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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August 15, 2011

The Buzzword Effect

Google Labs has an online app. whereby you type in any given word or phrase, and in a split-second, it scans everything in the Google Books database and tells you, in graph form, the relative recurrence of that word or phrase in the last 200 or so years.

I decided to have some fun with some Evangelical buzzwords, starting with Evangelical itself; if your current window is not restored to full size, you’ll want to click that first…

Next, I tried the phrase, spiritual formation.

Next, just to get silly, I tried the phrase, seeker sensitive

Okay, that wasn’t very productive.  How about social justice?

Of course, there’s no guaranteeing that the particular phrase didn’t appear in an entirely different context.

The system also lets you compare two different words, and so, in keeping with what’s been on a lot of minds this year, I searched Heaven + Hell.

Words matter.  I’m sure some of you can find more meaningful uses for this application in ministry.  Here’s the link one more time.

December 8, 2010

Wednesday Link List

The finest links have been assembled for your reading pleasure…

  • Without doubt, the site to see this week is Paperless Christmas.   Start your tour by clicking on the guy in the delivery uniform and the other clips (all approx 1:00 in length; 9 in total) will play in sequence.   Great music, too.
  • A big HT to Vitamin Z for the above book cover shot.   He got it from Brian Lopez who got it from [drum roll] Exotesparemboles, which everyone knows means… [cricket, cricket] …
  • After being involved in a four-car crash, Greg Boyd is asked how an event like this squares with his open-theology view vis-a-vis praying for protection before you drive somewhere.
  • Don’t blow it, guys.  Trey Morgan has ten gifts your wife would like for Christmas;  which, three days later, resulted in a list of ten gifts your husband would like for Christmas.
  • England’s John P. Richardson gets into the moral and ethical dilemma created by the WikiLeaks story.
  • Linda at the blog, I Wonder as I Wander, would like you to meet Josh Garrels, who she describes quite well when she says, “He ain’t your typical Christian musician.”
  • The whole NIV thing gets a little more complicated for Bill Mounce after hearing someone’s proof that the Holy Spirit is a “she.”
  • Here’s the link for this year’s edition of Boston.com’s Big Picture series of Hubble Space Telescope advent pictures; with a new picture added each day.  I like to call this Artwork by God.
  • Here’s another website dealing with issues of sexuality; check out Six:11 Ministries, in particular, this organization ministers to the GLBT community.   Here’s their blog.
  • Brian Welch, a former member of the band Korn was a guest last week on The 700 Club.
  • Carlos Whittaker gets told, in essence, that he’s not white enough to lead worship in a particular church.
  • Tim Elmore guests at Michael Hyatt’s blog with a piece on teaching your kids generosity at this time year.   Would your kids be willing to think in terms of giving away some toys this season?
  • Youth worship from Canada:  Here’s a link for a free download of the band Nine O Five from east Toronto doing Hillsong’s With Everything with guest Aaron Gillespie.
  • Producers of the third and newest Narnia movie, Voyage of the Dawntreader, are hoping to capture the spirit and the profitability of the first one, as explained to the L.A. Times.
  • Ron Pai, aka The Brown Kid, is back blogging — or was — and asks the question, How Then Shall We Church Plant?   Some good thoughts.
  • Here are your CCM/gospel category nominees for this year’s Grammy Awards, not including Christian musicians who may be part of projects nominated in other categories.
  • Our picture this week (below) was found at the blog Ironic Catholic.

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.

March 6, 2010

One “Religion” Gets Preferred Advertising Worth Millions Daily

Their followers maintain religious devotion to their every pronouncement.  Their right to millions of dollars of free newspaper space around the world is never questioned, in fact many of those papers pay them for inclusion in their print and online editions.

These same media outlets are very cautious about granting space of any kind to Jewish, Christian or Muslim faith groups because that would be “sectarian” and they don’t want to be seen as promoting this or that religion.  So why is an exception made for this one group?

They, of course are astrologers and their daily encyclical is usually called “Your horoscope.”  Their belief system is secularized predestination — Calvinists, take note — believing that our lives are guided by the stars, in various ways, depending on the star (or Zodiac) sign in place at our time of birth.

My usual tongue-in-cheek reply to this is, “I don’t believe in astrology, but then again, we Geminis are natural skeptical.”

Kidding aside, why does one faith group get preferential treatment?   And how can any media outlet turn down any request from any religious group when they already grant one unfettered access to their readers?

