BIBLE & 5 facts on how Americans view the Bible and other religious texts #PewResearch

by  , Pew Research Fact Tank, 4/14/17.

… Here are five key facts about Americans and their holy texts.

About a third of Americans (35%) say they read scripture at least once a week, while 45% seldom or never read scripture, according to 2014 data from our Religious Landscape Study

Three-quarters of Christians say they believe the Bible is the word of God. Eight-in-ten Muslims (83%) say the Quran is the word of God, according to the 2014 survey. Far fewer Jews (37%) say they view the Torah as the word of God.

Christians, who make up a majority of U.S. adults (71%), are divided over how to interpret the Bible. While about four-in-ten Christians (39%) say the Bible’s text is the word of God and should be taken literally, 36% say it should not be interpreted literally or express another or no opinion. A separate 18% of Christians view the Bible as a book written by men, not God.

In 2014, about four-in-ten Christians (42%) said reading the Bible or other religious materials is an essential part of what being Christian means to them personally. An additional 37% say reading the Bible is important but not essential to being a Christian, and 21% say reading the Bible is not an important part of their Christian identity.

Seven-in-ten Americans (71%) know the Bible teaches that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. A similar share know that Moses was the biblical figure who led the Exodus from Egypt, and 63% could identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible, according to our 2010 religious knowledge survey. But fewer than half of adults (45%) could name all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and only four-in-ten (39%) identified Job as the biblical figure known for remaining obedient to God despite extraordinary suffering.

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/14/5-facts-on-how-americans-view-the-bible-and-other-religious-texts/

BELIEF & When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean? #PewResearch

Pew Research, 4/25/18

Previous Pew Research Center studies have shown that the share of Americans who believe in God with absolute certainty has declined in recent years, while the share saying they have doubts about God’s existence – or that they do not believe in God at all – has grown.

These trends raise a series of questions: When respondents say they don’t believe in God, what are they rejecting? Are they rejecting belief in any higher power or spiritual force in the universe? Or are they rejecting only a traditional Christian idea of God – perhaps recalling images of a bearded man in the sky? Conversely, when respondents say they dobelieve in God, what do they believe in – God as described in the Bible, or some other spiritual force or supreme being?

A new Pew Research Center survey of more than 4,700 U.S. adults finds that one-third of Americans say they do not believe in the God of the Bible, but that they do believe there is some other higher power or spiritual force in the universe. A slim majority of Americans (56%) say they believe in God “as described in the Bible.” And one-in-ten do not believe in any higher power or spiritual force.

In the U.S., belief in a deity is common even among the religiously unaffiliated – a group composed of those who identify themselves, religiously, as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” and sometimes referred to, collectively, as religious “nones.” Indeed, nearly three-quarters of religious “nones” (72%) believe in a higher power of some kind, even if not in God as described in the Bible.

The survey questions that mention the Bible do not specify any particular verses or translations, leaving that up to each respondent’s understanding. But it is clear from questions elsewhere in the survey that Americans who say they believe in God “as described in the Bible” generally envision an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving deity who determines most or all of what happens in their lives. By contrast, people who say they believe in a “higher power or spiritual force” – but not in God as described in the Bible – are much less likely to believe in a deity who is omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent and active in human affairs.

Read more at … http://www.pewforum.org/2018/04/25/when-americans-say-they-believe-in-god-what-do-they-mean/

BULLIES & The Danger of “Induction” (& Contrasting it with “Deduction”)

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: There is a an important difference between deduction and induction, and the two are often confused. Watch the video below where Sherlock Holmes makes many small observations to reach a bigger conclusion. This is induction and as Holmes demonstrates, should only be utilized by someone with expertise in induction. See the second video regarding what can happen with bullies use induction.

Also remember that deduction means to take a large concept and logically deduce specifics from it. Induction is the other way around, which takes many small factors and tries to create a large picture. Induction, which the Monty Python sketch below demonstrates, can lead to a witchhunt.

