Our Influence Through the Local Church

By Mark A. Taylor

Pollster George Barna claims to have discovered a revolution.

He says 20 million Americans today zealously pursue simple faith and an intimate relationship with God outside the activities and programs of the local church. He calls these Christians Revolutionaries and not only alerts us to their presence, but asks us to join them in his book Revolution. In 20 years, he says, “only about one third of the population will rely upon a local congregation as the primary or exclusive means for experiencing and expressing their faith.”

We asked our contributing editors to react and to discuss what his ideas may mean for the ministry of CHRISTIAN STANDARD.

By the time we arrived at our annual brainstorming retreat in January, several in our group had read critical reviews of the book. Most prominent was Kevin Miller’s in the January Christianity Today: ” Revolution ‘s emphasis on personal choice would make a marketer rejoice and an apostle weep,” he wrote.

A team of writers from Indiana Wes leyan University was equally unhappy: “Barna surrenders the biblically and theologically prudent understanding of the church for an expedient model that ultimately cannot birth, nourish, and sustain believers.” (See www.drurywriting.com/keith/revolution.barna.htm .)

Our contributing editors shared Barna’s concern about failures of the American church to develop spiritually mature disciples. But they do not believe the solution is to abandon the local congregation.

“Paul’s survey of the first century Corinthian church would reveal a far worse situation than Barna documents,” Ben Cachiaras observed.

“In our movement we have the flexibility to address all of Barna’s concerns,” LeRoy Lawson added. “And we are addressing them!”

Barna describes his revolution in terms of seven trends (chapter 5). Our editor at large pointed out that all of these can be seen at work within local congregations in the Restoration Movement:

• passing the torch of leadership to a new generation (trend 1)

• pursuing genuine relationships (trends 2 and 5)

• “dismissing the irrelevant” (trend 3)

• capitalizing on new technology (trend 4)

• emphasizing individual participation in faith (trend 6)

• discovering significance through sacrifice and surrender (trend 7)

Barna is right to prod self-centered local congregations that have become insulated from the world they say they want to reach. The solution, however, is to revive the local church, not abandon it. Many in our fellowship are demonstrating that this is possible as they influence their communities through the local church, not outside it. We want to tell their stories.

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