Thursday, August 18, 2011

Satisfaction with How Things are Going by Americans

While I'm not 80 or even 90% sure how this affects every area of presenting the gospel and outreach yet, though I would love to read more, this steep decline in perception is very very relevant to church planting. The # now stands at 11% which has only happened a few times, and in recent history in late 2008. New results show:
Click here for Gallup poll.

It's worth thinking about practically. The top leaders of the downshift as expected in the current climate are 1. economy. 2. jobs. 3. federal deficit.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Army Suicides Rise

Just a quick blog post on something that stood out related to ministers. It is too sad, but those defending the country from threats abroad face much stress. Being away from family, being shot at, having a restricted language barrier in foreign counties, and much more. Apparently there is a high point in July 2011 among Army suicides. The link is here. For chaplains, this means readiness and preparedness to assist other Army professionals to reach out to soldiers. It means seeing the tough combat perspective from God's encouragements in the Word. This will require wisdom and seeking deliberate application to lead them to serve God through the struggles. It is a tough ministry, but one well worth it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Low Morale Politically - US citizens prerevolutionary

An article appeared here from a major polling site. The article details a recent poll showing that 46% of US citizens polled think that Congress is corrupt. Another interesting fact is that only 6% of those polled ( a # that keeps coming up in different polls, so it likely very accurate ) approve of the job Congress is doing. Only 17% of US citizens think the government is operating with the consent of the governed. Is it any wonder then that only 29% of those polled thought members of Congress were not corrupt. The citizens are realizing that: not only are many or most Congressmen and women no better than their constituents in civility, morality, and virtue in general, but in fact they're worse. Sex scandals. Cheating on taxes. Lying under oath. We almost expect federal politicians to just tell you what people want to hear in order to get elected. Then nothing seems to be accomplished that everyone wants. If you were dating or courting someone like that as a potential spouse, you would call them disingenous and break up. Unfortunately we can't do that.

I honestly view it this way: God has called us to submit to the governing authorities. (Romans 13). So there is a real challenge to the Christian believer to support their government. There is a challenge because of our type of government, which I'll touch on. Interestingly, Paul writing Romans 13 lived under Nero the Emperor who was no friend of Christ followers. How do we see our situation as citizens and as Christ followers then?

Yet we are a government by the people and we should seek to change it in the ways we can do so. The problem of unhappines though is very complex and I don't have the answers to it.

The question then is "whose government?" If the government is of the citizenry, whose citizenry? Americans are deeply divided on many issues: Government of the people who get hand outs? Government of the rich businessman or woman? Government of the left leaning, pro abort another 30 million children in the womb? Government of the fiscal conservative who doesn't believe in carrying through the promise? Government of the laissez faire? It's no wonder that no one is happy or even content! If none of these groups get their way, they are going to be unhappy. Perhaps the fact that none of them do get their way is contributing to the unhappiness. Appealing to a vague virtue that everyone might agree with means little, because everyone now expects that the politicians in power's favored sub-culture will benefit financially and with getting an honest ear for several years. Perhaps we just live in a jaded America....

There are believe it or not practical considerations on this for a pastor. If morale is so low it can mean a number of things, both pro and con to preach on during such times. It can also affect how to do outreach substantially, such as themes. Much more could be said about these last two areas.

Friday, August 5, 2011

USA Credit Rating

It turns out that S&P decided to lower our credit rating as a nation to AA+ from AAA. The article link shows that S&P made a mistake on the exact amount of debt, however, even so the burden of the debt in the long-term seems significant. Moody's and Fitch did not give the same low rating, yet that could change. It is reported that if those agencies agree with the S&P downgrade, then the cost of borrowing for the country and for mortgages and individuals (incl. corporations) would rise. This would slow business apart from other major factors. Interestingly, the weakness of the Eurozone created a situation where US debt was still in demand, as a safe haven asset. For the time being there appears to be a situation where we have a reputation of being better than the rest of the options for safe haven. Still, it cannot be passed by that if S&P is correct that debt would consume 88% equivalent of GDP by 2021, that we have major systemic problems ahead.

Consider: millions upon millions of baby boomers retire out of preference. Millions more are out of work and essentially retired. Those numbers go up. Millenials are too young to take up the slack. The gen inbetween is small. Who is going to prop up paying back the debt and who is going to pay the promises to the boomers that has been borrowed on by other government expenses? There is a dangerous imbalance of commitments against monies coming in. If the Boomers can contribute to a slowed housing market as they sell second homes, downsize, and prepare for retirement savings and days; by knocking small percentages off of what otherwise would be growth, they will also contribute (through no fault of their own per se...) to a stunted economy. This is not a good situation. Especially when they are drawing off their stocks from 401(k)'s and so on.

Why is this relevant to Christian faith? Well again missions funding (Mt 28) will take a hit as giving drops in some churches. Who will pick up the slack internationally? People will be hurting in situations so here and in Europe not much will likely increase (unlike book of Philippians response). Of course, in the foreseeable future, the government will be able to pay them, even if it is an amount less useful due to inflation or lack of adjustment to price increase. Longer term that is up for grabs. As far as ministry opportunities, they would exist from this. Then you have the malaise about us that is culturally pervasive to factor into everything from a sermon to a conversation to witnessing methods. A skeptical and jaded society may arise. Or one that is less reliant on material may arise. Maybe some of both. The kind of situation will certainly be humble, and not wished on anyone. Yet it will have cultural impressions effects.

There's a lot that could play out of this long-term.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Weather and Church Growth

It is interesting to think about, but weather does play into church growth. In honor of the 109, 109, and 108 for Tues-Wed-Thurs in Dallas, Texas I'm using a couple minutes of my lunch break to just share some thoughts about this. It might be tempting to believe that in Canada and far Northern parts of the USA excluding the Northwest, evangelism in some forms outside of friendships is limited by cold weather. If there is ice covered by snow covered by ice then some more snow, and it remains below freezing, then you might not want to go 'door to door.' As obvious as this sounds, it might explain the trouble trying to reach people in colder climates in North America over 150-200 years. Not only might the French Quebequios be cold to evangelicals, but over time it could be a worse and worse reaction, since there aren't mediating influences. They can just hang onto traditions without much challenge. The internet changes some of this, as does global connectivity, but a personal challenge is harder to come by there.

In the South, with particular sights on Texas, this thought would not seem to hold. If from June to August many years (not all) you have temperatures in the 100's, people aren't going to use the plethora of outdoor outreach options as much. Yet there are still a large # of churches, many of which began before the advent of A/c in every house. Since then they've picked up people moving from around the US to Texas, and notably in Texas other places too causing rapid growth on top of that like Pakistan/India/Mexico, who at times trust Christ (or already know Him others) and join those long existing churches (if they are still viable, alive churches anyways). That kind of reactive receipt of people is a nice plus for those over time. Still what of intentional, proactive outreach? It has to be creative. Of course, the summer months are where people check out emotionally and mentally from church in the South. So perhaps 100+ is less of an issue for Texas, whereas in the nose to the grindstone months in Canada, the church is limited. This would explain some of their lack of engagement with other traditions, beliefs, and such; beyond reading about them or traveling elsewhere over centuries.

It would be interesting to see if anyone else has done research on this sociological aspect of the Great Commission.