Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Review of "Revolution" by Barna

In Revolution, Barna seems like a kid that just saw the largest banana split in the world sitting in the dining room which he didn't know existed. He has been watching the normal church organization for a while and has come to the conclusion that it is, well, normal. And that just ain't good enough. But there is that banana split in that room I just found...

Got to agree with him there. If I want a normal organization, I'll go work for a business that makes widgets that I like. If I want an organization that is great, I'll find a non-profit that is truly making a difference in the world. I, and apparently Barna as well, want the miraculous, life-changing church that Christ died for. Barna seems to think it might take a miracle to find one that is operating under the traditional form of church life.

Maybe you've heard me say this recently, but the stats I heard about the "normal" church were staggering and eye opening, and made me think about what we should expect from the church. Len Sweet (forgive me Dr. Sweet if I misquote you somehow), at the Zoe Conference a number of years ago, provided these stats: 75% of churches have reached a plateau or are losing numbers, 23% are growing from the transfers from the dying churches (see previous percentage), and only 2% are making a real difference in people's lives. That isn't to say that the normal church isn't doing some good stuff, it just isn't inspiring great things from the majority.

Barna believes that the best spiritual things happening at this moment are from people he calls Revolutionaries who have decided to take their spiritual development into their own hands. But, really, isn't that the way it has always been? Haven't the people who have decided that they are not going to blame whatever organization for their ills and to do something great have always been around? I'm not sure why this is different from any other time. So let me save you some time, if you haven't already figured this out - YOU are responsible for your own spiritual life adventure. Don't blame me, don't even blame your local church, and definitely don't blame Barna.

The shocker apparently is that the church has a hard time organizing Revolutionaries.

Well, the people who are usually good at organizing generally aren't too revolutionary minded, and the people who are off exploring and living adventures aren't too often interested in organizing. I guess the hard news is that we want it all in the local church, and we want it run like a well-oiled machine.

I have to say that my recent experiences probably dulled the book down for me. I have friends who are simple, or home, church planters and I love what they are trying to do. We know people who aren't necessarily absolutely loyal for all their spiritual development to one local church body (all those with me, raise your hand). And I love the people who are developing conversations with anyone who will talk to them because they have thrown away the notion that we can live on isolated islands. My recent conclusion = the church is at its best when the winds of the Spirit are blowing through and we are doing our best to go with it, using our gifts and abilities with mercy and grace; that will 90% of the time look chaotic but boy will it be fun (if you don't mind chaotic).

What I was looking for in the book was what Barna does best, show the sociological make-up of the people and groups that he mentions but never really discusses. Instead, Barna tries to write a Christian Living book that references these Revolutionaires. If all this is new to you, the book is a good primer. If you know a little about what is going on, then you won't learn much new about these groups and just check out the appendix for resources. Barna - I know you are excited about this new(?) direction, but I would rather learn more about the groups themselves in a book such as this. Keep it up!

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2 comments:

Ellyn said...

AMEN! I heart me some Barna!

vaught_family said...

Ellyn, why do you think it is such a struggle for people to get the building out of the equation for what a church really is?