Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Book Review: Churchless
By The Barna Group (George Barna and David Kinnaman, Editors)
Tyndale Momentum, 2014
English, 224 pgs
Churchless people are all around us: among our closest loved ones, at our workplaces, in our neighborhoods. And more and more, they are becoming the norm: The number of churchless adults in the US has grown by nearly one-third in the past decade. Yet the startling truth is that many of these people claim they are looking for a genuine, powerful encounter with God—but they just don’t find it in church. What are they (or we) missing? How can we better reach out to them? What can we say or do that would inspire them to want to join a community of faith? Containing groundbreaking new research from the Barna Group, and edited by bestselling authors George Barna (Revolution) and David Kinnaman (You Lost Me), Churchless reveals the results of a five-year study based on interviews with thousands of churchless men and women. Looking past the surface of church attendance to deeper spiritual realities, Churchless will help us understand those who choose not to be part of a church, build trust-based relationships with them, and be empowered to successfully invite them to engage.
I received a free copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.
Attempting to divine understanding of viewpoints and motivations from data is daunting task, particularly with a research topic regarding belief and corresponding church attendance. However, the Barna Group has done an outstanding job gleaning understanding from more than five years of research into American trends and beliefs regarding church attendance. General Editors George Barna and David Kinnaman have compiled and distilled a tremendous amount of data into useful information regarding the current state of church attendance, what is motivating thecurrent Millennial generation’s choices, and the efficacy of outreach tools.
This book is going to be found useful by churches who are sincerely seeking and understanding of the viewpoints and desires of a generation that increasingly views church attendance (and membership) as less important than preceding generations. Techniques using mass media (direct mailings, advertising attempts, etc.) are indicated as being bypassed completely. However, cross-generational connections through testimony leadership, acts of service, and meaningful community interactions through the church are demonstrated as more likely to generate positive interest. To this reviewer, the data supports that the core concepts of intentional discipleship, personal testimony and authentic Christian service as described in the Great Commission and throughout the New Testament are the most effective means of reaching the Millennial generation.
Some of the data presented in this collection may be disturbing for those readers comfortable in a “business as usual” mentality. According to the data, less than 50 percent of American adults are considered “actively churched.” However, closer examination of that statistic demonstrates that “actively churched” means attending a church at least one time per month. Many in church circles might dispute that definition as “active”. Likewise, the rising number of “dechurched” – now at 35 percent – should be alarming.
This reviewer gleans that churches should seriously consider their outreach efforts. Impersonal mass media is clearly declining as an effective means of outreach, but this may be a positive development. Churches need to return to their historic (and scripturally prescribed) mandate to personally make disciples through intentional teaching. As they do so, lovingly caring for their community through sincere and consistent service will speak more to Millennials than slick advertising and programs.
This book is ideal for church leadership – pastors, deacons, elders, teachers – or even small groups desiring to understand the perspectives of those whom they are attempting to reach with the Gospel.