By Dr. Steve R. Parr
George Barna has invested his life in the research of American thinking particularly as it relates to religious issues and Christianity. Christians are instructed in Romans 12:1-2 to avoid thinking like the world but that does not mean that we should not develop an awareness of how the world is thinking. It does not take a researcher or a rocket scientist to observe that our country and our culture are changing. Many of the changes are resulting in barriers to the proclamation of the Gospel message.
Barna’s 2010 studies revealed several issues that affect evangelism and the potential for effectiveness insomuch as believers have any control. Men and women are saved as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives but the Great Commission is clear about the responsibility of believers to faithfully proclaim the message. New barriers are emerging that hinder the proclamation of the Gospel message. Barna’s 2010 research found that the Christian community is becoming increasingly ingrown and less outreach oriented. Consider Barna’s conclusions when commenting on this trend:
“Despite technological advances that make communications instant and far-reaching, Christians are becoming more spiritually isolated from non-Christians than was true a decade ago. Examples of this tendency include the fact that less than one-third of born again Christians planned to invite anyone to join them at a church event during the Easter season; teenagers are less inclined to discuss Christianity with their friends than was true in the past; most of the people who become Christians these days do so in response to a personal crisis or the fear of death (particularly among older Americans); and most Americans are unimpressed with the contributions Christians and churches have made to society over the past few years. As young adults have children, the prospect of them seeking a Christian church is diminishing–especially given the absence of faith talk in their conversations with the people they most trust. With atheists becoming more strategic in championing their godless worldview, as well as the increased religious plurality driven by education and immigration, the increasing reticence of Christians to engage in faith-oriented conversations assumes heightened significance.”
How sad it is that Atheists, in Barna’s estimation, are becoming more strategic in communicating their worldview than the local church is in proclaiming the Gospel message. Granted, every church has a sermon preached every Sunday morning in addition to Sunday evenings and Wednesdays. Does the world hear that message? Please do not hear the statements as an insult but as a challenge. What is the strategy of your congregation to proclaim the Gospel message to your community? How sad it would be to know that the atheists have a plan but that my church did not. I pray your congregation will be diligent in taking the Good News into your community in addition to faithful proclamation each and every Sunday morning.