God's Divine Glory Returns
George Barna is a Christian evangelical pollster who has researched the church for decades, beginning in the mid-1980's with such best-selling books as The Frog in the Kettle (1990) that looked ahead to the possibilities for the church in the year 2000. His research was designed to help local congregations stay relevant and reach out to new generations with the gospel.
In 2005, Barna, his wife, and his two children left their congregation to create a house church with three other families. "We hated church but wanted more of God," he says. "It is probably the most intimate form of Christian community I have ever experienced in my 26 years as a Christian," he told a reporter. "It has brought my family together as a spiritual unit. It has been the best thing that has ever happened to my kids' spirituality."1
Nevertheless, Barna continues to offer a positive voice of encouragement to churches throughout the world through his many writings, blogs, and speaking engagements. (He sold his research firm in 2009.) A recent Barna Group survey noted that many Christians are still finding worship in churches to be relevant and helpful, although members under the age of 30 found this to be the case about 50 percent of the time. David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, commented on the findings. "This research points to both good news and causes for concern. On the positive side, many churchgoers receive a diverse and rich set of inputs by being involved in a church or parish, most notably connecting with God and others. Yet, the research results are also a reminder that faith leaders cannot take these things for granted. Millions of active participants find their church experiences to be lacking."2
For centuries the Jewish faith found its identity through the holy priesthood and Temple worship. Rather than move away from Jerusalem after Babylonian forces had destroyed the Temple, Ezekiel had a vision from God that would guide the Judahites in rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem when the exiles returned home. "Write them down in their sight so that they may observe all of its entire plan and all its regulations and perform them" (Ezekiel 43:11).
After the Temple was destroyed for the second time by Rome in a.d. 70, it would never be rebuilt again. Where would the people find God?
1. Many older Christians connect their faith in Jesus Christ to particular buildings and sanctuaries filled with stained glass and religious symbolism. Other Christians worship in theaters and worship centers that are intentionally unadorned with the trappings of holiness. What difference does architecture make in your experience of the holy?
2. Barna speaks of wanting "more of God" for his family and found that possibility through the more intimate setting of a house church. Do you prefer to worship with a large group of persons or find smaller gatherings to be more meaningful? The Bible is filled with positive examples of both sizes, from thousands (Acts 2:41) to less than a handful (Matthew 18:20).
3. Where do you connect with Gods presence in daily life? Do you see God in nature? in the city? in the faces of people? in solitude? In what ways are your experiences of God public or private?
Reverend Bruce Batchelor-Glader is the pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Port Clinton, Ohio.
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