Monday, June 25, 2007

Trust in Organized Religion at Near-Record Low

Americans trust the military and the police force significantly more than the church and organized religion, a new Gallup Poll says.

Only 46 percent of respondents said they had either a "great deal"
or "quite a lot" of confidence in the church, compared with 69 percent who said they trusted the military and 54 percent who trust police officers.

Read more on the Poll

Friday, June 22, 2007

Megachurches Desegregate Worship

The proliferation of congregations with over 2000 regular attendees has captured the attention of sociologists of religion and drawn criticism as de-personalizing forces (see video below). This Associated Press article presents them under a very positive light...

LEXINGTON, Mass. (AP) - Sundays at the evangelical Grace Chapel megachurch look like the American ideal of race relations: African-American, Haitian, white, Chinese and Korean families sing along with a white, guitar-playing pastor.
U.S. churches rarely have this kind of ethnic mix. But that's changing. Researchers who study race and religion say Grace Chapel is among a vanguard of megachurches that are breaking down racial barriers in American Christianity, altering the long-segregated landscape of Sunday worship.

"Megachurches as a whole are significantly better than other congregations at holding together multiracial, multiethnic congregations," said Scott Thumma, an expert on megachurches and a professor at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. "It's absolutely clear."

A study by Thumma and the Leadership Network, a Dallas group that works with pioneering churches, found that minorities make up 20 percent or more of worshippers in nearly one-third of the nation's 1,200 megachurches. More than half of the megachurches say they are intentionally working to attract different ethnic groups, according to the 2005 study, part of a book that Thumma and network executive Dave Travis will publish in July.

The question now is whether the new diversity is just a fad or a permanent shift.

Although megachurches each draw at least 2,000 worshippers a week, they are a small percentage of the estimated 350,000 congregations across the United States. And leaders at Grace Chapel and other megachurches where whites remain the majority acknowledge enormous challenges in making minorities feel included so they'll stay for the long term.

Still, megachurches are trendsetters, and the change they've made is startling considering nearly all other American churches serve one ethnic group. Even churches with a large number of immigrants generally have separate English and non-English services. For black and white Christians, pre-Civil War church support for slavery and the general absence of white evangelicals from the civil rights movement continue to drive the two groups apart.

Most megachurches don't carry that historical burden; nearly all have been built since the 1970s and play down any ties to a denomination.

But that's not the main attraction.

Read More

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Looking for the "Right Church"- A King of the Hill parody to "Church shopping"

Lausanne III: Cape Town 2010

(4 May 2007) The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) today announced plans for the International Congress on World Evangelization, to be held 16-25 October, 2010, in Cape Town, South Africa. Lausanne III: Cape Town 2010 will gather mission and church leaders from every part of the globe to address challenges and opportunities that are before the church with respect to world evangelization. Lausanne III will be held in partnership with the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), whose leaders will participate in each dimension of the design and planning of the Congress. (Read More)

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Thought by Thomas Merton

Prayer and meditation have an important part to play in opening up new ways and new horizons. If your prayer is the expression of a deep and grace-inspired desire for newness of life—and not the mere blind attachment to what has always been familiar and "safe"—God will act in us and through us to renew the Church by preparing, in prayer, what we cannot yet imagine or understand. In this way our prayer and faith today will be oriented toward the future which we ourselves may never see fully realized on earth.

From "Contemplation in a World of Action"

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Current-er Prayer- By Cameron Semmens

Our media,
whose art is manipulation
hollow be thy game.
Thy cameras come, it will be done
on Nine as it is on Seven.
Give us this day our daily sensation,
and feed us our fears
as we feed the fear of others.
Lead us on with misinformation
and deliver us from thinking.
For thine is the king-maker
with the power of the story,
forever and ever,

Friday, June 15, 2007

Europe’s Christian Comeback

A very interesting article by Philip Jenkins in the Foreign Policy web site...

The West is awash with fear of the Islamization of Europe. The rise of Islam, many warn, could transform the continent into “Eurabia,” a term popularized by Harvard historian Niall Ferguson and other pundits. “A youthful Muslim society to the south and east of the Mediterranean is poised to colonize—the term is not too strong—a senescent Europe,” Ferguson has predicted. Such grim prophecies may sell books, but they ignore reality. For all we hear about Islam, Europe remains a stronger Christian fortress than people realize. What’s more, it is showing little sign of giving ground to Islam or any other faith for that matter.

To be fair, the trend is counterintuitive. Europe has long been a malarial swamp for any traditional or orthodox faith. Compared with the rest of the world, religious adherence in Europe is painfully weak. And it is easy to find evidence of the decay. Any traveler to the continent has seen Christianity’s abandoned and secularized churches, many now transformed into little more than museums. But this does not mean that European Christianity is nearing extinction. Rather, among the ruins of faith, European Christianity is adapting to a world in which its convinced adherents represent a small but vigorous minority.

