Archive for February, 2008

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A Wake Up Call?

February 25, 2008

Americans switching faiths
From CNN.com

(AP) — The U.S. religious marketplace is extremely volatile,
with nearly half of American adults leaving the faith tradition of
their upbringing to either switch allegiances or abandon religious
affiliation altogether, a new survey finds.

The study released Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public
Life is unusual for it sheer scope, relying on interviews with more
than 35,000 adults to document a diverse and dynamic U.S. religious
population.

While much of the study confirms earlier findings —
mainline Protestant churches are in decline, non-denominational
churches are gaining and the ranks of the unaffiliated are growing —
it also provides a deeper look behind those trends, and of smaller
religious groups.

“The American religious economy is like a
marketplace — very dynamic, very competitive,” said Luis Lugo,
director of the Pew Forum. “Everyone is losing, everyone is gaining.
There are net winners and losers, but no one can stand still. Those
groups that are losing significant numbers have to recoup them to stay
vibrant.”

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey estimates the
United States is 78 percent Christian and about to lose its status as a
majority Protestant nation, at 51 percent and slipping.

More
than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith of their
childhood for another religion or no religion at all, the survey found.
Factoring in moves from one stream or denomination of Protestantism to
another, the number rises to 44 percent.

One in four adults ages 18 to 29 claim no affiliation with a religious institution.

“In the past, certain religions had a real holding power, where people
from one generation to the next would stay,” said 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.”

Lugo said the 44 percent figure is “a very conservative estimate,” and more research is planned to determine the causes.

“It does seem in keeping with the high tolerance among Americans for
change,” Lugo said. “People move a lot, people change jobs a lot. It’s
a very fluid society.”

The religious demographic benefiting the
most from this religious churn is those who claim no religious
affiliation. People moving into that category outnumber those moving
out of it by a three-to-one margin.

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.

The Roman Catholic Church
has lost more members than any faith tradition because of affiliation
swapping, the survey found. While nearly one in three Americans were
raised Catholic, fewer than one in four say they’re Catholic today.
That means roughly 10 percent of all Americans are ex-Catholics.

The share of the population that identifies as Catholic, however, has
remained fairly stable in recent decades thanks to an influx of
immigrant Catholics, mostly from Latin America. Nearly half of all
Catholics under 30 are Hispanic, the survey found.

On the
Protestant side, changes in affiliation are swelling the ranks of
nondenominational churches, while Baptist and Methodist traditions are
showing net losses.

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.

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

Hindus claimed the highest retention of
childhood members, at 84 percent. The group with the worst retention is
one of the fastest growing — Jehovah’s Witnesses. Only 37 percent of
those raised in the sect known for door-to-door proselytizing said they
remain members.

Among other findings involving smaller religious
groups, more than half of American Buddhists surveyed were white, and
most Buddhists were converts.

More people in the survey pool
identified themselves as Buddhist than Muslim, although both
populations were small — less than 1 percent of the total population.
By contrast, Jews accounted for 1.7 percent of the overall population.

The self-identified Buddhists — 0.7 percent of those surveyed —
illustrate a core challenge to estimating religious affiliation: What
does affiliation mean?

It’s unclear whether people who called
themselves Buddhists did so because they practice yoga or meditation,
for instance, or claim affiliation with a Buddhist institution.

The report does not project membership figures for religious groups, in
part because the survey is not as authoritative as a census and didn’t
count children, Lugo said. The U.S. Census does not ask questions on
religion.

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GREEN RESOURCES

February 25, 2008

Looking for ways to “green up” your plant? Check out the following sites!

http://www.webofcreation.org

http://www.restoringeden.org

http://www.newcommunityproject.org

http://www.miipl.org

The RCA also maintains a creation care link on their website at http://www.rca.org

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COOPERSVILLE HISPANIC START….???

February 22, 2008

So here is a cool thing….Jim Goldschmiding (pastor at Coopersville Reformed) and John Kenny (Muskegon Classis leader) are sniffing out a possible new start in Coopersville.   Jim reports a significant population of first generation Hispanics as well as possible leaders.

We are early on in this one but the brainstorm and prayerstorm has begun.

Joiners?

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GREENVILLE UPDATE….ready for another in NGR!

February 22, 2008

If you have been following the new start in Greenville….Eric Branch is watching a really cool thing play out as his vision takes root in a classis. Feeling a deep sense of call to a community that has taken it’s share of hits in the last few years Eric is working to build the partners that it will take to do this.

Perhaps the first bright moment was a classis meeting in January where he was appointed by North GR to the project. A rousing plea by Andre Daley (planter of Mosaic Life) was an emotional turning point. The classis could see how they did not want to go down a “skeptical” path. Next has come the conversation with pastors in the classis about who will actually play “parent” to this start. Seems Alan Pickett and Knapp Reformed has stepped forward to seriously look at the possibility. Ya gotta love the faith moves here….

Meanwhile, Eric is building his list of names and contacts…..people who know people in Greenville….possible support individuals and congregations….prayer support. If you can be resourceful to Eric in this effort (he will officially take up the work in the late spring) he would love to add to his list of contacts and possibilities. Contact him at pastorejb@hotmail.com

Special thanks to Rick Tigchon in North GR….the mover and shaker for multiplication in that classis! Also…if you know someone who has a vision to plant in North GR area…(it’s a classis that covers area much larger than GR per se) contact us at bingebretson@rcagl.org Rick is just dying to write another support check from the classis for another new church!

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Nooma 19

February 18, 2008

Today on Facebook, you can watch the online premier of the latest Nooma video named “Open” where Rob deals with prayer and praying. It’s free and on Facebook.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=23766390253

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A Churchless Christianity: A Move of God?

February 17, 2008

Saw this via my friend Andrew’s site: http://www.tallskinnykiwi.com

Not a huge fan of the title either, but it is worth a reading.

article

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FIVE QUESTIONS THAT MAKE A U TURN

February 14, 2008

Reggie McNeal offered a great tool to immunize against becoming “churchy”.   The idea is to work with folks around 5 questions that will turn the energy and focus away from church programming and toward where God is moving in the community and how they participating in that.  So here are the questions.

1.  What do you love to do?

2. Where do you see God at work?

3. What would you like to see God do in the next 6-12 months?

4. How would you like to serve other people?

5. How can I pray for you?

The idea is to prepare people for these questions through preaching etc. and then use them as a primary means whereby discipleship  can move forward.   Thanks Reggie!