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Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ (Barna Reports) [Hardcover]

By George Barna (Author)
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Item description for Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ (Barna Reports) by George Barna...

In this book, renowned researcher George Barna helps Christian leaders assess how their churches are doing in their commission to make disciples, and reveals models and examples that will encourage and equip churches to dramatically increase their effectiveness. Pastors, pastoral staff, lay leaders, seminary professors, missionaries, and parachurch leaders will all benefit from Barna's expert assessment of what churches are doing, what's working and what's not, and how we can all do better. As a result, churches will begin to see more involved members who want to live out their faith in submission to God and joyfully share their resources with others to fulfill Christ's commission.

Publishers Description
Christ's command to the church is clear: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations..." It is in building disciples--helping others to embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, mature in him, and then lead others to do the same--that the Kingdom grows. And when the Kingdom grows, churches do, too.
In "Growing True Disciples, " respected author and researcher George Barna helps pastors and leaders assess how their churches are doing in fulfilling their role as disciplemakers. And he reveals models and examples that will equip churches to dramatically increase their effectiveness. As a result, your church can begin to see more involved members who want to live out their faith in submission to God, and joyfully share their resources to fulfill Christ's commission.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: WaterBrook Press
Pages   186
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.57" Width: 5.81" Height: 0.87"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 16, 2001
Publisher   WaterBrook Press
ISBN  1578564239  
ISBN13  9781578564231  

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More About George Barna

George Barna A native New Yorker, George Barna has filled executive roles in politics, marketing, advertising, media, research and ministry. He founded the Barna Research Group (now The Barna Group) in 1984 and helped it become the nation’s leading marketing research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture. The company has served several hundred parachurch ministries and thousands of Christian churches throughout the country. It has also supplied research to numerous corporations and non-profit organizations, as well as to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army.

To date, Barna has written 48 books, mostly addressing leadership, trends, church health and spiritual development. They include best-sellers such as Revolution, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, The Frog in the Kettle, and The Power of Vision. His most recent book is Revolutionary Parenting. Several of his books have received national awards. He has had more than 100 articles published in periodicals and writes a bi-weekly research report (The Barna Update) accessed by more than a million people each year, through his firm’s website ( His work is frequently cited as an authoritative source by the media. He has been hailed as "the most quoted person in the Christian Church today" and has been named by various media as one of the nation’s most influential Christian leaders.

He is a popular speaker at ministry conferences around the world and has taught at Pepperdine and Biola Universities and several seminaries. Barna served as a pastor of a large, multi-ethnic church and has been involved in several church start-ups.

After graduating summa cum laude from Boston College, Barna earned two Master's degrees from Rutgers University. At Rutgers, he was awarded the Eagleton Fellowship. He also received a doctorate from Dallas Baptist University. He lives with his wife (Nancy) and their three daughters (Samantha, Corban, Christine) in southern California. He enjoys reading novels, watching movies, playing guitar, and relaxing on the beach.

George Barna currently resides in Glendale Oxnard, in the state of California.

George Barna has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Barna Reports for Highly Effective Churches
  2. Leading Edge

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Discipleship
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Ministry

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Reviews - What do customers think about Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ (Barna Reports)?

