Friday, October 14, 2005

George Barna research

For those not familiar with him, George Barna is considered the top pollster in the "big business" of the church growth movement. He has had his finger on the pulse of trends and demographic shifts among church-goers for years, and his research has been used by mega-church "entrepeneurs" to grow their enterprises through more effective marketing and communication than has traditionally been used by churches.

Of course, he has not escaped criticism for his role in the commercialization of pop-Christianity. But he is unquestionably in a position to report with some knowledge on demographic shifts in church-going trends in America.

His latest article, quoted below from his website, puts the spotlight on an interesting shift away from traditional "church attendence" at a denominational place of worship.

The full article can be found here. Following are some excerpts I found interesting:

    Relying upon national research conducted over the past several years, Barna profiles a group of more than 20 million adults throughout the nation labeled “revolutionaries.” He noted that although measures of traditional church participation in activities such as worship attendance, Sunday school, prayer, and Bible reading have remained relatively unchanged during the past twenty years, the Revolutionary faith movement is growing rapidly.

    “These are people who are less interested in attending church than in being the church,” he explained. “We found that there is a significant distinction in the minds of many people between the local church – with a small ‘c’ – and the universal Church – with a capital ‘C’. Revolutionaries tend to be more focused on being the Church, capital C, whether they participate in a congregational church or not.”

    “A common misconception about revolutionaries,” he continued, “is that they are disengaging from God when they leave a local church. We found that while some people leave the local church and fall away from God altogether, there is a much larger segment of Americans who are currently leaving churches precisely because they want more of God in their life but cannot get what they need from a local church. They have decided to get serious about their faith by piecing together a more robust faith experience. Instead of going to church, they have chosen to be the Church, in a way that harkens back to the Church detailed in the Book of Acts.”

It's probably important for me to point out that I don't go along with the idea that Christians should remove themselves from the "local church." But does a group of believers meeting together in their homes constitute a forsaking of the assembly? Not in my book. So I do think it's valuable to realign our thinking with the Bible and stop thinking of the "local church" as only taking place in a building on Sundays.

Many of us have taught for years that the church consists of the people, not the building. But do we live like it?

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