WORRY & C.S. Lewis reminds us that during crises the most important question on people’s minds becomes: “Is this all there is?” and so we have the opportunity to speak of Christ to those who are waking up to the realities of this life.

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 3/26/20.

… In his (C.S. Lewis’) admonitions, can we simply replace the words “atomic age” with “COVID-19 age” or was Lewis getting at something deeper and even more relevant for the church today?

…Here’s how he opened “On Living in an Atomic Age,” which can be found in the collection Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays:

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

…After the above excerpt, Lewis moves on to what he saw as the “real point.” … He points out that all of science agrees that the end of life on this earth is inevitable. It’s only a matter of “when” not “if.”

If the threat of an atomic bomb serves as a reminder for us, then it can be a good thing. “We have been waked from a pretty dream, and now we can begin to talk about realities,” he writes.

Once we are awakened to the frailty of life, Lewis says we see at once that whether or not an atomic bomb destroys civilization is not the most important question. Something was always going to destroy us and civilization.

The most important question becomes: Is this all there is?

If we are going to die (and we will), if civilization as we know it will be ended (and it will), Lewis argues, then we should be most concerned about what, if anything, lies beyond the natural world?

And as we live life differently—both from how we did previously in limiting our interactions and in how others do now through selflessness—we will have the opportunity to speak of Christ to those who are waking up to the realities of this life.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2020/03/19/no-c-s-lewis-would-not-tell-you-to-ignore-the-coronavirus/

BIBLE & Top 5 verses searched for during this time of uncertainty. #AaronEarls #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 3/24/20.

…Last Sunday, March 15, was tied for the highest usage day in YouVersion’s history (tied with Easter last year).

The top five verses shared that day all had some relation to how people approach the current situation.

  1. Hebrews 13:16 — Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
  2. Psalm 91 — The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. (v. 1)
  3. 2 Chronicles 7:14 — [A]nd my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
  4. 2 Timothy 1:7 — For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
  5. Philippians 4:6-7 — Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2020/03/23/several-bible-verses-jump-in-online-searches-during-coronavirus-outbreak/

CHRISTMAS & LifeWay Research asked people when they are more open to considering matters of faith. Christmas was the most common response. Almost half (47 percent) said they were more open to thinking about faith during the holiday season.

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 12/4/19.

Four in 10 Americans who never attend church (41 percent) say Christmas should be more about Jesus.

In 2015, LifeWay Research found 61 percent of Americans typically attend church at Christmastime. And among those who do not attend, 57 percent said they were likely to attend if someone they knew asked them.

In 2010 LifeWay Research asked people when they are more open to considering matters of faith. Christmas was the most common response. Almost half (47 percent) said they were more open to thinking about faith during the holiday season.

Read more at …https://factsandtrends.net/2018/12/12/why-x-mas-actually-keeps-christ-in-christmas/

THEOLOGY & What Exactly Solomon Meant When He Wrote: “to every thing there is a season.”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: During the social upheavals of the 60s and 70s, a song by The Byrds titled “Turn, Turn, Turn” (based upon Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 3) had a deep, yet complicated, influence upon young people like me. As I matured in my understanding of Scripture and theology, I came to understand this scripture is much more profound than I had thought. And I discovered it points to something even more exciting! Here LifeWay writer Aaron Wilson succinctly points out what that future is.

“The Bible passage people mistake for good news,”

by Aaron Wilson, LifeWay, 6/22/19.

…despite its popularity, Ecclesiastes 3 may also be one of the most misunderstood sections of the Bible. This is because people often interpret the chapter as containing reassuring news about the balanced nature of the universe. But really, the chapter is more of a lament, one that points to the need for Christ.

SOLOMON’S GRIEVANCE WITH LIFE

At its core, Ecclesiastes describes the brutal reality of life under the curse. It’s strange therefore, when people describe chapter 3 as comforting and uplifting when Solomon says in the same book that life is wearisome (1:8), miserable (1:13), and distressing (2:17).

Given these gloomy descriptors, why is Ecclesiastes 3 so popular? Part of it likely comes from the poetic beauty Solomon uses in the first half of the chapter to juxtapose life circumstances. “There’s a time to give birth and a time to die,” he writes, “a time to plant and a time to uproot.”

Solomon goes on to pair other activities such as weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, and war and peace. He then summarizes the list by writing, “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.”

