Thinking Out Loud

July 4, 2013

When Faith Doesn’t Stick

Recently, my wife and I have had a number of recurring conversations prompted by comments overheard that among some Christian parents we know that their children have arrived at their late teens or early twenties only to reveal that the Christian faith they were immersed in, for lack of a better phrase, didn’t take.

At that point, I usually shake my head in despair and usually lament the time and energy that was poured into their Christian education would appear to have been entirely ineffective, at least to this point. Specifically, my comments repeatedly run along the lines of:

  • “…all those Sunday school classes…”
  • “…all those nights at youth group…”
  • “…all those weeks at church camp…”

and other variations you can fill in. 

The other day when I was finishing up this litany my wife said something that arrested me in my tracks. Now remember that, (a) she is very wise, and (b) she had the advantage of experiencing multiple repetitions of my soliloquy before issuing a comeback.

So when I said, “…all those years in church…” she said, “Yes, but you don’t know what was said in the car on the way home.”

True.

Or over dinner.

I can’t imagine that any of the parents in question would do anything knowing that it had the least potential of undermining the nurture of their children’s faith, but that’s just the point, isn’t it?

How many kids are destined for a young adulthood (and beyond) without a faith component because we inadvertently did a really crappy job of modeling for them what Christ-following looks like?

You don’t want to think about that.

So parents, be careful what you say in the car ride home on Sunday. Your comments are being picked up by little ears.

Coincidentally, The Pew Research Forum has just released a report on the religious life of Canada, my home and native land. The charts and graphs all speak for themselves — two are reproduced below — but the message is clear that an attrition is taking place in the church as we’ve not seen before. Furthermore, in Canada and the United States, the religious landscape is forever changed because of immigration policy.

Pew Research - Canada - 1

Pew Research - Canada - 2

The results are similar to a study done by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), called Hemorrhaging Faith, which we reported on here a few months ago. That study looked at four demographic areas: Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics in Quebec, and Roman Catholics Outside Quebec; and divided respondents into Engagers, Fence Sitters, Wanderers and Rejecters.

The Pew Study looked only at Protestants and Catholics, as well as respondents from other religions and the rapidly growing category known as “the nones” (not nuns) who check off the “none” box on census and other surveys. Unfortunately in the EFC study, the results for Evangelicals — while showing stronger adherence — did not point to a much brighter future over the long term.

Survey companies like Barna and Pew make money selling reports, and the very nature of the business means that bad news tends to get more attention. So books like David Kinnaman’s unChristian are better known than the counter response found in books like Bradley Wright’s Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites: And Other Lies You’ve Been Told reviewed here. People will flock to buy a book on how the sky is falling, but not so much toward one which advises the sky is intact.

But the Pew Research study and the Evangelical Fellowship’s study highlight statistics that are undeniable: Kids are leaving the church in record numbers.

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November 9, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Something seriously messed up in our lynx picture file this week

Introductory paragraph so the links don’t just start cold…

  • Apparently some Christian bookstores are hesitant to stock a title like, When Will My Life Not Suck. Even the intro by Gary Chapman can’t convince them.  
  • Harold Camping is officially out of the end-of-the-world prediction business and will now focus on baseball predictions and NBA final four (assuming they get back to playing).
  • Sunday (Nov 13) is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Here are some verses from the Common English Bible that would fit your Sunday worship planning.
  • Ever wondered what it would be like to be part of a Bible translation committee?  Here’s a 4-minute video.  Wait a minute… they film these things?
  • Christian Week talks to street pastor and Close Enough To Hear God Breathe author Greg Paul.
  • Belated birthday wishes to Billy Graham who turned 93 on Monday and recently reflected at Huffington Post on Nearing Home which is both the title of his new book and the stage in life he considers himself to be in.
  • New research by the Barna Group finds young Christians leave churches they view as judgmental, overprotective, exclusive and unfriendly toward doubters.
  • Have you ever cheated death?  Check out an excellent essay by Tony Woodlief in which he has a meaningful talk with one of his kids.
  • There are Christian groups at secular colleges and universities, so it was just a matter of time before Atheist groups turned up at Christian colleges. But then why would you go there?
  • Last week, White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney made kind of a gutsy move from the podium.  He quoted a verse from the Bible. “God helps those who help themselves.”   If that really was a Bible verse, Matt at The Church of No People speculates on the exegesis.
  • KSZ posts the strangest piece of neo-classical music, or should that be meow-classical?  And how did the kids keep a straight face?
  • And then there’s Kevin Olusola, the guy who’s had 1,000,000 YouTube hits for his beat-box, hip-hop, cello playing video.  According to Brad, he’s also currently touring with Gungor.
  • Kids out at a downtown Halloween party in Loganville, GA received plastic dolls of a 12-week old fetus.
  • Blue Like Jazz – The Movie opens in theaters on April 13th.  I know that for sure because Matt and Ellen told me.
  • Vic the Vicar posts a warning for those who don’t follow e-mail instructions; I link to it partly because I accidentally trashed Vic’s Versatile Blogger nomination.  Sorry, Vic.
  • If you’re anywhere near Toronto, Canada on December 3rd, you won’t want to miss Steve Bell in concert with The Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
  • Sacred Sandwich: The Early Years —

