[anzac] BARNA: More on the 'REVOLUTION'

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From: "REVIVAL List" <prophetic@...>
Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2005 12:40:01 -0500
-The Barna Group. 

For decades the primary way that Americans have experienced 
and expressed their faith has been through a local church. That 
reality is rapidly changing, according to researcher George Barna, 
whose new book on the transitioning nature of America's spirituality, 
entitled 'Revolution', describes what he believes will be the most 
massive reshaping of the nation's faith community in more than a century.

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."


One of the most eye-opening portions of the research contained in 
the book describes what the faith community may look like twenty 
years from now. Using survey data and other cultural indicators he 
has been measuring for more than two decades, Barna estimates 
that the local church is presently the primary form of faith 
experience and expression for about two-thirds of the nation's 
adults. He projects that by 2025 the local church will lose roughly 
half of its current 'market share' and that alternative forms of faith 
experience and expression will pick up the slack. Importantly, 
Barna's studies do not suggest that most people will drop out of a 
local church to simply ignore spirituality or be freed up from the 
demands of church life. Although there will be millions of people
who abandon the entire faith community for the usual reasons - 
hurtful experiences in churches, lack of interest in spiritual matters, 
prioritizing other dimensions of their life - a growing percentage of 
church dropouts will be those who leave a local church in order to 
intentionally increase their focus on faith and to relate to God 
through different means. That growth is fueling alternative forms of 
organized spirituality, as well as individualized faith experience 
and expression. Examples of these new approaches include 
involvement in a house church, participation in marketplace 
ministries, use of the Internet to satisfy various faith-related needs 
or interests, and the development of unique and intense 
connections with other people who are deeply committed to their 
pursuit of God.


In the effort to increase their obedience and faithfulness to God, 
Barna discovered that Revolutionaries are characterized by what 
he identified as a set of spiritual passions - seven specific 
emphases that drive their quest for God and a biblical lifestyle. 
Although these are areas of spiritual development that most local 
churches address, millions of adults who are the most serious 
about their faith in God were the ones least likely to be satisfied 
by what their local church was delivering in terms of resources, 
opportunities, evaluation and developmental possibilities. The 
consequence is that millions of committed born again Christians 
are choosing to advance their relationship with God by finding
avenues of growth and service apart from a local church.

Asked if this meant that the Revolution he describes is simply a 
negative reaction to the local church, he suggested that most 
Revolutionaries go through predictable phases in their spiritual 
journey in which they initially become dissatisfied with their local 
church experience, then attempt to change things so their faith 
walk can be more fruitful. The result is that they undergo
heightened frustration over the inability to introduce positive change, 
which leads them to drop out of the local church altogether, often 
in anger. But because this entire adventure was instigated by their 
love for God and their desire to honor Him more fully, they finally 
transcend their frustration and anger by creating a series of 
connections that allow them to stay close to God and other 
believers without involvement in a local church.

One of the hallmarks of the Revolution of faith is how different it is 
for each person. "It would be wrong to assume that all 
Revolutionaries have completely turned their back on the local 
church," the researcher stated. "Millions of Revolutionaries are 
active in a local church, although most of them supplement that 
relationship with participation in a variety of faith-related efforts 
that have nothing to do with their local church. The defining 
attribute of a Revolutionary is not whether they attend church, but 
whether they place God first in their lives and are willing to do 
whatever it takes to facilitate a deeper and growing relationship 
with Him and other believers. Our studies persuasively indicate 
that the vast majority of American churches are populated by 
people who are lukewarm spiritually. Emerging from those 
churches are people dedicated to becoming Christ-like through the 
guidance of a congregational form of the church, but who will leave 
that faith center if it does not further such a commitment to God. 
They then find or create alternatives that allow that commitment to flourish."