Generally Helpful; Statistics Driven; Answers Criticisms  Dec 18, 2008
I thought Barna's book, entitled Growing True Disciples; was generally helpful. When I questioned areas of the book, the author immediately answered my questions to some satisfaction. He even answered critiques that he apparently had already anticipated. The first area that I questioned was the statement, "If we hope to make a significant difference in the lives of individuals and in the nation's culture, then we must improve our intentionality, our intensity, and our strategies." The author then continues within a few sentences: "The things that got us to where we are today will not get us to where we need to be tomorrow." After reading those two thoughts, I immediately thought: "What is the difference between our improvement and intentionality today or tomorrow?" In other words, we may always try and improve and we may always have the best of intentions; but that does not change much of anything. If I were to think personally about this, it would be like me saying "I really intend to do something good!" or "I really am trying to improve!" The problem with these exclamations is that they do not accomplish anything. Now later in the book, Barna mentions being intentional in leadership by making goals and priorities; which I think is more helpful when it comes to intentions. I also thought that when the author used the phrase `we must improve' that it sounded as though he was arguing for the same thing, just that it should somehow be better this time around. I guess my biggest problem that I had digesting what Barna wrote early in his book was the quantification of spiritual progress. When I was Pastor at a church start, I was turned off by the fact that I had to document baptisms, attendance, offering amounts, and other items to receive financial help because along with the help came strong suggestions about actions that had to happen for support to continue. For instance, the church sign had to have Baptist in the name. Although the church had signed and subscribed to the same statement of faith; the church sign was important to somebody, even though the members had chosen the name Prairie Bible Fellowship. It is difficult to acknowledge that numbers are sometimes important because sometimes they lead to a poor focus. I may have plenty of baptisms, a good percentage of offerings, and good attendance numbers; but to me, it may not have any spiritual substance to it at all. Barna says, "Doing more of the same and doing it better won't get you there either." But then again, he uses the words; `new', `climb', and `higher plane' to describe strategies and tactics to be more effective; which again seems to indicate that we simply need to work harder at discipleship. Much of what I have been studying about discipleship implies the exact opposite of more work. In fact, I prefer Richard Foster's book entitled Celebration of Discipline because it implies that growth results more from a connotation of discipline instead of a connotation of work. Barna says, "The passion of Jesus' disciples was contagious. Without buildings, budgets, programs, curricula, or mass media, they built the foundations for what has become the world's most prolific faith group;" for which I agree, but what he fails to recognize is that the disciples' also did it without the somewhat confusing statistical hodge-podge that he offers. His statement also re-enforces my idea that it was never about numbers; but about spiritual growth that results in discipline.


The first set of statistics that "four out of five believers said that having a deep, personal commitment to the Christian faith is a top priority" sounded like toothpaste commercial. Later in the book, Barna writes, "that slightly more than four out of every ten adults who attend Protestant church services on a typical weekend are not born-again." My biggest question was how all of these statistics are structured. How does this last statistic relate to the prior one? Is the second an exception to the rest? Essentially, I had this feeling that Barna was long on all kinds of statistics; but short on practical application. I am supposing that the conflict that I am thinking of here could be summarized in the reconciliation of Romans 12:1-2 with Matthew 28:18-20; or in short, a reconciliation of faith and works. I personally am under the impression that works should be the manifestation of faith or belief; therefore the concentration on numbers should only come in limited situations when there is need. I had a similar concern when Barna wrote, "it matters because we cannot influence the world unless we demonstrate faith-based transformation." To which I responded how uncertain I am about how demonstrations or appearances matter to the ultimate building of spirituality. I don't question how demonstrations may help; but only how they are absolutely necessary. In other words, I believe that God often works in men's hearts despite efforts by men to help or hurt.

Following Jesus

I already mentioned in a discussion board activity that Barna's illustration about sports teams made me wonder who I would root for even in defeat. In other words, when my sports team lost; I felt ashamed and just wanted to quit. Although I sometimes have difficulty spiritually, I never feel as though I am ashamed of Christ; nor do I feel as though I could ever walk away from Christ. In fact, I know that it is impossible to run away from Jesus. Barna says that the disciples "learned new principles constantly and were expected to apply those principles on demand." and "Being a follower of Jesus Christ was an all-consuming obsession." I was reminded of how my behavior changed dramatically when the Holy Spirit filled my heart with joy and was teaching me spiritual truth through the Bible; which was completely different than my earlier `supposed' Christian life. Although I knew a lot about what was in Scripture and I was highly involved in church work; there was something missing inside me. The many aspects of my spiritual life could not replace what ultimately happened when God simply worked in me to transform my life; which took more than simply saying a prayer for salvation. I really appreciated Barna saying, "All God wants to do is transform our hearts from focusing on self and the world to focusing exclusively on Him."

Who is the Question Addressed To?

