God & Charles Dickens: Recovering the Christian Voice of a Classic Author.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Like many people at Christmas, I’m fond of Charles Dickens’ stories, especially “A Christmas Carol.” I even adapted Dickens’ story for a Christmas production that ran for over 10 years, involved over 20 churches and raised money for a Christian retreat center.

I knew that Dickens had a strong faith in Jesus Christ, and that he often referred to “real Christianity” as those who modeled Jesus’ life. 

A helpful, scholarly book has come out describing how Dickens faith contributed to the long lasting message of his books. It is titled, ”God and Charles Dickens: Recovering the Christian Voice of a Classic Author” and available from the usual online sources.

Below is an interview with the author. I found especially memorable the following paragraphs:

Scholar and author Dr. Gary Colledge has studied the legendary 19th century English writer extensively. The Akron, Ohio, native even studied in the United Kingdom, earning a Ph.D. at the prestigious University of St. Andrews for his work on the faith of Dickens.

“That’s what’s going to be prevalent in anything we read by Dickens — that idea that ‘real Christianity,’ and Dickens uses that term ‘real Christianity’ a number of times in letters and in his writing,” Colledge told CBN News. “‘Real Christianity’ is being like Jesus.”

God and Scrooge: Finding the Faith of Charles Dickens

By Mark Martin, CBN News, 12/24/19.

…Scholar and author Dr. Gary Colledge has studied the legendary 19th century English writer extensively. The Akron, Ohio, native even studied in the United Kingdom, earning a Ph.D. at the prestigious University of St. Andrews for his work on the faith of Dickens.

“That’s what’s going to be prevalent in anything we read by Dickens — that idea that ‘real Christianity,’ and Dickens uses that term ‘real Christianity’ a number of times in letters and in his writing,” Colledge told CBN News. “‘Real Christianity’ is being like Jesus.”

Lessons from Scrooge

During his research, Colledge discovered that Dickens was a Christian and his faith in Jesus Christ surfaces throughout his works — in the themes and characters.

Colledge read a letter from Dickens to one of his critics:

“‘All my strongest illustrations are derived from the New Testament. All my social abuses are shown as departures from its Spirit. All my good people are humble, charitable, faithful, forgiving, over and over again. I claim them in expressed words as disciples of the Founder of our religion.'”

Read the full interview here… https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2012/december/god-and-scrooge-finding-the-faith-of-charles-dickens

GENEROSITY & Religious participation, in most settings, increases generosity.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: participation in a religious community has always shown to result in increased generosity. These results have been validated by the scholarly community across multiple scholarly studies. Therefore, a few years ago when one survey came out with the opposite results (e.g. that religious participation lowers generosity) there was widespread suspicion in the research methods. Dozens of scholarly studies could not be overturned by one study, even though national media outlets promoted the story. Below is an article about how this one survey has now been retracted because it had a major research error that skewed the results.

Does a Religious Upbringing Promote Generosity or Not? An erroneous paper on religion and generosity is finally retracted.

by Tyler J. VanderWeele, Psychology Today Magazine, 9/25/19.

2015, a paper by Jean Decety and co-authors reported that children who were brought up religiously were less generous. The paper received a great deal of attention, and was covered by over 80 media outlets including The Economist, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and Scientific American. As it turned out, however, the paper by Decety was wrong. Another scholar, Azim Shariff, a leading expert on religion and pro-social behavior, was surprised by the results, as his own research and meta-analysis (combining evidence across studies from many authors) indicated that religious participation, in most settings, increased generosity.

Decety’s credit, he released the data. And upon re-analysis, Shariff discovered that the results were due to a coding error. The data had been collected across numerous countries, e.g. United States, Canada, Turkey, etc. and the country information had been coded as “1, 2, 3…” Although Decety’s paper had reported that they had controlled for country, they had accidentally not controlled for each country, but just treated it as a single continuous variable so that, for example “Canada” (coded as 2) was twice the “United States” (coded as 1). Regardless of what one might think about the relative merits and rankings of countries, this is obviously not the right way to analyze data. When it was correctly analyzed, using separate indicators for each country, Decety’s “findings” disappeared. Shariff’s re-analysis and correction was published in the same journal, Current Biology, in 2016. The media, however, did not follow along. While it covered extensively the initial incorrect results, only four media outlets picked up the correction.

Read more at .,. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/human-flourishing/201909/does-religious-upbringing-promote-generosity-or-not

GEN Z & 7 Helpful Insights from Recent Research.

Another Look at the ‘Least Religious Generation’

by Drew Moser, Christianity Today, 9/25/19.

The Twentysomething Soul: Understanding the Religious and Secular Lives of American Young Adults, by Tim Clydesdale and Kathleen Garces-Foley… the authors’ original research, which draws from hundreds of interviews and thousands of surveys of twentysomethings across the nation. Their analysis focuses on the 91 percent of American twentysomethings who identify as either Christian (Catholic, evangelical, or mainline Protestant) or “religiously unaffiliated.” (Twentysomethings of other faith traditions are not considered in this book.) Clydesdale and Garces-Foley distill their work into seven major claims:

  • Contrary to popular opinion, the beliefs and practices of American twentysomethings reveal far more continuity than decline.
  • One in three twentysomethings attend worship regularly, but they cluster within young-adult friendly congregations.
  • The religiously unaffiliated are a diverse group, consisting of atheists, agnostics, and believers.
  • Today’s American twentysomethings adopt one of four approaches to faith: They prioritize it, they reject it, they sideline it, or they practice an “eclectic spirituality.”
  • American twentysomething spirituality groups into two camps: traditionally religious and nontraditional.
  • Those American twentysomethings who prioritize religious and spiritual life are more likely to engage in a certain set of practices: marriage, parenthood, college graduation, employment, voting, community engagement, and social involvement.
  • American twentysomethings view institutions differently than their elders: As the authors explain, “Today’s twentysomethings experience the world less as sets of institutions prescribing standard life scripts and more as nodes on a network from which they can freely choose cultural symbols, strategies, and interpretations.”

