… Do seminary students, in your observation, these days, feel cowed, or more embattled? They’re entering a world that might be less receptive to the fruits of their training.
I started teaching at Union in 1977. At that time, the secular was much more elevated, and was much more prominent. The secular has taken tremendous wounds and bruises in the last thirty years, because commodification is almost taking it over—and so, when you think of the secular, you don’t think right away of scientific authority, scientific breakthroughs. When you think of the secular these days, you think of careerism, opportunism, hedonism, egoism, individualism—and the ways in which science seems to be driven by corporate greed, seems to be moving toward the explosion of the planet or the collapse of the environment. So that the secular has a very different resonance now than it did in ’77. It’s almost as if everybody recognizes the spiritual decay and the moral decrepitude of the culture. And then the question becomes, Well, what blame do we give to religious institutions for accommodating to the empire, accommodating to capitalism, accommodating to white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, accommodating to anti-Jewish, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, or anti-Palestinian orientation?
But these days people are saying, What blame do we put at the feet of the scientists tied to technology, tied to a corporate, managerial orientation? Cell phones, Facebook, Google, Wall Street, Pentagon—all of these are tied to science and technology, but it’s under the aegis of a certain way of politically engaging in the world, right? A certain way of economically engaging in the world: profit maximizing, and so on. And so the category of the secular is viewed with great suspicion these days.
In 1980, the U.S. population of 226.5 million included 14.6 million Hispanics. Fully 68% of the Hispanic population was concentrated in the 47 counties (out of more than 3,100) that had at least 50,000 Hispanic residents. The map below shows where Hispanics lived in the United States in 1980 and provides detailed information on the 10 counties with the largest Hispanic populations.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Many of these predictors (discovered in an extensive study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology M.I.T.) are similar to pressures that come to bear when leaders leave the church. Read on to learn more.
By Donald Sull, Charles Sull and Ben Zweig, MIT Sloan Management Review, 1/11/22.
… To better understand the sources of the Great Resignation and help leaders respond effectively, we analyzed 34 million online employee profiles to identify U.S. workers who left their employer for any reason (including quitting, retiring, or being laid off) between April and September 2021.3
…Let’s take a closer look at each of the top five predictors of employee turnover.
Toxic corporate culture. A toxic corporate culture is by far the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover. Our analysis found that the leading elements contributing to toxic cultures include failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior…
Job insecurity and reorganization. In a previous article, we reported that job insecurity and reorganizations are important predictors of how employees rate a company’s overall culture. So it’s not surprising that employment instability and restructurings influence employee turnover.9 ..
High levels of innovation. It’s not surprising that workers leave companies with toxic cultures or frequent layoffs. But it is surprising that employees are more likely to exit from innovative companies. In the Culture 500 sample, we found that the more positively employees talked about innovation at their company, the more likely they were to quit. The attrition rates of the three most innovative Culture 500 companies — Nvidia, Tesla, and SpaceX — are three standard deviations higher than those in their respective industries.
Staying at the bleeding edge of innovation typically requires employees to put in longer hours, work at a faster pace, and endure more stress than they would in a slower-moving company. The work may be exciting and satisfying but also difficult to sustain in the long term…
Failure to recognize performance. Employees are more likely to leave companies that fail to distinguish between high performers and laggards when it comes to recognition and rewards. Companies that fail to recognize and reward strong performers have higher rates of attrition, and the same is true for employers that tolerate underperformance. The issue is not compensation below market rates, but rather recognition — both informal and financial — that is not linked to effort and results. High-performing employees are the most likely to resent a lack of recognition for their results, which means that companies may be losing some of their most productive workers during the Great Resignation.
Poor response to COVID-19. Employees who mentioned COVID-19 more frequently in their reviews or talked about their company’s response to the pandemic in negative terms were more likely to quit. The same pattern holds true when employees talk more generally about their company’s policies for protecting their health and well-being.
Just in time for the holiday season, the Hartford Institute for Religion Research has released its second reportexamining how U.S. congregations are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and findings this time show most churches are embracing new and innovative ministry opportunities.
