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The 2020 project shows shifting complexity of organized religion.

Church historians, sociologists, and statisticians are going county by county, denomination by denomination, group of believers by group of believers, to compile the most complete record of organized religion in the country: the 2020 US Religion Census.

The official decennial census conducted by the United States government does not measure religious affiliation. Most data about religion in America comes from polling, but polling has its limits. So every 10 years, the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) counts and maps religious congregations in the US.

The project is a massive undertaking. In 2010, the organization counted 236 religious groups, with 344,894 congregations and 150,686,156 regular participants, releasing its results in a 726-page book with 31 color maps.

In 2020, they’re counting again: Southern Baptists and American Baptists, plus National, Progressive, Independent, Fundamental, Full Gospel, Free Will, and Original Free Will Baptists. They’re counting Grace Gospel Fellowships and Fellowships of Grace Brethren. Twelve types of Lutherans. Thirty affiliations of Amish. They’re counting churches without buildings and churches that meet in multiple locations, congregations with no denomination and congregations that belong to more than one.

In the process of coming up with the numbers, the census takers wrestle with the complexity of organized religion. They just want clean stats, but these data obsessives end up mapping denominational decline and transformation, migration, reorganization, and the seemingly endless shifts in the shape of church.

“There really is a feeling that maybe denominations have seen their day,” said Richard H. Taylor, a retired United ...

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God’s gift to us is the opportunity to touch the nations and be touched by them in a very warm, close, and personal way.

It was an unusual opportunity. A new role, just ten hours a week, had been created at my local church and now it was my job to help our congregation welcome the nations through a ministry to international students.

We began with a small group of volunteers and students. Sixteen years later, in cooperation with other local churches, we offered friendship, practical helps, and Bible discussion groups to more than 1,000 students each year.

These international students were eager to have friends. And they brightened our lives with their ideas and cultures. We learned so much from one another.

Consider some of their stories.

A student from Sri Lanka arrived wearing a cross necklace. When I inquired about it, she quickly responded, “I am a follower of the Christian God.” I asked if she had ever read the Bible or knew anything about Jesus. She said “no” but she had been praying to the Christian God and he frequently answered her prayers. She was eager to find out more about him.

Three students from Iraq were grateful for our friendship. In getting to know these guys, we learned they came from the cities of Ur, Babylon, and Nineveh! This prompted many meaningful discussions together.

Another student from China came already eager to serve in the ministry. Her grandfather, several generations back, had been led to Christ and discipled by Hudson Taylor. Her family was still walking with the Lord.

At one sports night in the church gym, a group of students from Saudi Arabia invented a game bouncing a soccer ball from their heads and feet into a basketball net. It was fun to watch and cheer them on.

Welcome parties were held at the beginning of each semester. It was common to greet students from more than 30 countries. ...

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An intentional degree is one in which people who have gone before you have thought deeply on it and created a curriculum to give you greater direction.

I write often about movements that are lay led and not requiring formal theological education. I though it might be helpful to explain that, in many circumsances, it is exactly what you might need.

You will probably not be surprised that I think thing. I’ve earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, with much of my programs in cohorts with other students. I loved the journey to get each degree. These programs / degrees provided me with the formal knowledge and training I’ve needed to serve the Kingdom of God in all that I do.

Let me share three reasons formal ministry education matters today: specifically, I want to show you how formal education can help you grow in your ability to serve in any ministry role.

First, an intentional degree directs your learning in ways that shape you as a leader, pastor, minister, or in any other ministry role.

An intentional degree is one in which people who have gone before you have thought deeply on it and created a curriculum to give you greater direction.

The classes are almost always developed by people who have walked the path that you hope to walk before you walked it and longer than you walked it. This means the topics you study will help you in innumerable ways.

The fact remains that any of us could open our Bibles or read other books to give us a better education. If I did my own study, I would probably read about historical theology all day. But I might miss some things learned by systematic theology or biblical theology.

I might not read about pneumatology and soteriology. I might not look at leadership. I might become more enamored with history than with the biblical foundation for our faith.

A smart person knows what he or she doesn’t know, and the directed ...

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Survey finds very few respond to #PrayFor... hashtag campaigns.

The Bible repeatedly teaches the value of regular prayer. “Pray continually,” Paul tells the church in Thessalonica. Pray “in every situation,” he advises the church in Philippi. And to the church in Colossi he says, “Devote yourselves to prayer.”

The message is largely lost in Great Britain, however, where nearly 3 in 5 adults (57%) now say they never pray, up from 49 percent in 2017.

According to a new Savanta ComRes survey sponsored by Premier Christian News, 12 percent of British adults say they pray at least once a day. In contrast, a Pew Research Center survey last year found that 49 percent of Americans say they pray every day.

“It’s not particularly surprising to see less and less people are choosing to pray regularly,” said Marcus Jones, head of Premier Christian News. “What is interesting is despite many having big concerns about the future of our country and our world, people aren’t choosing to respond in prayer.”

