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Because I was hearing so much chat about Barna’s new book, Revolution, I thought I’d read it.
Here’s the nub of the book: there is a revolution going on in the Church (big “c” not little “c”), and it concerns how to live out the gospel in the context of the Church. His contention is that the current generation of Mosaics (I don’t get into labelling each 5 year group) is revolutionally committed to the gospel but no longer understands Church in terms of a local congregation but in terms of a universal body. The number of what he calls “Revolutionaries” is 20 million strong. He sees huge implications in next two decades for local church ministries. Here’s the most radical statement he makes:
Some say “the local church is the hope of the world.” Barna says (p. 36): If the local church is the hope of the world, then the world has no hope.
Here’s my own contention: because the current generation did not largely find its spiritual growth in the local church it has adjusted its perception of the value of the local church so that it becomes “one of the sources” of its spiritual life.
Barna, who is known for his demographics for the evangelical movement, deals with one major statistic and its projection. Here it is:
A person’s primary means of spiritual experience and expression:
In the year 2000 he found this:
70% from local church
5% alternative faith-based community (below)
5% family
20% media, arts, culture
In the year 2025 he sees this:
30-35% from local church
30-35% from alternative faith-based community
5% family
30-35% from media, arts, and culture.
In essence, his point is this: the current generation is fragmented in its sources for spiritual formation but revolutionary in its passion for the gospel and living the Christian life. It goes where it needs to go to get what it needs to get. It doesn’t believe the local church should be the primary focus for spiritual formation. The change from a primary focus in the local congregation to a focus in other places (spread across his spectrum) means that people will increasingly be global in their Church perception but capable of finding what they need when they need it.
I am beginning a poll now on your primary source of spiritual formation.
Barna sees seven passions of a Christian.
1. intimate worship
2. faith-based conversations
3. intentional spiritual growth
4. servanthood and service
5. resource investment
6. spiritual friendships
7. family faith
Barna sees seven trends today:
1. changing the guard (leadership shifting to younger generation)
2. new view of life
3. dismiss the irrelevant
4. impact of technology
5. genuine relationships
6. participation in reality
7. finding true meaning
He sees five features of these mini-movements (alternative faith-based communities):
1. focused people of faith
2. primary source of relationships
3. intimacy
4. goals
5. narrowed focus
The older model is the local congregation, and he sees the emerging movements “churches” to be in the same old model. But, he sees another model “emerging” called the distributed model where individuals are fragmented in their sources but nonetheless biblical in their passions. These “distributed” elements include media, and worship events, and Christian colleges, and camps, etc..
These mini-movements permit transformation of the individual believer which he defines as:
1. re-alignment of personal identity
2. clarification of core beliefs
3. part of a genuine community
4. new behaviors
I’m keen on any responses you might have. I know I can’t summarize the whole book, but these are some of the highlights.
As for criticism: I found his need to explain what was going on from a very conservative evangelical set of categories imposing at times. I would need to see the statistics to be convinced that the make-up of these Revolutionaries is as conservative as he sees it. For instance, there is almost nothing in his Revolutionary of a political concern, though we are all aware that the current generation doesn’t want the gospel broken into spiritual and political. I see this in his book; maybe others don’t see that in the book. (I think this is related to how Barna defines the gospel.)

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