I got an advance look/copy of George Barna's upcoming book, 'Revolutions', and thought I'd write a review. I see Andrew Jones is writing about the book, and I'm sure his review will more comprehensive and informative than mine, but I'll offer a brief one here.
Because of who Barna is, and what this book is about, means it is going to cause a major stir, and get lots of reviews.
What is the book about?
Barna sets the scene in the preface by referencing his 1990 book, Frog in the Kettle, claiming that 90% of the trends he predicted came true and were of help to the church, and this new book, contains new and developing trend, one trend alone, that of 'an unprecedented reengineering of Americaâ€™s faith dimension' that is beyond everyone's experience to date.
He claims there is a revolution going on in he church universal, outside the organised congregation based church, that we are all going to have to respond to. Of his own admission the book is short, a 'fast' read and not 'theologically dense'. He also expects people to be either 'excited' or 'angered' by his suggestions and research.
Barna states that mostly outside organised church (but acknowledges that a few may be doing it from within organised church), a revolution is going on of new and multiple forms and expression of the church universal, at a macro and micro level, characterised by 7 passions. These passions are namely, Intimate Worship, Faith Based Conversations, Intentional Spiritual Growth, Servant Hood, Resource Investment, Spiritual Friendship and Family Faith. Barna talks about why from his research these things are lacking in the American organised church, and why he believes they are emerging in new forms of church, that will be the future of the church.
In no particular order:
1. What many people involved in emerging church have know for some time, will be mentioned in this book. Outside of the US mega church model, there are many new forms of church. Barna will with this book bring some of them to light and focus, and attention of people who won't have considered them to date.
2. This is a book based on research of American mainstream churches, so when he talks of what he sees in the Church Universal, does he mean the broader church of the USA? and what does this mean if anything for countries outside the USA?
3. The idea of 'revolutionaries' a group of people taking church seriously and to do so doing it outside the traditional church, is this a huge pressure to put on people? By that I mean when most people struggle to get to work, and pay the bills, is the 'revolutionary' lifestyle Barna's promotes the only valid one? Is Barna over promising, like every new 'move of God' has seemed be in the habit of doing in the past?
4. Is God really finished with the existing church (I know Barna says no, but the book and stories gives me the impression God is)?
5. Interesting that he sees 'emergent/emerging/post-modern forms of church' as mainly extensions of existing congregational models, and thereby pejoratively.
6. How many people will read this book and use it to criticize current churches (including some of the new forms Barna has in mind), rather than engage in the mission of being church. Barna's hope is his book will release people into the new ways of church he foresees, but are those people doing this already, and is his booked going to be read by that group, or a larger group who are tired of church and don't want to be 'revolutionary' either.
7. Even though he doesn't want it to be read this way, by including some of the stories that he does about pastors being threatened by his research, it will play badly with many in churches he is thinking of.
8. A book full of stories from these new 'revolutionary' groups would have been more compelling for me than the included stories of upset or accepting mega church pastors. I know the impact Doug Pagitt's book had on me and other people was due to the positive story from within a new form of church, that you could almost see/taste/smell.
9. (Adding this one after Andrew's comments and review...see I told you his would be more comprehensive). Alan Jamieson has made imho a much better researched examination of people expressing faith outside of organised traditional denominations, in Churchless Faith, and I think his conclusions and his follow up book Stories for the Journey/Called Again provide a much more subtly nuanced conclusions, that is positive for traditional churches possible renewal, as well as growth of new forms of groups. Indeed I wish everyone who reads Churchless Faith would read Alan's follow up book, which deals with a major theological issue of people wanting to express their faith in post-critical communities, and that the problem with church is related to but very different to the issues Barna highlights. This is not about leaving church to change ecclessiology, but leaving because a new way of believing, and what is believed needs to take shape, and the modern evangelical conservative does not nurture faith through, doubt, mystery and question.
I also think Alan's New Zealand context is far closer the the UK situation than the one Barna is writing from.
So I was left thinking, great this will bring onto the radar for others, the need for many news forms of church, and the validity of them outside major denominational structures. It is a research based observation of something that many of have been seeing and taking part of.
But I was left thinking, is this Barna tired of studying mega churches, reaching out hoping for something, and maybe overstating his predictions. So I was left feeling promised much but not being given what I hoped for. I'm looking forward to Andrew's review to help me understand the book better. -----
Pre-order/Buy US - $12.23
Buy UK - Â£9.60