Many things come to my mailbox, desk and computer every day concerning “religion,” a word I don’t really like very much. Because I have written in this realm for many years, I suppose my name is on a lot of mailing lists, and some still rely on the U.S. Postal Services to deliver their goodies to my door. Some are interesting while others are dumb. Much of it goes to File No. 13 after I have scanned through each piece, but some of it garners a second read and goes to one of the incoming boxes on my desk. Such an article came on a Saturday, and I read it on Sunday afternoon. I found it interesting and did a bit of research on the writer of the article and the firm he mentioned in his writing.
His claim is that many good people are leaving the organized local church as we have known it for decades. He said, “Some leave ‘church’ because they don’t want Jesus and some leave because they can’t find Jesus. But the most surprising trend I’ve noted is that a growing number of long time believers are quite simply following Jesus out of the conventional church. It is a worldwide phenomenon that has been characterized as a ‘Divine Dillusionment,’” writes Thom S. Ranier in the Christian Post.
Ranier quotes George Barna, founder of the Barna Research Group, now simply called The Barna Group. Barna founded the research group in 1984 and has helped it become the nation’s leading marketing research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture. The company has served several hundred ministries throughout the country. It has also supplied research to numerous corporations and nonprofit organizations, as well as the U.S. Navy and Army.“The most carefully watched church-related statistic is adult attendance,” wrote Barna. “Since 1991, attendance has receded by 9 percentage points, dropping from 49 percent in 1991 to 40 percent in 2011.” Barna, who has authored 48 books, went on to write, “This ‘leaving’ is happening everywhere. A choreographed world event is taking place. For decades, church attendance has been in steady decline and has been the topic of much discussion. In 2005, I began to search for this group of ‘leaving believers’ to discover who and what they were about.” In his book “Revolution,” he describes this group as, “the most passionate group of Christians he had ever encountered.”
“These are people who are less interested in attending church than in ‘being the church,’ Barna wrote. “We have found that there is a significant distinction in the minds of many people between the local church (with a small “c”) and the universal Church (with a capital “C”). Revolutionaries tend to be more focused on being the Church, (with a capital “C”), whether they participate in a congregational church or not.”
Barna said that the common misconception about these revolutionaries is that they are disengaging from God when they leave a local church. “We found that while some people leave the local church and fall away from God altogether, there is a much larger segment of Americans who are currently leaving old, established churches precisely because they want more of God in their life, but cannot get what they need from their local church. They have decided to get serious about their faith by piecing together a more robust faith experience. Instead of going to church, they have chosen to be the Church, in a way that harkens back to the Church detailed in the Book of Acts in Scripture.”
I interviewed a very nice lady who has a small group or house church meeting in her home weekly. She said very sincerely, “I gave my life to doing the work of the Lord. I was involved in ministry. I met myself coming back from serving on this committee, leading that group, delivering things, visiting, giving, and one day, I sat down and thought for myself, ‘Am I truly serving God or am I caught up in ministry?’” She said she basically asked for and received a leave of absence from her many duties at her long time and well loved local church. She reported that had spent the time truly getting to know the Lord again and His great love for her and for all mankind. “I am so much more energized, eager to serve Him, ready to witness, and I am giving, but in a different way,” she explained. “If I see a need, or hear of someone I can help, I am there and I follow my heart.”
I’d be interested to know if any of our readers meet in small groups or home churches. Take the time to send me a quick e-mail and share your findings in this matter and let us know if the new trend we are reading about has been a blessing or a hindrance to you. Thank you for the interest.
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.