One congregation, for example, helped fund a food truck that was donated to a school to provide a mobile feeding center for a low-income community. Another launched a Memory Café, which provides a monthly social opportunity for anyone with dementia and their care partners. Another of our survey respondents said their church went from a monthly sandwich-making ministry to feeding up to 1,200 people per week.
This report is based on data from the second survey of the Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations: Innovation Amidst and Beyond Covid-19project, which includes an over-sampling of eight denominational groups and a random sampling of congregations in other denominations for a total of 38 Christian denominational groups and 820 responses and was conducted in November. It is part of a collaborative, five-year research project funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and led by the Hartford Institute for Religion Researchat Hartford International University for Religion and Peace.
The survey also showed that since the pandemic began, 45% of congregations have made permanent changes to their community outreach, and more than half (54%) started a new ministry or expanded and increased an existing one.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I am honored to be writing a new course and also scheduled to teach my course on turnaround churches for the DMin program at Fuller Theological Seminary. One of the many resources the seminary has is the De Pree Center for Church Leadership.
Today’s post is by Dr. Mark Roberts, Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership. He looks, not at the Pilgrim story, but rather the historical admonitions given by the two presidents that most influenced the holiday’s establishment.
LIFE FOR LEADERS
The Part of Thanksgiving We Often Forget
Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?Romans 2:4 (NRSV)
The Thanksgiving proclamations of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday. Yet, we may be surprised to learn that their proclamations also called us to acknowledge our national sins and ask for God’s forgiveness. No matter what our country does today, we are free to let God’s kindness lead us, not only to gratitude, but also to repentance.
If you grew up in the United States, no doubt you heard stories about the Pilgrims, Native Americans, and the first Thanksgiving. But you probably did not learn about the actual origins of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. I know I didn’t, at any rate. This national celebration was not handed down to us by folks in Massachusetts. Rather, it began in 1789, after the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War. According to the archives of the U.S. government:
On September 28, 1789, just before leaving for recess, the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking that the President of the United States recommend to the nation a day of thanksgiving. A few days later, President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789 as a “Day of Publick Thanksgiving” – the first time Thanksgiving was celebrated under the new Constitution.
That was the first official national Thanksgiving Day.
In the following years, thanksgiving celebrations happened in different ways and different times in the United States. Finally, in 1863, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving Day as an official, annual holiday. (Later, Franklin Roosevelt and the U.S. Congress set the official day for Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday in November.)
So, if you really want to understand the origins of our current Thanksgiving holiday, you ought to read the proclamations of George Washington in 1789and Abraham Lincoln in 1863. (Washington composed his proclamation, which was written in long-hand by his secretary, William Jackson. Lincoln’s statement was written by Secretary of State William Seward, but officially proclaimed by Lincoln.)
The proclamations of Washington and Lincoln both call for a national day of thanksgiving. Washington wrote:
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks . . .
Lincoln’s proclamation had a similar invitation:
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
None of this is particularly surprising, though we might find the “out there” religiosity of Washington and Lincoln to be different from what modern U.S. presidents convey. Yet, there is something else that is found in both Thanksgiving proclamations, something that is surprising, and something that is almost entirely absent from contemporary celebrations of Thanksgiving.
The statement by Washington, after calling for “sincere and humble thanks” offered to God, adds:
and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions – to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed . . . .
What? Asking for pardon for “our national and other transgressions”? On Thanksgiving Day? And praying for God to “render our national government a blessing to all the people.”
Yes, says Abraham Lincoln. His proclamation states:
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
On Thanksgiving Day, according to Lincoln, we are to offer “humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.” And then to pray for God’s care for victims of the Civil War as well as healing for the “wounds of the nation.”
As initially conceived by Presidents Washington and Lincoln, Thanksgiving Day was meant to be a time for the nation to thank God for God’s many blessings. But it was also a time for our country to admit “our national and other transgressions” (Washington) and to pray “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience” (Lincoln).
