PERSECUTION & Let your enemies “bring out the best in you, not the worst.” Matt. 5:43-46 #TheMessageBible

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.”

Matthew 5:43-47 MSG

http://bible.com/97/mat.5.43-47.msg

POLITICS & Research indicates political posturing by Christians may be linked to rising rates of nonreligious people.

Abstract:

Hout and Fischer have made the repeated, controversial claim that the dramatic rise of “religious nones” in the United States is due to the prominence of the politics of the Christian Right. As the argument goes, the movement’s extreme stands on gay rights and abortion make religion inhospitable to those who take more moderate and liberal positions. We take another look at this proposition with novel data drawing on expert reports and interest group counts that capture the prominence of the movement in each American state from 2000 to 2010. We attach these data to decennial religious census data on the unchurched, as well as estimates of the nones from Cooperative Congressional Election Study data. At stake is whether religion is independent of political influence and whether American religion is sowing its own fate by failing to limit taking extreme stands. Rising none rates are more common in Republican states in this period. Moreover, when the Christian Right comes into more public conflict, such as over same-sex marriage bans, the rate of religious nones climbs.

The marquee religious trend in the United States over the last thirty years is the rapid rise of the “religious nones”—those who claim no religious affiliation in surveys—from just 6 percent in the early 1990s to about 25 percent today (PRRI 2016; Thiessen and Wilkins-Laflamme 2017).1 Perhaps not coincidentally, that meteoric rise started around 1994, just when the Christian Right rose to prominence within the Republican Party in government, as Republicans swept the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years.2 As the argument goes, the Christian Right is the most visible manifestation of religion in the United States, and the extreme positions taken by the movement on abortion and especially gay rights made all religion inhospitable for liberals and moderates (Hout and Fischer 2002, 2014; see also Evans 2016). We aim to revisit this claim by taking one of the mechanisms seriously—Is there a relationship between Christian Right presence in (state) politics and the supply of nones?

We define the Christian Right in much the same way as others have: “as a social movement that attempts to mobilize evangelical Protestants and other orthodox Christians into conservative political action” (Wilcox and Larson 2006, 6). Moreover, we acknowledge that the Christian Right encompasses a wide variety of different actors, including “everyone from movement leaders to activists to ordinary group members and those sympathetic to its political and religious agenda” (Klemp 2010, 25). As discussed later, our measures capture multiple facets of the movement, including a specific focus on the social movement organizations (see Miceli 2005; Rozell and Wilcox 1996; Wilcox 1992), as well as more holistic sense of anything elite observers would lump together as the movement. We use the term “Christian Right” throughout the paper to refer to both, and in this way our operational definition of the Christian Right captures both sides of what Rozell and Wilcox (1996, 7) cover: “organizations that attempt to mobilize orthodox Christian religious views behind a very conservative political agenda.”

Our works draws on a decade and a half of data gathering, surveying elite observers in the electoral moment regarding whether Christian Right organizations were active and influential in their state’s politics. Taking place in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2016 (Conger 2010a, 2014), we attach these elite perception data to survey estimates, religious census, and U.S. Census data, in addition to other data sources, to assess why the supply of nones changed in the states. We argue that the rate of change is uneven across the states, driven by the salient policy controversy linked to Christian Right activism. Our findings suggest that Christian Right influence in state politics seems to negatively affect religion, such that religious attachments fade in the face of visible Christian Right policy victories.

Read more at … http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1065912918771526?cookieSet=1

PREACHING & Baylor Univ. releases list of “12 most effective preachers” & my exercise for preachers.

Baylor University conducted a survey to identify the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world. Now, two decades after the original survey, the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary has identified the 12 most effective preachers of 2018.

The 12 individuals named as the most effective preachers in the English-speaking world, according to George W. Truett Theological Seminary’s national survey are … 

12 Most Effective PreachersRead more at … https://www.baylor.edu/truett/index.php?id=951217

A Leadership Exercise by Dr. Whitesel:

Listen to a sermon from 3 to 5 of these preachers. Then write out the similarities you hear. This exercise can help you identify recurring aspects of preachers known for preaching effectiveness.

PREACHING & The Surprising Power of Asking Questions #OrganicChurchBook #HarvardBusinessReview

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When researching my Abingdon Press book, “Inside the organic church,” I found growing young churches often have sermons in which the audience is asked to respond to the preacher with live questions. Traditionalists usually found this worrisome, because they feared losing control of the learning experience. But research cited in this Harvard Business Review article demonstrates that asking questions deepens learning.  Not surprisingly, I practice questioning of my listeners in my courses, seminars and even sermons.

by Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2018.

