08 June 2010


In an article, summarizing survey research done on "busters", published in 2008, The Barna Group reveals how they classify the terms "Evangelical" and/or "born again". In the next few days I will write more about the article but for now here is the classification:

"Evangelicals" are born again Christians. In the survey, people qualified as evangelicals if they met the born again criteria (i.e., said they had have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior) plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their religious faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as "evangelical."

When and where I grew up, these were the only people who were "real Christians" and were "saved" assuming of course they spoke in tongues and operated in the "gifts of the spirit". To be fair, the Barna Group isn't quite making that claim, and of course they do have to classify people of all sorts to do proper surveys, but plenty have and will make that same leap. In a viewing the documentary Jesus Camp last week, I heard that real Christians raise their hands and sing loud in church and that God likes that best. But the people who sit and sing quietly aren't on God's good list.

Regardless of your faith affiliation, or lack there-of, don't we all realize that there are plenty of well thought out, valid, and sometimes reasoned, points of view with every faith/spirituality/worldview category? Do most Christians really fall into these classifications?

Lastly, notice that following Jesus' example, "The Way" as early Christians called it, isn't even one of the classifications. Odd? This to me is actually the only outright troubling thing about the classification as used by The Barna Group. Perhaps, sadly, this isn't a requirement to be in the "Evangelical" camp but you'd think to be a "Christian" defined as "Christ follower" you would need to actually follow. 

All who make the Christian / follower of Jesus claim could learn a bit from this omission, wouldn't you agree?

Cartoon from Naked Pastor.


Skip Spangler said...

I think I'll rant a bit: I stopped putting stock in George Barna long ago. I mean who this guy that I should even listen? He's not a bishop. He isn't even a pastor. He's a poll taker and information organizer!

When he lamented clergy for their failure to CEO a church, clergy started trading in their shepherd's crooks for management books And now that he takes it upon himself to list the seven defining characteristics of an Evangelical, how long will it be before we see them listed in a Evangelical credo of faithfulness?

Perhaps, our fascination with George Barna says nothing about him, and everything about ourselves.

So in the end, Chris, what you said. We all need to get along to talking about what it means to follow Christ on the way of fishing for souls. That would make James and John, Simon and his brother the first four of many "Evangelicals" to come.

laurenslesser said...

I see your point, Chris, however, I don't know that you could use the act of following Jesus as criteria for a survey. By that, I mean, each of us may interpret what it means to follow Jesus in our own way. Many terrible things have been done in the name of Christ, by otherwise well-meaning people. It seems that people are capable of almost anything when they feel they can justify it somehow through the Bible (or their interpretation, thereof).
I suppose you could classify evangelicals by whether or not they believe they are following Christ, but then, I doubt many would admit it if they weren't.
I do believe I see your point though. We should not be so concerned with the so-called "formula" for salvation, but rather the spirit of love and compassion. If we were more concerned about these traits of Christ's example, we might not get so caught-up in the particulars of religious classifications.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

@laurenslesser - Yeah, it would be tough to qualify people based on their actual actions so we couldn't reasonably expect that. However I meant to comment more on the fact that even the supposed actions of the supposed Christ-followers being called "Evangelicals" or "Born Again" weren't factors in being a part of any of those categories. So it begs the question, is Barna accurately speaking for "Evangelicals" when they leave the action/following out or is it just a non-biased statement on how "Evagelicals" generally are?

I of course extended Barna's defintion to something like "true Christianity" because I know that many "Born Again"/"Evangelicals" think that way since I grew up in those categories and I wondered here if that was a good thing. I don't think it is which I think you agree with.

I applaud, and share in, your final conclusion and hope to one day actually follow through with it. :)

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