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Geoge Barna's Latest Assesment of the State of Evangelical Christianity
Christianity Today ^ | 7/26/2002 | Tim Stafford

Posted on 07/26/2002 11:17:54 AM PDT by sonrise57

The Third Coming of George Barna
He believes his ten-year campaign to reform the church has failed. What is evangelicals' most-quoted statistician going to do next?
by Tim Stafford | posted 07/26/2002

In november of last year George Barna came home disheartened. He had been on the road for most of 2001, giving all-day seminars in 54 cities to pastors and church leaders. Barna, who is 47 and has large, soulful eyes, is to evangelicals what George Gallup is to the larger culture. Pastors frequently cite his statistical findings in sermons, and his many books about church ministry sell consistently. For the past six years he has been keeping a fierce pace, spending more than half his time away from home (he always travels with his wife and two small children). He is an intensely introverted personality who dislikes public speaking. Something apart from road weariness discouraged him, however.

"Increasingly the question was emerging: I can keep doing all this, and probably make a living for a long time, but so what? Ultimately I stand before a holy and righteous God who placed me here to serve him with the gifts and vision that he entrusted to me. He's going to ask, 'What did you do?'….I can't imagine standing before him and saying, 'Well, I sold out. I knew that what I was doing didn't work, but it would have been too big, too hard to do something different. I didn't want to admit that what I thought might work had failed.' " An expert pollster and market researcher, Barna prides himself on realism. Sometimes he angers people with his apparent pessimism, but the truth must be faced, he believes. God had called Barna "to serve as a catalyst for moral and spiritual revolution in America." He had hoped to push church leaders to revitalize the church, to make it as beautiful and powerful as God meant it to be. His ten-year campaign had failed.

"The strategy was flawed because it had an assumption. The assumption was that the people in leadership are actually leaders. [I thought] all I need to do is give them the right information and they can draw the right conclusions….Most people who are in positions of leadership in local churches aren't leaders. They're great people, but they're not really leaders."

With that chilling assessment Barna changed his course. He's not about to quit—he believes with all his heart in God's calling to "moral and spiritual revolution." He has concluded it won't happen in this decade, though. He's now beginning to chart a course that looks 20 to 30 years ahead for results.

More Than Selling Kleenex
Barna grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, a cradle Catholic who went to Mass daily when he started college at Washington and Lee University. After finishing at Boston College, where he majored in sociology with a minor in religion, he went to work on the campaign staff of a Boston politician. Idealism attracted him to politics but soon caused his disenchantment. His liberal Democrat boss cared about people, Barna was delighted to learn. But when his boss wanted to "solve" a messy pregnancy by arranging an abortion, Barna quit, one month before the primary election.

Shaking the dust of politics from his feet, Barna went to graduate school. Beginning at Rutgers University in urban planning, he grew interested in political polling and ended up earning a second M.A. in political science. Meanwhile, he had married his hometown girl, and together they began what they referred to as their search for God.

The way Barna describes it, neither one of them knew much about religion outside of their native Catholicism. It wasn't working for them, they concluded, but nevertheless they believed in God and talked often of their search for him. Eventually their pilgrimage led them to a small, fundamentalist Baptist church. The pastor, a Bob Jones University graduate, introduced them to Bible study and a personal relationship with God. Unfortunately, he also ushered them out of the church within a few short months, because he demanded that the newly converted Barna shave his beard and cut his hair.

Despite that confusing beginning, something momentous had happened to the Barnas. Upon graduation George took a job with a media research firm in Los Angeles. His new employers put him on an account working with televangelists Rex Humbard and Oral Roberts. To Barna, "Oral Roberts" was a basketball team. The first time he watched an Oral Roberts television special, "words of knowledge" and faith healing utterly confounded him. He loved working for a Christian cause, however, and soon quit his secular job to work for a Christian media company headquartered in Wheaton, Illinois. "I loved the people, loved the ability to get out of bed in the morning and do something [more significant than] another ad to sell Kleenex." The work involved fundraising campaigns, which for Barna "wasn't even about raising money" in itself but about "knowing that there's money there to see a kid's life changed" and "alerting a constituency to the potential to use the resources that God has given them to good ends."

