Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Journey to Wholeness - George Barna

Last month I was privileged to attend conversations on the topic of holiness at the pastors' day hosted by the "Wesleyan Holiness Consortium".  The two primary speakers were George Barna, and Mark Van Valin.  Today's post will focus on the message from Barna.

He was speaking on the topic of "How to partner with God more effectively toward genuinely transformed lives."  Toward lives that naturally bring about the virtues of faith, hope, and love...and yield the 9-fold fruit of the Spirit.  Statistically speaking (which is Barna's forte), we currently have some very unhealthy churches.

Barna gave us the important reminder, that no matter gifted we are...no matter how well prepared the sermon is, and no matter how tight/seamless the service goes....WE cannot transform lives.  We need the Spirit of God to move in New ways.

He talked to us about his current research journey, that will be released as a new book, focusing on the "Journey" most believers (or communities of believers) experience.  He found 10 primary stages, or "stops" on that journey:

1. Ignorance (of sin)
2. Indifference (skeptics, etc.)
3. Concern (so what do I do about this?)
4. Ask for initial forgiveness. (often "fire insurance" type decision)
5. Involved (developmental, service, "what's next" questions begin to be asked)
6. Spiritual Discontent (been involved a while, but realize the change is outward, wanting more)
7. Recognize the need to be broken (by sinful nature - need for God's work)
8. Healing (once we've surrendered to God, restoration & growth can come)
9. Love (from and for God)
10. LOVE (for others - a very distinct step apart from #9)

Some important notes on the above:
 - These are not always sequential...especially the first 5.
 - Most people stay within the first 5 stops.
 - #6 is often the place where people want to "change environment" (go church shopping), but retain the issue at heart.  Often seen in young adults who are used to age-segregated "youth group" mentality consumer-driven church experiences...and now find themselves without a section on the menu for them specifically.
 - #7 is crucial, and often missed.  Majority of believers say they accepted Christ without brokenness.  The consumer-driven (avoid hell, or gain better life) models of salvation miss out on what Jesus is up to!

Barna then gave 4 important "next steps" for us as churches/ministries:
1. Recognize that EVERYONE is on this journey somewhere.  Where are you?
2. Reflect on what "transformational ministry" means?  We are reminded the "endgame" is NOT "heaven".
3. We need to invest more church resources in steps 1-4 than we do currently.
4. We are called to be vulnerable in realizing these things.  To partner together, and find fellowship with others seeking a better understanding as well.

May we find ourselves on the journey, and locate those we love as well....as we seek the Wholeness that Jesus Christ is offering even now...

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