We don’t hear much about “humble penitence” these days, even from preachers. (“Penitence,” by the way, means “feeling or showing sorrow and regret having done wrong.”) But that doesn’t mean we can’t practice it. We’d do well, I think, to remember what St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). When we realize how gracious God has been to us, when we tally up all the ways God has been kind, two responses seem most appropriate. First, we are grateful. We thank God for his amazing grace. Second, we are humbly penitent. Why? Because we recognize that we are poor stewards of grace. We’ve received God’s kindness without giving it away generously to others. Moreover, we are penitent because we realize that our sorrow over our sin and our commitment to walking in God’s way are among the very best ways to receive and live in God’s kindness.
Now, whether our nation will follow the lead of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, I’m not very confident. But you and I can choose to follow their lead, indeed, the lead of the Apostle Paul, by receiving God’s kindness with both gratitude and penitence. May this be true for us as we celebrate Thanksgiving.
Why do you think we don’t hear much about penitence these days? From our political leaders? From our pastors and priests?
Have you ever experienced God’s kindness leading you to repentance?
Can you think of anything in your life for which you need to repent? Anything you need to confess to God and ask for God’s pardon?
Set aside some time for thoughtful prayer. As the Lord if there are things for which you need to repent. But, before you do this, reflect on how God has been kind to you. Let God’s kindness actually lead you to repentance.
Gracious God, you have been so kind to us, so kind to me. Thank you. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for saving me through Jesus Christ. Thank you for showering blessings up me.
O Lord, as I reflect upon your kindness, may I also turn to you in repentance. If there is unconfessed sin in my life, may I lay it before you. If I need to turn away from sin, help me to do this.
I pray today for my country, that we might recognize your gifts with heartfelt gratitude, and that we might admit to you our failures with humble penitence. Help us, O God, to turn away from sin so that your “justice might roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Amen.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Co-author Mark DeYmaz and I wrote a book about how to transition in a church into a multicultural church (reMIX: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color in). And though we’ve helped dozens of church transition over the past two decades, we hoped research would show if overall, churches have improved in their diversity. And they have! Check out the results from Faith Communities Today’s 2020 survey.
One hopeful trend in Faith Communities Today’s 2020 survey findings is that the percentage of multiracial congregations in the U.S. has doubled over the past two decades, from 12% to 25% of all faith communities. The 2020 FACT Survey Report also reveals that congregational diversity correlates to increased growth, spiritual vitality, and a clearer sense of mission and purpose.
Over the past 20 years our society has become ever-increasingly more diverse in a broad range of ways. Not surprisingly these changes are reflected in the nation’s congregations as well. The most apparent in this research is the growth of multiracial congregations. By multiracial, we mean a congregation that has 20% or more of participants who are not part of the dominant racial group in that religious community. The first FACT Survey in 2000 found 12% of faith communities were multiracial, and 20 years later this number has climbed to 25%.A varied faith community that more accurately represents the variety of American society racially, economically, age-wise, culturally, and with persons of all abilities enhances vitality and flourishing.
Those congregations who said that striving to be a diverse community described them “very well” were indeed more likely to be multiracial. However, this openness to diversity also manifests itself in communities having a greater percentage of immigrants, a larger percentage of individuals with special needs, fewer lifelong members of their particular faith tradition, and a more diverse age, economic, and educational profile among their participants.
Diversity strengthens religious communities.
Amid a resurgence of Christian Nationalism and the considerable adverse religious reaction to movements asserting racial justice and opposing structural racism, it is essential to point out that the diversity of a religious community actually strengthens it. This diversity correlates to increased growth, spiritual vitality, a clearer sense of mission and purpose, and other attributes of a flourishing community.
Diversity and growth
The percentage of growing multiracial congregations is greater than those in decline and is only surpassed by the growth rate of congregations in religious traditions outside of Christianity.
It is clear that being multiracial and embracing all dimensions of diversity isn’t a panacea to decline. Nevertheless, having a varied faith community that more accurately represents the variety of American society (racially, economically, age-wise, culturally, and with persons of all abilities) enhances vitality and flourishing
“When will Christians learn from the unending engagement cycle of evangelicalism and race?”
