RELIGIONS & These are all the world’s major religions in one map. #InfoGraphic #WorldEconomicForum

by Frank Jacobs, World Economic Forum, 3/26/19.

  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There’s one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which? 

Image: Carrie Osgood

A picture says more than a thousand words, and that goes for this world map as well. This map conveys not just the size but also the distribution of world religions, at both a global and national level.

Strictly speaking it’s an infographic rather than a map, but you get the idea. The circles represent countries, their varying sizes reflect population sizes, and the slices in each circle indicate religious affiliation.

The result is both panoramic and detailed. In other words, this is the best, simplest map of world religions ever. Some quick takeaways:

  • Christianity (blue) dominates in the Americas, Europe and the southern half of Africa.
  • Islam (green) is the top religion in a string of countries from northern Africa through the Middle East to Indonesia.
  • India stands out as a huge Hindu bloc (dark orange).
  • Buddhism (light orange) is the majority religion in South East Asia and Japan.
  • China is the country with the world’s largest ‘atheist/agnostic’ population (grey) as well as worshippers of ‘other’ religions (yellow).
  • The Americas are (mostly) solidly Christian 
 Which is the least Christian country in the Americas? The answer may surprise you.

… But the map – based on figures from the World Religion Database (behind a paywall) – also allows for some more detailed observations.

Read more at … https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/this-is-the-best-and-simplest-world-map-of-religions/

RELIGIOSITY & Highly religious adults are more engaged with family, more likely to volunteer & happier overall. #PewResearch

by Pew Research Center, 4/12/16.

Highly religious Americans are happier and more involved with family but are no more likely to exercise, recycle or make socially conscious consumer choices

Highly religious adults more engaged with family, more likely to volunteer and happier overallA new Pew Research Center study of the ways religion influences the daily lives of Americans finds that people who are highly religious are more engaged with their extended families, more likely to volunteer, more involved in their communities and generally happier with the way things are going in their lives.

Highly religious adults not distinctive in interpersonal interactions, health, social consciousness

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2016/04/12/religion-in-everyday-life/

REVIVAL & Over 100,000 people in Wales came to know Christ doing these 4 things.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Jay Morgan is a Missional Coach graduate (www.MissionalCoaches.net) who shadowed me for a year to learn my coaching tools. He is now is the director of the Appalachian Prayer Center And regularly combines history, the Bible and practice in mission-expanding postings. Here is an example:

Lessons from the Welsh Revival Pt.1: Confess Sin by Jay Morgan, Appalachian Prayer Center, 3/11/19.

the four tenets of the message that fueled the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905.  During this short period of time, revival swept through nearly every town in the Island of Wales and over 100,000 people came to faith in Christ.

A young preacher, Evan Roberts stressed the following four tenets to his companions.  As they began to personally do these, God used this group to help spread revival all over Wales.  There is much to be learned from these tenets as we prepare for revival today.

    Confess all known sin, receiving forgiveness through Jesus Christ

    Remove anything in your life that you are in doubt or feel unsure about

    Be ready to obey the Holy Spirit instantly

    Publicly confess the Lord Jesus Christ.

Read more at … https://www.apcwv.com/single-post/2019/03/11/Lessons-from-the-Welsh-Revival-Pt1-Confess-Sin?utm_campaign=673fb5d5-3021-4f5d-b119-4a5359bc4ec1&utm_source=so

RECLAIMED & Why brokenness is better than giftedness in ministry.

by Brian Loritt, LifeWay, 12/8/18.

…At 25, I became the first African-American pastor at a historic white church in Southern California.

The best pastors I know aren’t necessarily the most gifted, but the most wounded.  The most dangerous are the gifted ones who can’t empathize.

Along the way I was plagued by an eerie sense that my platform was a lot larger than my character infrastructure could support. Or to say it in football language: I was out-punting my coverage.

I was gifted.

But I was also tragically unbroken, and the symptoms of this disorder manifested itself in the following ways:

  • An inability to connect with those who were afflicted and beaten down by life.
  • A nauseating arrogance seen in the judgmental spirit I nurtured towards those who made mistakes. I would often find myself thinking: What a loser. Why can’t they get it together?
  • Intense isolation. Because my ministerial paradigm made no room for those who had been wounded or defeated, I had to become my own personal PR management firm. The truth is we all have wounds and struggles, but no one could see mine.

