In november of last year George Barna came home disheartened. He had been on the road for most of 2001, giving all-day seminars in 54 cities to pastors and church leaders. Barna, who is 47 and has large, soulful eyes, is to evangelicals what George Gallup is to the larger culture. Pastors frequently cite his statistical findings in sermons, and his many books about church ministry sell consistently. For the past six years he has been keeping a fierce pace, spending more than half his time away from home (he always travels with his wife and two small children). He is an intensely introverted personality who dislikes public speaking. Something apart from road weariness discouraged him, however.
"Increasingly the question was emerging: I can keep doing all this, and probably make a living for a long time, but so what? Ultimately I stand before a holy and righteous God who placed me here to serve him with the gifts and vision that he entrusted to me. He's going to ask, 'What did you do?' . …I can't imagine standing before him and saying, 'Well, I sold out. I knew that what I was doing didn't work, but it would have been too big, too hard to do something different. I didn't want to admit that what I thought might work had failed.' " An expert pollster and market researcher, Barna prides himself on realism. Sometimes he angers people with his apparent pessimism, but the truth must be faced, he believes. God had called Barna "to serve as a catalyst for moral and spiritual revolution in America." He had hoped to push church leaders to revitalize the church, to make it as beautiful and powerful as God meant it to be. His ten-year campaign had failed.
"The strategy was flawed because it had an assumption. The assumption was that the ...1