April 20, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I chose this particular WordPress theme for its wide margins, but inherited a rather tiny default typeface in the process.  For years  I’ve been bumping it up manually with HTML codes, but last week WordPress changed the rules, and I would now have to do it paragraph by paragraph.  [Update: Which, now having the time, I’ve just done! Which renders the rest of this paragraph redundant.] So… if you can’t read what follows simply press Ctrl and while you’re holding it down press the “+” sign, although technically you’re pressing “=” sign, because it’s done without holding down the shift key.  But nobody thinks of it that way…

As a bonus today, excerpts from the links are included in red.

  • Brant Hansen continues to blog, albeit not at Kamp Krusty.  He recently explained to WAY-FM listeners why he doesn’t tithe. People like me who no longer believe we are bound to tithing are not arguing for less giving.  Oh no.  We’re arguing for more, for those who have it.  Much more.
  • In a related post, Christianity Today asks if people receiving unemployment benefits should tithe on that “income.” Tithing is not a luxurious option achievable only by those whose financial security is assured. It is the ancient spiritual practice that God uses to begin setting our priorities right, to heal our hearts of greed and fear, and to draw us ever closer into his own boundless generosityJoin the conversation at CT.
  • Followers of Judaism are fighting declining numbers by modernizing many of its practices, including an enhanced use of creative arts. Every branch of Judaism has seen membership drop digits. Interfaith marriages… continue at a pace of 50% for Jews.  Look for parallels between their efforts and what Evangelicals have done in the last few decades in this USAToday story.
  • Tom at the blog Living in the Beauty of  Dirty Faith has a concise summary of the objectification of our children:  So this is the message young daughters around the country (and world) are getting:  don’t be measured by what type of person you are becoming, how you treat others, etc. but rather be measured by your measurements.  Check out Girls Gone Wild.
  • Just so everybody’s clear, Shaun Groves makes it clear that Facebook friends are not true friends: I have friends. You’re probably not one of them.  Not everybody likes this news, but they’re now redirected to a fan page.
  • With all the attention being given the new NIV revision (and the new NAB revision) it’s easy to miss the Josh James Version.  Having appreciated the many opportunities that the web has to offer, I decided in 2008 to begin using web space to publish some of my Bible study, sermons, instruction in the Greek language, my Greek translation of the New Testament, and various other bits of information. The individual pages take forever to load, but I admire his diligence!  Check out Josh James’ translation page.
  • Readership at Christianity 201 — my other blog — is growing faster these days; so I thought I’d scare everyone away with a really, really, really, really long post by Steven Furtick.    We could be judgmental, but the truth is that there are things that are just as elementary that you and I still don’t get. And it’s these things that keep us in a state of inertia in our walk with God and the calling He has placed on our lives. Check out this reposting of his three-part series at Maybe You Just Don’t Get It.
  • If you’ve been avoiding the magazines at the grocery store by doing the self-checkout thing, you may have missed out that Rob Bell has put the issue of hell on the cover (see above) of Time Magazine.  Bell’s arguments about heaven and hell raise doubts about the core of the Evangelical worldview, changing the common understanding of salvation so much that Christianity becomes more of an ethical habit of mind than a faith based on divine revelationThe article is long, but well-researched.
  • Meanwhile, Barna Research shows that one in four “born again” Christians subscribe to universalist beliefs.  For many evangelicals, the idea of Christians holding universalist ideas is particularly disturbing because it nullifies the need for Christ to die on the cross and the message of Jesus that he is the only way, truth and life… A 2008 Pew Forum survey revealed that 57 percent of evangelicals agreed with the idea that other religions than their own can lead to eternal life. Read the story at Christian Post.
  • Speaking of the above, Adam Powers blogs a few quotations from the Gospel Coalition’s special session on responding to Bell.  Crawford Loritts on people who have cut their spiritual teeth on Bell: We all need to be careful when we talk about these things not to overcorrect. We are to love unbelievers and we are to preach the love of God. I would encourage this person, not only to pursue right exegesis on this issue, but to the study of the nature of God altogether. Look at the wholeness of who God isRead more at the blog Pleasing Pain.
  • Speaking of responses, a reader is trying to get me to recant of my earlier support of Bell’s alt interpretation of Peter and Jesus walking on water.  I reply, Bell’s alternative reading on this stops short of the kind of fantasy scripture that his friend Peter Rollins would conjure up. It’s not the main point of the story, but, a year later, I still think Jesus is saying to Peter, “I chose you, I invited you to step out of the boat, I have faith you can walk on water; do you trust my choice?” And then, I refuse to withdraw my endorsement on this particular bit of Bell’s teaching.
  • When it comes to preaching, I know what I like; but not as well as Darryl Dash knows what he doesn’t like.  I’ve observed that there are countless ways to preach well, but there are only a few key steps you need to master if you want to preach poorly.  Check out his guest post at Soren’s blog, Six Keys to Poor Preaching.   (BTW, Darryl’s brother is a neighbor of mine who sends me hilarious e-mail forwards by the truckload.)
  • The Seventh Day Adventists, which make up a large majority of the population in Loma Linda, California are losing their unique Sunday mail delivery.  Carrier supervisor Duane Hubbard told the paper that the postal service’s computers don’t recognize Sunday as a workday, meaning the local office is unable to communicate with any other agency offices then.  Now only two communities in the U.S. are left with the unique delivery situation.
  • The “gone wild” reference earlier reminded me of this t-shirt concept available at Kaboodle.com

