On the first day of the New Year it is fitting to look back for one last time and then ask, “Where is the church in America at the end of the first decade of the twentieth century?” There are a number of researchers who seek to measure various trends and developments in the culture and the church. I pay close attention to these because it is my calling to do so.
One person who writes a great deal about trends and themes is the well-known Christian sociologist George Barna. While I sometimes disagree with Barna’s analysis and prescriptions I respect his data gathering and his ability to succinctly inform about trends and changes. There are six mega-themes that Barna highlighted a few weeks ago when he looked back over 2010 and forward to the first decade of the 21st century.
There is nothing new here but it is truly worth reading to galvanize your commitment to missional-ecumenism in the coming decade and beyond. We are not going back to where we were a generation ago. The question now is very clear: “Where are we really going and what role will the church have in shaping the future?” If Barna is right we will have a smaller and smaller role unless we experience a genuine “Christ-awakening” (David Bryant’s helpful words) that brings believers together in a new ecumenism that is rooted in classical and forward thinking Christian faith and practice.
An awakening like those of the American past is not what we need today. This coming awakening must not simply awaken human passion and the moral earnestness of the church, though this is surely needed. This new awakening must move our minds to think Christianly. We have lost our way and Barna’s first point underscores this when he says we have a church that is biblically illiterate. And this awakening must reveal to us that Christ has called us to unity in our relationships with one another. The walls we erected must come down if we are to complete the mission Christ gave to us nearly 2,000 years ago. Our present stance is one of disobedience and a true awakening will correct this radically in my view.