Archive for July, 2010
Discerning future trends can be difficult if not risky. If we miss a trend, we risk missing opportunities because we had our resources directed elsewhere.
I am thus careful when I do trend projections. I am especially careful when I am projecting trends that will have a direct impact on the churches in America.
The basis for the trends
The trends that follow were not created in a vacuum. Most the information is based on studies we have done at LifeWay Research. But much of this research provides us information and facts about today’s realities. It does not offer certitude for future trends.
The process is analogous to weather forecasting. We can see all the ingredients that will likely cause a specific outcome. But those factors can change, so we can never say that we are 100 percent certain.
Five major trends
Because most of the research that is the basis for these trends was related to American demographics, we must not extend the projections beyond our nation’s borders. Nevertheless, it is possible that some of the research could have implications beyond American churches.
1. Our nation will see the emergence of the largest generational mission field in over a century. According to our current research, the Millennial generation, those born between 1980 and 2000, will have a very low Christian representation. Our estimates now are that only 15 percent are Christian. With a huge population of nearly 80 million, that means that nearly 70 million young people are not Christians.
2. The dominant attitude of this huge generation toward Christianity will be largely indifferent. Only 13 percent of the Millennials rank any type of spiritual matter as important to their lives. They are not angry at churches and Christians. They simply ignore us because they do not deem us as meaningful or relevant.
3. Senior adult ministries in churches will experience steep declines. As the large Baby Boomer generation moves into their older years, they will resist any suggestion that they are senior adults, no matter how senior they may be. Unfortunately, many churches are slow to adapt to new realities. If they do senior adult ministry the way they’ve always done it, it will be headed for failure.
4. The large Boomer generation will become more receptive to the gospel. Our data is anecdotal for now, but we are seeing indications that the Boomers may actually become more interested in spiritual matters in general, and Christianity specifically. If so, this trend will be counter to other trends where adults tend to become less receptive to the gospel as they age. The Baby Boomers have tried it all and found no joy. They may likely turn to the hope of the gospel.
5. Family will be a key value for both of the large generations. For the Millennials, family is their most important value. Nearly 8 out of 10 Millennials ranked family as the important issue in their lives. They told us that they had healthy relationships with their parents who, for the most part, are Baby Boomers. Some churches say they are family friendly, but few actually demonstrate that value. Churches that reach both of these generations will make significant changes to become the type of churches that foster healthy family relationships,
The opportunity to respond
We believe these trends may indeed become reality. They admittedly do focus only on two generations, but these two groups are the largest two generations in America’s history. They cannot be ignored.
Trend projecting is a meaningless exercise if it fails to engender action. Ultimately each local church must determine where God is leading the congregation. In the case of the five trends noted here, the opportunities seem significant. May the response of Christians and churches be nothing less than radical obedience.
Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, and for 15 years prior to that led a church and denominational consulting firm. He is the author of 22 books, including his latest, Transformational Church.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
How is a virtuous woman rare and her value far above rubies (31:10)? King Lemuel’s mother described in detail the perfect woman that would be a proper wife for her son (31:1-2). Every woman should aspire to this lofty description written by a queen mother, and every man should only marry a woman following this holy and inspired description.
She is first and foremost trustworthy, so her husband has no doubts or fears about her. The virtuous woman may be trusted personally, sexually, domestically, economically, and spiritually. Her life is based on the solid foundation of fearing God and doing righteousness, regardless of circumstances, temptations, or opportunities for compromise.
A husband risks his heart with a wife. She can break his heart by giving her body or love to another (Num 5:11-31; Matt 1:18-19). She can defraud him of adoration or sexual fulfillment (Esth 1:12; I Cor 7:1-5; Eph 5:33). She can break his heart by being lazy and allowing the family or house to suffer (14:1; Ezek 16:49; I Tim 5:14). She can be odious, contentious, and shameful in private and in public (12:4; 27:15-16; 30:21-23).
A man married to a virtuous woman, who fears God and does righteousness, has his heart totally at rest; he is fully confident in all she thinks and does (31:28-31). This is the ultimate in love and marriage for a man in this sinful world. Any other woman will disappoint, defraud, and destroy him in one or more of the sins above. A godly woman fully submits all her desires, loyalty, and service to her husband (I Cor 11:9; Ep 5:22-24).
Contrast the trust of a virtuous woman to the pain felt by a husband on a business trip (7:18-20), Potiphar in Egypt (Gen 39:7), Jacob (Gen 31:19), Samson (Judges 16:15-17), and David (II Sam 6:20-23). The longest parable in the Bible was written to describe the unfaithfulness of Israel as God’s chosen bride (Ezek 16:1-63). A woman that cannot be trusted is as rottenness in a man’s bones, a toothache, and a sprained ankle (12:4; 25:19).
