Pollster: Church Lacks Leadership

Ventura, Calif., Jun 10, 2002--There are some 300,000 Protestant and 20,000 Catholic churches in the United States, but according to pollster George Barna, their impact on the nation's culture is less significant than that of the 91,000 post offices or 15,000 McDonald's locations.

The reason for this state of affairs is a lack of leadership in the Church, Barna told United Press International. "Our seminaries don't train leaders," he complained -- and vowed to make up for this deficit by launching nationwide courses this coming fall.

In his latest book, The State of the Church 2002 (Ventura: Issachar Resources), Barna explains, "Churches all over the country are crying out for strong, visionary, godly leadership. The people who fill positions of leadership in the churches are, for the most part teachers--good people, lovers of God, well-educated, gifted communicators--but not leaders. They do not have or understand vision. They fail to direct people's energies and resources effectively and efficiently."

As a result, says Barna, the Church suffers. It has become the primary exporter of "cheap grace," a deficient form of religiosity so named by German theologian and resistance leader Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hanged in the last days of World War II. Cheap grace in America, according to Barna, is expressed in a consumerist approach to faith. The latter-day quest for salvation, as Barna describes it, is the exact opposite of Martin Luther's famously wrenching search for a "gracious God." "Postmodern man says, 'What do I have to do to be saved? OK, I have to say this prayer, go to church, take the Sacrament, give some money, feel bad about the poor, and talk with friends about religion. Done! Now let's get on with business," punned Barna, a 47-year-old native New Yorker.


He called this a "salvation transaction from an assumption of strength," in contrast to the biblical worldview, according to which "the Christian wholly embraces Christ out of a sense of spiritual brokenness."

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Uwe Siemon-Netto
UPI Religion Correspondent
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