Sermon: Life-Giving Wind

Unity

Sermon Text: Acts 2:1-22 Sermon Excerpt Wherever the Life-Giving Wind blows, the church is about unity not uniformity . . . Journey with me into the story. . . Step back and ask yourself, “If I had all the power in the world and wanted to enable a huge crowd of people from different parts of the world to speak to one another, wouldn’t I just give them a common language?”  And, if I foreknew that the occasion was to go down in history as the birth of a religion, wouldn’t I choose a brand Read More …

Don’t Compliment My Sermons

Fred Schmidt

Frederick Schmidt, an Episcopalian Priest who serves as the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary , recently shared a list of 12 things your priest, pastor, or minister wishes you knew.  Coming in third on his list is a wish regarding preaching: Don’t compliment my sermons. React to them. I would rather hear you struggle with what I’ve said from the pulpit or tell me that you disagree and why, rather than say, “That was nice.” So What? As Read More …

Sermon: Peace Poles, Candles & People

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sermon Text: Matthew 5:9 Sermon Excerpt Growing up in Texas I learned that bigger is better or, at least, bigger is much more likely to attract attention.  In the late 1990s when creative decorating with candles was booming I saw some very large candles in homes and offices. Even the largest of these – candles nearly as large as I am – look tiny when placed beside the world’s largest candles. We can thank Darrel Brock for constructing the world’s largest candle. Back in 1971 his team Read More …

American Church: Dying or Thriving Or ?

Declining Stable

A few hours after I finished reading Greg Garrett's new book, My Church is NOT Dying: Episcopalians in the 21st Century, I encountered a recent LifeWay Research survey that included a question about how the American church is faring.  More specifically, participants were asked, "Which of the following trends do you believe describes church attendance today . . . declining, stable, dying, thriving, growing, or none of these?" Declining - 55% Stable - 51% Dying - 42% Thriving - Read More …

Fewer and Fewer Christians (& Even Fewer Mainline Protestants)

Mainline Protestant Decline

In 2007 the Pew Research Center conducted their initial U.S. Religious Landscape Study.  The 2014 edition, published earlier today, shows Christianity declined by 8% in America over the last seven years (78.4% to 70.6%).  Allowing for the margin of error, this means the number of Christian adults in the U.S. has shrunk by somewhere between 2.8 million and 7.8 million. Decline Impacts All Christian Traditions Mainline Protestants and Catholics top the list for experiencing the greatest Read More …

Sermon: Courageous Compassion

courageous_compassion

Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) Sermon Excerpt Marcus Borg, a progressive Christian scholar who has shaped my thinking about what it means to live as a follower of the Way of Jesus, taught that “compassion is the central virtue of a life centered in God as known in Jesus.”  Further, he suggests that although Luke 6:36 is typically translated “be merciful as God is merciful,” a better translation given the meaning we assign to words in our contemporary culture would be “be compassionate Read More …

May 2015 Book Recommendations

May books

This month my reading list included many volumes that challenged my thinking and expanded my knowledge. Shown below are my ratings for the new volumes (those published in 2015): (5+) Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam (Simon & Schuster) (5) How to Read the Bible by Harvey Cox (HarperOne) (4.5) The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade by Philip Jenkins (HarperOne) (4.5) Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church  by Read More …

Sermon: Shifting Spiritualities

spirituality

Sermon Text: John 6:35 Sermon Excerpt . . .the dominant spirituality in our country back in the 1950s was a spirituality of dwelling.  Church was at the center of society. In many places, churches were literally at the center of town.  They were one of three pillars of stability along with small town life, and Americanism. This was the height of church building and expansion projects.  These larger spaces were needed because increasing percentages of Americans were joining local Read More …

Growing Seminaries

Enrollment Growth

Nearly every regular reader of this blog is well aware that American Christianity has been in decline for many years.  Given this reality one would expect that seminary enrollment would also be declining since this schooling is often required of those seeking ordination (and in traditions where such advanced degrees are not required they have long been an attractive and helpful professional credential).  According to a new report from the Association of Theological Schools, more than 1 in 3 Read More …

A Call for Marriage Equality

National-Weekend-of-Prayer

Currently I serve as Transitional Minister at Fort Myers Congregational United Church of Christ.  In March of 2013 our congregation became the denomination's 1090th Open and Affirming congregation.  Earlier this year we rejoiced when marriage equality arrived in Florida.  We are hopeful that it will soon become a national reality. The following is an excerpt from the portion of yesterday's worship service focused on marriage equality in support of the Religious Institute's National Weekend of Read More …