Barna Defines the Dilemma of Christianity in Digital Babylon

VENTURA, CA – The Barna Group published a book by David Kinnaman in 2011 entitled You Lost Me. Kinnaman identified three trends that the expanding growth of a digital culture might have on the Christian community: Access, Alienation, and Authority.

The question of the digital dilemma is not whether digital technologies are either good or bad. Rather, it is how individuals use those technologies.

In October 2019, Barna described Christianity in America as an “accelerated, complex culture that’s marked by unlimited access, profound alienation, and a crisis of authority.”

The “digital Babylon” described by Barna is comprised of a mix of prodigals, nomads, habitual churchgoers, and resilient disciples among whom “church dropout rates had escalated from 59 percent to 64 percent since 2011.”

Kinnaman co-authored a 2019 book, Faith for Exiles, in which he noted that “typical young churchgoers” spend 10 times more of their days exploring cultural content than they do on spiritual intake.

“The number of hours connected, learning, and being discipled in a close-knit church community is now a drop of water in the ocean of content pouring out of their screens.”

Leading up to its April 28 release of the “State of the Church 2020,” Barna published an article on March 12 that encapsulated some of the concerns, misgivings, and hope that believers should be prepared to acknowledge.

Addressing only what Barna describes as practicing Christians (those who identify as Christian, agree “strongly” that faith is very important in their lives, and have attended church within the past month), the article reveals that, of the practicing Christians surveyed,

  • Half of those who engage with faith-related resources say that, at least occasionally, they “rely on Christian resources such as these instead of attending a church.”
  • Only 36 percent carry and use a physical Bible during worship services.
  • 10 percent use digital devices to fact check the sermon during church services.
  • Seven percent use their digital devices during church services to browse texts, emails, and social media.
  • 34% of Millennials often replace church attendance with some other form of Christian content.

It is a bit disturbing that the analysis contained in the article found it encouraging that half of Millennials “are still finding time to gather with a larger body of believers at least once a month.”

As with most transitions faced by Christians and their local churches, the question of the digital dilemma is not whether digital technologies are either good or bad. Rather, it is how individuals use those technologies.

Frequency of church attendance and participation in corporate worship are personal choices. However, aside from disabilities, the consistency of a person’s decisions usually reflects their relationship, not with the church per se, but with the Lord.

In light of the Barna article, we should consider if we love the Lord with just a part or all of our hearts.

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