Barna’s Recent Research on the American Church

What Are We Missing?

Jon Tyson is pastor of Trinity Grace Church in New York City. In his book, Sacred Roots, he wrestles with recent statistics about our church and compares us with the early church. He hopes we catch a vision of what we should—and can—be. Here is a Reader’s Digest summary of his thoughts.

In contrast to the early church, modern Christians are richer in resources than any church in history. We can get multiple Bible translations on the internet or at the Dollar Store. We have instant access to the best preaching and teaching on TV, radio and online. Christian programs, music, and sophisticated Bible software are at our finger tips through electronic gadgetry. Conferences exist on church growth, leadership and even one for those who don’t attend church anymore.

Despite all this, according to the Barna Research Group, the church has steadily lost ground in the last decade. Over the last six months, more than half of all millennials have not attended any church; six out of ten have dropped out of church altogether and the rate has increased over the last decade. Are Jesus’ words to the church at Laodicea applicable to us? ”You say, ‘I am rich and well off; I have all I need.’ But you don’t know how pathetic and pitiful you are! You are poor, naked, and blind.” [Rev 3:17]

How different was the early church movement! These believer were poor in resources, but rich in results. They captured the attention and imagination of the Roman Empire. In a few hundred years they not only had dethroned the old pagan gods, but had slavery and cruel arena games on the run.

Christ’s followers were maligned, persecuted and died for their faith They had few, if any trained clergy, church buildings, Bible schools, seminaries and no media. Without printing presses, Bibles or testaments were rarely available, since manuscripts were tedious to copy and expensive…

How did they manage it? They studied scriptures when they could, but more importantly, they lived them, especially the one command Jesus gave them to love one another. But how does this help us make an impact on our world today? The answer lies in the specific promise Christ made to believers who obey His love command, a dimension largely missing in our modern churches. “Love one another as I have loved you that the world will recognize you as my disciples.”(John 13: 34,35 Our translation)

We could go a long way to accomplish this by praying, as Jesus did, “may they be one, ….let them be one so the world may believe…may they be brought to full unity. Then the world will know that you sent me. “[John 17 Our translation] Notice, our Lord repeated this request three times. It must be very, very important.

Please share your thoughts about what we are missing in our modern American churches.