Why Aren't You Going to Church?

Why Aren't You Going to Church?

Pew recently released a survey[i] on why Americans do and do not go to church. While 73% of Americans identify as being Christian[ii], surveys say Americans who report going to church weekly is only around 35%.[iii] Our best estimates for our own city (Tucson) are that less than 3% of the population is in church on Sunday.[iv]

I write this as an appeal to the 65% nationally and 90%+[v] in Tucson who don’t attend church regularly.

First, I want to understand you and your reasons for not attending. In a recent survey, those reasons were expressed this way[vi]:

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      What Americans Think About the Afterlife: Aaron Earlys reports that, "According to Pew Research’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, 66 percent of American Christians say many religions can lead to eternal life." 

2.      Should Christians Arm Themselves? John Piper weighs in on the issue of nonviolence. His answer is similar to mine, “The issue is about the whole tenor and focus and demeanor and heart-attitude of the Christian life. Does it accord with the New Testament to encourage the attitude that says, ‘I have the power to kill you in my pocket, so don’t mess with me’? My answer is, No.”

3.      Younger People Decidedly More Pro-Choice: Discouraging news for Pro-Lifers. Carol Pipes reports, "A new survey from Public Religion Research Institute shows a widening generational divide on reproductive health issues and abortion, with one-quarter of young people ages 18 to 29 saying they’ve grown more supportive of abortion rights over the past few years."

4.      Rediscovering the Lost Art of Lament: Stephen Um reflects, "The Bible is not ashamed of lament. In the Psalms, 60 of the 150 are categorized as lament psalms—40%. There is one book in the Bible that is devoted to laments, and it is aptly named Lamentations. Why does the Bible embrace a lament? Because it is honest about human experience. It doesn’t settle for some superficially shallow way of describing what’s going on, as if to pretend that suffering is not serious or that it is just an illusion. We, too, must learn to meaningfully and honestly express the anguish of our hearts, if we are to avoid superficiality or pretense."

5.      Heaven Would Be Hell Without God: Randy Alcorn reflects on a thread of some recent talk about heaven: God is absent. That is a significant omission. 

6.      Nutella: a Tasty Snack Created by the Necessity of War: Interesting History of a delicious treat. 

This Week's Recommendations: Independence Day

This Week's Recommendations: Independence Day

1.      Ranking the Least (and Most) Nutritious Meals for Your Dollar: This is fun. Unsurprising? Corn dogs, cheeseburgers, and kale salad. Some surprising entries on the list for me were falafel, fish tacos, chicken wings, and Cuban sandwiches. I'll let you find where they fell on the list. What surprised you?  

2.      America's Favorite Idol: Freedom: Jonathan Leeman reviews a new book by Patrick Deneen. He considers, "In short, liberalism aspires to free us as individuals from all the traditions, values, judgments, and relationships that burden us, but we’re left feeling lonely, empty, and unfree. And as Americans increasingly feel this gap between liberalism’s promises and real life, we will go looking for a strong man to fix our problems."

3.      What's Dividing America? This Public Religion Research Institute Poll says that religion isn't the most significant area of division: "Fewer young people felt the country was divided over religion than any of the other three factors listed—politics, race, or money. Only 38 percent say Americans are very divided by religion, 45 percent say we are somewhat divided over religion...By contrast, 97 percent of young Americans believe our nation is at least somewhat divided over politics, with more than three-quarters saying we are very divided over politics."

4.      The Real Down Syndrome Problem: George Will reflects on the very serious and reprehensible evil that the Western world has fanned into flames over the past few decades: the genocide of the down syndrome population. Will reports, "America, where 19 percent of all pregnancies are aborted, is playing catch-up in the Down syndrome-elimination sweepstakes (elimination rate of 67 percent, 1995–2011)."

5.      70 People Share How to Tell if Someone is From Their Country: This is kind of fun. I actually wish it was twice as long. 