People often quote this chapter of Ecclesiastes at funerals and memorial services. But while it’s true God sovereignly works all things together for the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), people who seek to find solace from Ecclesiastes 3 are missing the author’s point.

Solomon didn’t pen the words, “to everything there is a season,” to provide a grateful tribute to a balanced universe—a philosophy that more closely resembles some eastern religions or “the force” from Star Wars than it does Scripture. No, Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes 3 to lodge a complaint he had with a world he saw as meaningless.

VANITY UNDER THE SUN

Solomon begins Ecclesiastes with the blunt statement, “Absolute futility! Everything is futile.” He then spends the next 12 chapters of his book systematically unpacking the meaninglessness of life under the sun.

One of Solomon’s greatest frustrations with the world is the prevalence of death and how it infuses vanity into life’s pursuits and activities. His goal therefore in writing, “there’s a time to die” isn’t to inspire comfort. Instead, he’s declaring death a plague—a fate no person escapes because, under the curse, there’s sadly a time for it.

…Given the reality of such brokenness, Christians should be leery of using the phrase, “there’s a time for everything” as encouragement. Instead, they should read Solomon’s words and respond, “Oh man, there really is a time for sin and suffering in this world. Who can save us from this futile way of living?”

The answer, of course, is Christ.

TWO KINGS—TWO STATEMENTS

One of the most beautiful promises in the Bible comes in Revelation 21:4 which speaks of Christ wiping away every tear from the eyes of the saints. John describes this future moment of restoration by writing, “Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.”

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2019/06/07/the-bible-passage-people-mistake-for-good-news/

TRENDS & 7 Surprising Trends Of Today’s Worldwide Growth of Christianity via #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 6/11/19.

…The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary regularly publishes the Status of Global Christianity. Evaluating their research and predictions provides an encouraging and potential surprising picture for the current and future state of Christianity.

1. CHRISTIANITY IS GROWING FASTER THAN THE POPULATION.

Globally, Christianity is growing at a 1.27% rate. Currently, there are 2.5 billion Christians in the world. The world’s population, 7.7 billion, is growing at a 1.20% rate.

Islam (1.95%), Sikhs (1.66%) and Hindus (1.30%) are the only religious groups growing faster than Christianity, though followers of Jesus outnumber every other faith and are predicted to continue to do so at least through 2050.

2. PENTECOSTALS AND EVANGELICALS ARE GROWING THE FASTEST AND ARE STILL PICKING UP SPEED.

Among Christian groups, Pentecostals (2.26%) and evangelicals (2.19%) are growing faster than others.

They are both also growing faster than they did just two years ago. In 2017, Pentecostals’ growth rate was 2.22% and evangelicals was 2.12%.

3. ATHEISM HAS PEAKED.

There are fewer atheists in the world today (138 million) than there were in 1970 (165 million).

Since 2000, atheism has rebounded slightly—only by 0.04%—but it is expected to decline again and fall below 130 million by 2050.

Agnosticism has maintained a small growth rate of 0.42%. After reaching 716 million this year, however, it is expected to drop below 700 million by 2050.

4. CHRISTIANITY IS GROWING IN CITIES, BUT NOT FAST ENOUGH.

Today, 1.64 billion Christians live in urban areas, growing at a 1.58% rate since 2000.

But more than 55% of the world’s population lives in cities and that is only continuing to grow.

The global urban population is growing at a 2.15% rate.

5. THE CENTER OF CHRISTIANITY HAS MOVED TO THE GLOBAL SOUTH.

In 1900, twice as many Christians lived in Europe than in the rest of the world combined. Today, both Latin America and Africa have more. By 2050, the number of Christians in Asia will also pass the number in Europe.

Currently, Christianity is barely growing in Europe (0.04% rate) and only slightly better in North America (0.56%).

Oceania (0.89) and Latin America (1.18%) have marginally better rates, but the faith is exploding in Asia (1.89%) and Africa (2.89%).

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2019/06/11/7-surprising-trends-in-global-christianity-in-2019/

TRENDS & 73% of American churches are declining & we are seeing a marked decline in fast-growing churches (from 12% to 3%) and a marked increase in churches declining toward death (10% to 19%). #LifeWay

by Thom Rainer, LifeWay, 6/3/19.