In life and in ministry you’ll have trouble. You’ll deal with ungrateful parishioners. You’ll have leaders within your church who have one agenda—to get you out.

People will gossip about you, and even betray you.

I had these wounds; I just wasn’t broken. There’s a difference between the two.

Wounds are painful things that happen to us. Brokenness is the redemptive, Christ-exalting response to those wounds.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul—in painfully autobiographical terms—pulls us into his journey of wounds, describing his “thorn in the flesh”. While we can make good guesses as to what it was (probably some lingering health issues from his stoning in Lystra), at the end of the day they are exactly that—guesses.

What we do know is that it was painful, shameful, and constant.  Paul prayed several times for God to take it away, and God responded by saying in so many words—no.  More accurately, God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”

The best pastors I know aren’t necessarily the most gifted, but the most wounded.  The most dangerous are the gifted ones who can’t empathize.

The word “sufficient” in 2 Corinthians 12 is a poignant one, because it speaks of grace in both quality and quantity. God will give Paul not just general grace, but a specific measure of grace to get through the wounds in his life in a way that gives God glory and blesses His people.

…limp.

A LEADER’S RESPONSE TO BROKENNESS

What was the result of Paul leaning into God’s grace and experiencing Christ-exalting brokenness?

  • He was able to connect in a tender way with those who were hurting. Writing to the Thessalonians he says, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (Thessalonians 2:7).
  • He possessed a deep-seated humility seen in his repeated refrain of being the least among the disciples, or the chief of sinners.
  • He was transparent about his weakness. We know those who have not just been wounded, but redemptively broken. They’re people on public record when it comes to their weaknesses. This is Paul: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30).

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/12/03/why-brokenness-is-better-than-giftedness-in-ministry/

RELIGION & The potential benefits of personal religiousness according to science. #BostonUniversity

… The potential benefits associated with personal religiousness have been well-documented. They may include less drug, alcohol, and tobacco use; lower rates of depression and suicide; better sleep quality; and greater hopefulness and life satisfaction. A 2001 study showed that personal religious belief and practice act as a buffer against stress and the negative effects of trauma among first- and second-generation immigrant youth, and reduces the rates of depression among that population. Another study linked higher rates of religious service attendance with better test scores among US girls in the South, pointing to an emerging consensus on “the generally positive role of religious practice on education,” according to a 2003 Boston University study.

From “Should you raise your kids religious? Here’s what the science says” by Annabelle Timsit, August 5, 2018, Quartz.

Read more at … https://qz.com/1301084/should-you-raise-your-kids-religious-heres-what-the-science-says/

RECONCILIATION & Practical Ideas for Repairers of Ruined Cities, Healers of Many Devastations Written By My Colleague #ElaineHeath

Article by Rev. Elaine A. Heath, Ph.D., Dean, Duke Divinity School, The Duke Center for Reconciliation, 12/6/16.

In her book, Trauma and Grace, Serene Jones offers the proposal that both individuals and communities who suffer from trauma, can find healing and hope in certain biblical narratives. [1] For example she cites the story of the Walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-49) as a text about the communal trauma that the disciples experienced, and how Jesus broke through and helped them to begin to re-narrate their experience and their future. Jones specifically uses this text in conjunction with the trauma inflicted upon the United States on September 11, 2001. The story of the Walk to Emmaus thus becomes a template with which to imagine our own collective healing from other kinds of community trauma.

The process of healing trauma, writes Jones, includes speaking about the original harm that caused trauma, doing so in the presence of witnesses who create a safe environment as a container for the story, and finally, both those who experienced trauma and the witnesses to their story, begin to create a new story together, “to pave a new road through the brain.”[2] By creating the new narrative of hope, survivors of trauma develop agency to enact a better future. They reframe their understanding of themselves and increase their capacity to resist further victimization or enactments of violence, as well as the paralyzing apathy that can be a side effect of trauma. For communities in trauma, the corporate creation of a new pathway “through the brain” takes place through a new set of shared practices that foster communal healing. The appropriation of what Richard Hays calls Scriptural Imagination is a key element in healing communal trauma as Christians.[3]

Scriptural Imagination and Post-Election Communal Trauma

A primary task of the church in post-2016 election United States is to invite a deep reading of Scripture within the church in order to facilitate healing of communal trauma within and beyond the church. Indeed this is a significant aspect the Church’s “working out our salvation” at this volatile and polarized time…

The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Us

The first place to begin is to remember our identity. When Jesus stepped into his public ministry and preached for the first time in his hometown, he read from Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4: 18-19, 21).

