The purple-tinted cover doesn't appeal to me, and the title (The Habits of Highly Effective Churches) is offputting, with its echo of bestsellerdom, but no doubt they were market-tested, and who am I to argue with the research? "What Separates Good Churches from Great Ones?" the flap copy asks, and the answer is promptly supplied:

Real truth is always worth digging for—and usually eludes conventional wisdom and superficial statistics. That's why George Barna is a bottom-line asset for your church.
More members aren't the answer. Nor are more programs or a burgeoning bank balance. Backed by rock-solid, leading-edge research, Barna shows you how highly effective churches get that way—the principles and practices they share in common that set them apart.

Much of what follows is right, and sensible. "Demand accountability." Yes. "Engage in strategic evangelism." Yes again. "Serve the needy people in the community." Emphatically, yes. That's 100 percent Real Truth.

Still, some readers—most readers, in fact—will be looking for more details, more specifics, backed by that "rock-solid, leading-edge research." I mean, you don't need the BRG (the Barna Research Group, that is) to tell you to tie your shoes.

Barna knows this, of course, and he fleshes out those Really True principles with a load of BRG findings. We have discovered … I found … Our research shows … But even among readers who are entirely sympathetic with Barna's goals—as I am—there will be at least a few impertinent enough to cock a skeptical brow at the Oracle.

Consider, for example, the chapter on "Facilitating Genuine Worship." What does the Oracle tell us? "During the course of a worship service, most churches use music." Hmmm. ...

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