GUESTS & How to Lose a First Time Guest in 10 Minutes or Less. #CareyNieuwhof

 , Nov. 2018.

,,, Recently, on Episode 132 of my Leadership Podcast, I had a far-ranging conversation on a guest’s first ten minutes at a church with Greg Atkinson, author of Secrets of a Secret Church Shopper. You can listen in the player below, or better-yet, subscribe to my pocdast for free on

What’s surprising to me about the factors Greg outlines is that they’re actually simple hospitality, people and facility-related things.

Conclusion? Often the barrier to Christ isn’t spiritual—it’s us.

1. HAVE A BAD ONLINE PRESENCE

… When was the last time you thought about your website from the perspective of a first time guest? Same for your social media accounts or pages.

Most people will check out a church online long before they check out a church in real life. It doesn’t matter whether you live-stream your services or not, a simple website with basic information for a first-time guest is helpful. (Here’s an example from our site at Connexus Church.)

2. MAKE PARKING FRUSTRATING

,,, Want a clear, short expression of a great guest services vision? Check out Gwinnett Church’s Guest Services video.  The team at Gwinnett Church even takes pre-schoolers into the building on wagon rides. 4 year olds love it. 🙂 I’ll bet parents do too.

3. UNDER-GREET GUESTS

Many churches say they’re friendly. But what they mean is they’re friendly to each other.

… First-time guests need an appropriate welcome, clear directions to what’s next and the sense that there are people there who knew they were coming and are able to help them.

4. OVER-GREET GUESTS

… One rule that’s helped us at our church is simply this: greet people the way they want to be greeted.

Recruit emotionally intelligent guest services people who can sense if someone is an introvert and merely wants a ‘welcome’ or if a guest is an extrovert looking for a warm embrace and a conversation.

5. MAKE KIDS CHECK-IN COMPLICATED

… Two quick hacks can help this. Spend a bit of money on good technology. Get some updated tablets or computers that actually work (kids ministry usually suffer from hand-me-down syndrome) and give them meaningful wifi bandwidth so they run quickly.

Then, overstaff your check-in area. Have check-in people meet parents while they’re waiting in line and take their information so when they get to the front of the line they just need to get tags for their kids and go.

6. KEEP YOUR FACILITY TIRED AND DIRTY

The problem with your church is the same problem you have with your house: you become blind to the imperfections and problems.

7. CONFUSE THEM

… You may have clever theming for your kids environments or student environments, but make sure your signage is still clear for first-time guests. So while we call our pre-school Waumba Land, the sign in the main foyer says “Ages birth – five.” It’s just simpler that way.

Similarly, with the main auditorium or sanctuary, restrooms and other areas guests need to access. Just be clear.

… The interview with Greg Atkinson gives many more insights. I hope you check it out!

Read more at … https://careynieuwhof.com/how-to-a-lose-first-time-guest-in-10-minutes-or-less/

 

GLOBAL POPULATION & Two #InfoGraphics that visualize the world’s population

by Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalization, 4/2/19.

Visualizing the world’s population

Today’s data visualization comes to us from PopulationPyramid.net, a fantastic resource for data on global population numbers.

It allows us to see the location of the world’s 7.5 billion people by resizing countries based on their populations and then coloring and organizing them by region.

This simple application of data visualization makes it more intuitive to comprehend where people live around the globe, as well as how different countries compare in size.

A final look at global population

This isn’t the first time we’ve shown you a data visualization that organizes the global population – here’s one we previously published that shows each country in a bubble chart:

While this uses slightly older data, it is still interesting to see how data visualization can help us understand a complex and wide-ranging set of data that is relevant to everyday life.

GENERATIONS & Mr Potato Head gets fired, replaced by his millennial counterpart Mr Avo Head per #Hasbro (#AprilFools ;-) #SeeThePicture

by Rachael Thompson, Mashable, 4/1/19, April Fools Day.

Mr Avo Head, suitable for all millennials.
Mr Avo Head, suitable for all millennials.
IMAGE: HASBRO

On April 1, 2019, also known as April Fools’ Day, Hasbro announced the termination of our spud-like pal’s contract to make way for his millennial replacement, Mr Avo Head. 

“It’s no guaccident that the avocado was chosen to replace the carby potato,” reads Hasbro’s statement. “Hasbro has announced that Mr Potato Head will no longer be a star carb character and will be replaced with his soon to be Insta-famous rival, Mr Avo Head.”

Read more at … https://mashable.com/article/mr-potato-head-avo-head/#ZDkWb9MIbZqQ

GENERATIONS & A chart comparing Generations X, Y & Z by Dr. Jan Paron for #GCRN18 #GreatCommissionResearchNetwork

by Dr. Jan Paron, 10/18/18, Great Commission Research Network annual conference, Orlando, FL, graduate of the Missional Coach program..

(bio from web) Her work reflects experience in urban ministry and leadership, diversity, strategic planning, grant writing, children and adult literacy, teaching children of poverty, differentiating instruction, and curriculum development. Currently, she is a dean and professor with the All Nations Leadership Institute. She was one of the Institute’s founding members.

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