Domestic trust is the emphasis in this proverb, for the following context exclusively describes the virtuous wife’s diligence and industry in managing the home and contributing income to the estate (31:12-27). Hardworking and prudent women, who fulfill the lofty description in these wonderful verses, build great families and estates. But a foolish woman will destroy a man and his family (7:12; 14:1; I Tim 5:13).
The priority in a woman’s life is serving the family and home. She was created to help Adam (Gen 2:18). When he is away on business or other matters, she is to make sure all runs as smoothly as if he were there. When he is home, she is to relieve him from any worry about the children or house. She is to pursue any investment or work opportunities by which she can add to the family income. Such is the virtuous woman (31:13-27).
A godly woman is a keeper at home (Titus 2:5). This does not mean she cannot leave the home or even spends most of her time there, for that would contradict the description of the virtuous woman (31:13-27). But it does mean the home is her priority and responsibility, and she is to avoid any foolish distractions away from it (I Tim 5:13-14). A good woman can be a great family and estate builder, and it requires more elbow grease and sweat equity than it does intelligence and seminars for super moms.
Spoil is goods taken from an enemy in war, or anything taken by force or other injurious means. The husband of a domestically diligent wife will be fully supplied and never think of taking things from others, for he has plenty at home by the faithfulness and wise labors of his wife. A sexually defrauded husband is tempted to fantasy, pornography, or adultery. A domestically defrauded husband is tempted to covetousness, overworking, or theft. Such a man must go beyond his bounds to make up for losses caused by his wife.
Women can be romantically distracted, personally spoiled, sexually selfish, domestically lazy, financially wasteful, or verbally disrespectful. Any one of these sins can build fear and mistrust and eventually break a man’s heart. Women must examine their lives and make every effort to remove any and all doubts and fears from their husbands’ hearts.
Men often choose wives for frivolous reasons like looks, which generally only add to mistrust. A wise man will measure the character and track record of a woman for trustworthy faithfulness and prudent diligence, especially in domestic duties. The future of his heart, life, children, and estate depend on it.
Here is inspired wisdom from heaven for godly and prosperous marriages. Let every woman take heed that her life closely follows that of the virtuous woman described in this chapter. And let every man encourage and pursue only those women like her.
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and
of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour,
and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these,
he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified,
and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.
— 2 Tim 2:20-21
How many times have we heard it said …
… “Jesus loves me just as I am!” …
You will not find any verse of scripture to back that up!
On the contrary …
… the Bible teaches that God has called us to holiness …
… and not to uncleanness!
For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.
— 1 Thes. 4:7
… God loved us even when we were lost and going to hell …
… But …
… now that we have received salvation through Jesus …
… and what He did for us on the cross at Calvary!
We are called to put off the old man with his sinful nature!
… and …
We are called to clothe ourselves with the new man …
… which is created in righteousness and holiness!
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man,
which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created
in righteousness and true holiness.
— Eph. 4:22-24
God loves you and me …
He does not love our …
… bad habits, wrong attitudes, unfriendly behavior etc!
Let’s cleanse ourselves from these things …
… in order to become vessels of honour!
Vessels that God can use to bless others!
… Read …
“Of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh… ” – Luke 6:45
‘Oh, it was just a bunch of meaningless words. No big deal!’ Wrong! Our words are a big deal and they do mean a lot! ‘A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. ‘… For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks’ (Luke 6:45 NKJV). Your words have either negative or positive impact. 1) Consider some negatives. They can wound people to the core. ‘There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword… ‘ (Proverbs 12:18 NAS). They can break down a person’s spirit, stripping them of the courage for living. ‘… Perverseness in it [the tongue] breaks the spirit… ‘ (Proverbs 15:4 NKJV). Carelessly spoken words between people can destroy relationships. ‘The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbour… ‘ (Proverbs 11:9 NKJV). Emotional, and possibly even physical death, can result from words.
‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue… ‘ (Proverbs 18:21 NKJV). 2) Consider some positives. Your words can spark life into a relationship. ‘A soothing tongue is a tree of life… ‘ (Proverbs 15:4 NAS). The right words can help heal wounded relationships. ‘Pleasant words are… sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.’ (Proverbs 16:24 NIV). Well-chosen words can help us to understand each other. ‘… Sweetness of the lips increases learning… ‘ (Proverbs 16:21 NKJV). Words spoken at the right times can bring us closer together. ‘The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl’ (Proverbs 25:11 NCV). What you say matters, so mind your mouth!