Jesus, in other words, claimed Isaiah 61 as his mission statement. He then went on to live this text throughout his ministry. Because the church is the Body of Christ, Isaiah 61 is also a defining vision for the church, and no text is more powerful than this for helping the church to once again imagine how to live with and for our neighbors. This text is, indeed, a template for us to imagine God’s preferred future for the world, and to live into that future together.

Consider these verses, for example, and how they might shape our plans of action as congregations working together for the common good: ”They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:3-4). This is our vocation, our identity—to step forward and create a new story with our neighbors, one in which devastated cities and ruined neighborhoods are renewed, children grow up with a future, and the church behaves like Jesus.

In the midst of a climate of fear, despair, and hate, the church can and must live into this text, to work together for the healing of our nation. We can do this because “the Spirit of the Lord is upon us.” Not only is it possible for us to bear witness to the trauma and usher in healing through this text, but it is a gospel imperative. The church is in the world for “such a time as this…”

 

End Notes

1. Jones defines trauma as “…an event in which a person or persons perceives themselves or others as threatened by an external force that seeks to annihilate them and against which they are unable to resist and which overwhelms their ability to cope.” Serene Jones, Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World (Louisville: Westminster/John Knowx, 2009) 13. Gabor Mate describes it this way: “Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold in the absence of an empathetic witness.” Gabor Mate, “Foreward” in Peter A. Levine, In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2010), xii.

2. Jones, 31-32.

3. Richard Hays discusses Scriptural Imagination as a crucial skill that fosters renewal of the church with colleagues L. Gregory Jones, Ellen Davis, and Stanley Hauerwas at Duke Divinity School in a panel discussion Feb. 14, 2013.

4. Also see William J. Barber II, The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement, with a Foreward by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (Boston: Beacon Press, 2016).

5. Harassment Incidents Since Election Day.

6. According to a Pew survey released 11/9/16 the divide between evangelicals and other Christians in this election was similar to previous elections of recent decades.

7. Election Fears

Read more at … https://nccumc.org/news/2016/12/repairers-ruined-cities-healers-many-devastations/

REFUGEES & Reaching the nations from a small Georgia town.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I took my first-year DMin students to “the most diverse square mile in America” (Clarkston, GA) to learn first-hand from my colleague Brian Bollinger and Friends of Refugees. Here is an article about what another church is doing in the area.

“Reaching the nations from a small Georgia town” by NAMB staff, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 3/8/18

More than 1,000 refugees come to Clarkston, Ga., each year.

Send Relief missionaries Trent and Elizabeth DeLoach and the believers at Clarkston International Bible Church (CIBC) have made it their mission to help these men, women and children feel not only welcome but at home in their new country.

A U.S. refugee resettlement program in the 1990s opened the door of opportunity for people from around the world to start a new life in Clarkston.

This suburb of Atlanta eventually became known as “the most diverse square mile in America.” More than 60 countries and 100-plus languages are represented, and the population continues to grow.

A place so rich in culture is exactly the kind of city the DeLoach family dreamed of finding—however it was hard to believe such a place existed in North America, especially in Trent’s home state of Georgia…

After they married, the DeLoaches moved to Kentucky to work with a church in Louisville. They were astonished that more than 5,000 Bosnian refugees lived in the area.

They started “restaurant hopping” and praying for connections. “The different cultures, religions, languages—it was all very intimidating,” DeLoach said.

Over the course of two years, Elizabeth’s influence and passion for those forcibly displaced from their homelands slowly affected her husband’s heart…

We have people [in the city] from different religious backgrounds that include Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist. Most refugees have significant physical and emotional needs. They need Christian friends who can share the love of Jesus while helping them transition to life in America..,”

By living next door to families with diverse cultural backgrounds, Elizabeth says they have opportunities to influence the nations.

“We share with our people a three-step process — learn a name, make a friend, share Jesus. It’s simple. That’s our dream. And we see God bringing the nations to us.”

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/03/09/reaching-the-nations-in-a-small-georgia-town/