These three might be summarised as follows:
A "UnChristian" behaviour by church people;
B Bad personal experiences with churches;
C Ineffective Christian leadership amid social crises.
(Taken from www.barna.org/)
Well-Being Australia chairman, Mark Tronson, having read the original article, agrees with a review written in the Australian Prayer Network newsletter which identified poor leadership as the most important of these issues.
On reflection, M V Tronson says that the original Barna Report puts the leaders in the firing line, as it is this area of church life that is letting Christian communities down.
There are many aspects to this leadership issue. The Australian Prayer Network review commented as follows: "We must pay particular attention to those whom we choose as leaders in all areas of our existence - political, religious and cultural - as they will greatly influence the character of the people for years to come."
M V Tronson commented further, "Taking Church life as an example of the importance of leadership, if we are to have leaders we trust in a crisis then we need to be assured they have both thorough theological training and evidence of theological reflection."
In his opinion, the Barna Report highlights a lack of expertise in these areas among many church leaders. M V Tronson has observed that in many churches today, the leadership places emphasis on the glitz of the worship presentation and a feel-good theology.
The result is, as the Barna Report points out, a leadership that teaches "....values such as goodness, kindness and tolerance; but is sceptical of the Bible, church traditions, and rules or behaviours based upon religious teaching."
Mark Tronson has attended many different styles of church service, and heard a great variety of sermons and absorbed the atmosphere of a range of different congregations, over his life and profession as a Baptist minister of 33 years.
He comments that he too often hears about goodness, kindness and tolerance; this is a positive aspect of Christianity. However, only in the more traditional Reformed churches, has he heard an uncompromising message on Jesus' teachings and the Apostle Paul's theological outworking of that teaching.
He surmises that this change in emphasis by some more 'modern' approaches to Christianity may lead to weak public responses by Christians to issues that confront us in our society, of which we all have our own personal 'hate' lists.
However, some leadership within the traditional churches has not always been exemplary in the past, either. The extreme example of complete abrogation of leadership responsibility is the painful cries of those in past decades who have been sexually and physically abused by church leaders; only to have those cases covered up by the church.
However, as some courageous people in our society keep bringing these instances of abuse to light and they continue to reverberate around the Christian world, then the weak theological responses of leaders to such issues ensure they keep digging a deeper and deeper hole for themselves.
Affirming the Barna Report in other areas, M V Tronson has witnessed himself untold 'unchristian' behaviour by church people, the dirty political tricks played by their leaders, along with the innumerable bad experiences people have had within churches.
The local church should always be the place where sinners come to seek forgiveness. It is not appropriate that it is also the venue on the one hand where deliberate political games are played to thwart genuine concerns, and on the other, where weak theological responses are given to serious questions of faith and social issues.
Yet, despite some poor examples, Mark Tronson sees the local church and its subsidiaries (house churches, community ministries, Missions ….), with all its faults and failings, as the only meaningful means whereby Christian people 'can' minister together effectively.
The local church is the Bride of Christ, the local church is radiant and beautiful in the Lord's sight, and its people must be for ever vigilant to protect and instruct against a leadership that fails the test of Biblical theological discipline and bad behaviour.