Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

Support Foster Kids with a Suitcase

Dancing on the Grave of the Church

  • Bob Burney
  • 2008 22 Feb
Dancing on the Grave of the Church
George Barna, the beloved Christian pollster, announced to the world that the Church was dead in his book, Revolution, a year ago. That was not a problem, however, because Mr. 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 Church, but with a very different look, feel and outcome than previous religious upheaval.” According to Mr. Barna, the age of the local church was dead indeed and would be replaced by simple house churches and non-traditional gatherings of believers. The book caused quite a stir in the evangelical world, but fortunately it was mostly ignored and Barna’s ridiculous and unbiblical claims faded into obscurity. That was then. Like some B horror movie, “He’s Back!”  This time Barna is not only continuing his claim that the Church is dead, he’s 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 the country. But now, as Festus accused Paul of becoming mad from too much knowledge, maybe too much polling “hath made him mad.” Sadly, the latest polling data released from the Barna Group is nothing more than blatant propaganda for Barna’s personal views and a shameless shill for his newest book where the dancing is frantic indeed.

It is more than rare that an “objective” pollster releases the results of a poll that is at least ¾ commercial for the pollster’s newest book. Oh, and the poll results, through an incredible coincidence, reinforce the conclusions of the book. All the credibility that The Barna Group has worked so hard to establish now lies in the ashes of self-promotion.

The gist of the poll is that Americans are now embracing “various alternatives to an experience as being fully Biblical.” Among the more startling results of the poll is that 89 percent of adults feel that an individual family worship time is just as Biblical as corporate worship at a church. 75 percent believe a “house church” is valid and 69 percent feel watching a religious TV program is just aa Biblical as attending a Church. Unlike most Barna polls, the wording is extremely vague and somewhat misleading. There is no indication that those responding to the poll feel that these activities are to be to the exclusion of a local church experience, but that is the way the statistics are presented. Objectivity is gone and Barna’s personal bias is obvious. Read the poll and you come away with the conclusion that indeed the local church is either dead or dying. The “research” portion of the article at ends with the surprising number of pastors who are now embracing house churches. Indeed, Barna states that “two out of three pastors agreed that ‘house churches are legitimate Christian churches.’”  He slides in quickly that most of those pastors are from liberal, main-line denominations. He then takes a swipe at those who disagreed and implies that those pastors who do not support “house churches” are the ones making the big bucks. Again, an enormous departure from the objectivity of past polls.

Following the brief results of the latest poll, Barna then uses the results of the poll to hype his new book, Pagan Christianity. This is where things really get bizarre. One of the more sensational claims of the new book is that most of what happens in your local church has “pagan” origins. A sample:

  • Church Buildings are “pagan.” Yep, straight out of the Pit. Barna tells us that all of the early Christians met in homes. Proof? Well... Everybody knows that. The evidence is the argument of silence. Obviously the early churches began in homes because there was nothing else! It would be just as obvious that as thousands came to Christ – homes would quickly have become too small. There is no Biblical “proof” that only homes were used.
  • Pulpits are “pagan.” Yep, also out of the Pit. According to Barna, all pulpits are “stagecraft borrowed from Greek culture.” I guess Mr. Barna has never read Nehemiah 8:4 where Ezra stood behind a “pulpit of wood” and expounded the scriptures.
  • Sermons are “pagan.” Mr. Barna informs us that “preaching a sermon” came from “Greek sophists” of the late second century. I wonder what you would call it when Ezra expounded the scripture, Moses declared the Law, Peter preached at Pentecost, Paul declared the truth on Mars Hill. etc. Looks like a sermon, sounds like a sermon, but Barna assures us that that the preaching of sermons has no place in today’s worship.

The list goes on and attacks most everything in the typical church, whether contemporary, traditional or progressive. If it meets in a building, has a pastor or any leadership structure, it's pagan.

What has happened to George Barna and The Barna Group is anyone’s guess. We can only hope that his latest rantings about the continued death of the Church will be ignored by the masses and he will do his dancing on the grave of the Church – alone.

With over 20 years of experience as a pastor, Bob Burney got a start in radio in 1989 and launched Bob Burney Live with Salem in 2000. Bob’s ability to get Ohioans interested and engaged in the spiritual and cultural issues of the day helped earn him Salem’s “Andy Andersen Award” for Talk Show Host of the Year in 2005.

Please Click

Here to view Bob's blog.