Archive for August, 2011

Remembering a tragedy

August 31, 2011

With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 just around the corner, I had the opportunity this week to remember another national tragedy.

While in Oklahoma City I visited the National Memorial and Museum which details the events of April 19, 1995. On that day a bomb exploded outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people.

It is an incredible museum. Walking through a timeline of events, it provides a complete look at what happened immediately before the explosion and in the aftermath.

It also honors the 168 people who lost their lives, including the babies and small children who were in the nursery at the building.

Each person killed had a photo in a display case along with a few personal items. As I walked down the line, looking at those displays, I saw a photo of a baby girl. In her case was her pacifier. I had to leave as tears began to form.

To say the whole experience was emotional is an understatement, but it is something I needed to see.

We must never forget the tragedies that have happened during our lifetime. With the events of 9/11, it would be easy to forget the Oklahoma City bombing, but we can’t.

What happened there was a signal that Americans must always be on guard, even on our own soil. Six years later an even more horrific act of terrorism happened.

As Americans we can’t take our freedom for granted. As Christians, we need to continue to pray for God’s protection on our country. History has proven America is not exempt from the evil in our world. God is truly our only hope.

“You change communities by transforming lives”

August 1, 2011

Buried among several stories under the heading “Culture Digest” in the July 29 posting of Baptist Press was a story about a recent study by the Barna Group.

The study indicated that the American public in general thinks the church does have a positive influence on its community. That is a good sign. The survey noted that “most Americans who have no religious affiliation or belief are not overtly hostile to churches.”

Sometimes it seems the opposite is true. It appears that religion and Christianity are constantly under attack. This is where we need to really look at who is attacking the church. Often, it is only a small, but extremely loud, minority that is leading those attacks.

The report included several ways Americans thought churches could provide help to their communities. Most of those reasons, as expected, were service/ministry-based.

That is well and good, but Barna Group President David Kinnaman noted that both the community at large and the church don’t connect “teaching the Bible, introducing people to Christ and bringing people to salvation” as ways to impact the community.

Kinnaman closes with this statement: “… You change communities by transforming lives.”

We, as Christians, would do well to heed that advice.

The Baptist Press story follows:

CHURCHES VIEWED POSITVELY BY PUBLIC, BARNA STUDY SAYS — Most Americans believe churches play a positive role in communities, and even atheists and agnostics don’t view churches harshly.

A Barna Group study released July 13 revealed a generally upbeat attitude among the public regarding how churches influence their areas. The study revealed that 78 percent of Americans believe the presence of a church has a “very” (53 percent) or “somewhat” positive (25 percent) effect on their communities.

“Those with the most favorable views of churches are elders (ages 66-plus), married adults, residents of the South, women, Protestants, churchgoers, African Americans and political conservatives,” the study said.

Among the approximately one-fifth of Americans who disagree, 17 percent profess indifference toward the influence of churches, while one in 20 believe churches play an either very (2 percent) or somewhat (3 percent) negative role in communities, the study revealed. It noted those least likely to view churches positively include Mosaics (ages 18-27), men, never-married adults, atheists and agnostics, the unchurched, political liberals, those living in the West and Northwest and those not registered to vote.

While atheists and agnostics were the only key demographic group not to hold a mostly positive view of churches, Barna Group President David Kinnaman noted that only 14 percent of them viewed churches negatively.

“Despite the aggressive posture of leading skeptics, most Americans who have no religious affiliation or belief are not overtly hostile to churches,” Kinnaman said.

Barna also asked the 1,021 adults surveyed how churches could benefit their communities. The three most common ways respondents said churches could help were by assisting the poor and addressing poverty (29 percent), cultivating biblical values (14 percent) and serving youth, families and the elderly (13 percent). Common ministry activities like teaching the Bible and giving spiritual direction came next (12 percent), followed by assisting those in recovery (10 percent) and addressing workplace, financial and educational issues (7 percent). Very small percentages answered that churches should be inclusive and accepting of everyone (3 percent), while only 1 percent of respondents said churches should contribute to their community by being engaged politically. One-fifth of those asked didn’t give a response.

Among Kinnaman’s conclusions from the research are that even the unchurched view churches as important to their communities.

“This positive view is partly due to the fact that most unchurched adults are de-churched, or former churchgoers,” he said. “So, although they may be wary of personal involvement, they have an understanding of the service and assistance that churches can provide to their communities.”

Kinnaman also noted that most Americans don’t seem to connect serving the community with telling individuals about Christ.

“Ministry-related goals — such as teaching the Bible, introducing people to Christ and bringing people to salvation — are infrequently viewed as a primary way to serve the community,” he said. “Even among many churchgoers, contributing positively to the community is perceived to be the result of offering the right mix of public service programs. Yet, this seems to miss an important biblical pattern: you change communities by transforming lives.”