In fact, the rapid decline in the continent’s church attendance over the past 40 years may have done Europe a favor. It has freed churches of trying to operate as national entities that attempt to serve all members of society. Today, no church stands a realistic chance of incorporating everyone. Smaller, more focused bodies, however, can be more passionate, enthusiastic, and rigorously committed to personal holiness. To use a scientific analogy, when a star collapses, it becomes a white dwarf—smaller in size than it once was, but burning much more intensely. Across Europe, white-dwarf faith communities are growing within the remnants of the old mass church.

Perhaps nowhere is this more true than within European Catholicism, where new religious currents have become a potent force. Examples include movements such as the Focolare, the Emmanuel Community, and the Neocatechumenate Way, all of which are committed to a re-evangelization of Europe. These movements use charismatic styles of worship and devotion that would seem more at home in an American Pentecostal church, but at the same time they are thoroughly Catholic. Though most of these movements originated in Spain and Italy, they have subsequently spread throughout Europe and across the Catholic world. Their influence over the younger clergy and lay leaders who will shape the church in the next generation is surprisingly strong.

Similar trends are at work within the Protestant churches of Northern and Western Europe. The most active sections of the Church of England today are the evangelical and charismatic parishes that have, in effect, become megachurches in their own right. These parishes have been incredibly successful at reaching out to a secular society that no longer knows much of anything about the Christian faith. Holy Trinity Brompton, a megaparish in Knightsbridge, London, that is now one of Britain’s largest churches, is home to the amazingly popular “Alpha Course,” a means of recruiting potential converts through systems of informal networking aimed chiefly at young adults and professionals. As with the Catholic movements, the course works because it makes no assumptions about any prior knowledge: Everyone is assumed to be a new recruit in need of basic teaching. Nor does the recruitment technique assume that people live or work in traditional settings of family or employment. The Alpha Course is successfully geared for postmodern believers in a postindustrial economy.

Read the whole article

Thursday, June 14, 2007

População ficou mais parda, velha e evangélica de 1940 a 2000

Em 60 anos, de 1940 a 2000, o Brasil quadruplicou sua população, que ficou mais parda e velha. O país deixou de ser rural, ficou mais evangélico, e reduziu em cinco vezes a taxa de analfabetismo.

Os dados constam no estudo “Tendências demográficas: uma análise da população com base nos resultados dos Censos Demográficos de 1940 e 2000”, documento divulgado no final de maio pelo Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE).

A população do Brasil passou de 41,2 milhões de habitantes, em 1940, para 169,8 milhões em 2000. Influenciadas pelo processo de miscigenação racial, mais pessoas se declararam pardas no último Censo – 38,5% -, quando não passavam de 21,2% nos anos 40 do século passado.

Os evangélicos cresceram, no período, de 2,6% do total da população para 15,4%. O estudo mostrou uma expressiva redução de católicos romanos, de 95% para 73,6% da população. Os evangélicos se expandiram em todas as regiões do país, mas foi no Norte onde mais cresceram, sobrepujando a região Sul, que concentrava o maior rebanho, segundo o Censo de 1940.

Leia mais

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Is Your Gospel Robust?

Here are some of Scott McKnight's thoughts during the recent Spiritual Formation Forum as related by the editors of Leadership Journal...

He called the standard evangelical gospel, outlined below, “right, but not right enough.” Essentially, we’ve watered down the good news in a way that has marginalized the church in God’s plan of redemption.

This fact was driven home recently by a friend of mine who teaches at a Christian college. He said a hand in the class went up in the middle of his lecture about the church and culture. The student, in all sincerity, asked, “Do we really need the church?” My friend was struck by the question, and by the fact that the classroom was filled with future church leaders. Something is amiss when even Christian leaders are questioning the necessity of the church. That something, according to McKnight, is the gospel we’ve been preaching.

Scot McKnight summarized the “Standard Gospel Presentation” this way:

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
Your problem is that you are sinful; God can’t admit sinners into his presence.
Jesus died for you to deal with you “sin-problem.”
If you trust in Christ, you can be admitted into God’s presence.

He went on to say that the problems with this popular evangelical gospel include:

1. No one in the New Testament really preaches this gospel.
2. This gospel is about one thing: humans gaining access to God’s presence.
3. This gospel creates and individualist Christian life.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A "Radical" Thought by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objectives -- education, building, missions, holding services. The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christ's. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ and that everything is to be gathered together in Him.