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.

June 23, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog June 23, 2019 I hope you were able to be with us yesterday in church to hear our friends from Jacksonville Teen Challenge. It was so encouraging to hear their testimonies and see the life change that has happened in each one of them due to their personal relationship with Jesus Christ and support from the Teen Challenge Center. I look forward to St Paul continuing our support for this terrific ministry. Our special offering yesterday in church for Teen Challenge amounted to $500. I also heard that one of our Sunday School classes pledged an additional $300 to help with the ministry. Outstanding! That’s great seed planted in good soil. Can I get an “Amen.” Below is some good information about Teen Challenge. For nearly 60 years, our alcohol and substance abuse addiction recovery program has provided long-term recovery for tens of thousands of individuals. We are the largest and longest continuously operated group of addiction recovery centers in the world, with over 200 centers in the U.S. and over 1,000 more centers worldwide. In an Adult & Teen Challenge Outcomes Study by The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): • 92% of Adult & Teen Challenge graduates reported good to excellent health a year later. • 86% of Adult & Teen Challenge graduates reported they were drug-free a year later. • 72% of Adult & Teen Challenge graduates continued their education upon completion of the program. • 75% of Adult & Teen Challenge graduates were employed a year later, with 73% being fully self-supporting.

June 16, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog June 16, 2019 Kim Straughn, as the church’s Lay Delegate, and I attended the 177th Florida Annual Conference this past week in Lakeland, FL on the campus of Florida Southern College. This campus is famous as it was designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. FYI. Kim will present a report to the Church on this year’s Annual Conference in the near future. Just think about how long the Methodist Church has been meeting in FL. The Florida Conference and the state of Florida came into existence about the same time. Anyway, I thought you might enjoy reading a brief history of our Conference as found on the FL Conference website. “Methodism came to Florida with the circuit riders who followed the trails across the border from Georgia after the United States took control of the territory from the Spanish in 1821. Work in the peninsula of Florida, historically known as East Florida, came officially under the South Carolina Conference in January 1822, when the first appointment was made to Amelia Island. In 1831, the conference was divided and the newly formed Georgia Conference assumed the Florida work. In December 1821 the Mississippi Conference had assigned a preacher to Pensacola, in what was known as West Florida. Eventually, however, the Panhandle came under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Conference and later the Alabama-West Florida Conference, where it remains today. By the 1840s came the push for statehood and along with its momentum came the push among Methodists to establish a conference of their own. The General Conference of 1844 created the Florida Conference, and on February 6, 1845, in Tallahassee it was organized as part of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Statehood came a month later. Together the state and the conference grew to maturity. Since 1845 the work in Florida has been carried out in a number of conferences, which have been created, divided, and united. In 1939 three of those conferences—the Florida Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, the St. Johns River Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Florida Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church—united to form the Florida Conference, Southeastern Jurisdiction, of The Methodist Church. At the same time the two black conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church became part of the racially segregated Central Jurisdiction of The Methodist Church. They united in 1952. In 1968 The Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which had had a presence in Florida since 1895, and the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church came into being. In 1969 the Central Jurisdiction churches also became part of the Florida Conference, Southeastern Jurisdiction, of The United Methodist Church. The story of the Florida Conference is written in the lives of the circuit riders and their modern-day counterparts who have followed the waves of population throughout the state, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is also written in the work of the people of local churches who have responded to the call of the gospel.” Further information can be found in the following histories of the Florida Conference: Florida Flame, by the Reverend Robert M. Temple, Jr., 1987 From Saddlebags to Satellites, edited by the Reverend William E. Brooks, 1969 The Trail of the Florida Circuit Rider, by Dr. Charles Tinsley Thrift, Jr., 1944

June 9, 2019

Pastor Steve’s Blog June 9, 2019 Pentecost Sunday Happy Birthday to the Church! Over two thousand years ago the Christian Church came into existence on the day of Pentecost. You can read about it in the opening chapters of the Book of Acts. I ran across this online devotional and the author was basically recounting the main points in my Pentecost sermon for June 9, so I thought I would share it with you and those of you who may not have been in church Sunday. A Devotion by Julius Medenblik Online Devotion dated May 20, 2018 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. — Acts 2:4 Ten days have passed since Jesus ascended to heaven and instructed his disciples to stay in Jerusalem. The day of Pentecost has now arrived. Pentecost is not just something found in the New Testament, it is actually an Old Testament holiday tied with the Feast of Harvest, or the Feast of Weeks, noting the beginning of harvesttime. This is also a time when religious pilgrims would travel to Jerusalem from faraway lands. So “God-fearing Jews from ¬every nation” are present for this event. A blowing, violent wind is followed by what appears to be tongues of fire separating and resting on the disciples. People from many nations gather to see what is going on. And something bewildering and wonderful occurs. Everyone can understand what is being said! The words of the disciples find their mark because those who are listening can hear the message in their own language. The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), where God confused the people’s language, is reversed by the Holy Spirit so that people can understand one another. And throughout the crowd, people are wondering, “What does this mean?” A harvest of souls is being gathered. This is an example of what Jesus meant when he taught his disciples: “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for the harvest” (John 4:35). Prayer. Lord of the harvest, thank you for sending your Spirit to empower us to be your witnesses in word and deed. May our words be guided and even translated by your Spirit. Amen.