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Avengers' Infinity War and the Gospel: Aaron Wilson with a thoughtful reflection on Marvel's newest addition: "Thanos is an inverted version of Christ—a villain willing to save the world, but only through the sacrifice of others... Thanos tells another character it cost him everything to save the world. However, unlike Christ who emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, Thanos’ “sacrifice” has him seeking ultimate power by assuming the form of a God."

2.       What Every Passenger on Southwest Flight 1380 Forgot: Stephen McAlpine makes a connection between our inability to remember lifesaving practices with the gospel in our life, “In other words we prove that, despite our casualness when the flight is on the ground, despite our “Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know that!” before turning to look at the dinner menu, we don’t have what we call “unconscious competence” when it comes to such a vital, life saving practice.”

3.       Reasons Not To Go To Church: Tara Beth Leach chastens, "Don't attend church if you're looking for a place to always and only be filled up, and never pour out. If you're coming to only consume, you're going to be sorely disappointed."

4.       9 Facts About John Calvin You Probably Don't Know: This is fun. Among the facts: "Calvin wrote the first edition of Institutes of the Christian Religion at age 25. He was converted at age 24."

5.       What Parts of the Country Are Religiously Engaged and Disengaged? It is surprising to see this visually. The West, Southwest, and Northeast are particularly disengaged. Arizona's disengagement might surprise some, but it doesn't surprise me, both from the numbers I've seen and anecdotally.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Are Christian Men More Abusive: An eye-opening recent study concludes that committed evangelical men are the least abusive while uncommitted evangelical men are the most abusive, 'Sociologist Christopher Ellison and his colleagues found that women who were married or cohabiting were significantly less likely to report abuse if they regularly attended religious services. According to their study, 'compared with a woman who never attends religious services, a woman who shares similar demographic characteristics but attends several times a week is roughly 40% less likely to be a victim of domestic violence.' Not surprisingly, they also found that 'men who attend religious services several times a week are 72% less likely to abuse their female partners than men from comparable backgrounds who do not attend services.'"

2.       How do we Motivate others Toward God? Kerilee Van Schooten shares a variety of ways we can spur others on toward God. Four of her eight motivations are: rapport; curiosity; relevance; and challenge.

3.       The Sanctification Gap: Ed Stetzer on the disturbing reality that a number of Christians don't take growing in holiness seriously: "'A Christian must learn to deny himself/herself in order to serve Christ.' 64% of churchgoers agree with the statement 19% disagree with the statement... The 19% is what should concern us as pastors and leaders (and the rest who did not know or answer). The essential, biblical mandate to follow Jesus and deny ourselves to serve Christ is not affirmed by almost 1 out of every 3 participants. We say we want the life of Christ and believe in Him for salvation, but we can’t seem to get past the denial hurdle."

4.       Hard Truths About Retirement: Christian Financial planner Chris Cagle says of the first of seven truths, "You can lose meaning and purpose without work.  This is a real and present danger in retirement. God created us all with an intrinsic need for work – to provide for our families and also to productively contribute to the world around us."

5.       No Progress for African Americans: The Economic Policy Institute just released a devastating report that after 50 years, ‘there has been no progress in how African Americans fare in comparison to whites when it comes to homeownership, unemployment and incarceration…”

6.       Symphony of Light: Take in this incredible Kauai timelapse

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What is the Biggest Factor in Economic Inequity? Marriage: Glenn Stanton reports, " Jonathan Rauch writing in the National Journal, certainly no conservative, notes that “marriage is displacing both income and race as the great class divide of the new century.” Isabel Sawhill, a senior scholar at the center-left Brookings Institute, boldly and correctly proclaimed some years ago that “the proliferation of single-parent households accounts for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since the early 1970s.” Virtually all of the increase!"

2.       The Spirit is Always in Agreement with the Word: Aaron Armstrong battles a mode of argument in favor among progressives, that the Spirit can move us past Scripture, "[I]f we can’t use the words the Spirit inspired [the Bible] to be our norming-norm, what do we use to determine whether or not we’re resisting him? Shifts in culture? Personal feelings and preference?.. After all, the Spirit doesn’t work apart from the word he inspired...It’s important that we wrestle with what’s going on in our culture, the shifts in beliefs and behaviors especially. But if anyone is going to make a convincing argument on why Christians need to change their views on a number of key controversial issues, it’s not going to be pitting the Spirit against Scripture."

