George Barna was the founder of the Barna Group. Barna had founded his think tank in 1983 and sold it in 2009. While he owned it they began their marketing talents for Disney, this was long before they took off on researching for evangelicals, the church, and culture. Barna has written several books. Of which, I have now read two authored by him (Revolution and The Power of Vision) and a third one he co-wrote with Frank Viola (Pagan Christianity). Barna is a rather interesting author, with some interesting thoughts about the church. In Revolution, Barna discovered, long before the Doners even became a thing, that the churched were massively leaving the Church in an exodus. In this book, Barna seems to be ok with them leaving, almost stating that they should. In Pagan Christianity, Barna did most of the research (to which I have a lot of complaints about, having a history degree). Viola and Barna attempt to state, incorrectly, that the problem with the modern Church stems back to the practices brought in by pagan converts to Christianity, who then took on leadership roles within the church. Now, in Power of Vision, which is in its third edition, Barna gives church leaders, pastors, and individuals a way to grow their churches.
Do not get me wrong, this book, as it stands, is very well written. I also find myself very torn as I write this review. I do like a lot of what Barna offers in this book, however, I have to rely more on what the Bible teaches about growing a church.
Barna’s argument is that in order for any church to grow and thrive, it must have a vision. This vision cannot be any vision, however, it must be one that is God-given. Barna, then, begins his book by explaining how there are examples of biblical and non-biblical, modern visionaries. Barna’s examples are Paul, David, Nehemiah, and Moses. He then moves to the modern ones: Mother Teresa, Marin Luther King Jr., Donald McGavran, Bill Hybels, and Supreme Justice Antonin Scalia. Barna defines vision as “a clear mental image of a preferable future imparted by God to His chosen servants to advance His kingdom and is based on an accurate understanding of God, self, and circumstances” (Barna 20018, 28). Barna then explains that most churches tend to confuse a mission statement with a vision. He follows that up with 20 different myths (along with their realities). Barna spends the next eight chapters of the book describing how a church can find God’s vision for themselves and grow their congregations. Barna’s final chapter is spent showing how the individual Christian can take the same method and use it for their own personal lives.
First, Barna is correct, one needs a vision and a mission statement. Neither one is synonymous, but you can not have one without the other. However, the Bible does not actually teach this. When Paul went around, preaching the Gospel, he was not spending time in board meetings trying to decide what each churches mission and vision statement was going to be. Jesus did not come to give his disciples a mission statement and a vision. No, Jesus came to die for our sins, taken on God’s wrath that was due us, and give us his righteousness upon his resurrection. Paul was concerned with only one thing, to preach the true Gospel of God—Jesus crucified and resurrected. David was chosen—his vision was not an answer to him being predestined by God to be king, nor was it his choice. David’s actions were the consequences of being chosen by God.
Second, every Christian, pastor, and church, aside from what Barna believes, should have one vision and it should be the same—to preach the true Gospel of God, Jesus crucified and resurrected. What Barna states is not really wrong, or bad, it’s just that we don’t need different, individualized vision statements for seeking God, knowing ourselves, and to spread the message of God’s kingdom. As Christians, we should be doing this daily, along with our churches throughout the week. Unfortunately, this, in my honest opinion, is what is wrong with the Church in America. Pastors are brought up to believe that they need to treat their churches as an individual, personal businesses. They are taught that, in order to grow, they need marketing, mission, and vision statements. Sadly, what works in the secular business world, should and, does not work in Christ’s church. The early church did not spend time in board meetings, devising statements, and coming up with grand plans to grow their churches. No, the apostles were directed by the Holy Spirit. All of the Apostles had one thing in common—to preach Christ crucified and resurrected and nothing else. As I have said before, Barna makes several good statements in this book and I do agree with several of them, however, as a Christian, I cannot promote this book to any pastor who is having problems and troubles in their church.
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers http://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.