I went to America, to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me? who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near; but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. (Tuesday, January 24, 1738)
- Bible reading undertaken during the course of a typical week, other than passages read while attending church events, has declined by five percentage points. Currently an estimated 40% of adults read the Bible during a typical week.
- Church volunteerism has dropped by eight percentage points since 1991. Presently, slightly less than one out of every five adults (19%) donates some of their time in a typical week to serving at a church.
- Adult Sunday school attendance has also diminished by eight percentage points over the past two decades. On any given Sunday, about 15% of adults can be expected to show up in a Sunday school class.
- The most carefully watched church-related statistic is adult attendance. Since 1991, attendance has receded by nine percentage points, dropping from 49% in 1991 to 40% in 2011.
- The most prolific change in religious behavior among those measured has been the increase in the percentage of adults categorized as unchurched. The Barna Group definition includes all adults who have not attended any religious events at a church, other than special ceremonies such as a wedding or funeral, during the prior six month period. In 1991, just one-quarter of adults (24%) were unchurched. That figure has ballooned by more than 50%, to 37% today.
“God’s vision for a better future has much more to do with making a difference than with making a dollar. It has more to do with creating a new reconciled global community of justice and celebration than with producing a new global community of consumption. It has more to do with coming home to Jerusalem than with returning to Babylon. It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are all invited to devote our lives to the subversive cause of the mustard seed that is destined to redeem a people and transform a world.”
“My experience has shown that when we welcome people from this world of anguish, brokenness and depression, and when they gradually discover that they are wanted and loved as they are and that they have a place, then we witness a real transformation—I would even say ‘resurrection.’”
Beliefs come first; reasons second. That’s the insightful message of “The Believing Brain,” by Michael Shermer, the founder of Skeptic magazine. In the book, he brilliantly lays out what modern cognitive research has to tell us about his subject—namely, that our brains are “belief engines” that naturally “look for and find patterns” and then infuse them with meaning. These meaningful patterns form beliefs that shape our understanding of reality. Our brains tend to seek out information that confirms our beliefs, ignoring information that contradicts them. Mr. Shermer calls this “belief-dependent reality.” The well-worn phrase “seeing is believing” has it backward: Our believing dictates what we’re seeing.
- “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
- “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17).
- “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
- “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
- “[Do] not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).
- “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness” (2 Timothy 3:10).
- “Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it” (2 Timothy 3:14).
- “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity” (Titus 2:7).
Is this just for apostles?