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Section 3 of . . .
What’s the future of the global religious landscape?
3 takeaways from the Pew Center projections
Perseverance in the face of projections
Regardless of what any report might project, the church of Jesus Christ is assured of its perseverance.
Will Christianity always maintain its majority in global population numbers? I don’t know, maybe not. Will American culture continue to secularize? According to this report, it looks that way for the next 30 years or more. Does this put Christianity and Christ’s church in jeopardy of ceasing to exist? By no means!
The first-century church, under the threat of its Roman overlords, would not have been on the favorable end of any projections. I am certain that Christianity’s eventual extinction would have been the recurrent prediction in that day. But here we are, continuing to persevere, because we do not live by the words and projections of man, “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). And the Word that has proceeded from the mouth of God has clearly stated that not even “the gates of hell will prevail” against his church (Matt. 16:18).
We should take Pew’s projections seriously, but let’s not allow them to drive us to despair. Instead, let’s be driven to carry out our mission. Those hungering for some sort of transcendent answer to their aches, those flocking to Islam, and even those disillusioned by their experience of Christianity — whatever the source of that disillusionment —let’s echo the words of Philip in the gospel of John when he said to Nathaniel, “Come and see” (John 1:46). And let’s bring them to Jesus.
Jordan Wootten serves as a News and Culture Channel Editor at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned his Master of Arts in Theological Studies. Jordan is married to Juliana, and they have three children. Read More by this Author
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“By 2050, the number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.”
There is not a religious group that is projected to experience more rapid growth in the next several decades than the Muslim population, both worldwide and here within the United States. From Middle East-North Africa to the Asia-Pacific to Europe and North America, Islam is forecast to grow both numerically and in its share of each region’s total population. If Pew’s projections hold, Christians (31.4%) and Muslims (29.7%) will make up a nearly identi....
While Christians will undoubtedly find this news distressing, we should view these predictions not as something to fear but as an opportunity. After all, these are projections, not certainties. Who’s to say that Christians can’t win to Christ those who are searching, those who are spiritually hungry, and those who are seeking a remedy for their “aches” rather than losing them to another religion like Islam or to the hopelessness of atheism? Despite all the evidence to the contrary, what if the church set out to upend these projections?
What would this take? Well, for one, we’d have to stop all the in-fighting and get serious about the Great Commission. And, certainly, we’d have to take the Great Commandments, the very words of Jesus, seriously — to love God with all that we have and love our neighbor as ourselves. And if we can do that, Lord willing, the Pew Research Center might just have to make significant amendments to their report.
By far, the most distressing projection included in Pew’s report as it relates to Christianity is what they call the “Projected Cumulative Change Due to Religious Switching, 2010-2050.” According to their projections, no religious group will lose more adherents to “switching,” or leaving one’s faith tradition for another belief system, than Christianity.
“Over the coming decades, Christians are expected to experience the largest net losses from switching. Globally, about 40 million people are projected to switch into Christianity, while 106 million are projected to leave, with most joining the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated” (emphasis added). If you do the math, that is a projected net loss of more than 66 million people, exponentially more than any other group represented in the report.
While the report isn’t concerned with answering this question, it would be negligent of us not to ask “why?” Is it because those leaving will have found Jesus’ teaching “hard” (John 6:60) like we read in John’s account of the gospel? Is it because we will have practiced some sort of Pharisaical hypocrisy, driving them away from the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 23:13-15)? Or, will they have “gone out from us” because “they were not of us” (1 John 2:19)? Regardless, this projected seismic “switch” will be a tragedy if we do not resolve to prevent it.
The thing about projections is that they don’t come true until they come true. May we work with all the strength God gives us to see to it that these 66 million who are expected to desert Jesus never actually do.
ERLCommission to repost from here>>>
What does the future of Christianity in America look like? Better yet, what will the global religious landscape be like in a couple of decades? As secularism broadens its appeal and more and more people are religiously unaffiliated, we may find ourselves struggling to answer these questions. Or, we may simply be fearful of the answers.
