Christians need a vision for their lives. A vision about who God is, what he has done, and how we respond in light of that is necessary if a Christian is to effectively navigate a fallen world. Yet, what does it mean to have a vision? George Barna explains the concept in The Power of Vision, an updated release coming from Baker Books.
The name Barna is well-known for its association with market research. To be very forthright in my review, I must confess that I was oblivious to Barna’s claim to be a Christian, partly because when I heard the name Barna it was usually in the context of politics and so I never made the connection between him and anything beyond the culture of politics. Over the years he has written a number of books and while serving as a director in varying capacities at various institutions, he also spends a great deal of time consulting with various corporations. Often his speaking is centralized on the topic of ‘casting a vision’ for companies, and thus his experiences have contributed to his ability to be able to write this book.
The first five chapters can be bound together as an explanation of what vision is and what it is not. Upon establishing this, Barna moves forward to write about what he thinks is necessary to capture God’s visions (chapters 6-8) before finally spending the final chapters examining how one can find and implement a vision. One of the things he does well in this book is to articulate the difference between a mission statement and a vision statement. At about 200 pages, the book is short, but the book should have been much shorter. Most of the words that make up those pages are either repetitious or unnecessary.
I need to confess my own bias in reviewing this book, which is that I tend to think the idea of vision has become way overemphasized in our culture, especially in the churches. In saying that, I am not oblivious to the lack of direction that seems to plague individuals, corporations, and churches. I have experienced it, I’ve counseled others through it, and I am discouraged by the complacency that exists in our society today. So I understand the need for a vision. The issue though, is that the ‘vision’ that most want to employ is nothing more than a secular concept, thinly veiled by the adjective “Christian.” Unfortunately, Barna offers nothing new in his book other than to reaffirm the secular misconstructions and adaptations of vision.
While he often says throughout the book that one must seek God in his or her direction, his advice often consists of nothing more than feelings and sentiments. As a result, he has perverted the activities and attributes of God. This perversion has lead him to a conclusion of universalism that he presents in the book. Readers will see that he often exalt individuals, such as Mother Teresa or Bill Hybels, for their ability to lead people to a relationship with Christ without compromising the gospel. However, this point can be refuted by citing the own writings and admissions of these individuals.
Notably lacking on a discussion about vision is the use of the Bible. Perhaps, this is the cause of Barna’s perversion of God’s activities and attributes. Towards the end of the book he notes, “How sad it is that most Christians in America do not have a worldview or a philosophy of life that influences their decisions and lifestyles” (pg. 149). Clearly, Barna has missed the purpose of being a Christian and the purpose of God’s Word! Christians do have a philosophy of life. It’s called the Bible. The issue is not that they do not have a philosophy, but that they do not choose to use it. In lamenting that point, Barna he turns against the Bible and denies both its authority and sufficiency.
We need a redefinition and reorientation of vision. George Barna had the opportunity to do that. First, he is seen as an authority in this discipline. Second, he has put together a book to address that very issue in order to instruct others. Yet, he fails to appropriately address the problem. This is a terrible book, and not only can I not recommend it, I would do my best to encourage others to not even read it (1).
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book and is the result of my own reading of it.
(1) In all of my time doing book reviews, I have never used such strong language and usually try to highlight as much good as I possibly can.