Global phenomena like secularization, immigration, and technological development are overhauling the church in the UK. CT reported in 2016 that for every Anglican church in London that closed its doors since 2010, more than three Pentecostal churches launched. Likewise, while many British churches are struggling to retain members, churches with strong bases of African and Asian immigrant believers are going strong. This is a key part of why there are now more churches than pubs in the UK.

Premier’s survey found that people of color—or BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) in UK terminology—comprise a larger share of British Christians who regularly attend church (15%) than of Brits who identify as Christian (6%).

As ...

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Highlights from our archives.

Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the United States, Christianity Today has featured many articles arguing for the sanctity of human life and examining how Christians can respond. Here’s a selection of some of our key articles on this topic over the decades.

The Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973. Christianity Today responded with this editorial in February 1973.

Norma McCorvey—known as “Roe” in Roe v. Wade—later came to faith in Christ and changed her views on abortion. This 1998 article details her conversion story.

“Ours is not the first abortion war,” Tim Stafford wrote in this 1989 CT cover story. In “The Abortion Wars: What Most Christians Don’t Know,” Stafford describes historical practices of abortion and infanticide and examines the Christian response.

Christian conviction about the sanctity of life is grounded in Scripture, yet the New Testament does not directly address abortion. In this 1993 article, Michael J. Gorman draws upon Jewish history and ancient texts to demonstrate that a “Jewish antiabortion consensus” was the norm in the first century and that “the earliest Christians shared the antiabortion position of their Jewish forebears.”

This 1999 article examines the prevailing sentiment that abortion is a necessary evil by debunking four myths about the purported need for legalized abortion.

That same year (1999), Frederica Matthewes-Green candidly addressed growing societal acceptance of legal abortion, asserting that while the “debate” may be over, “The pro-life ...

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In today’s churches, we place more of an emphasis on church planting through people than we do church planting through churches.

Jack Redford’s 1978 book Planting New Churches became one of the most influential church planting books for a decade following its release. He believed all churches should be involved in planting new churches as a normal part of their work.

Ideas were adopted by many church planters, and his book quickly became the planting guide for many. Redford featured nine steps to planting a new church. These steps made church planting look something like this: form a missions committee, find the place to plant, and prepare and send volunteers to engage with that community.

Once enough members of that community were interested, small groups would emerge and meet together on Sunday mornings. Eventually, once the mission chapel was able, people would begin to focus on the administrative work to make the church official and legal.

Churches Planting Churches

These nine steps focused mainly on the mother church’s involvement. Typically, a denomination or church would send out its members to plant another church. People would physically move to new locations in order to invest in the community of the new church.

The foundations of the sending church and the new churches they started were practically identical to one another. In fact, mother church involvement was so important that people often used the analogy of one beehive creating a new hive. They talked about the mother church “hiving off”: giving some of its people and with that part of its DNA to the new church.

Entrepreneurial Planters

Over the next decade or so, the conversation began to change. Bob Logan and others talked about planters, not just churches planting churches. The entrepreneurial planter became more central.

From the late 80s forward, church planting ...

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“The primary call on my life is not to do something for Jesus; the primary call on my life is to be with Jesus”

1. “The Christian life is not me living for Jesus, but Jesus living His life in and through me” (Page 22).

2. “When I look around the American Church today, I see two primary targets people are aiming at in their spiritual lives: activity and information” (Page 30).

3. “…we prefer a superficial system of religion over a genuine relationship with Jesus because the superficial system is easier to control. We have a built-in desire to measure our performance whenever possible…” (Page 32).

4. “One of the key patterns of Jesus’ life was building intentional, engaging, loving relationships with people who were far from God so that they could come to know God through him” (Page 47).

5. “As a Jesus follower, your identity is not in what you do. Your identity is found in who you are in Christ—a loved, accepted child of the Father enjoying a fellowship relationship with Him” (Page 50).

6. “The primary call on my life is not to do something for Jesus; the primary call on my life is to be with Jesus” (Page 63).

7. “The first symptom of ‘trying’ to follow Jesus is believing that spiritual growth and spiritual maturity can be earned” (Page 80 ).

8. “Our obedience is in direct proportion to our love” (Page 56).

9.“A life of humility before Christ always leads to a life of victory in Christ” (Page 59).

10. “The New Testament knows nothing of Christianity without community” (Page 115).

11. “…we have become very good within the church at covering our selfishness with a blanket of spirituality. Or, more accurately, we cover our conflict-causing thoughts and actions with a blanket of ...

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What women may refuse to disclose to researchers at a clinic, they’re confessing in Bible studies decades later.

Pro-life advocates and ministry leaders are challenging the results of a new study that found that most women do not suffer emotionally after an abortion, and that over time, they are less likely to express regret.

Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) followed 667 women across 30 clinics after they received an elective abortion, finding that the majority had either positive feelings or no emotion at all toward their decision both a week later (71%) and five years later (84%), according to a study released last week in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

Corinne Rocca, one of the study’s authors and UCSF professor, said that the study proves that the idea that women will develop negative emotions after an abortion is a “myth” and a “red herring.” Rocca has also participated in multiple research studies and written several articles for the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood.

