Facebook Rule: When you come across a prayer request on Facebook, and Obadiah does and hopes you do, the best answer is “prayer” or “I just prayed.” Now, provided it’s a sincere answer, it’s much better than promising to pray because if you’re like Obadiah, you’ll forget.
I learned this from the downtown Anglican pastor, Dominic Steele. Please pass it on.
Obadiah gets older, to the point where he regularly starts reading about famous people younger than himself dying. There are good things about getting old. For example, you don’t have to edit Eternity, as he gracefully or shamefully resigns to be a great writer, depending on your point of view. He was licensed to do things like writing this column.
But one thing he wished he wouldn’t get old is the church. These concerns came to the fore when he reported on statistics compiled by the British mathematician John Hayward. Churches of that age write their date of probable extinction. He calculated it for the British churches. Is your church aging? That is perhaps the most challenging question your meeting/municipality will have to address.
I am reminded of what happened in the church of my youth for decades after I moved from one city to another. (South Australia, like Ireland, had a large export trade in graduates.) It was aging. Fast. A couple of 65-year-olds have revived a youth ministry. They gave it a piping hot one. The church is still there after a merger with a more Pentecostal flavor.
Hayward’s thesis is that enthusiasm determines a church’s “R” number, which measures reproductive capacity, like the Covid virus. Any number greater than one indicates growth.
It happens that Hayward’s numbers show that evangelical and Pentecostal churches, relatively young, do best.
For some Eternity readers, that’s an obvious explanation. But that hasn’t always been the case. A hundred years ago, evangelicalism in Britain was on the back burner. Anglo-Catholicism was the dominant force in Anglicanism worldwide. Liberal theology captivated the minds of young pastors in traditional Protestant churches.
This month, 100 years ago, a famous sermon was delivered at the First Presbyterian Church in New York. “Will the fundamentalists win?” was preached by Harry Emerson Fosdick, who was part of a liberal minority in the US. His sermon ushered in a coming wave of liberal theology.
In the following decades, liberal Christianity became the dominant force in American Protestantism. But since the 1960s, as the US has become more liberal, the “mainline” liberal churches have declined by half or more.
But there are signs that evangelicals are in trouble. The largest evangelical denomination, the Southern Baptists, is slowly declining; this month reveals that hundreds of pastors are involved in sexual abuse cases, and the sect that refuses to act won’t help.
The lesson? No one, no church, can assume that their kind of Christianity will grow.
Having something people rave about is key.
While evangelicals and Pentecostals will be greatly encouraged by Hayward’s numbers showing that churches that spark enthusiasm are the ones that grow, they should beware of triumphalism, Obadiah believes.
Obadiah would never claim to be the best writer in Eternity. The Mission Journal is a great book to read every Saturday, with the best ones that make you feel like you may have been there.
You can’t go past Naomi Reed’s impressive and inspiring Faith Stories. Here’s a good one. But they are all good.
Things the mainstream might see as small stories are big in Eternity. Local church stories work here – you must meet a local change agent named Phil.
But some are big.
Obadiah enjoys friendly jousting “down the aisle”. Seeing gay activist Anthony Venn-Brown describe a trio to the US as a “full-fledged card-carrier gay,” Slope couldn’t help but ask, “So you guys carry cards?”
To which AVB responded:
It must be true. I saw it on the Internet.
Speaking of which, the satirical site Babylon Bee has compiled a list of the headlines. It’s quite a long list, including gems like:
“Biden Calls For A Lid Until Election Day,” which came out two days later, “Joe Biden says he won’t be campaigning in person for the remaining nine days.” “New, less problematic history books will only contain what happened in the current year,” A few weeks later, “Illinois community leaders want to abolish history lessons in schools.” Trump: ‘I’ve done more for Christianity than for Jesus’ It took an entire year, but Donald Trump told a Christian TV network that no one had done more for “Christianity or for evangelicals or religion itself” than he had.
Obadiah has sent a strong warning to our local Damascus Dropbear site, warning them to be careful.