A recent report titled “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050,” published by the Pew Research Center, outlines more than six years’ worth of data collection, coalescing their research into a document projecting the world’s religious makeup in 2050 and the trends that lead there. While the authors of this report are quick to admit how fickle some of these projections may be (due to potential factors like war, famine, disease, and others that cannot be accounted for), nevertheless, there is much in “The Future of World Religions” that should grab our attention.
Here are three takeaways from the Pew Research Center’s report.
If you are paying attention to Western religious trends, you may assume that the global religious trajectory is consistent with what we seem to be experiencing in the U.S., a wayward procession toward secularism. But you would be wrong. Even now, if we were to peer out beyond our own geographic context (and some would argue, even within our own), we would find that the world is not becoming irreligious but more religious. Pew researchers project that this will not only continue, but will surge in the coming decades.
“Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion (the report refers to this group as ‘the unaffiliated’) – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France,” the report states, “will make up a declining share of the world’s population.” Of course, because the global population is forecast to increase by 35% from 2010 to 2050, the raw number of religiously unaffiliated people is projected to increase, as we would expect among virtually every religious group. However, “their share of the global population is projected to decrease” from 16% in 2010 to 13% in 2050.
What this means, fundamentally, is that people, despite our technological advancements and “progress,” still possess a deep-level “ache” that goes unrelieved without some sort of transcendent remedy. There are questions that atheism and/or secularism (or any other false worldview, for that matter) simply cannot answer. Religion is not losing global influence. On the contrary, it is growing, and picking up steam. And while religious adherence grows among many faith traditions, Islam is projected to grow most rapidly
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TAKE A DAY TO SEEK THE SPIRIT FOR A WAY TO CELEBRATE THE “NEW NORMAL”
Your time is your most precious asset. And unlike a retirement account which grows with each passing year, you time is a fixed asset. So I know the advice in this month’s enews is not trivial. I’m asking you to rearrange your schedule to give up not one, but two days of your valuable time. It’s a big request, but one that can pay tremendous dividends.
One Day to Plan a Celebration
There is a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. It’s getting brighter and more hopeful. But with so many unknowns, planning for the future continues to be challenging for church and ministry leaders. And yet, more and more signs point to the likelihood of living and interacting in relatively “normal” ways by the start of school. For most churches and many ministries, September 1, not January 1, is the real start of the year. Why not kick off the “new year” with a special celebration that sets the tone for what is to come? That's the message of this article: set aside one day now to plan for one special day in the fall. It takes time and creativity to plan a celebration, so choose one day this spring for your staff or leadership team to do this work. It may not even feel like “work.” After so many months of negative planning (e.g., How many people can fit in our sanctuary with social distancing? What do we do about the person who refuses to wear a mask?), this can be a forward-looking, hope-infused activity. So how should you do it? Pick a Sunday that coincides with the start of school in your area - perhaps August 29 or September 12 - and dream about what that day will look like. Assume that people will be able to gather indoors for corporate worship and smaller groups with minimal restrictions. Then discuss questions such as:
• What will we do to make that day special?
• What will make people glad they came and want to come back?
• What fall programming will we be launching? (This question looks beyond the specific day. It also implicitly determines programs that will not restart.)
• How will we include people who aren’t comfortable or able to participate? (While this may be a small percentage of people, they are still an important part of the body. Your answer should include elements of both technology and pastoral care.)
As you plan for that celebratory day, think beyond it as well. How can we best catalyze spiritual growth this fall? How can we best care for the needs of our people? Those needs are likely to include a range of issues such as ongoing fear of covid exposure, post-pandemic trauma, marital struggles, and more. I hope you have a great time this spring planning for a great day in the fall. I’d love to hear about it!
Wise leadership knows we need to reimagine!
