Tonight is was an indictment against the cultural manifestation the the Bride of Christ as unbiblical in execution.
I can acknowledge the positives. There was constructive criticism about how The Church as an institution has assimilated traditions not found in scripture. I can also acknowledge that The Church has modified considerably since the first century believers first began to assemble.
But grace for the authors ends there. Barna is one of the most widely known sources of statistics comparing the behaviors and attitudes of secular society to those same behaviors and attitudes among "churchgoers."
First, I always take issue with those stats for one reason. Being a churchgoer neither requires nor indicates being an actual follower of Christ. Now I think Barna may have been trying to show The Church as a body that the people partipating in the programs, services, and small groups aren't rally changing. Or not enough to measure. And in many ways I can see this.
Second is methodology and interpretation of results. Instead of comparing churchgoers to unchurched I would compare those who Believe ...
[there is a God, only one God, who created all, is 3 in 1, loves all people enough send His Son Jesus as the only way to reconcile man to himself]
to everyone else.
Make that question one. Filter number one. Because the same people he includes in the churchgoer statistics are divorcing, cheating on their spouses, addicted to porn or prescription drugs, think all ways lead to God/Heaven, believe in Evolution, and have abortions. Just like the unchurched. Weed them out of the churched population and you get a whole different CORE of behavior and attitudes that all hinge on who God is and what His Son did and continues to do through his life, death, and resurrection.
3. The book actually takes traditions that do have roots in other traditions, or seem to, and says definitively that every wrong tradition came the Greco-Roman Empire and from her temples and pantheistic worship practices. They actually sort of re-write history and ignore the pre-existing influences of Israel's psalmistic praise, the Tabernacle itself , and Temple Worship. practices. The few times they acknowledge these sources as potential rivals for Greco-Roman influence they immediately dismiss them as part of the Law from which Christ freed New Testament believers.
4. What they offer instead is the small house church model with minimal central leadership. Leadership roles are acknowledged (pastor, teacher, deacon, etc) but with an emphasis on shared responsibility, authority, and input, by all members of the "congregation/church". Anyone can sing, or share a teaching. No one is paid to facilitate. No one person is even "the leader". The authors insist that only this model is representative of how the first century believers worshipped.
5. They do make the following token concession...don't change...IF your model for "church" actually transforms lives and is consistently spontaneous and allows all members to contribute instead of enabling them as pew-sitters. However they are clear in their analysis that no large, building/service/programs oriented model currently in existence really works or allows those things.
Pagan Christianity offers a sobering indictment of the Bride of Christ and her failure to transform as many lives as she ought. However the propaganda overpowers the wisdom leaving a crticizing anti-building and anti-organized manifesto.