“Be a good listener,” Dale Carnegie advised in his 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. “Ask questions the other person will enjoy answering.” More than 80 years later, most people still fail to heed Carnegie’s sage advice. When one of us (Alison) began studying conversations at Harvard Business School several years ago, she quickly arrived at a foundational insight: People don’t ask enough questions. In fact, among the most common complaints people make after having a conversation, such as an interview, a first date, or a work meeting, is “I wish [s/he] had asked me more questions” and “I can’t believe [s/he] didn’t ask me any questions.”

…Dating back to the 1970s, research suggests that people have conversations to accomplish some combination of two major goals: information exchange (learning) and impression management (liking). Recent research shows that asking questions achieves both.

… Not all questions are created equal. Alison’s research, using human coding and machine learning, revealed four types of questions: introductory questions (“How are you?”), mirror questions (“I’m fine. How are you?”), full-switch questions (ones that change the topic entirely), and follow-up questions (ones that solicit more information). Although each type is abundant in natural conversation, follow-up questions seem to have special power. They signal to your conversation partner that you are listening, care, and want to know more. People interacting with a partner who asks lots of follow-up questions tend to feel respected and heard.

An unexpected benefit of follow-up questions is that they don’t require much thought or preparation—indeed, they seem to come naturally to interlocutors. In Alison’s studies, the people who were told to ask more questions used more follow-up questions than any other type without being instructed to do so.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2018/05/the-surprising-power-of-questions

PETER ON LEADERSHIP & “I have a special concern for you church leaders…”

“I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it’s like to be a leader, in on Christ’s sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.

When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. And you who are younger must follow your leaders. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for— God has had it with the proud, But takes delight in just plain people.

So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.”

1 Peter‬ ‭5:1-7‬ ‭MSG‬‬
http://bible.com/97/1pe.5.1-7.msg

PREACHING & Why a story well-told should elicit in a listener the response, “Oh, tell it again!” #ChristinePartonBurkett

“Some stories need to be told again and again. So it is with the story of Easter, a story that reminds us that we belong to God and that Jesus is out ahead of us, calling us to God’s future…” by Nathan Kirkpatrick, Faith & Leadership, Duke Divinity School, 3/26/18.

My colleague Christine Parton Burkett reminds preachers that children, after hearing a well-told story, never respond, “What does it mean?” Instead, with glee and abandon, they exclaim, “Oh, tell it again!” She reminds preachers that, as human beings, we never really outgrow our love of a story well-told; there is a part of each of us that wants to cheer, “Oh, tell it again!”

Read more at … https://www.faithandleadership.com/nathan-kirkpatrick-tell-it-again?utm_source=NI_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=NI_feature

 

POVERTY & The trauma of perpetual poverty.

“Dr. King, Racial Trauma, and The Church”

by Kyle J. Howard, 1/29/18.

THE TRAUMA OF PERPETUAL POVERTY

Historically, the black community in America has always lived in an airtight cage of poverty. From enslavement to ghettos and now through the agenda of mass incarceration which has robbed many black families of their sons and fathers; the black community as a collective whole is a forcibly impoverished community. This reality is largely the result of racialized systems that are in place that allow white people to flourish while black people fight to simply survive. Dr. King recognized the psychological toll that this reality had on his community, and it fueled him to fight for their equality. King saw economic equality as a key to the cage of poverty his people were in, King states, “WHEN YOU SEE THE VAST MAJORITY OF YOUR TWENTY MILLION NEGRO BROTHERS SMOTHERING IN AN AIRTIGHT CAGE OF POVERTY IN THE MIDST OF AN AFFLUENT SOCIETY… THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHY WE FIND IT DIFFICULT TO WAIT.” Witnessing your community suffocating and without hope is a devastating thing to experience. Poverty plagues the black community, and there are racialized systems that have been in place for centuries ensuring that such poverty continues. Families have been broken as sons and fathers have been displaced due to mass incarceration. The pain and angst that comes from being a person of color in a racialized society can lead to various forms of self-medication and the “war on drugs” has seen to it that such self-medicating (racially traumatized) people are locked behind bars rather than cared for and rehabilitated. Once said people are released from prison, they enter into an even darker crevice of their cage as opportunities for work disappear as well as opportunities to be a productive citizen through acts such as voting. School systems in dense minority areas are left without proper funding, and so the hope of education being the key to exit the cage is abandoned at an early age. Living life knowing that you are stuck in poverty and there is no hope of ever flourishing is depressing and leads to deep despair as well. These feelings of hopelessness and despair are compounded as the media and political parties present such people of color as simply free loading criminals who are inconvenient burdens upon society. In light of all this, the black community and other communities of color witness the white community benefit from the same systems that have been put in place to keep them from flourishing. These realities can lead someone to question not only their humanity but their inherent value as well.

Read more at … http://kylejhoward.com/blog/dr-king-racial-trauma-and-the-church/