Monday, February 25, 2008

The Survey Says...

Read through that article, because it is very telling. While I live in a different country (Yes, Canada is not a state) we are intimately tied to our Southern Cousins.

The general tone of the article is this: religion is not cutting it. There are few converts (across all faith's), and those that are 'wins' are merely cross-pollinated from another denomination. Catholics suffering the worst from this symptom.

Penn State University sociologist Roger Finke, who consulted in the survey planning. "Right now, there is a dropping confidence in organized religion, especially in the traditional religious forms."

Let's unpack that a little bit. Notice how the problem here is not with faith in general, although one could argue that the assault on faith is beginning to take it's toll, but rather the problem is with organized religion.

If you've talked to me at any point in time during the past 8 years, you know I'm no fan of 'organized religion.' I don't think that Jesus mandated it, and I don't think it has any place in Christianity. Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying the Church should be dissolved, and any source of authority removed. Rather, I'm stating that the four walls of church's should be demolished, and the big front doors torn down.

Instead, we should meet in the streets of our communities, meeting with the people who live there, learning their needs, and then meeting them. We have become an increasing irrelevant faith. We talk about how much good we do, but then what do we actually do?

The majority of the unaffiliated — 12 percent of the overall population — describe their religion as "nothing in particular," and about half of those say faith is at least somewhat important to them. Atheists or agnostics account for 4 percent of the total population.

Notice that. 12 percent say they have no religion, that means a staggering 88% classify themselves as having and actively believing in some faith. Another 6% are saying that faith is at least somewhat important to them. Where are those 6% falling? Who is meeting their needs?

Many Americans have vague denominational ties at best. People who call themselves "just a Protestant," in fact, account for nearly 10 percent of all Protestants.

This is also a very significant trend, and something I have stated time and time again -- denominations are not cool. Yes, we need to identify with something, and we need to have clearly defined beliefs. But why on earth (pun intended) are we dividing ourselves over such trivial things? Would Jesus, Paul, Peter or the countless others really be satisfied with these divisions, or would they condemn us for being legalistic and, dare I say it, pharasitical?

Although evangelical churches strive to win new Christian believers from the "unchurched," the survey found most converts to evangelical churches were raised Protestant.

Note that statement right there. You know what that screams at me? We aren't doing our job. People keep searching for the depth they long for, and they aren't finding it. They go from one nuance to another in hopes that it will revitalize their dying selves, and in reality they are looking in all the wrong places.

We must live our our faith. Not in the talk about it, preaching kind of way. But in the practical saving lives, handing out food, talking with our neighbours kind of ways. These are the things that make the difference. Digging under the skin, asking the hard questions, pushing through the difficulties of a relationship and showing people that they are worth it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pushing the Boundaries

Here's a thought. How much time do we actually sit down to think?

Did you just graze over that? Or did you stop to really think how much time you spend just meditating on the day or particular topics. It's alarming how much of our days we fill with white noise, background something or other that will ensure we don't have to think or be concerned with what is really going on.

Take that and apply it to the upcoming generation. The ones who grew up with computers, the internet and every way imaginable to communicate with someone who isn't right in their face. You bored? The internet has your fix. Games, reading, movies, music, anything you could ever want right at your fingertips. But it comes at a cost.

You shut down. You stop really thinking, stop evaluating what is going on in and around you. The question is it worth it? And you stop asking, could it be better?

How many times have you heard that youth have a naeve vigor? That they will dream, without any thought for possible consequences? And how often have you heard it said that people lose that as they get older? I have a single question to ask, why?

Why are we satisfied with letting the hard questions slide, and the big dreams go unrealized? Why do we allow life to weigh us down? When can we push the boundaries a little further than they were before, and dare to dream that our lives could be more than they are today?

Church is a prime example of this, and it is a symptom that I am fighting as I grow older. Never stop dreaming, never stop hoping. I was thinking today, and it occurred to me that Jesus only lived until he was 32. He began his ministry when he was thirty. In the Jewish culture, he was but a young pup, barely ready for the primetime. And you had to know that you would not have wanted to be his rabbi. How could you contain the knowledge and dreams that must have come pouring out of him? More importantly, should you?

Jesus called all the little children unto him, and said that the kingdom of God belongs to ones such as these. We have often taken that to mean their innocense, but I would like to propose a different thought to add to the traditional one. Jesus also meant that they would inheret the kingdom of God because they were entirely uninhibited. They saw Jesus, they wanted to run to Jesus, so they did. Nothing stopped them to say it might not be appropriate, or that he might be busy. A + B = C without any modifiers. Simple.

Dare to dream, because our heavily Father dreamed when He created us, and he has big dreams for each and every one of us. He wants us to imagine all that we could be, and then pursue it without abandon. To imagine the world as He sees it, and then do everything in our power to make it so. And that change, those boundaries that need to be pushed, start with us. With me.