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2009 Conversations

2008 Conversations

2007 Conversations

2006 Conversations

2005 Conversations

Benji creator Joe Camp: Moral movies, personal cost (12/26/04)

Gloria Gaither: A Gaither family Christmas(12/19/04)

Allyson Feliz: Olympic medalist  shares passion for following Christ (12/12/04)

Dan Dean: Walking by faith (11/28/04)

J. Don George: Every church can touch the poor (11/21/04)

Brock Gill: Jesus is no illusion (11/14/04)

Ted Dekker: Good, evil and the battle for souls (10/31/04)

Bob Kilpatrick: CCM: Growing and changing (10/17/04)

Eugene H. Peterson: Man with a message (10/10/04)

Caz McCaslin: Fixing kids sports (9/26/04)

Jerry B. Jenkins: A novel approach to evangelism (9/19/04)

Natalie Grant: Living the dream (9/12/04)

Sharon Ellard: A life-changing education (8/29/04)

Steven Curtis Chapman: All things new (8/22/04)

Jim Ryun: Running to Jesus (8/15/04)

George Barna: Today’s church: By the numbers (8/8/04)

Randy Singer: Made to count (7/25/04)

Holly McClure: Morality and the media (7/18/04)

Don Miller and Richard Flory:Taking the Church to today's culture (7/11/04)

Cecil Richardson: Pastoring the Air Force’s 'Pastors' (6/27/04)

Barry Meguiar: Driven by faith (6/20/04)

Thomas E. Trask: Concerned for America (6/13/04)

Dr. David Yonggi Cho: The work of the Holy Spirit (5/30/04)

Tom Greene: High school: A great mission field (5/16/04)

Jennifer Rothschild: Walk by faith, not by sight (5/9/04)

Chaplain Alex Taylor: Forgiveness and restoration (4/25/04)

Joshua Harris: Not even a hint (4/18/04)

Nicky Cruz: Changing America (4/11/04)

Jason Schmidt: Lessons learned on life’s field (3/28/04)

Scott Temple: One church, many colors (3/21/04)

Michael W. Smith: Called to worship (3/14/04)

Representative Jo Ann Davis: Christians in politics (2/29/04)

Darlene Zschech: Sing, shout … just shout the praise the Lord (2/22/04)

Surgeon James W Long: For your heart’s sake, get fit (2/15/04)

Jerry R. Kirk: Battling pornography (2/8/04)

Dr Michael Ferris: A choice to heal (1/18/04)

Chaplain Al Worthley: Outside the four walls of the church (1/11/04)

2003 Conversations

2002 Conversations

2001 Conversations

Today’s Church: By the numbers

George Barna is founder and directing leader of The Barna Group, a marketing research company in Ventura, Calif. The Barna Group, founded in 1984, conducts primary research to help churches and ministries carry out their vision by providing information and analysis regarding the intersection of faith and culture. Barna spoke recently with Staff Writer Isaac Olivarez about The Barna Group and today’s church in the United States.

PE: What is the spiritual atmosphere of the United States right now?

BARNA: People are interested in spirituality but they’re not necessarily interested in changing their life to conform to any kind of spiritual norms or principles. It’s an interesting time because many Americans feel as if they really are the ones who dictate what happens in their life, as if they’re in control and God is not. When you compare what they claim they believe with how they behave, how they live and how they act, it becomes pretty clear that there’s a gap between those. We’re still living in a culture where there’s some social desirability to describing oneself as spiritual or perhaps even as Christian. But in terms of being willing to make the sacrifices Christ calls us to make and to be willing to commit ourselves to living in ways that reflect His holiness and His righteousness, that’s a whole different issue.

PE: What are Christians most concerned about right now?

BARNA: The same issues that are of great concern to the typical person in America would be true for the average born-again Christian. Major issues right now would be the war on terrorism, the economy, jobs and things of that nature.

PE: What do you feel is the biggest threat to the church’s health as a whole?

BARNA: One is the lack of gifted and called leadership. The second is the absence of a commitment to developing and living in harmony with a biblical worldview. Only 9 percent of all born-again adults have a biblical worldview. A third element has to do with our consistent lack of focus or emphasis upon the importance of ministering to children in substantive and significant ways. A fourth one has to do with our resistance to new models or formats of how the church can be the Church in this culture.

PE: In terms of evangelism, how would you describe most believers?

BARNA: Willing to let Billy Graham do the job for them.

PE: Is there anything that leadership at local churches can do to change that?

BARNA: There’s very little that can’t change if you have appropriate leadership and a meaningful and viable strategy or plan for bringing about that change. All of that of course must be drenched in prayer and driven by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If we’re just trying to make programs and events work on our own power and for our own purposes, it may or may not work, but who cares? If we’re really determined to hear the voice of God and to commit ourselves to doing what He leads us to do, then yes, there’s a lot that can change. But we really have to be focused, not on building programs and ministry programs and attendance figures. We have to be committed to doing what God has called us to do.

We’ve got some really committed Christians throughout the country, but most of the people who are sitting in churches or small groups or Sunday School classes are just going through the motions. Their Christian faith is about fourth or fifth on their list of priorities in their life. So they squeeze God and biblical principles in when they remember or when they can or when it’s comfortable or when they have no choice. But apart from that, their faith really is not the driving factor in their life. And that’s such a critical element that has to change if we’re really going to become God’s people.

PE: What are some things you see that believers are doing well?

BARNA: We’re really good at raising money for buildings. We are actually pretty good at soliciting volunteers for different tasks within churches. We are blessed right now with a lot of kids consistently coming to church. There’s a myriad of opportunities that come out of that. We’ve become pretty adept at selling Christian products to people in the Christian community whether it’s books or Bibles or videos or whatever the product might be. The quality of worship music has improved greatly in the past two decades. And churches have some of the best communicators in the country articulating God’s Word and principles.

PE: Why did you see a need to start The Barna Group?

BARNA: It was really a call from God. I had been working in the market-research industry for a while. I had the opportunity to start to work with some clients who were in Christian ministries and that got me excited about using information for the church at large. After working with a number of those clients, I felt the Lord was calling us to start a company that would focus on trying to provide current, accurate and reliable information at reasonable costs and in bite-sized pieces so that ministries could make strategic decisions. God has been incredibly faithful to us over the 20 years we’ve been trying to do this.

PE: How did it begin?

BARNA: It was, from a business point of view, incredibly stupid because we went into it with no money, no clients and no equipment — just a vision from the Lord. And like I say, He has been very true to His Word to me. Our first month in business, out of the blue we got a call from Disney, from the woman who had just become their new vice president of research. It was a woman I had worked with previously in a secular market research firm. She said, “George, I heard on the grapevine you’ve just started your own firm. I don’t know what you’re up to, but would you like to work for Disney?” The thought had never occurred to me because that wasn’t our focus. She said, “Well, truth of the matter is I just finished interviewing and studying all the different research suppliers we use here and one thing that I’ve discovered about all these firms is that I can’t trust any of them. And the one thing I know about you is I can trust you.” The irony of our whole existence as a ministry is that Disney, of all places, essentially funded our ministry for the first seven years we were in business.

PE: If you’re not doing interviews, researching or nurturing your business, what are you doing for fun?

BARNA: Playing with my kids. I have daughters who are 10 and 13. We play basketball, we watch movies and we play board games. We love to go to the beach. We read books. We listen to music together and study the Bible together. My time with them is what’s the most fun.

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