Marketing the Church?
The Barnas tried dozens of churches in Southern California and later in Wheaton, coming away unsatisfied until they visited an upstart congregation in the Chicago suburbs known as Willow Creek. The church, led by Bill Hybels, sought to communicate the gospel on seekers' terms, even if that meant abandoning some church traditions. It was dynamic and savvy. Its leaders seemed to apply good marketing strategy to church life, in just the way that Barna had learned to apply it to television or fundraising. "That gave us a whole new understanding of what the local church could be," he says.

In 1984 Barna moved back to Southern California to launch his own company, Barna Research. He intended to offer his research and marketing expertise as a service to Christian ministry.

Jim Engel, who taught marketing at Wheaton Graduate School and Eastern College, says that Barna "does very good work, and his work can be trusted. He is a very competent researcher, and he has integrity." Similarly, pollster George Gallup says that Barna has "a really good research mind."

Market research does, however, see the world from a particular angle, which is both Barna's strength and his blind spot. Marketing begins by analyzing the target audience and trying to understand what communicates effectively. As Leadership Network's Carol Childress points out, good missionary anthropology offers many parallel insights. How do we reach a particular group of people with our message and draw them into appropriate action? For example, if you learn that your target audience finds church robes repellent, you will consider other clothes. If movies are a fount of meaning for your audience, you will bring movies into your message.

Market research is not a neutral tool, however. It grew as a business technique, and reflects some of the biases of business. While missionary anthropology knows a lot about spontaneous revivals, business focuses on planned action: strategy, market segmentation, and communication techniques. While acknowledging the unplanned and unexpected, business concentrates on what it can control. Market research thus tends to project a closed system where every action has a consequence, and mysteries are rare. Some refer to this approach as "scientific," but genuine science leaves plenty of room for the awe and mystery at the center of things. Market research rarely inspires wonder.

It does, however, inspire innovation and action. It wants results and is impatient with excuses. It thinks hard about culture and communication, and it works hard to stay abreast of change. In an offhand reflection on his frustration with the American church, Barna says, "We're spending $50 to $60 billion a year on domestic ministry. Tell you what—you give the ceo of ibm $50 to $60 billion this year, and see what he can do." Whatever the shortcomings of that perspective, it has the strength of boldness. It's willing to consider total reorientation for the sake of effectiveness. What's more, market research offers useful ways of evaluating possible action, and testing whether current programs have their intended effect.

You cannot understand George Barna's analysis of the American church without grasping that marketing forms its essential grid—as, indeed, it forms the essential grid for much of American evangelicalism. When Barna first heard fundamentalist Bible teaching during his graduate student years, he told his wife with great excitement, "That, I really believe, is marketable!" A market research mindset was also implicit in his reasons for leaving the Catholic Church: "They're saying don't you dare question it." Market research leaves no place for authority; it assumes everything can be taken apart and analyzed.

In 1988 Barna published Marketing the Church, his second book. From his point of view it was noncontroversial, urging churches to do their best to communicate the gospel effectively. Some critics reacted strongly, however, as though the title was equivalent to "selling the church." They understood marketing as pandering, watering down the message, accommodating the gospel to the "felt needs" of sinful people. Barna was blindsided by the criticism. "It shocked me; it depressed me; it hurt me," he says. "The intensity of the anger really surprised me."

That kind of criticism has diminished. Nowadays most pastors probably accept marketing as a means to effective communication, something all good communicators do, consciously or not. When Barna says that Jesus used marketing, he probably still causes hair to stand up on many necks, but he merely means that Jesus geared his communication to the capacity of his audience. That's not in dispute.

Nevertheless, some people believe the marketing mindset has serious shortcomings. In a forthcoming book, Habits of the High-Tech Heart (Baker, 2002), Calvin College's communications professor Quentin Schultze writes: "Information technologies foster statistical ways of perceiving and systematic modes of imagining…a closed system that elevates the value of control over moral responsibility….We imagine cultures not as organic ways of life, but instead as computer-like networks—closed systems that persons can objectively observe, measure, manipulate and eventually control."

In short, the view is only a slice of reality, and overrates the possibility of human control. Schultze quotes Václav Havel, the president of the Czech Republic: "The feeling that 'if nothing is happening, nothing is happening' is the prejudice of a superficial, dependent, and hollow spirit, one that has succumbed to the age and can prove its own excellence only by the quantity of pseudo-events it is constantly organizing, like a bee, to that end."