Based upon an aggregate of several research projects, I made some notes of growth and decline rates of churches and summarized my estimates into five categories by worship attendance changes over the previous five-year period. I compiled the following numbers ten years ago:

Growth and Decline Categories of North American Congregations 2009

  • Fast-growing (growing greater than 5% annually): 12%
  • Growing (growing nominally to 5% annually): 23%
  • Steadily declining (declining 0% to 3% annually): 34%
  • Rapidly declining (declining 2% to 5% annually): 21%
  • Declining toward death (over 5% decline annually): 10%

This past week I conducted the same exercise based on some of my updated research and the research of others and estimated the following:

Growth and Decline Categories of North American Congregations 2019

  • Fast-growing (growing greater than 5% annually): 3%
  • Growing (growing nominally to 5% annually): 24%
  • Steadily declining (declining 0% to 3% annually): 32%
  • Rapidly declining (declining 2% to 5% annually): 22%
  • Declining toward death (over 5% decline annually): 19%

My numbers admittedly are estimates, but they do have some quantitative basis, such as denominational statistics, research by LifeWay Research, and the data available in the increasing number of consultation and coaching requests we receive.

Obviously, the staggering reality of these numbers is the pronounced change in the two extreme categories. We are seeing a marked decline in fast-growing churches and a marked increase in churches declining toward death.

Read more at … https://thomrainer.com/2019/06/the-faster-pace-of-decline-toward-death-of-many-congregations/

ATTENDANCE & Most Young Adults Drop Out of Church Between Ages 18-22 For These Reasons #LifeWayResearch

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 2/18/19.

… Two-thirds (66 percent) of American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager say they also dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. Thirty-four percent say they continued to attend twice a month or more.

While the 66 percent may be troubling for many church leaders, the numbers may appear more hopeful when compared to a 2007 study from LifeWay Research. Previously, 70 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds left church for at least one year.

“The good news for Christian leaders is that churches don’t seem to be losing more students than they were 10 years ago. However, the difference in the dropout rate now and then is not large enough statistically to say it has actually improved,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“The reality is that Protestant churches continue to see the new generation walk away as young adults. Regardless of any external factors, the Protestant church is slowly shrinking from within.”

When They Drop Out

The dropout rate for young adults accelerates with age, the study found.

While 69 percent say they were attending at age 17, that fell to 58 percent at age 18 and 40 percent at age 19. Once they reach their 20s, around 1 in 3 say they were attending church regularly.

“Overall Protestant churches see many teenagers attending regularly only for a season. Many families just don’t attend that often,” said McConnell.

“As those teenagers reach their late teen years, even those with a history of regular church attendance are pulled away as they get increased independence, a driver’s license, or a job. The question becomes: will they become like older adults who have all those things and still attend or will students choose to stay away longer than a year.”

Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at LifeWay, said those numbers speak to the issue at hand. “We are seeing teenagers drop out of the church as they make the transition out of high school and student ministry,” he said. “This moment of transition is often too late to act for churches.”

Why They Drop Out

Virtually all of those who dropped out (96 percent) listed a change in their life situation as a reason for their dropping out. Fewer say it was related to the church or pastor (73 percent); religious, ethical or political beliefs (70 percent); or the student ministry (63 percent).

The five most frequently chosen specific reasons for dropping out were: moving to college and no longer attending (34 percent); church members seeming judgmental or hypocritical (32 percent); no longer feeling connected to people in their church (29 percent); disagreeing with the church’s stance on political or social issues (25 percent); and work responsibilities (24 percent).

Almost half (47 percent) of those who dropped out and attended college say moving to college played a role in their no longer attending church for at least a year.

“Most of the reasons young adults leave the church reflect shifting personal priorities and changes in their own habits,” said McConnell. “Even when churches have faithfully communicated their beliefs through words and actions, not every teenager who attends embraces or prioritizes those beliefs.”

Among all those who dropped out, 29 percent say they planned on taking a break from church once they graduated high school. Seven in 10 (71 percent) say their leaving wasn’t an intentional decision.

“For the most part, people aren’t leaving the church out of bitterness, the influence of college atheists, or a renunciation of their faith,” said Trueblood.

“What the research tells us may be even more concerning for Protestant churches: there was nothing about the church experience or faith foundation of those teenagers that caused them to seek out a connection to a local church once they entered a new phase of life. The time they spent with activity in church was simply replaced by something else.”

Read more at … https://lifewayresearch.com/2019/01/15/most-teenagers-drop-out-of-church-as-young-adults/