Evangelical culture is an unending story of engagement, retreat when pressures intensify, and regret at our failure to achieve any lasting change.
by Ed Stetzer, Opinion contributor, USA Today, 10/7/21.
… Biblical understandings of race
A biblical understanding of race is not silent or neutral but celebratory. Where McDowell is correct, and where evangelicals can find unity, is in looking to Scripture as the lens for understanding race. As Christians, we believe God’s word is sufficient to teach us how to relate to one another, and our reconciliation with Christ is what opens the door for reconciliation with each other.
However, it is important to recognize that Scripture does not flatten race into a homogenized culture. It is an enduring exegetical mistake of many evangelicals to depict Scripture as reinforcing a “color-blind” approach to race.
Throughout Scripture, God consistently upends prejudice, particularly when it arises because of racial or ethnic biases. Yet beyond simply rejecting prejudice, Scripture presents a positive interpretation of race as holding a distinctive place within the kingdom of God. At Pentecost in Acts 2, the miraculous arrival of the Holy Spirit leads to understanding of diverse languages. This gathering then foreshadows Scriptures depiction of heaven where every tongue, tribe and nation make up the choir of eternal praise (Revelation 7:9). In both instances, God’s presence works through rather than collapses cultural diversity. Both our worship and our witness are made more perfect when we model Gospel-centered diversity.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: For almost 3 decades I’ve helped churches become culturally integrated. And, an important aspect of that is working towards “racial reconciliation.” But it’s not as easy as most churches think. Churches hope by integrating their worship teams and even their boards they can accomplish racial reconciliation. But racial reconciliation is something much deeper that requires addressing practices that run throughout society. And, so it requires a church to take a more expansive stand.
Read this interview with my IWU colleague who has investigated this and explains the phenomenon.
An Interview With Russell (Rusty) Hawkins.
…(Hawkins) For the last 20 years, according to sociologists, there’s been this really significant move among white evangelical Christians to embrace racial reconciliation. This has become a big part of white evangelical Christianity, this move to become diverse and have diverse churches as a way to achieve this reconciliation. So, there’s an attentiveness over the last two decades to becoming more racially diverse within American churches, particularly among white evangelical Christians. The problem here is that the tools that get used to bring about this racial reconciliation are very much centered on ideas about just interpersonal relationships and ideas about colorblindness. White evangelical Christians say, “We recognize that there has been a problem in the past. The way we’re going to move forward is becoming friends. Ultimately, we’re trying to get to the point where race doesn’t matter at all. So, we’re getting to the point where we’re colorblind.”
While that might have some particular outcomes at the individual level and the interpersonal level, what that leaves in place are all sorts of structural disparities that continue to persist within American society along racial lines. And so, you get black Christians who enter into these churches, into these relationships, and say, “Well, okay, so there’s an interpersonal thing going on here too, but there’s also a larger reality about the experiences of people of color in this country that we need to address at the structural level or at the level of systems that operate in this country.” And when those conversations start to happen, suddenly these white evangelical Christians pull way back and say, “No! That’s not what we’re talking about here. That stuff doesn’t exist. Or if it exists, it doesn’t exist to the extent that you are claiming exists.” And the problem here is that you can’t just get over these past things and just enter into these relationships.
In other words, these white evangelical Christians have been influenced by decades’ worth of this teaching that tells them don’t talk about race, try not to see race, be colorblind. And when someone tells you that structural racism or systemic racism exists, you can ignore them…
“Sociologists also report that the experience of immigration increases the intensity of whatever religious convictions are held by migrants. They find religious homes in the U.S. within existing congregations and through establishing new ones, often using the facilities of declining churches. Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.”
Sociologists also report that the experience of immigration increases the intensity of whatever religious convictions are held by migrants. They find religious homes in the U.S. within existing congregations and through establishing new ones, often using the facilities of declining churches. Denominations rooted in Africa and Asia now have hundreds of congregations throughout the U.S., which continue to grow. As much as Hispanics have supported Catholicism’s numbers, today there are more Latinx Protestants in the U.S. than Episcopalians.
by Rachael Holliday Smith, The NY City Magazine, 3/22/21.