That is a bit strong. Coming from one of the leaders of a genuine revolution, however, it makes this point at least: When "nothing is happening," a great deal may be happening. Market research has no way to measure that. It happily evaluates a Billy Graham crusade because that is a planned activity with articulated aims. It cannot tell you, however, where and how the next Billy Graham will appear. Nor can its imagination fathom Antony of the Desert (also known as Antony of Egypt)—who inspired the monastic movement when he went into the desert to pray—and thus changed the course of European history.

Turning Down Disney
Within weeks of starting Barna Research in a bedroom of his home, Barna got a call from an old colleague. A vice president with the Disney Channel, she offered him a contract to do market research. For the next seven years, Disney offered steady, profitable work that kept the company afloat to do Christian ministry. Ironically, considering "all the flak that Disney gets from the Christian community," Barna says, "Disney built Barna Research."

By 1991, however, Disney had begun to pressure Barna to give its business his full attention. At the same time, Barna's research was painting a discouraging picture of the church. "There was just such a radical gap between what we heard Christians professing they believed and the values and the lifestyle that grew out of the values," Barna says.

Marriages, for example, were as likely to come unglued for believers as for unbelievers. Churchgoers didn't seem to have any real understanding of the Bible's distinctive message; many practicing Christians believed that the Bible teaches that "God helps those who help themselves." A morally relativistic American culture was shaping Christians more than Christians were shaping the culture.

More frustrating yet, churches seemed barely aware of the problem. "You go talk to pastors, and hear them talk about all the programs and all the numbers and the money and all the buildings," Barna says. "But you almost never hear them talk about how the lives of their people were so demonstratively different that people had to pay attention to the cause of Christ and take it seriously."

Marketing is Barna's grid, his way of seeing, but Barna goes beyond bloodless research and analysis. He never seems to forget his own plight, when he was searching blindly for God despite the scores of churches in his neighborhood. "I got to the point where I realized we cannot be a place that provides information to ministries and says good luck," he says. "We've got to help them take it to the next step, because most of the information users in ministries don't know how to use information. We kill ourselves to give them good information, good research, and they nod their heads approvingly and then they don't do anything with it. Disney, we give them the information and the next day they've got a policy; they've got a program; they've got something to convert that into practical action."

Barna spent much of a Hawaiian vacation in 1991 praying about the direction of his company. He considered dropping ministry research and focusing on Disney, but then, "For the first time in my life I heard the Lord clearly speak to me, no doubt. 'George, you idiot, do you really believe I've allowed that funky little company of yours to exist all this time, building up contacts in the Christian world, building up your facilities, being profitable, understanding things about the church, only to turn your back on my church because they're tough to work with? Go back and read the Old Testament.' " When he returned to California, Barna cut ties with Disney and began to concentrate all his energies on a campaign to change the church.

His plan for the church was summed up in his next three books. The first was The Frog in the Kettle (Regal, 1990). The title image is the familiar story of the frog that doesn't react as the kettle gradually heats to boiling. Barna tried to impart dramatic urgency to the church: change or die!

Another book, User Friendly Churches (Regal, 1991), told about the qualities he observed in the several thousand American churches he considers healthy and vital. It's not that they are all identical, nor that they form a blueprint for everybody, but that they serve as inspirational examples.

In 1992 came The Power of Vision (Regal), a departure from Barna's usual presentation of statistics. The business world had made vision a catchword, and during his Hawaiian vacation Barna realized that he lacked vision for himself. By vision Barna means a burning call to a specific ministry: not evangelism in general but, for example, outreach to truck drivers through truck-stop chapels. "Vision is specific, detailed, customized, distinctive and unique to a given church," he writes. At Willow Creek he had experienced the difference that a clear, articulated vision could make, but most church leaders only seemed to grasp for a program that "worked." Vision comes from God, Barna was sure, and church leaders need to actively seek it.

Bad News for the Church
Barna does not have a script for the American church. He admires some megachurches but doesn't think the future necessarily lies with them. Each leader or team of leaders must discover their own vision, Barna thinks. He emphatically does not believe that polling can give it to them.

