Search for a Church – Under Construction

The house my wife and I purchased late last summer has been under construction for the last six months.  For the last five months, our search for a church has also been an ongoing experience.  The construction at home has given me new eyes with which to observe the various faith communities  at home and to recognize that whether thriving, declining or somewhere in between each congregation is also under construction. So What? We know better than to look for a perfect church.  Instead, we Read More …

Unique Opportunity to Learn About World Religions

Religious literacy is an essential interpersonal competency for all who seek to live well and to relate effectively to other people.  The lack of basic religious literacy continues to fuel isolation, hate, and even violence. My belief that all people need to expand their religious literacy beyond their own religion to the world's great religions has inspired me to teach world religions at the college level eighteen times (and counting!). While I cannot invite you to audit my class, I can Read More …

Mainline Members – Political Leanings

If you know much about American Christianity, you may expect Mainline Protestants to be more likely to have more liberal political leanings than the average American.  The Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study affords an unparalleled look at this topic by breaking down many of the larger religious denominations by what political party their members self-identify as leaning toward or with which they affiliate. Among all US adults the survey found that 37% are or lean Republican, Read More …

Love Your Non-Christian Neighbor

I fondly remember taking a course called "Contemporary Theologies of Mission" from Dr. Rob Sellers in seminary (Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon Seminary).  It was a class that transformed my perspective on what mission can and should look like in the twenty-first century, especially that which is done in God's name by those who seek to follow the Way of Jesus. Earlier this week, I happened upon Ken Camp's recent article in the Baptist Standard that summarized Sellers' remarks about loving Read More …

Recent Reading: Politics & Bible

Politics are everywhere; I have yet to spend more than a few seconds scanning my social media feeds before encountering a political remark. Political experts are everywhere; 99% of the political remarks I read and hear are communicated as though the communicator is a subject matter expert.  In reality, of course, most are simply people who have strong feelings about their particular perspectives. Political writing is particularly popular.  As a non-expert, I have read three books this year Read More …

Reflections on Average Worship Attendance

Most American churches have relatively small memberships.  Since the accuracy of membership roles varies widely, average weekly worship attendance is often used to compare congregational size. Median American congregation has 75 attend weekly worship (National Congregations Survey) Average American congregation has 186 attend weekly worship (US Congregational Survey) Half (50%) of all church attendance is accounted for by the largest 10% of congregations - those with 350+ average weekly Read More …

Closing the Clergy Gender Pay Gap

Equal pay for equal work has been the law of the land in the USA for my entire life.  That legal expectation, however, has not translated into actual dollar per dollar gender equality. In fact, the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates women earn just $0.83 for every dollar men earn. American Clergy Since the Christian church holds equality of all persons as a core value, one should reasonably expect it would be a model of pay equality.  Unfortunately, the pay gap for clergy is Read More …

More Than Commas

The United Church of Christ has long been known as the church of the comma.  That campaign resonated with me to the degree that I have (and have often worn!) a comma pin. I have also said the line attributed to Gracie Allen on many occasions: "Never place a period where God has placed a comma."  In short, I appreciate the reminder that God is still speaking. New Punctuation Since God is still speaking the United Church of Christ's latest additions to the punctuation serve both to expand Read More …

Small Congregations – Big Challenges

While I have spent most of my life affiliated with large congregations, I realize that there are more small congregations than large ones and that small congregations increasingly face big challenges. The FACT The 2015 FACT (Faith Communities Today) research (American Congregations 2015: Thriving and Surviving) was published earlier this month.  It is the latest survey in a series that started in 2000, and was repeated in 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2015.  Since the 2015 survey includes Read More …

Top Religions by State

There are many ways to look at America's top religions. The Public Religion Research Institute's new American Values Atlas offers a helpful way to consider the religious makeup of the United States on both a national and state level. National Perspective As a whole the top three religions in our country are Catholic - 22% Religiously unaffiliated - 22% White Evangelical Protestants - 18%. Personal Experience I have spent my life in Texas and Florida.  The largest religion Read More …