Several weeks ago I had the privilege of listening to and spending some time in
conversation with George
, the notable pollster and social researcher.
I certainly agree with Mr. Barna's general assessment of the modern Church
in America. There is no question that the Church, in general, is suffering from
a dearth of biblical literacy, bad theology and a woefully inept view of life
and the world that is biblical. This explains, in large part, why the Church
seems so powerless in the face of today's overwhelming cultural challenges.
I also appreciate and share Mr. Barna's zeal for genuine renewal among the
Body of Christ. There is no doubt in my mind that George
Barna loves the Lord and desperately desires to see Him exalted in this
However, there was one point with which I found myself troubled and that was
his call for "revolution" NOT reformation. In our conversation I questioned
his use of this particular term to which he replied, "if you look up the
word 'revolution' in the dictionary it means to overthrow the existing establishment."
Whoa! I pressed further in asking, "So you don't think that the institutional
Church has ever experienced genuine reform?" His reply, "I don't want
to argue with you and I frankly don't know enough about history nor do I care
about the past; I care about the future!" During the course of his presentation
earlier that morning Mr. Barna kept emphasizing the idea that institutions are
incapable of reform. On this point, I would strongly disagree.
I think, and I may misunderstand, that Mr. Barna believes that the blame for
our current spiritual condition with its accompanying reduction in adherents
to Christianity is the fault of today's leaders within the institutionalized
church. What he referred to as the "sticks and bricks" or the "congregational"
church, which in his mind is a purely human invention apparently operating apart
from God's providence.
There is no doubt that all who are called to leadership in the ministration
of the Gospel bear a great responsibility but this is not the sole source of
our problem. We have simply become an unfaithful people, both in our knowledge
of God and of our communion with Him. Romans 1:28, "
did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over
to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done." Too many who profess
Christ as Lord and Savior simply no longer think it worthwhile to retain the
knowledge, an intimate relationship, of and with God.
I left this whole encounter with a sense that this worthwhile intention, albeit
for the Glory of God, has the very real potential of producing spiritual anarchy,
a "church" in which there is no governance, no overarching authority,
and no theological standards.
Revolutions by their very nature divide and deconstruct whereas reformations
seek to preserve the good and integrate more good for the improvement of the
institution. I love the Church. I do not think the church is perfect nor do
I think the authority of the church supersedes scripture but the institutional
church does have a place in God's plan. It is a dangerous thing indeed to declare
war on the "institution" which in fact was established by God as testified
to in the New Testament.