How do most Revolutionaries justify calling themselves devoted 
disciples of Christ while distancing themselves from a local church? 
"Many of them realize that someday they will stand before a holy 
God who will examine their devotion to Him. They could take the 
safe and easy route of staying in a local church and doing the 
expected programs and practices, but they also recognize that 
they will not be able to use a lackluster church experience as an 
excuse for a mediocre or unfulfilled spiritual life. Their spiritual 
depth is not the responsibility of a local church; it is their own 
responsibility. As a result, they decide to either get into a local 
church that enhances their zeal for God or else they create 
alternatives that ignite such a life of obedience and service. In 
essence, these are people who have stopped going to church so 
they can be the Church."


While the Revolution brings with it some very promising qualities - 
an intense pursuit of godliness, new networks of believers 
supporting each other, heightened financial giving to ministry 
endeavors, greater sensitivity to the presence of God in the world, 
a greater sense of freedom to be a genuine disciple in the midst 
of a secular society - Barna also pointed out that the Revolution 
brings great challenges to those who choose that pathway.

"There is the danger of exposure to unbiblical or heretical teaching. 
There is the possibility of experiencing isolation from a true 
community of believers and the accountability and support that 
can provide. It could become easier to hoard one's treasures rather 
than giving generously. Some might find it more difficult to sustain 
a life of worship without a place or means of expressing that 
praise to God."

Barna contends that these are very serious challenges faced by 
Revolutionaries - but that they are no more serious than the 
threats to the spiritual health of regular church-goers. "Objectively 
speaking, these are the very same problems that we identify 
among people who rely upon the efforts of a local church to
facilitate their growth. We find plentiful evidence of unbiblical 
teaching in small groups, Sunday school classes and other local 
church venues. We know that few churched Christians give 4% of 
their income back to God, much less 10%. We recognize that 
most people attending worship services in a church sanctuary
leave feeling that God was not present and that they did not 
personally connect with the living God through that experience. 
We have identified the relative absence of accountability within 
most congregations. So even though Revolutionaries face serious 
challenges in blossoming into the fervent God-follower they hope 
to become, perhaps the main difference is simply that they
have a wider range of options for achieving their faith goals than 
do people who are solely focused on faith delivered through a local 
church. In either case, it is ultimately up to the individual to make 
sure that they have their spiritual priorities right, that they are 
investing themselves in activities that draw them closer to God, 
and that they stay focused on pleasing God more than themselves 
or other people."

The explosion of Revolutionaries in the U.S., however, raises new 
challenges for people involved in ministry. "This new movement of 
God demands that there be new forms of leadership to 
appropriately guide people in their faith journey," Barna said. "It 
requires new ways of measuring how well the Church at-large is 
doing, getting beyond attendance figures as the indicator of health. 
And it demands that new tools and resources be accessible to a 
growing contingent of people who are seeking to introduce their 
faith into every dimension of their life."


Having written three-dozen previous books about faith and culture, 
Barna feels that this book may ultimately wind up being the most 
significant volume he has written. In the course of doing his 
customary national research studies, he stumbled onto the 
Revolution. "Having been personally frustrated by the local church, 
I initiated several research projects to better understand what 
other frustrated followers of Christ were doing to maintain their 
spiritual edge. What emerged was a realization that there is a 
large and rapidly-growing population of Christ-followers who are 
truly want to be like the church we read about in the  book of Acts. 
We began tracking their spiritual activity and found that it is much 
more robust and significant than we ever imagined - and, frankly, 
more defensible than what emerges from the average Christian 
church. But, because the Revolution is neither organized nor 
designed to create an institutional presence, it typically goes undetected."

Revolution, published by Tyndale House, is what the author calls 
"a brief introduction to the most important spiritual movement of 
our age." He believes that fifty years from now historians will look 
back at this period and label it one of the most significant periods 
in American Church history. "I would not be surprised," the 
California-based researcher noted, "if at some point this becomes 
known as the Third Great Awakening in our nation's history. This
spiritual renaissance is very different from the prior two religious 
awakenings in America, but it may well become the most profound."

LINK:  http://www.barna.org
Source: http://www.joelnews.org