A Book Review by Pastor Gary Gilley
Revolution by George Barna
Some years ago a popular but chubby Christian author wrote a book on how to lose weight. The uniqueness about this situation was that the author had been on his diet only for a short time and had not reached his targeted weight. So dramatic had been his weight loss that he rushed to inform the rest of the world about his method. But, as almost anyone knows who has ever gone on a diet, it is relatively easy to lose weight, even in large amounts, at the beginning of a diet. Our author thought he had discovered the wave of the future in weight management and was eager to share his finding. Alas, he and his regimen have long since been forgotten.
All of this reminds me of George Barna's belief that he has caught the wave of the future concerning the church. Within twenty years, he confidently predicts, the local church will lose 50 percent of its adherents to alternative forms (p. 49). This prediction is inevitable, according to Barna, because he has observed the new “spiritual diet” program of Americans and has determined they will continue on the regimen. This is the case even though Barna admits that these “mini-movements” are small, disorganized, inadequately led and lack a strategic framework. But, not to worry, these signs of weakness are actually evidence that God is behind it all (pp. 54 – 55). I am reminded of a Yogiberra-ism, “Prediction is very hard, especially about the future.”
Barna believes a Revolution has begun which is “an unprecedented reengineering of America's faith dimension that is likely to be the most significant transition in the religious landscape that you will ever experience” (p. viii). He sees this Revolution as a “viable alternative” to the local church (p. ix). And he considers himself a participant in the Revolution (p. x). As a matter of fact as the book progresses, the reader begins to realize that Barna is the Revolution’s head cheerleader and chief source (he lists his organization as the only resource regarding the Revolution) (p. 141).
To Barna, the Revolutionaries are a breed of super saints who have rediscovered what the church lost somewhere along the way. This might be a good time to note that Barna (and his Revolutionaries) are largely reacting to the market-driven, seeker-sensitive church that he helped create. Having formed the consumer church, (largely through his surveys that revealed to church leaders what people wanted) he now recognizes that this church has lost its spirit. It has been gutted of its transforming power because for over two decades the paradigm has been to give people what they think they want rather than what God says they need. Is it any marvel then as the shine fades from this new model that people begin to realize they have bought a lemon? Of course Barna is disappointed with the consumer church; it has been constructed from the surveys, opinion polls, and felt-need blueprints drawn up in Barna's own workshop. The local church is now flush with drama, entertainment, social events, psychology and programs galore, but gone is the power and glory of God.
Barna is convinced that the Revolution is from God (pp 19, 70, 82, 136, 139) and we “cannot fight God and win” (p. 137). We therefore are not to judge or even discern this movement; rather we need to jump on board (pp. 20, 127, 136, 139, 140). Whether the Revolution meets the test of Scripture is not important to Barna. God is doing a new thing and we better join up or be steamrolled. Resistance is futile. Fortunately Barna is not the last word on the church. God has reserved that for Himself (http://www.svchapel.org/Resources/BookReviews/book_reviews.asp?ID=292).
TBC: We offer Pastor Gilley's Book "This Little Church Went to Market" in our resources.