In 2011 George Barna published a book titled Maximum Faith. In it he maps the ten “stops” along the path toward what he calls “wholeness.” Here are the results of American adults in their “faith journey.” The percentages shown below next to each stop indicate the number of people in America, out of every 100 people, who have not yet progressed to the next stop. In his analysis of the same research, J. D. Walt noted that 89% of the population never progress beyond stop 4. In his words, we need to get on with the second half of salvation.
Stop 1. Has ignorance of the concept or existence of sin. 1%
This simply means that there is only one person in every one hundred persons who have no understanding or concept of sin.
Stop 2. Is aware of and indifferent to sin. 16%
This means that there are sixteen people in every one hundred people who understand what sin is but they are indifferent to sin in their lives. They never progress to the third stop.
Stop 3. Is concerned about the implications of personal sin. 39%
Thirty-nine of every one hundred persons are concerned about sin and its possible implications in their lives, but they never do anything about it – they never progress to the fourth stop.
Stop 4. Confesses sins and asks Jesus Christ to be their Savior. 9%
Nine of every one hundred persons confess their sins and ask Jesus to be their Savior, but then they never go any further. There is no real change in their personal lives or practices. Some of these are not truly born-again, some who are may eventually fall away, and some will make several “trips to the altar” but never experience any real change in their lives.
Stop 5. Makes a commitment to faith activities. 24%
Twenty-four of every one hundred Americans become involved in what Barna calls “faith practices” such as Church attendance, Bible studies, community outreach activities, etc. In other words there is some real change in life practices. Many remain in this state throughout their lives and never go on to a deeper commitment and relationship with Christ.
Stop 6. Experiences a prolonged period of spiritual discontent. 6%
Six of every one hundred people in America reach a point in their Christian walk where they become spiritually discontent with just faith activities. They desire a closer and more intimate relationship with God, but do not pursue it with their whole heart. They remain discontent, but continue to seek fulfillment in Christian activities. They convince themselves there is nothing more until this life ends and heaven is obtained.
Stop 7. Experiences personal brokenness. 3%
Three of every one hundred persons in America reach a point of brokenness before God. They acknowledge there is more than what they have experienced. They know it is possible to live in a closer relationship with God. They understand there are things they must sacrifice or lay aside to acquire this closer walk. But for one reason or another they do not feel they can turn loose of whatever it is that holds them. They never “surrender all” or “die to self.” Those at this stop are good, godly people. They are most likely church leaders, teachers, perhaps even pastors. But they choose to cling to whatever it is that prevents them from total surrender.
Stop 8. Chooses to surrender and submit fully to God: Radical Dependence. 1%
For every one hundred people in America there is one that makes it to this stop. This person does surrender completely to the purpose and will of God. He or she becomes radically dependent upon God. This person may make what seems to others foolish choices in order to do whatever it is they believe God would have them to do. His or her faith is fixed on the promises and faithfulness of God, not on one’s own abilities. Regardless of personal circumstances, this person’s testimony would be centered on God’s goodness.
Stop 9. Enjoys a profound intimacy with and love for God. 0.5%
This stop represents one-half of one percent of people in America. That means only one person in every two hundred people reaches this place of loving God with all their heart. This is a person who, just as Moses, might be called a friend of God. Or as with David it might be said that this person is a man after God’s own heart. It would be apparent to all that this person walks consistently and intimately with God.
Stop10. Experiences a profound compassion and love for humanity. 0.5%
It might seem odd that this is the final stop. But if you really think about it, the only way we can ever love another person with a God type of love is to first fully experience that love relationship with God. Again, only one person in every two hundred people ever reaches this place.
I believe this place of wholeness which Barna speaks of is what Wesleyans would call the place of Perfect Love or Christian Perfection. And while it may indeed be a very difficult journey to this place, Barna in his survey believes there are indeed some who achieve Perfect Love toward God and toward their fellow man. So, just as the Bible encourages us, we should be pressing toward that mark, that place of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. I believe we need to teach people the possibility and then to help those willing in the process.