…“Many churches have plateaued,” Hildebrandt said. “There’s just a general uneasiness about the future right now — and I think COVID made it worse.”
A cadre of clergy, congregants, land use experts and planners are fighting back against the trend in one of the places hit hardest by the pandemic with a new handbook — a bible, of sorts.
The “Action Book,” released this week by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, is chock full of answers to the question: How can a congregation keep its building, while still carrying out its mission?
…Judson founded a nonprofit called Bricks and Mortals that aims to help religious institutions cope with mounting bills and the pressures to sell.
Schaper said she’s found that small churches with fewer than 20 members are most at risk. Many haven’t paid their pastor in months, or have had their water cut, or lights turned off.
“A lot of these congregations just disappear,” Schaper said.
Nationally, about 1% of congregations close each year, according to research cited by The New York Times late last year. Brewer’s office found that between 2010 and 2020, the numbers of religious congregations in Manhattan declined by 7% from 976 to 907.
Karen DiLossi, director of arts at Partners for Sacred Places — which also informed Brewer’s report — said the pressure is worse in Black and brown neighborhoods where would-be buyers target weakened churches.
“They may have a diminishing congregation, and maybe they have a huge facility, but the upkeep is too much,” she said. “They feel tremendous amounts of pressure to sell.”
The Action Book, written in partnership with the NYU Wagner School of Public Service, offers guidance about alternatives to cashing out. The report also explains the basics of New York’s land use rules, how air rights work, the pros and cons of landmarking a building and what to know about redevelopment.
Brewer’s guide gives local examples of how some local congregations have made their properties work for them. It describes a deal made in Harlem by Bethel Gospel Assembly to sell air rights and allow a developer to build on the church’s former parking lot. In Washington Heights, Rocky Mountain Baptist Church arranged to be part of a senior housing development under construction now.
…I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with CEOs about how they’re leading through this period of intense change. I hope that by sharing some of their best practices and advice, it can help you answer some critical questions.
Their top three pieces of advice: Show empathy and support, listen and make an effort to build community.
1. Show empathy and support employees in the home office and at home
Making day-to-day life easier for your employees while supporting their families shows you care about more than just what they can do for you, and it also means you can contribute to improvements in their mental health, morale and productivity…
2. Prioritize communication — even more than usual — and listen more
The most effective leaders foster an environment of open communication, including providing forums for direct conversations about difficult topics. “Opportunities to be heard and provide feedback are the best ways we’ve been able to maintain morale,” Gainsight’s Mehta says. “When teammates know they can be heard from different areas of the company, they know they are supported…
3. Reinforce company values through community
Creating and sustaining genuine connections between employees is vital to employee health, satisfaction and performance — especially when everyone is physically far apart and spontaneous conversations are so hard to come by.
Mihir Shukla, CEO of Automation Anywhere, has been able to stay in touch with how the employees are feeling through “pulse” surveys. Shukla says the most important initiative has been an online gathering called “TenForward Lounge,” a digital event space where employees can engage in conversations via moderators and share their thoughts and feelings. “It’s also an opportunity to reinforce company values,” Shukla says.
I have been taken aback by how two crises happened at the same time. First there was the pandemic. Then on top of that was the call for racial justice and healing. However, I noticed that usually researchers/writers wrote on one topic or the other. But I thought, they are inextricably connected. Leaders are talking about reopening their churches with new safety protocols. But we should also be talking about reopening our churches with new intercultural protocols too.
But what we’re not doing is addressing sufficiently yet the racial divide in North America. If we are going to reopen with a changed church, let’s change more than the cleanliness. Let’s begin to clean our hearts and souls from racial division.
