“When Barna becomes more important than the Bible” by D.A. Carson

“At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how ‘vision’ consists in clearly articulated ‘ministry goals,’ how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitutes the key to successful outreach. I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies.

But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without enjoying these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel.

Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements–but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning. Again, I insist, my position is not a thinly veiled plea for obscurantism, for seat-of-the-pants ministry that plans nothing.

Rather, I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.”

–D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 26. [HT: JT]

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Filed under Christian Theology, Church Planting, D.A. Carson, Quotable Quotes, The Church, The Gospel

4 responses to ““When Barna becomes more important than the Bible” by D.A. Carson

  1. Thanks for this post I have recently posted several installments related to R. Kent Hughes, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. If you have not read this book I highly recommend. For insights on the contents please visit my site.

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  2. Do what Jesus did – seek the ones who are likely to recognize their need of a Savior – not the sleek and satisfied!

  3. Pingback: Success vs. Obedience

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