Let’s answer some communication questions: 1) What is good communication? It’s honest, positively intended, two-way sharing. It isn’t ‘dumping’ or giving someone a piece of your mind! The first law of verbal ecology is: garbage is not biodegradable! It recycles, festering with time. ‘The words of a talebearer are as wounds… they go down into the innermost parts of the belly’ (Proverbs 18:8). Many a word accompanies the hearer to their grave. 2) What should we communicate? The truth. ‘Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight’ (Proverbs 12:22 NKJV). But truth can be given like the blow of a sledgehammer or like a soothing hand of friendship. It should be communicated after advance thought for its impact. ‘The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things’ (Proverbs 15:28 NAS). 3)
How much should we communicate? As much as God’s Word, love and wisdom dictate. Children and distressed people frequently need only limited information. ‘A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards’ (Proverbs 29:11). 4) How should we communicate? ‘How’ can be as important as ‘what,’ so speak with consideration for the hearer’s feelings. ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger’ (Proverbs 15:1 NAS). The hearer’s response is conditioned by your words. 5) Check your timing; it’s vital! ‘… It is wonderful to say the right thing at the right time’ (Proverbs 15:23 NLT). If you’re not certain about your timing, wait and pray for wisdom!
Words of Wisdom
Thought for the week: “Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury.” – E. H. Chapin
“True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubteth not; he knoweth all things but his own ignorance.” – Akhenaton
“To really know a man, observe his behavior with a woman, a flat tire and a child.” – Unknown
“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” – William Shedd
“Whatever we expect with confidence becomes our own self-fulfilling prophecy.” – Brian Tracy
“Living consciously involves being genuine; it involves listening and responding to others honestly and openly; it involves being in the moment.” – Sidney Poitier
“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” – Golda Meir
2. On the Lighter Side
Last summer my wife and I met a couple who were friends of my wife at a restaurant. After lunch, the women decided to go shopping, and I invited the man to go sailing. While we were out on the water, a storm blew up. The tide had gone out, and we were down wind trying to work our way back through a narrow channel. At one point the boat grounded, and we had to climb overboard and shove with all our might to get it back in deep water.
As my new friend stood there, ankle deep in muck, the wind blowing his hair wildly, rain streaming down his face, he grinned at me, and with unmistakable sincerity said, “Sure beats shopping.”
From Clean Laughs.
To subscribe: www.gophercentral.com/sub/sub-jokes.html
3. Keep on Sowing Your Seed
One of William Barclay’s friends tells this story. In the church where he worshiped there was a lonely old man, old Thomas. He had outlived all his friends and hardly anyone knew him. When Thomas died, this friend had the feeling that there would be no one to go to the funeral, so he decided to go, so that there might be someone to follow the old man to his last resting-place.
There was no one else, and it was a miserable wet day. The funeral reached the cemetery, and at the gate there was a soldier waiting. An officer, but on his raincoat there were no rank badges. He came to the gravesite for the ceremony, then when it was over, he stepped forward, and before the open grave swept his hand to a salute that might have been given to a king. The friend walked away with this soldier, and as they walked, the wind blew the soldier’s raincoat open to reveal the shoulder badges of a brigadier general.
The general said, “You will perhaps be wondering what I am doing here. Years ago Thomas was my Sunday School teacher; I was a wild lad and a sore trial to him. He never knew what he did for me, but I owe everything I am or will be to old Thomas, and today I had to come to salute him at the end.” Thomas did not know what he was doing.
David E. Leininger, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com.
Ed Note: “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done. Keep on sowing your seed, for you never know which will grow. Perhaps it all will” (Ecclesiastes 11:4,6 TLB).
4. Overcoming Fear
“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of a life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” – Louis E. Boone
“Be Fearless, and Flourish!” – Rick Beneteau
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we often might win, by fearing to attempt.” – William Shakespeare
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Source: From the Masters, www.beliefnet.com/.
See the article, “Conquering Fear,” by Dick Innes at: http://tinyurl.com/rhlho
5. In Love and Marriage
In his book, The Purpose and Power of Love and Marriage,” Myles Munroe says:
When a male demands, a female reacts; she doesn’t respond.
When a male gives, a female responds.
When a male commits, a female submits. Nothing is more precious to a female than a committed male. Nothing is more depressing to a female than an uncommitted male.
When a male abuses, a female refuses. Whenever a man abuses a woman, she refuses to respond.