Throwing himself into his crusade to change the church, Barna began a grueling schedule of all-day seminars. In addition to his seminars and continuing research, he wrote books, consulted with churches, and launched a website (www.barna.org). To learn more, he served on the staff of a church—a short-lived experiment as executive pastor and later teaching pastor—and helped to launch another church, an attempt that ultimately failed.

Barna thought that by impressing on church leaders the urgency of the situation, by providing them with hopeful models, and by imploring them to find God's vision for their own ministries, he could surely mobilize at least part of the church. All such hopes came crashing down last November, when he concluded that his strategy was flawed and that he had failed.

In 1998 George Barna published what he considers his most important book, The Second Coming of the Church. It offered the most dramatic ultimatum yet: "At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, I believe the Church in America has no more than five years—perhaps even less—to turn itself around and begin to affect the culture, rather than be affected by it. Because…our central moral and spiritual trends are engulfed in a downward spiral, we have no more than a half-decade to turn things around."

Before the five years were up, Barna knew the answer. "Nothing's changing, and the change that we see is not for the better," he says. His constant surveying of the American public reveals no turning back from moral and spiritual relativism.

The aftermath of September 11 settled it for him. He had thought perhaps it would take persecution or war to shock America into spiritual reflection. As a traumatized nation streamed into churches, the church had a moment of opportunity. "The sad outcome is that when we needed great leadership, we didn't have any guts," he says. "That moment of opportunity was squandered."

It's not really courage that Barna identifies as crucial, though. He's spent untold hours interacting with pastors and church leaders, and he's convinced that the majority of them aren't leaders. Most are admirable people whose gifts lie in Bible teaching or pastoring. Those are valuable gifts, Barna affirms, but they are not leadership. By leadership he means the ability to motivate and lead institutional change.

Barna found that those who attended his seminars didn't come back when he visited their city a second time. "If you're not a leader and you hear this stuff, it's incredibly threatening, depressing, and unproductive. Because it gets interpreted through the lens of 'I'm a failure.' That's not what I'm saying. A lot of pastors don't want to have anything to do with me, because they think I'm against them. I'm not against them. I'm not saying they shouldn't be in the ministry. I'm saying they need to understand what God designed them to do in ministry, and not try to do something that God didn't call them to be."

One might question Barna's analysis. Drawn from the business world, it assumes an entrepreneurial model of the church, which requires a certain kind of leadership. "Once pastoring meant shepherding," says Leadership journal editor Marshall Shelley, "knowing your people by name, being able to inquire as to their spiritual condition, being involved in the cure of souls." He says church history makes him doubt "we're a step and a half away from extinction."

"The church is amazingly resilient," he says. "Think of the Soviet Union, think of China, think of Africa. Spiritual vitality is not going to become extinct just because we don't have a certain kind of leader. The evidence is overwhelming on the other side. We have the privilege of cooperating with an irresistible force in God's grace."

The sheer logic of Barna's position is hard to refute, though, so long as you accept his terms. Taking a marketing mindset to its logical end, the conclusion for American Christianity is drastic. A business that can't sell its product has to change its approach. If it won't or can't, it's dead.

Search for a New Strategy
George Barna is not a quitter. He is tenacious, determined, and focused. We live in a world of rapid change, he says, and most churches don't have the capacity to adapt. Having concluded that today's church can't make a difference, his next question is, What can?

He's doing research to identify the top influences on Americans' lives. He already knows the church isn't on the list. Movies, TV, contemporary music, the Internet, books, parents, and politicians are. In the short term, he's looking for ways to affect what he calls the SSI, or Strategic Sources of Influence. In the long run, he hopes to cultivate a new generation of leaders, locating them as early as high school and challenging them to participate in strategic development of their capacities to lead for Christ. Twenty or 30 years from now, he hopes to see the result in a healthy, dynamic church.

While he carries on research, he is exploring new strategies. He's been visiting "key leaders" (mostly heads of parachurch ministries, to judge by those he names) to find allies for the next step. He's realized he cannot do it alone, so he's looking for partners who share his passion and anguish.

Again and again Barna returns to Acts 2, with its description of the vitality of the early church in Jerusalem. He's captivated by that elemental account of a church beginning to change the world.

However, he identifies less with Peter and Paul than he does with Jeremiah and John the Baptist. Of all the biblical characters, "I resonate with them," he says. "I feel their pain."