BRITISH METHODISTS & How they open doors to stay relevant. #FreshExpressions #SideDoorEvangelism #WesleyChapel

by Linda Bloom, UMNS, Feb. 20, 2018

Bermondsey Central Hall no longer has its grand 2,000-seat sanctuary… Bermondsey is not a Methodist tourist mecca like Wesley’s Chapel, built by Methodism’s founder John Wesley as his London base, or Methodist Central Hall Westminster, across from Westminster Abbey.

But their congregations are all growing, filled with Methodists who have come to London from many other countries, mostly from Africa. And all three are trying to respond to the communities around them, to be relevant — both spiritually and socially — in today’s London.

Such growth is not the norm for many other congregations in the Methodist Church in Britain. A report released during the 2017 British Methodist Conference last June showed that membership had dropped significantly below 200,000 — to 188,000.

The silver lining to this cloud: churches reach an estimated half a million people weekly through cafés, youth clubs and alternative forms of church…

“At the heart of this report, there is a challenge,” the Rev. Gareth J Powell, secretary of the conference, said after the Statistics for Mission report was received. “…that we must take seriously our responsibility for being an evangelistic community of love which leads people to Christ.”

…What does it really take to grow the British Methodist Church?

The Rev. Martyn Atkins, former top executive of the British Methodist Conference and current superintendent minister at Westminster, said the church’s experiment over the past 14 years with what it is called “Fresh Expressions,” has demonstrated that making new disciples is just plain hard work.

Successful ministries take longer and cost more than expected “and whatever you think you’re going to do, you’ve got to do it twice as zealously or twice as creatively to get what you thought was the answer you were going to get,” added Atkins, who is chairperson of the Fresh Expressions board.

Winnie Baffoe is one of the Fresh Expressions pioneer workers employed by the church who is encouraged to think out of the box. She describes her position as “a holy risk.”

She has created “Mummies Republic” at the South London Mission, teaming up with government and social agencies to address the mental health issues and physical and social needs of vulnerable mothers with children aged 5 and under.

“My thing has always been to create a fresh expression of church so that I feel Jesus is walking in the neighborhood,” she declared…

For the Rev. Jennifer Smith, who became the superintendent minister of Wesley’s Chapel last September, the concept of taking Jesus outside the church building is crucial.

“When we are working so hard to keep the doors open…it can be easy to forget that we too can walk out,” she noted. “We do need to move beyond what I would call an attractive model of mission — you come to my house where I can host you and welcome you. Actually, that’s not how Jesus worked.”

Read more at … http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/british-methodists-open-doors-to-stay-relevant?

BLACK HISTORY & 5 facts about the religious lives of African Americans #PewResearch #BlackHistoryMonth

by David Masci, Pew Research, 2/7/18.

Religion, particularly Christianity, has played an outsize role in African American history. While most Africans brought to the New World to be slaves were not Christians when they arrived, many of them and their descendants embraced Christianity, finding comfort in the Biblical message of spiritual equality and deliverance. In post-Civil War America, a burgeoning black church played a key role strengthening African American communities and in providing key support to the civil rights movement.

For Black History Month, here are five facts about the religious lives of African Americans.

1 Roughly eight-in-ten (79%) African Americans self-identify as Christian, as do seven-in-ten whites and 77% of Latinos, according to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study. Most black Christians and about half of all African Americans (53%) are associated with historically black Protestant churches, according to the study. Smaller shares of African Americans identify with evangelical Protestantism (14%), Catholicism (5%), mainline Protestantism (4%) and Islam (2%).

2 The first predominantly black denominations in the U.S. were founded in the late 18th century, some by free black people. Today, the largest historically black church in the U.S. is the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Inc. Other large historically black churches include the Church of God in Christ, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), and two other Baptist churches – the National Baptist Convention of America and the Progressive National Baptist Association Inc.

3 African Americans are more religious than whites and Latinos by many measures of religious commitment. For instance, three-quarters of black Americans say religion is very important in their lives, compared with smaller shares of whites (49%) and Hispanics (59%); African Americans also are more likely to attend services at least once a week and to pray regularly. Black Americans (83%) are more likely to say they believe in God with absolute certainty than whites (61%) and Latinos (59%).