3.       10 Things That Require Zero Talent: I love this little list from Paul Alexander. #4 and 8 on his list are: "Body Language: You say more with your body language than the words that actually come out of your mouth; Being Coachable: You can learn from anyone, but you have to choose to."

4.       Corporate America's Strange New Religion: Kevin Williamson reports on America's favorite new religion, "'Participants are regaining 62 minutes per week of productivity,' Stringer wrote. 'They are seeing an approximate dollar return, in terms of productivity alone, of more than $3,000 per person per year.' Never mind karma — this is a bottom-line issue.  'Mindfulness,' a meditation practice that is in essence Buddhism without Buddha, is everywhere in corporate America and celebrity culture."

5.       National History Museum 2017 Photography Winners: Stunning photographs. This evocative photo is probably my favorite. 

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Please Stop Saying Christianity is a Relationship, Not a Religion: Kevin Halloran responds to the claim that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion, "Christianity isn’t a dead religion of boredom at church, life as a hypocrite, and trying to be better than everyone else. It’s having the God of the Universe who was once my enemy as my loving Heavenly Father. It’s having my sins forgiven through Christ’s blood and communion with God by His Spirit. It’s living hope for this broken world and the promise of restoration. And, oh yeah, I have an eternal inheritance that no man, demon, or trial can EVER snatch away from me. Now that is a religion and relationship worth pursuing religiously.”

2.       Why Your Child's Feelings Shouldn't Be the Final Arbiter for How You Parent: Melissa Edgington with this counter-cultural truth: "We have been taught to pay special attention to our kids’ feelings and to validate them as much as we can. I’m not saying this is a terrible practice. I mean, it’s never bad to consider someone’s feelings. But can I say with all honesty that about 85% of a kid’s feelings about things are irrelevant? Kids feel 147 different ways before lunchtime. They get upset if their graham cracker is broken. They cry like their heart is broken because a dog licked their elbow. Worse than that, they will kick and scream like you’re murdering them because you’re trying to buckle them into a carseat or keep them from grabbing a hot burner or stop them from running into the street. If we pay attention to every feeling that a kid has, we will be paralyzed and completely ineffective as parents."

3.       10 Common but Illegitimate Reasons to Get a Divorce: Tim Challies shares from Jim Newheiser's new book on marriage helpful responses to these ten common reasons given for divorce.

4.       They Shall Know Us by Our Clutter: Kristin Du Mez reports, "I recently came across the results of this anthropological study, published in 2012: Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors... the authors analyzed and cataloged the visible possessions in each and every room of the 32 households—counting, documenting, examining, and coding artifacts in situ, in their place. Devoting thousands of hours to data collection, they hoped to glean insights on the acquisition and organization of material artifacts, and on how families interacted with their possessions, and with one another. The results of the study are at once illuminating and devastating. Their most striking findings concern the sheer magnitude of our material possessions."

5.       Yosemite: Range of Light: The whole earth is full of his glory!

The Shack by William P. Young

The Shack by William P. Young

I picked up Young's The Shack first during its meteoric rise after it was published. For whatever reason I had trouble with it and eventually set it down. The Shack was made into a movie this spring and with its resurgent popularity, I figured it was a must read as I prepared to teach a class on the Trinity.

The youngest daughter of Mack, a middle aged man with an abusive past, is abducted and murdered early in the book. As Mack wrestles with God in the midst of this tragedy, he is invited to a remote shack by the Trinity. Mack spends a day with the Trinity (the Father represented by an African American woman, the Son by an Arab man, and the Holy Spirit by an Asian woman). 

There are some really wonderful things about The Shack that make the book sparkle. It's no surprise to me that The Shack has made the impact it has in so many lives. The thing that drew me to the book-- its depiction of the Trinity--is at times well-articulated and emotionally touching.