It may seem odd to think of a prophet wielding numbers from market research. Yet one has the sense that truth would burn inside Barna, as it did with Jeremiah, whatever his training and career.

There's plenty of room to criticize his way of analyzing the church. He has restricted vision, and his definition of a church leader seems very demanding. Yet he unmistakably has a vision, a strong commitment that longs to see the American church transform our society, and grieves that it has not. It bothers him deeply that the church is soft, and possesses no urgency to change. Like most prophetic types, Barna is consumed by his vision and, likewise, sees little fruit to his labor.

Tim Stafford is a senior writer for Christianity Today.

Copyright © 2002 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.

August 5, 2002, Vol. 46, No. 9, Page 32


TOPICS: General Discusssion
KEYWORDS: christianity; evangelical; georgebarna
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I would love some of you who know about this subject, especially those who are religious professionals to comment on this artile. Is it just me or is Barna consitently negative about the prospects of the Church?
1 posted on 07/26/2002 11:17:54 AM PDT by sonrise57
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To: sonrise57
Which "church?" There are over seven hundred Christian denominations in the United States alone, and they all teach something different.

Many of the "evangelical" ones are headed by some charismatic soap-salesman whose visage is plastered on huge, oversized billboards all around town, and who upon his death passes the baton to his son, the one with the identical toothy grin.

Evangelical Christianity has run its course. You can't base an entire religious movement strictly on emotion; people don't work like that. The disillusionment was inevitable.

2 posted on 07/26/2002 2:24:10 PM PDT by Illbay
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To: Illbay
Here's a question for your "religion:"

If God created the first man who became the first God, and God was once a man, how did God become God in the first place if he was once a man?
3 posted on 07/26/2002 2:32:10 PM PDT by drstevej
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To: sonrise57; kjam22; fortheDeclaration; xzins; The Grammarian; winstonchurchill; Hank Kerchief; ...
I am no professional But as a believer I am sick of the chuch marketing itself..

I believe if it is of God it will prosper. I fear this goes to the idea that the salvation of a man depends on the correct circumstances or the right music or the right message

This is Gods church..we need only be faithful and HE will build HIS church

4 posted on 07/26/2002 3:08:54 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
Agreed there can be excesses and dependance upon advertising & marketing rather than the Lord. Where to draw the line is the challenge.

The following are advertising to a degree:
- a sign on the church facility
- a name written on a church vehicle
- an ad in the yellow pages
- a listing in the church section of a newspaper
- a church website
- an event (say Easter or an evangelistic event) in the newspaper
- a radio broadcast of the church services

On the other end of the spectrum...

A local church here ran radio spots prior to Fathers' Day Sunday services announcing that they would have Dale Earnhart's racing car on the church lot prior to the services so people could come and get their picture taken prior to the service.
5 posted on 07/26/2002 3:32:16 PM PDT by drstevej
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To: RnMomof7
This is one area I have a particular interest in. Before the school I went to for my MBA changed the program, I had planned on doing a paper on the marketing of churches, and the effects on the members.

Self bump for re-read later.

6 posted on 07/26/2002 3:33:26 PM PDT by Wrigley
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To: drstevej
Steve there is a difference letting people know where you are and your doctrinal stand and marketing

I have read the Saddleback books and know their method of targeting. I have read about Willow and the jazz and no worship seeker friendly services..Unless the Lord builds the house the builder builds in vain IMHO

BTW My sons SC Baptist chuch had the car too:>)

A church can fill it's church with tares or it can wait till the Lord plants the wheat..that is every pastors choice

7 posted on 07/26/2002 3:42:46 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: drstevej
I have one more observation the church grows the most under persecution.....it has the most life under ground...

That is just the opposite of the marketing that seems to obsess the modern church

8 posted on 07/26/2002 3:46:05 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
Our church offers ESL (English as a Second Language) classes without charge. We have over 150 enrolled from 20+ countries. We are on a major university campus and many are spouses of internationals at the University.

We do not present the gospel in the ESL classes but do "advertise" a bi-annual International Friendship Banquet (attended by 200+), special events, Vacation Bible School, and an International SS Class. Over the past 30 years we have seen many come to ESL who later came to Christ and are solid believers -- some even now missionaries to their countries of origin.

