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Barna Saturday: Why I Joined the Revolution

For most of my life I was on a very different path — I spent twenty-plus years to try to help churches — chronicling the accelerating changes that have now become a revolution.
I used the old style or classic quantitative methods — research — who, came, how many did this or that, etc.

About a year and a half ago I reached a point in my life where I decided not just to describe the Revolution, but to join it.
Why?

Each of us has several roles he plays in his life
What are my roles?
1. First and most important, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ
2. My second role is to be a good father and husband
3. My third role is to be an effective church leader with integrity — teaching, writing, and leading

Mark 12:30 defines it clearly — that our chief purpose in life is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.

In my work, there are 4 components: Research – gathering good information
Teaching – presenting information, but also interpreting it for the audience
Writing, too, is an activity that requires the gathering of facts, as well as expressing them to an audience
Coaching & Consulting involves personal interactions

There is a reliance on leaders in the existing local church
The assumption is that people in positions of leadership are actually leaders…!
We compiled a great deal of information about who these people are….
What we found is that 4 of 5 of senior pastors are not leaders — they are not called, gifted, or prepared to lead!
Most called to teaching, and many of them are good at that.
But leadership requires a very different mind, heart, and skill set.
The prevalent institutional model forces you to be both at once.

I actually tried pastoring a church, and I don’t want to pastor a church.

So why did I leave the conventional church for a house church?
There are 9 reasons — yes, I quantify everything!

1. I have come to believe that in God’s vision for my life God has called me to be a catalyst of a moral and spiritual revolution. For 20 years I assumed this would be through the institutional church. I do not think so now..

The institutional church model is something we made up — it does not exist in scripture.
How do I facilitate that revolution? by helping people experience transformation outside of these institutional boundaries which I have found to be unauthorized in scripture.

2. I joined the revolution because of professional frustration – I found from the testimony of the people we interviewed that essentially no transformation is happening through the local church.
I came home from a 9 month road trip, going with my family from church to church, and I simply collapsed. — I told God, “If you want somebody to change the church, it’ll have to be somebody else.” After I got over my tantrum with God, I asked, “is anybody’s life actually being transformed?” — I did a new study — and my research made it clear that twenty million people are being transformed. God has twenty million people in the United States who are active and alive and growing in Him — but my research told me that almost none of it has anything to do with the conventional church, but is happening in other communities of faith — other types of relationships.

3. My third reason for joining the Revolution was personal desperation. — Spiritually, I was drying up. — The institutional model, the constant experience of showing up, singing, participating in an event … had nothing to do with connecting with the living God. We found in our surveys that 80% in any given week say they sit through worship and do not feel they have connected with God — over 50% say that in the entire past year of going to church, they did not connect with God even once.

In that environment, participating in church, knowing there was a problem but supporting the institutional model, I felt like a fraud.

4. I had a personal spiritual experience — a taste of real intimacy with God — and I knew I would have to be accountable to God from then on.

5. I had experienced a practical frustration within churches. When you are a genuine leader you are not allowed to lead.

6. I became a major proponent of 1 Chron 12:32 — Men of Isachaar – men who understood times. They understood that we need different forms, models, and insights.

7. Scriptural revelation – God gives us incredible freedom in how we connect with him

“Community of faith — yes; institution, NO….
God calls us, not to be faithful members, but to be practitioners of Christian faith who have been personally transformed — bearing witness of Christ to our families, the church, and the world.
We need to therefore make a distinction between church and Church.
Little c church is the local assembly. All institutional churches are little c churches — attempts at following Christ.
Big C Church is all of us — the entire body of Christ.

Another thing that this scriptural revelation taught me is that we must reject the teaching that church (little c — the institutional manifestation of Jesus’ followers) is the hope of the world.
That is simply not true — Jesus Christ is the hope of the world.

8. Another reason I joined the revelation is the recognition of how God made me. I’ve taken all the tests – Meyers-Briggs etc. — and they tend to show that I was bult to influence people.
When I coupled that insight with another piece of research — my discovery of what IS having an influence on Christians, I had to make a change.

What is influencing Christians? My research shows that 70% of the impact on all people’s decisions comes from 7 different sources: movies, TV, music, family, public policy, books, and the Internet.

Schools, peers, and radio make up a big part of the 2nd tier of influence, producing 20% of the influence on decisions, values, and actions.

Church is one part of the third tier, the least influential things in people’s lives. In fact, conventional church has about one-half of 1 percent of influence on people, compared to all the other things that shape their values, choices, and actions.

What does this tell me? I have spent the last 20 years of my life trying to reform the institution which only exerts half a percent of the influence in people’s lives.

This led me to make a professional decision to focus my energy on media — spiritainment. Movies and videos and music.

9. Finally, I awoke to my family responsibility. I realized that I could no longer bring my girls to a place where they are learning nothing about Jesus.

I suppose this reveals my conservative roots, but I am still persuaded from Scripture that it’s a war — we are, or ought to be, engaged in a battle between good and evil. I could no longer send my kids to a place where they were not being equipped for this battle.

Summary

I have left the institutional church and joined the Revolution. Why does this matter to me? It is all about restoring my intimacy with God, and my hope in Christ.
Joining the Revolution is not becoming a rebel, but reestablishing my priorities, redefining Christian community. For me it has meant getting involved in a house church experience, and reaffirming that God doesn’t need large armies in the Battle — He uses a remnant of sold-out people —
God uses a little band of wackos to change the world.

Remember — Love is not a feeling it is a commitment — so the question that I ask myself and you is: what is the nature of YOUR commitment?

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