When a male shares, a female cares. If you find a man who is willing to share with the woman in his life, you will find a woman who is willing to care for her man.
When a male leads, a female follows.
When a man carries out his God-given responsibility for leadership, a woman responds by following his lead. Leadership does not mean being bossy, always telling others what to do. Good leaders lead by example, not by decree. Jesus led by example, and so did Moses, Peter, Paul, and all the other great leaders in the Bible. Leading by example means doing ourselves the things we wish others to do.
Source: KneEmail, Mike Benson, Editor, www.forthright.net/kneemail/
6. The Box Full of Love
By Michael Josephson of Character Counts (554.1)
Todd was a sadly quiet 11-year-old struggling to adjust to the death of his mother. His father had left long ago, and Todd was living with an aunt who made it known she resented the responsibility.
On several occasions, his teacher Sheryl heard his aunt tell him, “If it weren’t for my generosity, you’d be a homeless orphan.”
Sheryl took extra pains to make Todd feel valued in class, and encouraged his interest in making things. Just before Christmas break, Todd shyly presented her with a small decorated box he’d made.
“It’s beautiful!” Sheryl gushed.
Todd replied, “There’s something special inside that my mom gave me before she died. She said it’s the one thing I can give and still have plenty left over. It helps you feel better when you’re sad and safe when you’re scared.”
As Sheryl started to open the box, Todd warned her, “Oh, you can’t see it.”
“Well, what is it?” Sheryl asked kindly.
“It’s love. You’re the first person since my mom that I love.”
Sheryl hugged Todd tightly and said, “I’ll treasure this forever. It’s the best gift I ever got.”
She kept it on her desk until she retired, and touched it whenever she was sad or scared. It never failed to make her heart smile.
Years later, Todd sent her the tassel he wore during his graduation from medical school. It’s been in the box ever since.
In truth, love—not diamonds—is the gift that keeps on giving. What’s more, love generates itself. The more you give away, the more you have left.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
© 2009 Josephson Institute of Ethics; reprinted with permission. Michael Josephson, one of the nation’s leading ethicists, is the founder of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and the premier youth character education program, CHARACTER COUNTS! For further information visit www.charactercounts.org
7. Wish Vs. Want
Sample of Daily Encounter by Dick Innes
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”1
One of my many favorite quotes happens to be from a Buddhist monk who wisely said, “To know and not to do is not yet to know.”
To translate this into our Christian terminology, we could put it this way: “To believe and not to act is not yet to believe because we only truly believe that which motivates us to action.”
For instance, many of us say we want to weigh less than we do. But do we? Really? Very few of us ever eat anything we don’t want to eat. And many of us don’t take the time to exercise enough to keep to our desired weight. In reality, often what we think we want is just a wish! We only truly want something when we are willing to make the commitment and pay the price to achieve it.
Furthermore, if we say we believe that our friends, neighbors and people throughout the world are lost eternally without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and give nothing or do nothing to help take, send or give the gospel to them, we don’t really believe this either.
And if I say I want to be made whole, and don’t do what I need to do to be made whole, I choose by default not to be made whole. It is true regardless of who said it: “To know and not to do is not yet to know.”
Suggested prayer: “Dear God, in all things worthy and noble please help me to be a ‘doer’ and not merely a ‘listener, talker, or wisher.’ Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus’ name, amen.”
1. James 1:22 (NIV).
“I pour out my complaint before him… ” – Psalm 142:2 NIV
Learn to pray the Psalms. They run the gamut of human emotion from thanksgiving, to anger, to fear, to loneliness, to grief. The Psalmist doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to life. Not life as we wish it was, but life as it is: ‘I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.’ He vents his pain to God, he allows himself to ‘feel it.’ That takes courage, especially when you just want to put on a brave face. John Ortberg wrote: ‘I regret the pain of failure so keenly that I backed away from owning it and learning from it. I could not heal and move on. I wanted to bury it so deeply that no one would ever guess it was there-not even me.’ Sound familiar? The Bible doesn’t discourage the grieving process, it just warns us not to get stuck in it. ‘… Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning… ‘ (Psalm 30:5 NIV).
To reach your morning of rejoicing you must go through your night of weeping. FB Meyer writes: ‘There are some who chide tears as unmanly, un-submissive, un-Christian. They comfort us with a chill, bidding us to put on a rigid and tearless countenance. We may well ask if a man who cannot weep can really love? Sorrow is just love bereaved; its most natural expression is tears. Jesus wept. The Ephesian converts wept on the neck of the Apostle Paul whose face they were never to see again. So go ahead and pour out your heart to God. It’s a vital step to becoming whole.