George Barna, the beloved Christian pollster, recently announced to the world in his book “Revolution” that the institutional church was dead. That was not a problem, however, because Barna also announced a “New Reformation” that would sweep our land. He promised that this was going to “amount to a Third Great Awakening in the United States, but with a very different look, feel and outcome than previous religious upheaval.”
According to Barna, the age of the local [read: institutional] church was dead and would be replaced by simple house churches and other non-traditional gatherings of believers. The book caused quite a stir in the evangelical world, but fortunately it was mostly ignored and Barna’s claims faded into obscurity. That was then. Like a bad horror movie (is there another kind?), “He’s back!” This time Barna is not only continuing his claim that the church is dead, he appears to be dancing on her grave.
Few people have done more for evangelical Christianity in the last 20 years than George Barna and his research organization. Month after month and year after year The Barna Group has provided vital research into religious trends across the American religious landscape. He has provided information that has been invaluable in analyzing the spiritual temperature of America. But something unfortunate has happened.
It is rare for an “objective” pollster to release the results of a poll wrapped in an extended “commercial” for the pollster’s newest book. But this is what appears to be the case with Barna’s latest release. And probably not coincidentally, the poll results reinforce the conclusions of the new book (“Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Christian Practices”). All the credibility that The Barna Group has worked so hard to establish now lies in the ashes of self-promotion.