Monday Morning Insights

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    Six huge themes emerging in the past year

    Six huge themes emerging in the past year

    Barna Research did more than 5,000 interviews in 2010 and found six big themes that were emerging in the church-at-large in 2010.  See if you agree with their findings:

    1.  The church is becoming less theologically literate.

    2.  Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.

    3.  More people are less interested in spiritual principles and more interested in pragmatic solutions.

    4.  More Christians are becoming more involved in community action programs

    5.  Tolerance is winning in the church

    6.  The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible

    Wow.  That's encouraging.


    At first thought, I wondered who thought this way... and is it actually true.

    Then I looked at the sample.  Telephone interviews with a random sample of adults, age 18 and over, in the continental US.

    So, this is how the average american views the church, not how the average church-goer views the church.

    For example, under point #1, in their summary, Barna cites that a minority of people associate Easter with the resurrection of Christ. 

    That is under the header of "The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate".  Well... it seems that most of the people that they asked, really weren't a part of the Christian Church, so to say that the church is less theologically literate threw me for a loop.  A better header would have been "Society is less theologically literate".  That seems more accurate.

    One final point... in our society, do you think that less than 50% in the US have a clue that Easter is the celebration of Christ's resurrection?  I find that hard to believe.  But then again, I've been in the church all my life.  I would bargain to say that if I asked random people where I live, that most could pull that out of a hat.  Doesn't mean they believe it... but I think they at least connect the dots.

    OK... enough of my commentary.  I am no George Barna.  (You don't have to remind me).

    But what do you think of the results of the poll.  You can read them, in detail, here.  As you minister in your community, do you find these things becoming more and more true.  Does it change, at all, the way that you relate to, and reach people?

    I'd love to hear your thoughts...



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    1. CS on Thu, January 20, 2011

      “One final point… in our society, do you think that less than 50% in the US have a clue that Easter is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection?”

      Yes, I believe that is factual.  Same goes for elements of Christmas.  When I ask people what the star on top of the tree stands for, I find that only a quarter or so will associate it with the sign that led the magi to Christ.


    2. Chris Elrod on Thu, January 20, 2011

      I’ve never been a Barna fan…the Christian version of “Chicken Little”.  I do not dispute the results of his data…I dispute how he arrives at it.  There have been many times that his interview questions have been skewed or leading to get the result he wants in order to push his latest book.  There has also been some questions come up about how accurate his sampling methods have been.  In essence his samples and questions work together to produce the answers he wants to scare the crap out of the church leaders and sell more books.  If he wasn’t whoring his data in the form of product he might have a little more credibility.  I’ll stay with Gallup if I want fairly accurate polling data.

      Do I believe that the Church is no longer the influence on people’s lives and eternity as it should be…yes.  Do I believe that Barna is full of crap to make another buck…yep!!!

    3. Ronnie Ding on Fri, January 21, 2011

      3.  More people are less interested in spiritual principles and more interested in pragmatic solutions.

      This gives more urgency to Youth Ministries everywhere, the next generation that would make or break it! Let us encourage them, enable them and empower them!

    4. Christopher Fontenot on Fri, January 21, 2011

      My first question in these surveys is “How do you define ‘Christian’?”

    5. Steven on Sat, January 22, 2011

      I agree with Chris Elrod, well said

    6. Thomas C. Smith on Mon, January 24, 2011

      5.  Tolerance is winning in the church

      I really doubt that the majority of people in our country believe this.
      Every where you go, you hear most all that say, “stay out of the political arena, you bigoted Christians you”, even when you are not doing what they say. The majority of those in society today equate any Christian with intolerance.

    7. Jason Norris on Mon, January 24, 2011

      Thomas, actually Barna wasn’t talking about tolerance in that way. Here is what he said:

      “5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church. Our biblical illiteracy and lack of spiritual confidence has caused Americans to avoid making discerning choices for fear of being labeled judgmental. The result is a Church that has become tolerant of a vast array of morally and spiritually dubious behaviors and philosophies. . . . The idea of love has been redefined to mean the absence of conflict and confrontation, as if there are no moral absolutes that are worth fighting for. That may not be surprising in a Church in which a minority believes there are moral absolutes dictated by the scriptures. . . . The challenge for every Christian in the U.S. is to know his/her faith well enough to understand which fights are worth fighting, and which stands are non-negotiable. There is a place for tolerance in Christianity; knowing when and where to draw the line appears to perplex a growing proportion of Christians in this age of tolerance.”

    8. Thomas C. Smith on Tue, January 25, 2011

      Thanks for the clarification.
      However, the slant on the article, and the wording of the interviewers question, seems to beg a contrary opinion.
      I have been interviewed in this manner before, and I will never again be a part of such interviews, because IMHO they are pretty much a fraudulent compilation of data.

    9. rbud on Tue, January 25, 2011

      In addition to being a born-again Christian, I’m also a died in the wool skeptic in many ways. Yes, I can see Barna’s interpretation, given the limiting parameters.

      #1 is problematic, though. Illiterate in what way? It seems to me that churches are increasing promoting the teaching of scripture among its members—that’s good. But I’ve observed that the teaching it is often so bound up in archaic doctrine that the essence of the scripture message is often lost. It smacks of the age-old adage about knowing without understanding.

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