4 The share of African Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated has increased in recent years, mirroring national trends. In 2007, when the first Religious Landscape Study was conducted, only 12% of black Americans said they were religiously unaffiliated — that is, atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” By the time the 2014 Landscape Study was conducted, that number had grown to 18%. As with the general population, younger African American adults are more likely than older African Americans to be unaffiliated. Three-in-ten (29%) African Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 say they are unaffiliated compared with only 7% of black adults 65 and older who say this.

5 Older African Americans are more likely than younger black adults to be associated with historically black Protestant churches. While 63% of the Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) say they identify with historically black denominations, only 41% of black Millennials say the same. (When the survey was conducted in 2014, Millennials included those born between 1981 and 1996.)

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/07/5-facts-about-the-religious-lives-of-african-americans/

BLACK BONHOEFFER & How the Black Church in America helped convert Bonhoeffer from his racist roots

Commentary by Prof. B:  The following is an powerful excerpt from Reggie Williams’ powerful book Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus (Baylor Univ. Press., 2014). I hosted Dr. Williams when he visited IWU and was still conducting research on Bonheoffer.  He found prior to the time Bonhoeffer spent in NYC among the Black community, that he considered himself a theologian … but in hindsight not converted (in a similar fashion as did John Wesley).

The following excerpts (quoted at the bottom of the first page and top of the second) show how villainous Nazi ideology had crept into Bonhoeffer’s thinking prior to his experiences in African American churches. Soon after, Bonhoeffer would be converted in a Harlem, African American church. The African American community impacted this theologian so deeply (my students are encouraged to read the book to understand more) that Bonhoeffer became a brilliant and sensitive theologian who gave us among others, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community and The Cost of Discipleship . To better understand how Christians can reconcile in a polarized world, read Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus and then Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community and The Cost of Discipleship . You will find the call to reconciliation is difficult, but a cost Bonhoeffer reminds us that maturing Christians are prepared to bear.

Black Bonheoffer 1

Black Bonheoffer 2.jpg

Black Bonheoffer 3.jpgRead more at … Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance.

BIBLE & 3 misbeliefs about God’s role as you lead #BiblicalLeadershipMagazine

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How do you view God’s part as you live out of a leadership position? Here are three perils to modern leadership and the flaws within these misbeliefs.

1. God makes the work easier for the leader. 

A viewpoint has risen within Christianity that believes if God is pleased with our efforts, he will make the work easier. Sometimes this is signified by a theology of abundance where a faithful leader should expect God to make the leader’s path more affluent and unproblematic.3 There are several flaws with this thinking.

Flaw 1: Blessings can overshadow buffetings.Often, churches are more familiar with the promises of blessings than they are with the warnings of buffeting. While there are scriptural promises that God will bless us, there are also warnings of difficulties that lie in following Jesus. Since prosperity writers often cite passages from 2 Corinthians,4 let’s look at a brief comparison of Paul’s thoughts in this book.

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can come to expect privilege, with a right to ease and com- fort. King David’s temptation with Bathsheba occurred after he dodged his king- ly duty of leading his men into battle, staying behind because of feelings that he deserved this luxury. Theologian Joyce Baldwin observes, “While others spent themselves and risked their lives, he was ‘killing time,’ acting like one of the kings of the nations round about, and exercising a kind of ‘right of a lord’ ” (to do whatever he pleased).8 As we see from David’s story, if leaders expect God to always make their work easier, a false sense of privilege and entitlement can blind leaders to their duty and even to temptation.

