Book Review: Generation Next

Generation Next: What You Need to Know About Today’s Youth. George Barna. Regal Books, 1995.

GenerationNext

Dealing with people of other generations can be challenging, given that they have different values and ideals in living life. This concern is especially magnified for the youth ministers of most church organizations. George Barna provides an answer in his book “Generation Next”, where he presents results and commentary of his surveys of youth, aged 13-18 (as of December 1994). In doing this he seeks to explain this generation to the older generations that are working in the churches today.

Barna begins by pointing out the generations are different, then relays the concerns and crises of the youth. He then describes the character of teens, how they choose to spend their time outside of schooling, and their typical family environment. The author then describes spiritual matters of teens like their views of Christianity, the after-life, the church, the Bible, and how they believe their faith should translate into behavior. Barna then describes in detail how teens tend to live out their faith. The author then makes the observation that teens (and adults!) are rather spiritually anemic by Biblical terms, noting the lack of difference in belief between those who claim Christianity and those who don’t. Finally, Barna summarizes what he found into a number of “Rules”, and then provides advice to parents and others who may work with teenagers of this group.

George Barna provides a wonderful view into the often scary views that teenagers have adopted regarding Christianity. His survey research is very thorough. His comments on the remarkable things he found, such as the lack of belief in absolute truth coupled with a belief in the Bible as an absolute source of truth, is very excellent and on point.

However, at many points, he often takes an incredibly conciliatory tone towards some of the scary things he observed. As a result, his desire to identify with the target audience of his surveys and embrace the wrong aspects of their thinking tends to play more into the desire of his readers to embrace the world and its thoughts (as his subjects do) instead of return to true Biblical Christianity.

Overall, this book is an interesting and valuable view into the faith that is expressed in most of the churches today, despite his intention to describe the next generation. Given my eight years of experience blogging about the state of Christianity today, many of these points have only gotten worse since 1995. Unfortunately, Barna doesn’t do enough in this book to draw those contrasts that he discovered through his surveys with actual Scriptural practice.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon

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Book Review: Growing True Disciples

Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ. George Barna. WaterBrook Press, 2001.

Growing True Disciples

I’ve said much in the course of both of my blogs about the state of Christian discipleship. Church organizations have chased after increasing attendance, giving, programs, and property over chasing after the will of the Lord has laid out through Scripture. George Barna shows the fruit of this process throughout “Growing True Disciples.”

Barna begins by casting a vision for discipleship that is outside the typical church vision – a vision of committed followers of Christ as opposed to simply “members”. He then goes on to explain some of the definitions and framework of discipleship, defining some Scriptural justifications for those things. The author then presents an overview of the current (2001) state of the church. Barna then provides an analysis of how things have gotten to their current state. He then presents a goal of discipleship. The author then presents some findings from studying churches that he deemed were doing good work in discipleship. Finally, Barna presents some models that he distilled out of some of the data for discipleship in churches.

In reading the book, the author presents a fairly decent framework of discipleship. As well, the author is very thorough about presenting the things the churches are doing that he feels is effective, and why they are effective. He presents a lot to think about regarding the topic of discipleship and gives a start on the best ways to accomplish those things.

However, Barna misses the seminal problem that caused all of these things. As I’ve noted in previous reviews of books about discipleship, the issue of what you are discipling them into gets completely missed in the book. Most churches, including many of the ones he’s studied and lauded are about discipling people into the church organization (i.e. the world) as opposed to discipling people into Christ. Goals often stem from what your life is centered upon. Or as Scripture says, we should not expect good fruit out of bad trees (Matthew 7:15-20). This fact is shown time and again as Barna advocates for business processes instead of Scriptural remedies. His avocation of covenant agreements is especially disturbing, in terms of the controls that he would place upon the average believer from men.

Overall, while this book has much value, that value is sullied by not recognizing the core issue of the problem that has plagued those who have been called out from Christ from the beginning. When man gets his hands into things and changes them for his own benefit and his own desires to control others, the entire nature of the tree is changed. Hence the fruit is changed. In my opinion, this book has value for the study presented, which in the last 16 years has without a doubt gotten worse according to my own research. But beyond that, it doesn’t offer much fruit in the way of leading towards a Scriptural model of discipleship.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon

Book Review: Revolution

Revolution. George Barna. BarnaBooks, 2005.
book-review-revolution
In view of what a number of the churches are doing in this country and the general trends of society, it’s almost expected that people are seeking places where they can find Christ outside of the local church. It is this phenomena that George Barna seeks to describe in his book, Revolution.

Barna begins by contrasting the idea of a person fully seeking a spiritual life with Christ (a “Revolutionary”) with one who is a backslider, and notes a difference exists even though both have nothing to do with an institutional church. The author then describes the preferences that cause true Christ-seekers to seek elsewhere. He then describes a Biblical picture of the church and matches that with what he finds in his research of those who are seeking Christ elsewhere. Barna then relays a survey indicating the state of the local church in terms of the ability to provide spiritual transformation, indicating that connection to believers seeking godliness matters more than church involvement.

The author then describes societal trends and desires that indicate that God is active and working to provide the desire and means for those to seek Him to find Him, indicating some of those means and describing some alternative means that people are using to “do church” that focus on enabling Christian spirituality over institutional goals. He then uses Jesus as an example, contrasting what He did and His focus with the activities of the scribes and Pharisees, showing the difference of character and demonstrating that the governance and control of men can not provide spiritual transformation.

Barna then describes the character, outlook, and practices of those who have found a transformation in Christ, contrasting this with the small influence the institutional churches have on the world. The author describes the impact he foresees in a shift, and the resistance that is sure to come from those steeped in an institutional church focus, addressing some of the chief accusations from that party. Finally, Barna provides some suggestions on how local churches can respond to these trends.

This book confirmed a number of trends I have personally noticed and cataloged in the course of my blogging. Reading of God’s work to set aside His remnant who recognize that man-made church does not save but only Christ saves was especially encouraging. Barna provided a constructive picture through Scripture of the proper function of the Church and the life of the transformed believer.

However, a more Scriptural picture of the scribes and Pharisees, contrasting that with the hearts of those who are seeking after the man-made church would have been beneficial. Especially, the role of God’s truth and the tendency of men to love darkness, using the lens of Paul’s later epistles would have been incredibly welcome.

Overall, Revolution provides an excellent picture of the current bankrupt state of Christianity in the United States for those who have ears to hear. It proves that all things will be known by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20), and that God will reject the bad fruit while enabling those who earnestly seek bread and fish to find it (Matthew 7:7-10) instead of the stones and serpents that are being handed out in Christ’s name by the institutional churches.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Book Cover Image Source: Amazon