While pro-choice advocates have used the findings to suggest that the idea of “abortion regret” is merely a scare tactic from pro-lifers, critics say the sample for the survey doesn’t justify the debunking its authors have touted in the media.

Writing for the National Review, researcher Michael J. New noted that women who volunteer to respond to questions following an abortion are more likely to be the ones who feel positively about it, and therefore the findings do not represent the full spectrum of women who have had abortions. New—a professor at the Catholic University of America and a scholar with the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute—noted that of all the women asked to participate, less than 40 percent agreed, and roughly 30 ...

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How a hyper-focus on “attracting the young” can sideline the aging faithful.

We rarely hear it put as bluntly as did the small congregation of Grove United Methodist Church, where some members recently claimed “age discrimination” over a service being cancelled, but there are many churches sending a similar message: “If you are an older adult, we don’t want you here.”

As a part of denominational efforts to reboot the Cottage Grove, Minnesota, church, leaders are asking the 25 or so people who gather each week in the Grove building to leave their building and worship at the nearby sister congregation while a team plants a new church at their campus. According to a St. Paul Pioneer Press report, these mostly older members have been directed to wait 15–18 months after its launch before asking new leadership if they can “migrate back.”

While a single news story can’t fully capture the history of the relationship between the lay-led congregation and the denomination, nor the nuances of recent discussions over revitalization (church leaders clarified their approach in a follow-up by the Washington Post),the situation highlights a phenomenon with which many older adults are all too familiar.

During more than a decade writing about spiritual formation in the second half of life, I’ve heard a painful litany of stories from those who’ve been ignored, marginalized, patronized, or treated as rusting obstacles blocking the path to the holy grail of church growth.

Older member hear the message they’re not valued in a variety of ways: a worship team comprised of members under 40, a range of programming designed for younger attenders, or a lack of pastoral care when they’re in the trenches of long-term illness or caring for aging parents. ...

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Could a Montana school choice case be the end of Blaine amendments?

When a Montana tax credit program for private school scholarships was accused of being discriminatory because religious schools were not eligible, the state eliminated the program outright rather than fight the case.

But now, the state has ended up at the US Supreme Court anyway, with a legal dispute centering around whether the legal basis Montana (and dozens of other states) uses to bar public funding of religious education is constitutional.

The justices will hear arguments Wednesday in Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue, a case over a scholarship program for private K-12 education that makes donors eligible for up to $150 in state tax credits. Advocates on both sides say the outcome could be momentous because it could lead to efforts in other states to funnel taxpayer money to religious schools.

Montana is among 37 states that have provisions in their state constitutions that prohibit religious schools from receiving state aid, also known as Blaine amendments.

Legal advocates and Christian schools opposed to the restrictions say they discriminate against religious families by blocking them from government benefits available to others, or by favoring secular education. They also note that such prohibitions were historically designed to not to keep the government from endorsing religion—since a Protestant ethos was generally part of public education—but to deny support to Catholic (“sectarian”) schools in particular.

Like many religious freedom cases, this one floats the balance between the establishment clause—the government cannot support a particular faith over others—and the free exercise clause—it cannot prohibit citizens from exercising their religious beliefs.

In a brief ...

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Vous, les 99 %, n'existez pas pour aider les professionnels du ministère à accomplir le Grand Mandat missionnaire. C’est nous qui existons pour vous aider à le faire.

Assis en face d'un ami, Bill Pollard, je voyais son regard empreint d'un espoir qui cependant trahissait quelques doutes. Je venais de partager avec lui la vision du Mouvement de Lausanne de réunir plus de 700 leaders chrétiens du monde des affaires, venant de plus de 100 pays un peu partout dans le monde.

C’était une vision que Bill approuvait : mobiliser les chrétiens pour qu’ils soient des instruments de Dieu sur leur lieu de travail afin qu’un impact pour le Royaume puisse se faire sentir dans chaque sphère de la société. Toutefois, il se demandait si, aux yeux de certains responsables d'Église, l'efficacité de ce type de ministère par le biais de responsables dits « laïcs » était possible.

Ses interrogations reflètent une longue histoire au cours de laquelle le ministère chrétien a été considéré comme relevant de la responsabilité restreinte de "professionnels" tels que les pasteurs et les missionnaires. Des gens comme Bill ont contesté cette notion, montrant plutôt que le manteau du ministère appartient à chaque chrétien.

Bill avait été le Directeur Général de ServiceMaster qui, sous sa direction, a été reconnue par le magazine Fortune comme l'entreprise de services n° 1 parmi les 500 entreprises du classement Fortune 500 et a été reconnue par le Financial Times comme l'une des entreprises les plus respectées dans le monde. Pour Bill, son travail chez ServiceMaster était au service du Maître. Comme il le dit ...

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