Another issue that I had with Barna's statistics was that he identified many of the polled people as born-again; Christians; and believer's; yet notes their spiritual goals as "having good feelings about myself." How could Barna say that he is polling Christians when the answers that they give to his polls betray the fact that they are Christian? It sounds as if he has surveyed many who are not Christians at all; and certainly are not more specifically, born-again. There are certain aspects of Christianity that are necessary before one begins to talk about growth. Barna also wrote, "Christians possess a diversity of ideas regarding spiritual success; there is no mindless recitation of one simplistic notion of success embraced by the masses." He then compiled a list of the things that most people said; which consists of many works (some ideas closer to spiritual things). I almost wonder if there should be more of a simplistic notion among believers because many of the barriers that prevent spiritual maturity appear to be the same barriers that prevent works. When I speak of `works', I am speaking of things that people do that do not add to their salvation. Reading your Bible, although good for your spiritual maturity; does nothing for salvation. Barriers of being too busy, lacking motivation, emotional, or financial problems are all broken down when the Holy Spirit works in the heart of a truly born-again believer. The disciplines that Barna hopes to see manifested are all the result of God working in an individual's heart. I think that the intentional leadership that Barna mentions comes only after that primary transformation; whereas Barna seems to imply that he is seeking change from a larger sampling of people that have not experienced this change. I do have to agree wholeheartedly with Barna later when he says that we have missed something as Christians; in fact, it struck me personally. He writes, "For most of us, regardless of our intellectual assent to the importance of Christian growth, our passions lie elsewhere--and our schedule and energy follow those passions." Although, I have come a long way in my spiritual maturity there are areas of my life that always need work and sometimes those things are the hardest to deal with emotionally. It is literally painful to release control of something to God after one knows that it is affecting their life in an adverse way. And then there is the striking realization when one suddenly understands a spiritual truth that affects some area of a life that needs change; and that the change needs to be complete, all-or-nothing change. My point is this: "How could I gauge the spiritual growth of anyone on a man-made quantitative scale, when I cannot even gauge my own spiritual growth?" I consider myself a genuine Christian; but sometimes my actions do not show it. In fact, my prayer for days now has consistently been, "Lord, why do I continue to fail and do things that I pray that I do not want to do?"

Criticism of Barna

Barna addresses some of his criticism when he talks about possible reactions to his information in chapter five. He said that some deny the facts, feel discouraged; but the best way to understand it is as "strategic wisdom." I had two responses here: First, Pastors may have no objective measure; but are statistics really all that objective? And secondly, is this really a book about discipleship or the value of using statistics to understand the best methods to do some work? Aside from those two thoughts though, I was impressed by the phrase "with irrefutable evidence that God is at work in the lives of His people." Despite my objections to the use of statistics and the emphasis on work as opposed to a manifestation of growth in grace; a very good reason to concentrate on behavior is to influence other people to question what is different about the Christian's life. We certainly have given people the opportunity to learn a vast amount of head knowledge; but not re-enforced a corresponding behavioral change. Matthew indicates that we can know fellow Christians by their works; and James says that faith without works is dead; but we have relegated belief into a personal knowledge as opposed to what Barna calls a "complete transformation." I agree with him here and with the points that: "we have chosen to teach people in random rather than systematic ways;" that "there is virtually no accountability;" and that "we promote programs instead of people." Sometimes I am still processing what I learned in church the following week; but then I have to move onto something different (the program) before I am able to fully learn the lesson that was already taught. I sometimes find that God will give opportunities to learn a lesson after it is taught; but randomness in teaching seems to kill that idea. Accountability is a big issue for me because I do not have anybody to really talk to that understands what I am going through. My wife is one that should be able to help with some of that; but our relationship really needs a lot of work and I am embarrassed to share things that make me look weak. Sometimes I feel that fellow Christians should share these things openly; but then I think too that someone would really wonder why a Sunday School teacher or Pastor would really have any problem at all. Certainly, they are already spiritually mature, right?
Barna did write, "Reliance upon a community of loving and supportive but high-minded peers in Christ is necessary if we are to make true progress in our spiritual development." I agree, but then I also think; if I have the kind of faulty thinking as above, how could I ever be that `high-minded?'
Barna addresses further criticism when he was addressed as an "armchair theoretician." But in his response I was glad to see some real soul-searching and genuine reasons for writing the book. Although, there are places in the book that I questioned, he always seems to level the playing field by giving further needed information to make an informed decision. Although, some claim to be Christians, some may not truly be. Although, this particular method worked in this church, it did not work here. Barna weighs his words and opinions, and provides a generally helpful book that not only discusses being a disciple; but also methods for ensuring that disciples grow in an environment with other believers.
One of Barna's best  Feb 6, 2008
Barna uses his sociological research to demonstrate the relative absence of real disciple making in the evangelical church in America. But the book is not negative as a whole. He goes on to cover several churches where discipleship is faithfully practiced at some level, and makes a strong call to return to the biblical ideals in this area. His definition of discipleship is loose, including things like taking a spiritual growth class or participating in an online Christian chat group as possible models, but he has the right idea.
This book confirmed a number of my impressions about where the church in America is at.
- Dennis McCallum, author, Organic Disciplemaking: How to promote Christian leadership development through personal relationships, biblical discipleship, mentoring, and Christian community
Outstanding Resource for Clergy  Jan 10, 2008
Barna's book should be read by all congregational leaders. Over the past 12 months, I realized that my seminary education prepared me to lead congregations from the 1950s through the 1970s. In other words, ministry outgrew my education. Barna's book helps focus on what is truly important in church ministry: developing followers of Jesus. The book focuses on how congregations can intentionally create a culture where becoming a pupil of Christ is nurtured. The only negative comes from its evangelical Protestant bias. There are many high church, Catholic-like congregations that would benefit from how the ideas work in those settings.
My Review  Nov 20, 2007
This book offers clinical insights to disciple-making. Barna captured the essence of where the problems are, and potential solutions. I was required to read this book for seminary. However, I now believe that it is a "must have" for any ministry leader. I will be recommending that my church book store keep volumes on-hand. Oops, sorry this site!
A key study on discipleship for church leadership  Dec 2, 2006
This is the first George Barna book I have read, although I have heard of his writings in discussions within the church I attend. I look forward to reading more of his work. This was one of two texts used in my Discipleship Ministries course in my master's seminary study.

