I’ve finished Barna’s book, Revolution, and let me say up front that I think it’s a valuable read – and I recommend that if you are a part of the Church, you probably should purchase the book. That being said, I think I set myself up to be let down by the book. I was expecting a book that was a lot more data based/driven and a little less of a polemic. (I haven’t read Barna’s other books but based my expectations on his role as a researcher.)
Based on my own research, experience and understanding, I agree with Barna that there is a sea change taking place in the church. For many, their local church is not an accurate reflection of what they read in the Bible.
“…if the local church is God’s answer to our spiritual needs, then why are most Christians so spiritually immature and desperate?” (Revolution, pg 30)
Why indeed? Barna goes on to outline what he sees as the seven traits of a Christian Revolutionary:
- Intimate Worship
- Faith Based Conversations
- Intentional Spiritual Growth
- Resource Investment
- Spiritual Friendships
- Family Faith
Barna sees more evidence of these seven in the lives of the new Revolutionaries (some of whom may still be involved to some degree in a local church) than he does in the lives of the average American evangelical believer.
“The hallmarks of the Church that Jesus died for are clear, based on scripture; your profession of faith in Christ must be supported by a lifestyle that provides irrefutable evidence of your complete devotion to Jesus. The Lord encountered numerous people during his earthly tenure who could quote Scripture or pretend that they knew and loved him. But his reaction to them was always the same; “Show me the fruit.”” (pg 25)
“Jesus did not die on the cross to fill church auditoriums, to enable magnificent church campuses to be funded, or to motivate people to implement innovative programs. He died because he loves you and me, He wants an everlasting relationship with us, and He expects that connection to be so all-consuming that we become wholly transformed – Jesus clones, if you will indulge the expression.” (pg 26)
“One of the greatest frustrations of my life has been the disconnection between what our research consistently shows about churched Christians and what the Bible calls us to be.” (pg 31)
Barna makes a number of references to a Biblical World view – but spells that world view out very much from an Anglo-American, conservative evangelical viewpoint. His Revolutionaries, although they do gather together in group expressions of their faith, are predominantly “me and Jesus” focused folk who seem consistent with the American celebration of the individual.
He dismisses the Emergent Church (EC) conversation with a single sentence on page 66. “In fact, some extensions of the congregational model, such as “emergent” or “postmodern” congregations, really are not new models but simply minor refinements of the reigning model.” This is a concept that has been pondered within the EC conversation by leaders like Alan Roxburgh – but is hardly a wholesale description of what the EC is about. I look forward to hearing other’s comments on this. (I confess my own position to be EC friendly – rather than someone immersed in the Emergent Church.) Oddly enough, Barna does recommend a number of EC books and websites in his “Resources for Revolutionaries” on page 141.
Revolution is a partially effective book in calling us to a deeper relationship with the one we call Lord. His description of the present state of the American Church appears both accurate and disheartening. He has placed his hope in the new Revolutionaries who he sees having a profound impact on society. He may be right.
I had hoped for a book that was a little more Glocal in its focus. A book that acknowledged the power of conversations that are taking place amongst Christians globally. A recognition that in the Emergent culture (Busters and Mosaics to Barna’s way of thinking) there is a hunger for relationship, reality and authenticity – a reaction to the me-focused world of the Boomers – with all the brokeness that Emergents have experienced from their Boomer forbears; divorce, alienation, materialism. Barna’s Revolution is really being driven by a society grappling for what Bruce Cockburn expressed 25 years ago in More Not More:
there must be more… more…
more songs more warmth
more love more life
not more fear not more fame
not more money not more games
there must be more… more…
more current more spark
more touch deep in the heart
not more thoughtless cruelty
not more being this lonely…