Read this bellow, from January 17 2006, and really see what the “leadership” and those who influence Charismatics worldwide really think.
The well-known Christian researcher has gone too far this time: He’s advocating the demise of the local church.
Pollster George Barna has provided a valuable service to leaders in business, politics and ministry by studying data and identifying trends. As a social analyst, he warned us in his 1990 book, The Frog in the Kettle, that evangelical values have not been embraced inside our churches.
But Barna has crossed a line with his new book, Revolution (Barna Books, a division of Tyndale House, $17.99). The tempered sociologist has now become something of a mad scientist. By cooking the numbers, reinterpreting the data and injecting his own biases into this odd experiment, he has created a Frankenstein that is now on the loose.
We should all be concerned about this monster.
Barna’s theory is that large numbers of American Christians are disillusioned with the church and have quit the Sunday morning routine. He applauds this trend, and has labeled these church dropouts “revolutionaries” who—in his opinion—have more spiritual creativity and passion than stick-in-the-mud traditionalists.
He also believes that those who have left the mainstream church scene will overhaul modern Christianity, describing their mission as “a daring redefinition of the church as we know it.”
He offers a gloomy assessment of the future of the American religious scene, claiming that by the year 2025 (1) the number of churches in this country will dramatically decline; (2) church attendance will drop while at the same time the “revolutionaries” will be devoting their time to other “spiritual events”; (3) donations to churches will drop; and (4) fewer clergy will receive a livable salary while denominations are forced to make huge cutbacks.
Barna seems to welcome this scenario, and he makes disaffected Christians out to be the heroes in his bizarre sociological model. They are tired of tithing, tired of boring sermons, tired of the religious routine. So, in their revolutionary zeal—with Barna as their mentor—they buck the system and start meeting together in glorious spontaneity at coffee bars and homes.
Says Barna: “The Bible neither describes nor promotes the local church as we know it today.”
If you still go to church, Barna makes you to feel like a weirdo. We are behind the times. According to Barna’s research, the really relevant Christians who care about Jesus and love people will say adios to their pastors and write Ichabod on the doors of ecclesiastical buildings. He envisions a “spiritual awakening” in which people are drawn away from the church, not drawn toward it.
Barna even provides a creed we can recite at the end of the book, which includes this statement: “I am not called to attend or join a church. I am called to be the Church.”
In case you are wondering how Barna handles Hebrews 10:25 (“Let us not neglect our meeting together”), he conveniently dismisses this apostolic directive by saying that such gatherings during the first century were spontaneous and had no resemblance to modern worship services.
Says Barna: “Such interactions [as described in Hebrews 10:25] could be in a worship service or at Starbucks; it might be satisfied through a Sunday school class or at a dinner in a fellow believer’s home.” In other words, church is up for grabs. Define it how you wish, as long as you don’t define it the traditional way.
Barna makes a few solid points, particularly when he emphasizes the need for all Christians—not just clergy—to actively engage in ministry. And his concerns about dry, anemic formalism in some churches are appropriate.
But what Barna wants to do is reinvent the church without its biblical structure and New Testament order—and without the necessary people who are anointed and appointed by God to lead it. To follow this defective thesis to its logical conclusion would require us to fire all pastors, close all seminaries and Bible colleges, padlock our sanctuaries and send everybody home to be discipled by somebody on the Internet or at a “spontaneous” worship concert. (After all, who needs buildings? Megachurches are so ‘90s.)
Barna is also surprisingly absorbed with American culture and seems out of touch with global spiritual trends. As a result his book has relatively no application in developing nations where churches today are growing faster than ever. I can’t imagine telling an Indian, Nigerian or Chinese church planter these principles. The vibrant new churches in those countries, in fact, are much better biblical models of what God wants to do in the United States than anything Barna has suggested here.
The message of Revolution is not for Christians in the Third World, and it is not for us. With all respect to Barna, who has helped us in the past with his facts and observations, this flawed proposal needs to be recalled before it causes some serious damage.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma and an award-winning journalist. He writes his Fire In My Bones column for Charisma Online twice a week.