Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

Barna: Challenges Ahead for Church to Remain Significant

  • 2005 18 Apr
Barna: Challenges Ahead for Church to Remain Significant

April 18, 2005

An annual survey from the Barna Group finds little change in faith-related beliefs, behaviors, and perspectives among Americans over the last 15 years.  Lead researcher George Barna says these most recent results, however, indicate there are many challenges facing pastors and church leaders.

"The State of the Church: 2005" survey examined nearly four dozen religious measures including church attendance, the percentage of unchurched people, prayer, donating to churches, and core beliefs.  Among the findings, says the report, were a small increase in Bible reading, while the percentage of evangelical Christians in America remains at just seven percent of the population.  That number has not changed since the Barna Group began measuring the size of the Evangelical public more than a decade ago.

In addition, the survey indicates decreases in church attendance, Sunday school involvement, and the number of people who have a biblical view of God's character.  Overall, the survey discovered that more than nine out of ten American adults take part in some sort of faith-related practice during a typical week.

George Barna, president of the Barna Group, says the survey's results mirror changes in society.

"While there may be fewer people in many respects who are attending a kind of traditional or congregational format of church, we're also finding that there's growing in areas such as people participating in house churches or in marketplace ministry," the researcher shares.

The findings, he explains, show that churches must refocus on bringing about lasting change and transformation in people's lives.

"One of the greatest challenges facing any ministry, no matter what its form is, has to do with what do you define as success," he says.  "And we've got to break the [current] mold ... which says that success is about church attendance, and church budgets, and church programs, and church staff, and square footage and buildings.

"Jesus didn't die for any of that stuff. He died to see people's lives completely transformed so they try to be more like Him every moment of every day."

Bringing about such change in individual lives, he says, requires "aggressive" church leadership that is willing to take risks.  "Effective leaders must spearhead a thoroughly conceived and highly targeted plan that runs a significant level of risk and promises attractive returns on people's investment of themselves," Barna says.  "Merely tinkering with the existing system is a recipe for irrelevance and abandonment."

The absence of real change in people's beliefs and behavior, he adds, "screams for a change of direction and a more radical approach to spiritual growth amidst a population that clearly has settled into comfortable spiritual routines and perspectives."

The survey also found increases in the number of born-again Christians who share their faith with non-Christians.  Data reported in the summary was based on phone interviews with a nationwide, random sample of more than 1,000 adults.


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