by George Barna
Barna Research Group LTD
Reviewed by Benjamin C. Maxson, Director, General Conference Stewardship
George Barna is well known for his sociological study and analysis of the North American church. This work challenges us to reevaluate our definition of success and is a good follow-up to his 1999 book, The Second Coming of the Church. Noting little difference between the lifestyle of the Christian and that of the world, the author invites us to return to the biblical objective of discipleship.
Barna defines discipleship as becoming a complete and competent follower of Jesus Christ. He continues with an extensive exploration of discipleship, its elements and its importance.
After defining and exploring discipleship, Barna then describes the state of discipleship in the contemporary church. Using the results of detailed surveys, the author reveals the lack of spiritual growth and maturity in the average Christian and the church. He then goes on to explore a number of churches that have effective discipleship strategies. From these studies he identifies key factors that need to be included in such strategies.
Barna ends, describing five models for discipleship. He analyzes the pros and cons of each model and closes with an invitation to return to the biblical priority of making disciples. The author calls the contemporary church back to the integrity of its mission—making disciples. Barna concludes: True discipleship must be a priority within the Church. In fact, without a heavy emphasis upon discipleship, there is no church.
Barna’s challenge is real and powerful. The church cannot survive by being further assimilated into the post-modern culture. It is time for us to be the church—believers radically committed to Jesus Christ and His kingdom. It is time to return to our mission—making disciples—people growing in their walk with God. Disciples become a counter-culture within a world that has lost its focus and a church that has lost its power.