Our approach is deliberate yet we realize it is the Lord that has given the increase.

As an elder and pastor I wrestle with what we decide to do and the spiritual propriety of our approach. For me, it is the responsibility of church leadership to exercise wisdom and their convictions. No two churches need come to identical convictions to be honoring to the Lord.
9 posted on 07/26/2002 3:53:35 PM PDT by drstevej
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To: Illbay
By evangelicalism I mean protestant churches that are committed to the inerrancy of scripture and profess historic chalcedonian Christianity. The creeds say, "I believe in one holy catholic church" catholic meaning "universal". Most evangelicals would say that the Church is an ivisible and mysterious organism under the headship of Jesus Christ, consisting of everyone who professes that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead. The commentary that you are making on contemporary evangelical churches and the cult of personality we have fallen into is unfortunately not unfounded.

However, unlike Barna, I believe that evangelicalism is not coming to end, but rather is going a through a change. What we will become remains to be seen.
10 posted on 07/26/2002 3:55:33 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: drstevej
Huh!?!?!?!?
11 posted on 07/26/2002 3:56:19 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: RnMomof7
To me, the emphasis on marketing and method that is charachterized by Barna's approach is a legacy of modernity.
12 posted on 07/26/2002 3:57:35 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: Wrigley
I am extemely interested in hearing some of your conclusions.
13 posted on 07/26/2002 3:58:57 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: drstevej
Is what your church did with ESL ministry or marketing?
14 posted on 07/26/2002 4:00:51 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: sonrise57
I never did the paper. The program switched from an individual to a group format. And over the past 5 years, I haven't gone back to look.
15 posted on 07/26/2002 4:01:00 PM PDT by Wrigley
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To: sonrise57
Illbay is LDS, the question related to Mormon theology.
16 posted on 07/26/2002 4:01:05 PM PDT by drstevej
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To: sonrise57
We market our ministry (ESL and others) in a way we feel honored the Lord.
17 posted on 07/26/2002 4:02:58 PM PDT by drstevej
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To: RnMomof7
***I have one more observation the church grows the most under persecution.....it has the most life under ground...***

I do not disagree. But the church has more freedom in some countries than others. We are to glorify Him in either circumstance. In prison or in freedom He is to be presented...

Phil. 1:12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; 14And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
18 posted on 07/26/2002 4:10:04 PM PDT by drstevej
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To: sonrise57
Great find, sonrise. Thanks for posting it.

I read it all. It is clear that Mr. Barna, through his life work has discovered something important. His mileu is in Evangelical Christianity; but the failure of all expressions of Christianity to impact on our current slide into irrelevance needs some looking at.

I liked the point made about the reaction off 9/11, when chuches were packed for two or three weeks. When nothing else happened, folks went back to their usual routine.

I wonder about those Easter and Christmas Christians, who felt it proper and even necessary, to be in church on the Sunday after 9/11.

Why did they go to church then?

And what did they come away with?

And why do they not come back?

19 posted on 07/26/2002 4:16:38 PM PDT by don-o
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To: drstevej
You know I have read most of Barna's stuff with great relish. I think he is a great researcher and analyst. What I don't agree with is his assesment of contemporary evangelicalism or his prescription for the cure to current problems he is proposing. My objection is not to marketing or getting the message out by any means possible.

What I have a problem is the belief that new programs, new technologies, new methods, a repackaging of the message of the Cross in more palatable forms is going to stem the tide.

What is needed is for the Church to get on our knees and pray for a heaven sent revival. The revivals that have been spawned throughout the history of the western church have always come during times when the church had lost its relevence to the culture and have resulted in tremendous cultural shifts and the overthrowing of ungodly strongholds in our society.

Modernity expects predictable results through application of certain technologies. To me this is trap that Barna has fallen into, and the reality that the results he expected have not come about is at the root of his disappointment.

Again, our response to the realities about the Church that he describes, should be calling the church to repentence, fasting and prayer as we wait for God to do what is next in His agenda for us. While we wait we need to continue to be faithful to what He has clearly commanded us--preach the gospel and minster healing to the broken and poor.
20 posted on 07/26/2002 4:17:47 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: RnMomof7
I have one more observation the church grows the most under persecution.....it has the most life under ground...

Persecution?

