Pastor Steve’s Blog March 10, 2019 I hope you were able to join us at our Ash Wednesday service on March 6. It was a great service in which we all had the opportunity to worship God and prepare our hearts for the penitential season of Lent by receiving ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross. This ritual was introduced by Pope Gregory I, who was Bishop of Rome from 590-604 A.D. It was enacted as a universal practice in all of western Christendom by the Synod of Benevento in 1091 A.D. As I said on Wednesday night, Ash Wednesday is not for the faint of heart. The season of Lent is a time for serious self-examination and soul-searching, for both individuals and our church, about our sins and our temporal existence on this earth. As we engage in this season of Lent, we must remember that it is a season we pass through. It is not a season in which we take up residence. It is a season we pass through in order to be properly prepared for the season of Easter and the Resurrection. The rejoicing of Easter and the Resurrection is all the greater because we have seen our mortality and recognized and repented of our sins during Lent. So please take full advantage of Lent, but do stop and set up camp in it. For God and the church never meant for us to permanently take up residence, thinking only of our mortality and sin. Lent reveals the “bad news,” but the “Good News” is because of Jesus and his death on the cross, we get to pass through Lent and move on to Easter. Glory be to God. Amen.
March 10, 2019
May 19, 2019
Pastor Steve’s Blog May 19, 2019 I read this devotion this week and it struck me how true this devotion is when we get recordings stuck in our heads and they seem to play over and over. And “only if” is one of those. Let’s take this Scripture to heart and head and change the script and music when it becomes redundant…in a not so good way. Blessings! “If Only I Had…” by Lysa TerKeurst “There’s a simple, yet incredibly dangerous little script many of us play in our minds. It might even be one of the biggest things holds us back from feeling fulfilled in our relationship with God. It’s a script tangled in a lie that typically goes something like this: I could really be happy and fulfilled if only I had… …a skinnier body …more money …a better personality …a baby I don’t know what your ‘If only I had’ statements are, but I do know this: none of them will bring fulfillment. They might bring temporary moments of happiness, but not true fulfillment. Apart from a thriving relationship with God, even if we got everything on our list, there would still be a hollow gap in our soul. So instead of saying, ‘If only I had’ and filling in the blank with some person, possession, or position, we must make the choice to replace that statement with God’s truth. Psalm 19:7-8 confirms just how powerful and beneficial the truth of God’s word is: ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.’” (Lysa TerKeust. “Embraced: 100 Devotions to Know God Is Holding You Close.”)
May 12, 2019
Happy Mothers Day!
May 5, 2019
Pastor Steve’s Blog May 5, 2019 I saw this headline online so I stopped to read the article: “GALLUP: NUMBER OF AMERICANS WHO BELONG TO A CHURCH OR HOUSE OF WORSHIP PLUMMETS.” I know this headline will probably not shock anyone, but perhaps it should. As we have said before the days of just opening the doors and expecting people to come and get involved in church are over. Society has changed and this article helps to point out just how much and why. There is a real need for revival and evangelism in America. A real need to share the good news of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If they don’t come to us anymore, how do we reach out to them? April 24th, 2019 By Bob Smietana / Religion News Service (RNS) — Most Americans still say they believe in God, but their involvement in organized religion continues to wane. A new Gallup report found that only half of Americans say they belong to a church or other religious body, down from 69% two decades earlier. Most of the decline is tied to the rise of the so-called “nones” — those who claim no religious affiliation. Gallup found that the share of Americans who claim a religious identity declined from 90% to 77% in recent decades. But even those who claim a faith tradition may not belong to a religious congregation or community, according to the report, which compared data from 1998-2000 to data from 2016-2018. At the turn of the century, Gallup said, 73% of religious Americans belonged to a house of worship. That’s dropped to 64% today. “The still-sizable proportion of religious Americans also contribute to declining church membership, as fewer in this group belong to a church than did so two decades ago,” the report states. Being part of a house of worship is no longer necessary for a growing number of religious Americans, said Tim Carney, author of “Alienated America.” “This data confirms what we’ve been seeing for decades: American life is becoming deinstitutionalized,” Carney said. “Americans are less likely to belong to anything. In America, historically, the thing most people have belonged to has been the church, and now more and more people are losing that.” Age and generational differences appear to play a role in whether Americans join a house of worship. “Just 42 percent of millennials are members of churches, on average,” according to the report. “By comparison, 20 years ago, 62 percent of members of Generation X belonged to a church, when they were about the same age as millennials are today.” The poll found that 68% of “traditionalists” — which Gallup identifies as those born before 1945 — are part of a church or other religious body. That percentage has declined from 78% two decades ago. Gallup’s study also found that 89% of traditionalists have a religious identity, compared with 68% of millennials, which it defines as those born between 1980 and 2000. “Not only are millennials less likely than older Americans to identify with a religion, but millennials who are religious are significantly less likely to belong to a church,” according to the report. “Fifty-seven percent of religious millennials belong to a church, compared with 65 percent or more in older generations.” “The vast majority of us think we should believe in something, that we should have some religious affiliation,” he said. “They’re not afraid of the label of religion, they’re just reluctant to engage in the activity. That ties into the larger problem in America where people aren’t joining stuff as much as they used to.” That lines up with an overall lack of interest in belonging, according to Harvard University political scientist Robert Putnam, whose 2000 book, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” argued that Americans have been engaging less and less in communal social activities – bowling leagues, Rotary clubs, Boy Scouts, gardening clubs, book clubs and more — since the 1960s. Church attendance, Putnam told Religion News Service, has simply followed this downward trend. In fact, the data on the decline in church membership shares “almost exactly the same pattern of ups and downs” as engagement in secular civil society, he said. The Gallup study was based on telephone interviews of American adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Trend data on membership came from surveys of 2,000 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Results for 2016-2018 are based on interviews with 7,688 Americans. Results from 1998-2000 are based on interviews with 7,184 Americans. Both have a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.