One of the things you've already hit on, but it's really key to what you're trying to do in this new book, is to focus not just on the individual pastor or the individual leader—those are often the things that make the news, obviously—but you really want to broaden the conversation to focus also on the team surrounding that person—the team within the church. Can you unpack that a little bit? Why do you feel like that's something that we have been so prone to maybe ignore or downplay?
Paul David Tripp Let me start by giving you what I think is the summary thesis of the book. It's this: The key to ministry fruitfulness is longevity. Fruit doesn't happen overnight. The key to longevity is spiritual health. If you're not spiritually healthy, the push and pull and struggle and suffering and criticism and hardship of ministry will burn you out and you'll leave. So, the key to fruitfulness is longevity. The key to longevity is spiritual health. Now here's the kicker of the book: The key to spiritual health is gospel community. There's no evidence in the New Testament for this individualized, self-sufficient, Jesus-and-me Christianity that has become way too much the norm in evangelicalism. You could not read the New Testament without concluding that our faith is deeply relational. First, a dependent relationship with God; and secondly, an interdependent relationship with one another. Secondly, there's no indication anywhere in the New Testament that it's safe for a pastor to live up above or outside of that gospel community. So I would propose that our fundamental model of leadership is, in many places, defective because we're looking for sort of an independently capable, self-starting, strong personality leader. I would argue that's a recipe for disaster. Think about this—the inertia of grace is not from dependence to independence. The inertia of grace is from independence to dependence. The more mature you are, the more godly you are, the more holiness is your goal, the more dependent you are because that's what you're created for. So what we've actually ended up producing then are arrogant, self-focused bullies. How many more experiences are we going to have to hear of people who feel bullied by Christian leaders? That itself is a scandal. We've got to look back and say, What is the missing ingredient in this definition? I would argue it's humble, Christ-centered, grace-driven, redemptive community. And I want to know, if we're seeking to call a pastor to a church, whether or not he's a man who is humbly committed to be part of that kind of community. I want to say one other thing. We've tended to look for leaders who are good planners, strategizers, and vision casters. I would not say that those things are unimportant, but if you look at the qualifications for elder—this is radical—other than the ability to teach, they're all character qualities. Now, it appears that God is saying leadership capability—leadership fruitfulness—is all character-driven. So we've tended to weight things toward giftedness and not toward character.
Complete interview (text and audio)>>>
Pandemic Exposes Church Identity Crisis
by Phil Miglioratti
Excerpted with permission of the author from Chapter Six of The Coach Model for Christian Leaders by Keith E. Webb.
As leaders, we often view ourselves as knowledge providers. So we teach, tell, or advise and, in this way, pass on our knowledge to someone else. The instruction process requires the other person to listen as we share our knowledge. The assumption is that what we have to say will be the key to solving the other person’s problem, or will help them achieve their goal.
This is sometimes helpful, but knowledge, even the knowledge that worked for us in the past, isn’t as powerful as generating insight in the other person. We own what we discover.
Don’t get me wrong, I love studying what’s already been said and done on a topic. That information is invaluable. However, it is only one type of learning. I believe there is deeper learning that goes beyond existing knowledge and how others have applied it. Deeper learning actually creates new ideas, applications and actions that neither the coach nor the coachee were aware of before.
Creating something new requires engaged and reflective thinking. This is where powerful questions come in. Asking the right questions promotes reflection more effectively than merely providing knowledge. Coaches use questions as a primary tool in working with others. Questions help stimulate thinking, broaden perspective, and generate new options for actions.
Knowledge is past; Questions are future.
Knowledge is static; Questions are dynamic.
Knowledge is rigid; Questions are flexible.
Knowledge limits options; Questions create possibilities.
Knowledge requires adaptation; Questions call for innovation.
Knowledge is a location; Questions are a journey.
Knowledge can be superior; Questions require humility.
Knowledge knows; Questions learn.
Note from Bob: So what do you want to be when you grow up: a Know-It-All Leader or an Always Asking Leader?
Copyright © 2020 Leading With Questions, All rights reserved.
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