Comments:  This is a piece about press discrimination or media favoritism.  Comments as to the merits of astrology will be deleted.

January 16, 2010

Gay Christian Network Conference: Not-So Full Coverage

I don’t really want to wade into the larger topic of people who have affirmed their homosexuality and at the same time affirmed their faith in Jesus Christ.   It’s a big issue, and I’ve known people on both sides of it.

I just want to know how both the bloggers and the online news media missed the conference held earlier this month in Nashville.

A “before” article in Out and About on January 1st announces the then forthcoming conference, “We’ve heard from many individuals in the music industry, particularly those in the Christian music industry who struggle with the intersection of their faith and sexuality,” Lee said. “So Nashville just made sense.”.    The next day the Athiest Nexus takes a shot at the upcoming meeting, “it’s like, ‘Vegetarian Sausage-makers conference planned…'”

Then, on January 14th, an “after” article at Change.Org reports on the event that was attended by about 400 people, “We see religious groups like the National Organization for Marriage or the institutional Catholic Church extolling the virtues homophobia. But it’s equally important to remember that there’s a huge population of folks who practice a theology that says it’s not only OK to be LGBT, it’s something religion should embrace.”

A day later, another post at Freedom2B reports on the address given by one of the speakers, a guy you may have heard of.

And that’s why this matters.   You see if 400 gay people want to meet in Nashville and discuss their Christian faith, that’s not really news, and I shouldn’t expect media — either bloggers or mainstream — to cover this.

But this conference featured Christian mainstream personalities TONY CAMPOLO and DEREK WEBB; which brings this event onto our radar screen.   It reminds me of when I was writing a Canada column for CCM Magazine, and my editor said, “We don’t really want your news, we just want to hear about our artists who happen to be touring your country.”

So basically this isn’t about the conference itself, but about the spotlight and the legitimacy created for it when Christian authors or musicians show up.   Campolo, albeit, somewhat expectedly; Webb whose song ‘What Matters More’ resulted in him shopping for a new label for his recent Stockholm Syndrome.

As I said at the beginning, I don’t want to discuss the “gay and Christian” issue so much as I want to say that I think this was probably a significant event that the blogosphere didn’t document.  So the question is, Why?  I have a theory…

August 6, 2009

Early Marriage: Cure for Temptation?

Filed under: Christian, evangelism, marriage — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:53 pm

When an article in Christianity Today online is closing in on 200 comments — and they keep coming — you know they’ve struck a nerve.

Skim the article, but by all means, don’t miss all the responses; and don’t expect that all those comments are going to agree.     And save the link (underlined section below).   Someone you know may want to read this article.

UPDATE – AUGUST 9 — The article has been picked up by ABC News.    See their version here.

August 1, 2009

Toxic Faith – A Religious Spirit

Those of you who are RSS readers will need to either visit the blog today, or click on the link below for text of today’s post (and yesterday’s for that matter).   J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma Magazine and one of my favorite columnists.   Here he addresses the issue of people who have “a religious spirit;” and eight warning signs if it might apply to you!

Lee Grady banner

To read the story at source, click here.

Grady part one
Grady part two

June 17, 2009

Born Again But Not Evangelical?

laftovers - converted soupI frequently hear people speak of Evangelicals as “Born Again-ers,” so I was intrigued to learn last night that Barna Research make a distinction when surveying people.     They use “born again” to reflect some point at which we confess our sin and seek forgiveness, making Jesus Christ lord of our lives.

But they use a series of questions to determine if a person has what they consider a true Evangelical worldview.    The two are not automatically synonymous.

All this is in my continued reading of unChristian by David Kinnaman, the book that has for some reason become my end-of-the-day reading, which means some days I don’t get very far.   But spending 15 minutes stuck on page 159 last night didn’t help, as I pondered the worldview issues they use to clarify the distinction.

The criteria are laid out at Barna.org along with poll results.   I’ve paraphrased here in question form:

Born Again

  • Have you made a confession of sin?
  • Have you made a profession of faith in Christ?

evangometerEvangelical

  • Do you believe the Bible is accurate in the principles that it teaches?*
  • Do you view God as all-powerful?
  • Do you view God as perfect?
  • Do you view God as active in the world today?**
  • Do you contend that Jesus did not sin?
  • Do you assert that Satan is a real spiritual being?***
  • Would you disagree with those who say that heaven can be earned through good works?
  • Do you believe Christians have a responsibility to share their faith with others?
  • Would say your religious faith is very important in your life?