  • …which in turn reminded me of this backprint/frontprint T-shirt concept also at Kaboodle

  • Today’s quote:
“People ask, ‘How could a loving God send people to hell?’ but I believe that a loving God put a blood-stained cross on the pathway to hell and if someone ends up going to hell they had to step over that blood-stained cross to get there.”
~Perry Noble, April 15th

July 15, 2010

Currently Reading: Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites

Since this is a book about statistics, may I begin by saying that I am about 64% through this book, having just started yesterday.

Whereas unChristian by David Kinnaman is a book about those outside the church, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told by Bradley R. E. Wright, PhD (Bethany House, 2010) is very much a book about those inside the church, especially Evangelicals.

But there the similarity ends, because while Kinnaman is a researcher for Barna Group, Wright, a sociologist, takes direct aim at many Barna Research studies, the manner in which they are published, and the spin that alarmist Christians and headline-hungry press put on them.   (And since one of the bullet points in my recommendation of unChristian was its affiliation with Barna, it really undermines the credibility of that book by default, even though isn’t footnoted in the chapters I’ve covered so far; the author does reference Barna Group’s Revolution several times.)

In Bradley Wright’s view, the sky is not falling, the church is not necessarily decaying, and there no substantiation for giving up hope.   This flies in the face of people like Josh McDowell, author of The Last Christian Generation, a book and writer that Wright refers to, but not by name (you have to read the footnotes.)   Wright’s detesting of statistical manipulation is evidenced from the opening chapter.

This is probably the best book I’ve seen for North American Evangelical pastors who want to better understand who exactly is sitting in the pews on Sunday (and who is away that week!)  But it’s far from a leadership book; anyone who wants to be conversant on where the church is heading, or has a concern about the so-called “last generation” should read this.   There are many graphs and charts and explanation of the sociological method, but it should not deter anyone from getting some benefit from this thorough work.

I did some post-review research here to see if David Kinnaman and Bradley Wright are linked anywhere in the blogosphere; one writer connected the two in passing back in 2008,  the same year Wright himself reviewed Kinnaman’s book.   More recently,  Louis McBride tries to connect some dots in a July 4 blog post at the (biased) Baker Book House Connection blog, and a day later, an excellent review is posted by Scott Sidusky.   You might also enjoy the 18-minute interview at the Drew Marshall show; click here and scroll down to May 22.

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