In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). He describes this ministry of reconciliation as between God and humans AND between humans and one other. You see, Paul was reaching out to the Gentiles. And they were the persecutors of the Jews. The Jews had a lot of qualms about reaching out to the Gentiles. These were their oppressors. These were their enemies, the occupiers of the Jewish homeland who abused and killed innocent people because of racial hatred. And Paul is reaching out to them and seeing Christ change them! That is the background behind Paul’s description of our ministry of reconciliation. He sees the Church as bringing divergent groups together while also bringing we who are estranged from God, back to God.
Look at how Paul describes it in the contemporary language of The Message Bible:
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: The three basic “leadership types” are anchored by the relational leader. Sometimes called the “highly sensitive person” they take longer to process new ideas because they know the new ideas will strain relationships.
However, you need this highly relational leader on your team or else your plans will be perceived as uncaring and damaging to personal relationships.
Here’s a quick questionnaire to find the relational leaders on your team. And below is an article that explains more about how to keep this very valuable person as part of your team.
Psychologist Elaine Aron, who has been studying the innate temperament trait of high sensitivity since 1991, coined the phrase “Highly Sensitive Person.”
For those individuals who have these traits—about 20% of the general population—it can be a gift and a curse. HSPs feel both positive and negative emotions more intensely than non-HSPs. This sensitivity is thought to be linked to higher levels of creativity, richer personal relationships, and a greater appreciation for beauty.
Highly sensitive people require extra time to process, and if something seems off, they will usually identify an issue to be looked into further. Brain scans have shown that HSPs have more active mirror neurons, which are responsible for feelings of empathy for others, and more activity in brain areas that are involved with emotional responses.
Let’s take a look at the qualities of highly sensitive people so that you will recognize their traits, gifts, and the way they can feel most comfortable in the workplace.
1. THEY PROCESS THINGS DEEPLY
The highly sensitive brain has a more active insula, the part of the brain that helps enhance perception and increase self-awareness. HSPs are also wired to pause and reflect before engaging. Therefore, HSPs are always taking in a lot of information around them and thinking deeply about it.
Since HSPs notice more subtle details in their environments, they are more emotionally impacted by social stimulation and will notice the “pulse” of the workplace energy, which can be very helpful. They notice little details that others may miss, such as subtle body language or small changes to an environment. They are the first to notice if a colleague gets a new haircut or if someone is upset.
2. THEY FEEL EMOTIONS INTENSELY
HSPs feel more emotional in response to both positive and negative events, and they notice subtle details that others miss, such as nonverbal cues or small changes in their environment.
… In July 1952, when I was 11 years old, some of my relatives took me to witness the Billy Graham Crusade in Jackson, Miss. Ropes were strung across the athletic field and stands where more than 300,000 people would gather to hear him preach during those hot summer nights. The ropes had one purpose: to keep the crowd segregated by the color of their skin.
I still remember, nearly 70 years later, watching as Rev. Graham walked down off the podium where he was to preach and pulled down those ropes. That was the day that he declared he would never again preach to a segregated congregation, because the gospel of Jesus Christ welcomes all equally. It was a courageous act for which he was heavily criticized, notoriously so in the segregated South. Nonetheless, in pulling down those ropes he demonstrated his belief in the words of the gospel, and over the rest of life stood with other religious leaders who were working to bring down the barriers of racism.
Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: During a shutdown, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, churches have an opportunity to prepare for rebounding and renewing into healthier churches. Here are articles I’ve written about how to accomplish this (published by magazines with national platforms, i.e. Outreach Magazine and Biblical Leadership Magazine). These articles are excerpted from my book: “Growing the Post-pandemic Church.”
Excerpted below you will find …
How to use these difficult times as a springboard for churches to rebound and renew,
With greater long-term health and more powerful Good News impact.
Now that banning gatherings is becoming commonplace, the faith community will be temporarily forced to morph into something new (or maybe something old, read on). During this time and afterward some churches will thrive, but others may struggle. Having coached churches for 30 years, trained hundreds of church leaders and earned two doctorates in the field, here is my forecast with survival options for those churches at risk.
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?
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
… But the map – based on figures from the World Religion Database (behind a paywall) – also allows for some more detailed observations.