Book Review "Spiritual Conversations in a Digital Age" by Barna Group
Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age: How Christians’ approach to sharing their faith has changed in 25 years, a Barna report produced in partnership with Lutheran Hour Ministries
The way we communicate with each other has drastically changed with the prevalence of digital methods (social media, texting, email, smartphones, etc.). Since communication of Gospel truth is at the heart of what it means to be a committed follower of Jesus, it’s important to ask how sharing our faith may have changed. While the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to save sinners like us never changes, the way we communicate that message must in response to our context.
Beyond discovering what’s occurred regarding spiritual conversations in the digital age, this book seeks to shed light on questions like “If something has changed in our culture, shouldn’t our outreach strategies change too?” and “How can the Church best use new digital platforms to reach the lost?”
At less than 100 pages, this report provides a fairly comprehensive, valuable view of our culture and current digital landscape in which we communicate. It’s an important look at how multiple generations handle spiritual conversations, how often, with whom and how they do it:
Chapter 1 covers how church life, faith conversation approaches and content, barriers to sharing, and more have changed since 1993 when a previous Barna study was conducted.
Chapter 2 deals specifically with digital faith interactions, and includes prevalence of usage on social media platforms, the nature of “digital evangelism”, risks and rewards, and age demographics related to faith interactions.
Chapter 3 provides information on who preferred partners are to have spiritual conversations with, why Christians don’t want to talk about their faith, what type of conversations led to big life changes, and how spiritual conversations made respondents feel.
Chapter 4 takes a detailed look at the group the research terms “eager conversationalists”, those Christians who have the most spiritual conversations with others and are confident in their sharing.
The Conclusion provides some key findings and directional thoughts, some of which are:
The less people think about God, the less they talk about God.
Christians need help making meaningful connections between everyday life and the life of the spirit.
When “likes” and comments are the relational gold standard, few can afford to invest in transformative spiritual conversations.
Fear of relational tension ranks first on the list of reasons people avoid spiritual conversations, followed closely by discomfort with how religion is politicized.
Overall this is a great resource to help get our heads around what’s occurring in today’s spiritual conversation “marketplace”, with thought-provoking findings and perspective sifted from rigorous research. Outreach magazine named Spiritual Conversations in the Digital Age as Resource of the Year for Evangelism. Be ready for the rich amount of data and numbers, however – it can get a little tedious!
One of the really useful “extras” in the book are Q&A sections with ministry professionals and those on the front-line of social media and online ministry. This content provides a lot of boots-on-the-ground perspective that helps supplement the research and bring it to life.
More directional conclusions would have been helpful, as would some case studies to help illustrate the findings. Regardless, this book is well worth a couple of hours of your time. You’ll gain a more accurate view of how spiritual conversations occur in our time and place, and more importantly, see how we can encourage more and better conversations for the sake of the Gospel.
Available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Conversations-Digital-Age-Christians/dp/1945269219
Check out companion content:
https://www.lhm.org/learn/outreach-essentials (free account signup required)