Barna’s Dilemma

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My old friend and former fellow board member Dr. Arch Hart referred to this Christianity Today article from 2002.  The talk in which I heard the reference is also somewhat dated… but taking Arch’s suggestion, I found the article (thanks to Google) and read it.

I may be a latecomer to the analysis, but it certainly rings true.  After all those decades of providing the evangelical church with the statistical analysis they need to adapt and capture “market share,” Barna is left with a sense of empty despair.  The church has not impacted culture in any way close to its declared purpose – given the pervasive presence at the turn of the century.

DOWNLOAD pdf (with my notes)

I can hear the “religious right” complaining about a lack of political courage in advancing a “christian” legislative agenda.  But I don’t believe that is Barna’s point.  The discouragement comes from watching churches grow in number, real estate holdings, media presence, high profile name recognition – and yet the believers who populate these new and grand monuments to capitalism are virtually indistinguishable from the folks who’ve got better things to do than sit in church.   Stated another way, the churched and the unchurched poll about the same.

After interviewing our best and brightest, those who site at the helm of these sparkling institutions, Barna comes to a stunning conclusion – these CEO Pastors are not leaders.  Wow.  This may well be one of the catalysts which caused Bill Hybels to apologize for missing the mark.

The analysis (see pdf attached) rings true.  Apparently Barna has slipped into a professional funk.

What happens now? How does it impact our concept of leadership?  We’ve got some talking to do.

(If you can give me an update on Barna’s journey… please leave a comment.  As for me, I’m checking his web-site for updates…

The Shack

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My friends, Craig and Carole Holiday introduced me to a new book… The Shack.  Here’s the note I wrote when I finished reading…

  1. Thank you for introducing me to an incredible piece of work…
  2. I’d be hard pressed to name a book that’s had a more profound impact on me.  It’s gunna take some time to unpack all the meaning.  I may even read it again… which is something I rarely do.
  3. I’m telling all my friends that this is a must read.   You know you’ll be seeing something pop up on a Monday morning soon – probably this week…

So when Craig wrote me an e-mail, inviting me to bring Carolyn along to join him and Carole at Mariner’s Church to hear William P. (Paul) Young, author of The Shack, I had never heard of either.  Google kicked in, and within minutes I had the story before me.  Here is a self-published work of fiction that in its first year had seven hundred-fifty thousand copies in print.  Already, they are calling it a “New York Times” best-seller… and the most recent number I’ve heard is two million.

This stunning explosion of sales could only have one explanation: word of mouth, I surmised.  There must be something about this book that gets people talking; the common directive – “this is a must read.”  That’s what it must be.  Well, now I’ve heard the author speak, and I’ve read his book.  And I’m joining in the chorus of folks who are telling their friends – read this book.

Thanks again to Google, I’m also quite aware that the book has its critics – particularly from the heresy hunters that seem to have access to the airwaves and blogosphere.  I’ve read enough to get the gist of the criticism (perhaps the most credible, Chuck Colson).  But none of them convince me.

As I said, there’s much unpacking to do as the book comes to a potent conclusion.  You can guess, I’ll be writing more.  Between now and then, get your hands on a copy.  First, to find out what the buzz is all about.  Second, well, perhaps you’ll be impacted as I have been.

On the other side, let’s talk. 


Andy Rooney

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Here’s a terrific little commentary on art in the public square.  You may, like me, agree.  Something’s out of whack.

Andy Rooney – When did this become art?