Thursday, November 03, 2005


An embarrassing slew of email correspondence from then-FEMA director Michael Brown to and from his various deputies has come into public view as a result of a congressional investigation into the federal response to hurricane Katrina. In one of them his press secretary admonishes him to look appropriate when he is on camera: “Please roll up the sleeves of your shirts. Even the President rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow. In this [crisis] and on TV you just need to look more hard-working.”

Listen, I know this is the job of a press secretary; it goes with the territory. So hold that thought and let’s skip over to something else I read recently, a press release for George Barna’s newest book, Revolution, which describes what he believes will be “the most massive reshaping of the nation’s faith community in more than a century.” (No one ever accused Barna of being less than dramatic).

Relying on national research conducted over the past several years, he identifies and profiles a group of more than 20 million adults in America whom he labels “revolutionaries.” Barna notes that measures of traditional church participation in activities such as worship attendance, Sunday school, prayer, and Bible reading have remained relatively unchanged during the past twenty years, but the number of “revolutionaries” is growing rapidly. To wit:

“These are people who are less interested in attending church than in being the 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 churches precisely because they want more of God but can’t get what they need from a local church. They have decided to get serious about their faith by piecing together a more robust faith experience. Millions of Revolutionaries are active in a local church, although most of them supplement that relationship with participation in a variety of faith-related efforts that have nothing to do with their local church. [They know] that their spiritual depth is not the responsibility of a local church; it is their own responsibility. As a result, they decide to either get into a local church that enhances their zeal for God or else they create alternatives that ignite such a life of obedience and service.”

I am sobered to read this because, after all, I am a leader in the very institutional church which apparently often fails to “enhance zeal for God” among eager Christ-followers. But I am excited because, let’s face it, Christians in America have often settled for “going to church” instead of “being the church” and this is a helpful reminder that the two are far different. Or to put it another way, Christ-followers are called to roll up our sleeves to join God’s kingdom labor, not merely to look like we are. And I truly believe most Christians want to do the former while their leaders (including, alas, me) too often only call them to the latter. Here’s to going beyond photo-op faith. (Matt Soper, 11/06/05).


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