Barna begins the book with the need for this writing, and the need to focus on disciple making within the church. He notes how the word "disciple" has lost its meaning and that today anyone who semi-regularly attends church without any outside study or work can be called a disciple by today's definition. He describes what Scriptural discipleship is and how it is much more than doing a few things for God. Instead, discipleship is devoting one's whole self to God, and the teachings of His Son, Jesus Christ.

He then discusses the importance of discipleship and gives a brief look at discipleship exemplified in Scripture. He lists the marks of discipleship according to the Bible, and in the next chapter gives the results of his individual surveys of Christians. He asks basic questions of the central dogmas of Christians to determine what the goals and knowledge level of people in the church. He surveys the discipleship activities of people, and their belief in what constitutes success spiritually. Some of his more surprising findings are that more than half surveyed have no specific goal in spiritual growth, and almost half believe that anyone can get to Heaven regardless of spiritual belief, despite most having a very high view of Scripture as the Word of God. He looks at different aspects of discipleship including service, study and evangelism. (Evangelism is a key aspect because many churches equate evangelism and discipleship, when Barna states from Scripture that it is only an aspect of discipleship.)

Then Barna describes how we as a church got to this point of discipleship (i.e. from Scriptural discipleship to the variations of concentration and different levels of commitment). His conclusion is that this is a leadership issue. He goes about describing the changes without being harsh or singling out any individuals or denominations. He describes the need for holistic discipleship rather than the partial discipleship views many churches have.

In chapter 6, George Barna switches from discussing his research of individuals to that of churches. He discusses the keys that effective discipling churches have and the methods that they employ. With Barna, the key is not a single method, but principles that underlie a given method. The method should be tailored to a congregation, and not something generic. In the methods, he focuses on 5 highly effective churches and their programs that have caused discipleship growth. He finishes with his "best of" model that takes the best attributes from each model, and creates a generic, principle-driven model for churches to use. This model is not a how-to, as each church has different needs, but is the framework in which to build a model that can best work in a given church. The onus is on the pastor to build it based on his knowledge of the community and congregation.

We see many books on effective church growth and effective evangelism, but this book on effective discipleship is the best way to cause a church to grow and to evangelize to the lost.

This is an important book. It is grounded on the Bible and utilizes observations of the church and of society to draw conclusions on the state of Christian discipleship in America. The underlying principles are designed for church leaders, but the book is supremely beneficial to people who are not in leadership roles, yet, as it discusses the needs of individuals in seeking true discipleship as well as giving guidelines for pastoral leaders in designing church-wide discipleship ministries.

Usually, I provide any negative things I note in the writing or organization, but with this book I had no such impressions. The book is logically organized, and is a highly edifying book, despite the controversial topics discussed. Never did I get a hint that Barna was being negative in his writing, but simply points out the needs of individuals and of churches.

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