*This refers to principles the Bible teaches.   You can believe this and still also hold that there’s a problem in the dates of some kings in your KJV or in the naming of a city in your NRSV

**Barna combines these three into one question.   I broke them up because I think we can rush to quickly to answer a question like this.  We need to constantly have our perspective on God in full view.   The linked article refers to 9-point Evangelicals, which I believe to include the two ‘born again’ questions.

***Real being as opposed to idea or concept.   Among those who said they were Evangelical, rather than those who adopted the stringent Barna criteria, this area had the greatest potential for variance.  60% were less likely to agree on this one.

So Kinnaman, again on page 159, defines the U.S. voting population as consisting of

  • 9% Evangelicals
  • 38% Non-Evangelical, born-again Christians
  • 29% Other, self-confessed Christians
  • 24% Those outside Christianity

On page 162, he says to pastors, “In your church on any given Sunday, chances are you have all four of the faith slices represented in the audience.  How are you communicating so that everyone in the  congregation can understand, think about and respond to social, political and spiritual issues in appropriate ways?  In your sermons as well as in the environments and conversations your church facilitates, are you helping to develop people’s capacity to think, act, and pray in terms of a biblical worldview?”

That’s a good question for anyone in Church leadership; or anyone who is part of the Body of Christ for that matter.

born-again-cartoon

May 30, 2009

Increasing Your Blog Stats: The Cheap and Easy Way

Our post a couple of Days ago about Robert A. Schuller’s TV Ministry announcement was about the eighth or ninth mention we’ve had of him and his ministry on this blog.   My wife and I have joked about how the traffic spikes when there’s some fresh news.   It’s almost a tabloid journalism frenzy when there’s a new development in the story, which began last fall with his departure from the Hour of Power TV Show and the Crystal Cathedral.   In fact, a couple of times, this blog has been among the first to carry the story.

So we laughed when yesterday, when a news feed from Boulder, Colorado was reporting that the house owned by Tim Milner and his wife, Carol Schuller Milner, the same house where the body of JonBenet Ramsey was found, once belonging to John and Patsy Ramsey was up for sale for $1.05 million (USD). . Milner is Robert Sr.’s daughter and Robert Jr.’s sister.

For bloggers who like getting traffic, this convergence of JonBenet Ramsey and Robert Schuller is a gift. A birthday gift in this case, since today is my birthday. A cheap way and easy way of driving traffic that becomes meaningless statistics, since few, if any, will become regular readers of a blog focused on spiritual issues from a Christian perspective.

But alas, I decided this was too easy.   I would never sink to this.  However, if you want to read the history of the Schuller stories carried here, here are the links.

Related post in this blog – Robert A Schuller Purchases Cable Network (May 27/09)

Related post in this blog – Donna Schuller’s Blog: Web and TV Ministry Announcement Pending (May 1/09)

Related post in this blog – Mark Driscoll at Crystal Cathedral (April 30/09)

Related post in this blog – Another Voice Speaks (Feb 7/09)

Related post in this blog -Crystal Cathedral Has Round of Layoffs  (Jan 24/09)

Related post in this blog – Crystal Cathedral Selling Office Building (Jan 5/09)

Related post in this blog – Robert A Schuller Resigns (Dec 17/08 )

Related post in this blog – Robert A Schuller Removed From Telecast (Oct 26/08 )

Which brings me to the subject of my birthday.   What I’m really hoping for is large checks, as in:

Large Check

But the last time I asked for large checks, I ended up with this:

Large checks

Note to readers in more civilized parts of the world: This attempt at humor (humour) is a concession to my American readers, who form the bulk of my stats — and this post is about stats, remember?   Everywhere else, the joke doesn’t work in print, since the first item would be large cheques not checks.    Verbally, however; the joke works and you’re welcome to use it.

Besides this post needed some graphics, and I decided against JonBenet Ramsay, as tempting as that might have been, because it would have brought comments I was making light of it; that her’s was a tragic story; which is true.    And we wouldn’t want to do things just to get comments, either.

But if you want to comment, here’s a question:  Do you think the Schuller Saga has a tabloid kind of fascination among Christians?   Does that make us no better than people who read the newsprint periodicals sold at the grocery store checkouts?  Or people, many years later, still sniffing around for fresh takes on the JonBenet Ramsay story?

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