Give me a break! There ain't no persecution going on for the vast majority of the Christians in America.

You know why? Because, we are no threat. We are quiet little rabbits, who may write letters, or sign petitions. But, Caesar can handle that. No sweat.

21 posted on 07/26/2002 4:22:26 PM PDT by don-o
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To: sonrise57
Agreed...
22 posted on 07/26/2002 4:26:02 PM PDT by drstevej
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To: sonrise57
What is needed is for the Church to get on our knees and pray for a heaven sent revival.

I heard this same cant from years of experience. We got down our knees and prayed. Then we went home and turned on television.

Sadly, it seems that God requires more. Read the book of Ezra. From memory, I believe that God's people had lost their way. When the prophet called to mind that fact, the king commaned a fast a a reading of the law to the people.

The people repented.

I doubt that happening in the USA.

23 posted on 07/26/2002 4:34:59 PM PDT by don-o
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To: drstevej
Steve I think God knows the heart..but is marketing any different than Arminian salvation....a God needs me approach

I believe there are some natural things a church can and should do AS MINISTRY like literacy classes..food banks...your ESL ...

There are things a church should do as family ..celebrate and morn.....BUT God knows the purpose . Is it to attract numbers or is it to wash feet?

I fought with my pastor about the saddle back program....it is very carnal.

The Baptist church in the same neighborhood started an awana program and has run a Thursday program during the summer to minister to the kids....the church will grow because of them....but God knows the intention was it to minister or to grow?

I did prison ministry for years...it was intended to bring the gospel ..not to grow a church...

Am I making what I think on this clear? We minister in HIS name because it is what we are to do..not to grow a church. The the compassion and love is a self serving lie if the real purpose is only church growth IMHO

24 posted on 07/26/2002 4:50:29 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: don-o
That was my point Don..
25 posted on 07/26/2002 4:52:54 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: sonrise57
sorry #24
26 posted on 07/26/2002 4:53:33 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
I think we are very much in agreement.

One thought: If I want the church to grow because it glorfies me, that's sin. If I want the church to grow numerically and spiritually because it glorifies Him, that's obedience to the Great Comission. Motivation is KEY.
27 posted on 07/26/2002 5:02:55 PM PDT by drstevej
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To: don-o
I'm aware of the cliche of what I posted, however the alternative is to surrender and leave the field.

I believe that it is possible for massive cultural shift to take place and I am going to ask God to, in his mercy, allow that cultural shift to take place toward God. Since I believe that Jesus is going to build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it, the church is going to thrive and survive somewhere on earth. The question is, what will become of it here in the US.
28 posted on 07/26/2002 5:07:24 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: sonrise57
His statistics bear out his negative reaction- however, something that is alive and vibrant does not need revival. God sends revival to a church that threatens to become a corpse. He always has, and He always will.
29 posted on 07/26/2002 5:09:53 PM PDT by DittoJed2
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To: RnMomof7
I agree it God in his sovreignty will or will not add to a particular local congregation. However, we need to have a desire for and be praying for growth if the motivation of that desire and prayer is the "souls" that growth represents.
30 posted on 07/26/2002 5:10:58 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: DittoJed2
That is a great point and gives me hope.
31 posted on 07/26/2002 5:12:34 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: RnMomof7
That was my point Don..

If so, then good on you.

"Marketing" the church is a million miles wide and an inch thick.

32 posted on 07/26/2002 5:15:18 PM PDT by don-o
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To: don-o
And the current state of affairs is the result of pastors like myself looking for the quick fix of Barna's prescriptions rather than waiting on God.
33 posted on 07/26/2002 5:18:00 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: drstevej; sonrise57
Woops the great commission was not to grow churchs Pastor ..it was to preach and baptise.

I think it is easy to fool ourselves into thinking full pews mean saved people..not so...

I have belonged to a mega church....the gospel was so compromised an atheist could have said amen .

God has selected His army. The church is to equip them. The problem is when the church thinks the recruiting is THEIR job no one gets equipped!..

I am very evangelical..but I have no interst in growing a church for any man or demonination.