Flaw 3: Modern leaders can question God’s participation if the work does not get easier.Prosperity thinking can thwart perseverance and persistence because a leader might conclude that if the route is not easy, God must not be in it. This thinking can leave leaders like Joan unprepared and confused by the onset of hardships. Criticizing his generation, Thomas à Kempis wrote,

Jesus hath . . . many desirous of comfort, but few of tribulation. . . . All desire to rejoice with him, few are willing to endure anything for him. Many follow Jesus unto the breaking of bread; but few to the drinking of the cup of his passion. . . . Many love Jesus so long as adversities do not happen. Many praise and bless him, so long as they receive comforts from him.9

All three flaws remind us that although God promises to bless his people (2 Cor. 4:18; 8:9; 9:10-11), there are also buffetings that accompany the mission (2 Cor. 4:17-18; 11:23-28). The modern inclination that God principally makes the work easier for the leader is not only unbiblical but also potentially debilitating.

2. God’s presence is a sign of leadership.

Another peril is that modern leaders will allude to the presence of God as a sign of validation for their ministry and/or vision. This manifests itself in several ways.

Flaw 1:Modern leaders may believe visions and dreams validate their leadership and will inspire followers. Supernatural revelation is a way that God can and does reveal his
will (John 16:13), but many modern leaders overly apply and misapply this to
buttress personal vision. Oral Roberts infamously declared that unless $8 million was raised, God would “call him home.”10 Whether Roberts felt God’s warning would validate his plea for funds, inspire more giving, or was just a personal warning, to state it so publicly became self-serving. Modern leadership sometimes mutates into a view that because God has blessed and set apart the leader, followers should follow her or him (and by extension bless the leader too). Henri Nouwen warns pastors this is leadership based on “the temptation to be spectacular,” a temptation the devil offered Jesus when he bid him to throw himself from the temple.11

Flaw 2: Modern leaders can believe that because God’s presence is so pervasive in their lives, God excuses them from corporate worship and prayer.Modern leaders will often feel that because they have so much personal time with God, they do not need congregational times of prayer, worship, and fasting. In a large and thriving church, leaders who were once actively involved in public worship will often be found backstage chatting during worship and prayer.12

God’s presence is certainly needed for church leadership. But when leaders rely primarily on status and not fruit, they ignore Paul’s advice:

If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. (1 Tim. 3:1-3 THE MESSAGE)

Excerpted from Organix: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, by Bob Whitesel (Abingdon Press). Used with permission. 

3 For an overview of the prosperity movement and its influence on modern church leadership see Simon Coleman, The Globalization of Charismatic Christianity: Spreading the Gospel of Prosperity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). And, for an interesting examination of prosperity in African-American congregations see Stephanie Y. Mitchem, Name It and Claim It? Prosperity Preaching in the Black Church (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2007).

4 C.f. Kenneth Hagin, Biblical Keys to Financial Prosperity (Tulsa, OK: Faith Library Publications, 2009), Gloria Copeland, God’s Will is Prosperity (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Publications, 1996), Frederick K. C. Price, Prosperity (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2007).

5 The Amplified Bible is customarily cited by the prosperity movement because its amplifications emphasize the eminence of the blessing, c.f. Joyce Meyer, Prepare to Prosper: Moving from the Land of Lack to the Land of Plenty (New York: FaithWords, 2003), p. 10. Meyer rightly notes that when God bestows his bounty it is usually accompanied by a responsibility to help the needy (p. 23). But, charitable opportunities and tactics are not addressed to any great degree in this book.

6 For a comparison of blessings and buffetings in 2 Corinthians see Alan Redpath’s Blessings our of Buffetings: Studies in II Corinthians (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1985).

7 Whether buffetings are sent by God, allowed by God or autonomous work of the devil is beyond the score of this book. Readers who want to study this topic further may wish to start with: C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Harper One, 2001), Philip Yancy, Where is God When It Hurts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002) and Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Boston, MA: Dutton Adult, 2008).

8 Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 and 2 Samuel: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), p. 231. Baldwin describes David’s actions with the French term droit de seigneur, a feudal right that allowed a lord to justify doing whatever he pleased.

9 Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Chicago: Moody Publishing, 1980), pp. 114-115.

10 Richard N. Ostling, Barbara Dolan and Michael P. Harris, “Religion: Raising Eyebrows and the Dead,” Time Magazine (New York: Time Inc.), July 13, 1987.

11 Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1989), p. 51-53