revolutionaries..."

He starts the book with an fictional account of two church drop outs golfing on a Sunday morning. One guy is a regular drop out and the other is a spiritual guy who serves his community and goes on family mission trips. However, he's still a loser in my eyes because he elts his family go to church without him. Lousy example bro. If you like your kids in church that's boring to you, suck it up and set an example.

"...In this courageous new book from bestselling author and renowned researcher George Barna, you will read the results of his studies that have discovered and described a growing national population of more than 20 million adults who are committed to living their faith and making God the top priority in their life. Some are doing so through the ministries of a local church, but many are not. The emphasis is upon allowing God to transform them in every aspect of their life...."

is 20MM the next 144k? is 7% of Americans the seed that fell on good soil? i'm not a fan of elevating some over others. there's a Biblical tension between bearing good fruit and God giving the increase.

"...This groundswell of spiritual passion and intensity is likely to amount to a Third Great Awakening in the United States, but with a very different look, feel and outcome than previous religious upheavals. In many ways, this new move back to God is designed to return the American Church to its roots – its first-century roots, as depicted in Acts 2...."

Maybe. The book isn't that bad, i tend to react to hyperbole.

Topics addressed in this book include:
# 1. The call to the Church
# 2. The seven passions of Revolutionaries
# 3. The current state of the local church
# 4. Confusion over Church and church
# 5. Significant cultural trends
# 6. The emerging spiritual landscape
# 7. Evidence of God through spiritual min-movements
# 8. Transformation in today’s world
# 9. Alternative forms of “doing church”
# 10. Jesus the Revolutionary
# 11. The motivations and behaviors of Revolutionaries
# 12. The impact of the Revolution
# 13. Characteristics of Revolutionaries
# 14. Common criticisms of Revolutionaries
# 15. Affirmations of a Revolutionary
# 16. How local churches can respond to the Revolution

"...If you think you are a Revolutionary Christian, this book will encourage you. If you are interested in the future of the Church – and the local church – this book will inform you. If you are a leader in a local church, this book will challenge you. If you are searching for your place in the kingdom of God, this book will guide you..."

One of those encouraged blogs here.

"...The Revolution is here. The American Church will never be the same."

Andrew Jone's review says, "I will get straight to what I believe is the heart of the book. The revolution George speaks of involves a radical shift from the local church being the primary spiritual caretaker of believers in USA to other emerging forms of church having equal allegiance. Barna names 4 ways that Americans will experience and express their faith and how that will change."
Local church diminishing from 70 to 30% in 25 years, Alternative communities growing from 5 to 30%, family church not changing at 5%, and "media arts culture" (whatever that is) growing from 20 to 30%.
Jones wraps up, "

But I would differ on two small points in his book, neither one worth squabbling over:

1. I don't see these changes as rising primarily from key individuals, as in past revolutions, but rather from the emergent behavior of a much smarter, better equipped demographic. Small, invisible increments of change across the board, from a mass of people empowered to make changes. Evolutionary, more than revolutionary. And it may be congenial rather than abrupt and radical.

2. It wont be as rigidly defined. The expressions of our faith will be more modular than singular. A higher level of fluidity between the 4 forms will make the boxes less rigid and much harder to identify. Even as I write this in 2005, the spiritual life of my family is equally spread between the four means of expression, without any of them taking the primary role."

I like number 2 because Barna is a Boomer who sees the world in grids but Jones, who may be a boomer but i think he's a buster but he has a mosaic mindset, sees the intersection of the grid lines as a great place to sit. In fact, he admits, he does all these things. I know i participate in 3 of them, but i wouldn't know if i was in or out of a "media arts culture" group.

Barna predicts reactions to this book and the trends it notes, indifference, acceptance, rejection. Al Mohler, whose ecclesiology i've disagreed with before falls into the latter category. He writes,

"He [Barna] argues: "The Bible does not rigidly define the corporate practices, rituals, or structures that must be embraced in order to have a proper church. It does, however, offer direction regarding the importance and integration of fundamental spiritual disciplines into one's life."

That is true up to a point, of course. It is true that today's pattern of church organization with publications, youth ministries, gymnasiums, and church buildings is not drawn directly from the New Testament. Of all persons, a marketer should understand this reality very well, since he is best positioned to understand how the challenges of the modern world have been met with organizational responses at the local church level.

What George Barna misses is the big picture of New Testament ecclesiology--a picture that identifies congregational life as the very means whereby believers are shaped into Christlikeness and Christian maturity through the ministry of the Word, the fellowship of the saints, and the normative patterns of church life. Barna's Revolutionaries may be involved on spiritual quests that have added dimensions of meaning to their lives, but what they lack is the accountability, deployment, mutuality, and koinonia of the local church as envisioned in the New Testament.

Only the briefest of glances at the New Testament, looking particularly at the book of Acts and at the various letters to the churches, would reveal the centrality of preaching, discipline, congregational fellowship, and the central practices of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Barna offers genuine insight when he points to the larger cultural trends of generational transition, the rise of a new view of life, dissatisfaction with irrelevant structures, the impact of technology, the importance of genuine personal relationships, direct participation in reality, and the quest for deeper meaning."

What Mohler misses is that those things don't have to look like his church, or what's been normative in the American church culture. In fact all those things can happen in a small group meeting in a home, at work, in a park, or, as in some countries, in a cave.

The church worldwide doesn't always look like the American congregational model. The church worldwide doesn't have the money, resources, attendance, or political freedom to look like America's church. We've sent missionaries out to spread the good news but they've been affected by unAmericaness of those cultures and sometimes come back iconoclastic. Iconoclasm, in my view, is an over-reaction, since I'm a both/and guy. Mohler shouldn't sound the alarm regarding iconoclasts. He should recognize the issues they are responding to and help facilitate clear thinking regarding the essentials. I just read an anecdote of someone whose pastor dissolved the church into home fellowships. That's a bold step of faith for that pastor. The Cincinatti, Vineyard in Ohio did that too. See their FAQ. Now they just added a weekly ingathering of all their house churches, but still consider the home fellowships their identity. Anyway, there's alot to learn from the church that's thriving outside Western ideology.


James said…
First time visitor!

Thanks for these thoughts regarding Barna's book and some of the institutional knee-jerk reactions I've been reading over the last 6 months. I'm asking myself if most of these guys read the same book I did!

Just thinking of $ issues alone the institutional church has everything to lose especially when considering job security for all the full-time staff out there. No, I don't believe that most pastors out there are greedy. Far from it. Most are underpaid for the work they do. However, the radical (is it really radical?) thoughts George presents could have dramatic and immediate financial ramifications if acted upon. If the church is de-centralized them we're not going to be as singularly dependant on a professional lead pastor, are we?

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