34 posted on 07/26/2002 5:37:44 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: don-o
Yep..we agree
35 posted on 07/26/2002 5:39:06 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
I disagree . . . to baptize is to provide the sacrament of initiation to those who have responded to the preaching. If those who recieve the preaching are initiated into the church, the church will grow. Evangelism without initiating people into a local church is incomplete evangelism. Yes, God is sovreign. Only those who are called will respond to the preaching. But fully observing the great comission will result in church growth. Maybe not in the one I pastor, but the church will continue to grow until the consumation of the ages.
36 posted on 07/26/2002 5:58:50 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: RnMomof7
Yep..we agree

I doubt it. Because, I know the way you work the threads. Define what we agree on. For the record.

For the record, I disagree with any position that makes every man his own pope.

37 posted on 07/26/2002 6:01:42 PM PDT by don-o
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To: drstevej
What does "from everlasting to everlasting" mean

What is the meaning of Exodus 22:28?

Of Deuteronomy 10:17?

Of Joshua 22:22?

Psalms 82:1? 82:6? 135:5? 136:2?

How about John 10:34-35?

Lots of questions, but few answers.

38 posted on 07/26/2002 6:04:16 PM PDT by Illbay
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To: sonrise57
I disagree . . . to baptize is to provide the sacrament of initiation to those who have responded to the preaching.

oops.

You said the S word.

Sacrements are not well thought of in certain quarters here.

Advice: Don asbestos underpants.

39 posted on 07/26/2002 6:05:49 PM PDT by don-o
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To: don-o
Its a good word. I can take it.
40 posted on 07/26/2002 6:08:02 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: Illbay
Lots of questions, but few answers.

And you point is.....?

41 posted on 07/26/2002 6:08:53 PM PDT by don-o
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To: sonrise57
...evangelicalism is not coming to end, but rather is going a through a change.

IMO, it is simply doing what all the other churches have done, Catholic and Protestant: Adjusting itself to appeal to the greatest number.

Please understand that I have been living in the "Bible Belt" pretty much my entire life, and I see from the outside. That whole movement has become "bread and circuses," because the concept of the "megachurch" led inevitably to the realization that they had to keep doing more and more "spectacular" things to keep up the growth level.

You can see the services of any given "megachurch" here in the Houston are, for example, on Sundays, with many of them replayed during the week.

Most of their sermons are long on rhetoric and short on any real substance, because they can't delve into substance; they might offend someone.

It is not a coincidence that instances of marital infidelity and divorce are highest among evangelical Christians. They are people who live for excitement and stimulation, speaking in the aggregate.

42 posted on 07/26/2002 6:09:14 PM PDT by Illbay
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To: sonrise57
you have freepmail
43 posted on 07/26/2002 6:09:52 PM PDT by don-o
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To: don-o
Got it and responded. I'm listening.
44 posted on 07/26/2002 6:12:25 PM PDT by sonrise57
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To: Illbay
Please understand that I have been living in the "Bible Belt" pretty much my entire life, and I see from the outside.

YOu are LDS, yes?

I think that newbies on the theads need to be clear on that.

45 posted on 07/26/2002 6:13:36 PM PDT by don-o
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To: RnMomof7
Once a person responds to preaching and is baptized isn't it logical that he be added to a local church? The local church is to equip new believers (teaching them to observe all that He has commanded).

Seems to be the New Testament pattern...

***I am very evangelical..but I have no interst in growing a church for any man or demonination. ***

That was my precise point.

Small churches can compromise the gospel as well as larger churches. Smaller isn't necessarily more godly. Right?

Are we not saying the same thing...


46 posted on 07/26/2002 6:15:49 PM PDT by drstevej
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To: don-o
Yes, but I am someone who has lived with "evangelicals" all my life. In fact, since I'm not all caught up in this myth that there is a unified "church" out there in the protestant world, I feel ESPECIALLY able to comment.
47 posted on 07/26/2002 6:18:29 PM PDT by Illbay
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To: don-o
Maybe if you'd follow the thread of discussion, you wouldn't need me to catch you up.
48 posted on 07/26/2002 6:19:14 PM PDT by Illbay
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To: Illbay
Oh, I have followed it quite well

And you are, LDS, yes?

There are Christians on the thread who should know this.

49 posted on 07/26/2002 6:33:30 PM PDT by don-o
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To: don-o
I thought we agreed on the false evangelization ..if you are looking for a fight please look elsewhere
50 posted on 07/26/2002 6:39:10 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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