Archive for October, 2008

Baylor study findings on religious and mystical experiences

October 31, 2008

As we continue our look at Baylor’s study on American religious life, the survey indicates “mystical” experiences are a common part of American religion, especially for conservative Protestants.

What do you think? Are conservative Protestants more like to believe in having “religious” experiences? Why or why not? 

If anything, these experiences are an overlooked aspect of America’s national religious life. The Baylor Religion Survey asked respondents about: hearing the voice of God, feeling called by God to do something, being protected by a guardian angel, witnessing and/or receiving a miraculous physical healing, and speaking or praying in tongues. The ISR researchers found that such experiences are central to American religion.

Bader was stunned by the percentage of Americans – 55 percent – who said they were protected from harm by a guardian angel. “That was something that was a complete surprise because this is not a question, do you believe in guardian angels or do you believe in angels. This is a very specific question: Do you believe you have been protected from harm by a guardian angel? Do you believe you avoided an accident through the agency of a guardian angel? To find out that more than half of the American public believes this was shocking to me. I did not expect that.”

The survey found that 45 percent of Americans report having at least two religious encounters. Denomination matters, too. Conservative Protestants are more likely than liberal Protestants, Catholics or Jews to report religious or mystical experiences. However, these experiences are not limited to conservative Protestants. They occur with considerable frequency in nearly all religious groups. The survey also showed that women, African Americans and Republicans are more apt to have religious and mystical experiences.

Meeting others’ needs

October 30, 2008

God’s plan for your life is that His love flow through your life, reach out to others and meet their needs.

We’ve been taught that for as long as we’ve been in church. For TexasHope 2010, I’m reading through a workbook titled Witness to the World by Oscar Thompson and Carolyn Thompson Ritzmann that adds a great aspect that enables us to do this.

A passage in the workbook continues, “You do not meet their needs from your reservoir. You meet needs from God’s reservoir. Your resources and your love are from God, and you must draw them from Him. That’s why your love for God must precede your love for the lost. If you love God, you will love those He loves. To love without action, without meeting needs, is not love. Jesus always expressed His love for people by meeting their needs.”

Is the world getting less religious?

October 30, 2008

The Baylor University study that we’re delving into this week, reveals most people continue to have active spiritual lives even if they declare themselves to have “no religion.” Here’s some of the study’s findings:

During the past 63 years, several polls show the percentage of atheists has not changed at all, holding steady at only 4 percent of Americans who say they do not believe in God. Not only is atheism not growing in the United States, the majority of Europeans are not atheists. Russia now claims 96 percent of its population believes in God, while a recent poll of China showed that atheists are outnumbered by those who believe in God(s).

In both the 2005 and 2007 Baylor Religion Surveys, researchers found than 11 percent of the national sample reported they had “no religion.” Although nearly a third of the “no religion” group are atheists who reject “anything beyond the physical world,” the Baylor Religion Survey found that two-thirds of the “no religion” group expressed some belief in God and many of those are not “irreligious” but are merely “unchurched.” Delving into the actual religiousness of those who report having no religion, the Baylor Survey found that a majority of Americans who claim to be irreligious pray (and 32 percent pray often), around a third of them profess belief in Satan, hell and demons, and around half believe in angels and ghosts.

To IMAG or not to IMAG …

October 29, 2008

That’s the question Alastair Vance ponders in an interesting post on his blog. If you’re wondering what IMAG means, this post probably isn’t for you. If you know what it means or are simply curious, check the post out here. Put simply, he wonders if close ups of worship leaders take the focus of worship services off God and put it onto people. There’s probably an interesting discussion that can flow out of that post.

Megachurches: More than a mile wide and an inch deep, study finds

October 29, 2008

Looking back through my e-mail, I found a release about the latest findings of a Baylor study on religion in the U.S. Rather than posting the entire story at once, I’m going to post it by sections.  This first will be a section about megachurches. The results seem to contradict traditional thinking about megachurches.

What do you think about the findings?

“None of the things we all believe about the megachurch is true,” said Dr. Rodney Stark, Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor and co-director of the ISR.

Even with congregations of more than 1,000 members, the Baylor Religion Survey found that megachurches surprisingly are more intimate communities than small congregations of less than 100 members. Megachurch growth is mostly due to their members, who tend to witness to their friends, bringing them into the group, and witness to strangers, much more often than members of small churches.

When compared to small congregations, the survey found that megachurch members display a higher level of personal commitment by attending services and a Bible study group and tithing. They also are more likely to accept that heaven “absolutely” exists and that God rewards the faithful with major successes, are more convinced of the reality of evil, are far more given to having religious and mystical experiences, are significantly younger in age and are remarkably active in volunteer work (as much or more so than tiny churches).

“We think of them as these great, huge, cold religious gatherings with a symphony orchestra and a paid choir and a lot of hoopla and a lot of good tidings but no bad tidings,” Stark said. “It’s not true that it’s all happy talk. These people are as interested in evil and sin as anybody in any of the churches. Their levels of satisfaction are high, their volunteerism in community service is very high and their outreach efforts are absolutely phenomenal.”

“I’ve heard stories when you go to some of the megachurches that you have to get tickets and parking like it’s a football game,” said Carson Mencken, professor of sociology at Baylor. “You go to a football game, you sit next to people you don’t know very well, and so I figured that’s exactly what megachurches are going to be like. The survey reveals the megachurches are not like that at all. These people do know each other, and they’re networked into the church through their friends and friends of friends.”

Baylor students, alumni, faculty want say in selecting next prez

October 28, 2008

The Baptist Standard is reporting Baylor faculty, students and alumni want some voice in selecting the school’s next president. For the story, click here.

HPU holds candlelight vigil

October 28, 2008

From HPU:

A candle-light vigil was held on Monday, Oct. 27, in memory of HPU freshman Candace Beggs. The vigil began at 9 p.m. at the Old Main Tower on the HPU campus. This was a time for HPU students, faculty and staff to join together for prayer and reflection.

Candace was killed in an automobile accident on Sunday, October 26, on her way back to HPU from her hometown of Teague, Texas. She was majoring in Cross-cultural studies, with a minor in English.

“All of our hearts are hurting right now as we mourn the loss of Candace,” said Dr. Brad Johnson, vice president for enrollment and student services. “As the HPU campus comes together to support each other, our thoughts and prayers remain with the Beggs family.”

Candace’s father, Rev. Darrel Beggs, pastor of First Baptist Church of Teague, is an HPU alumnus, as well as her sister, Charis. Additional family members include her mother, Denise, and brother, Jeremy. 

The funeral service will be held on Wednesday, October 29 at 10 a.m. at First Baptist Church, Teague.

Pastor’s daughter dies in car accident

October 28, 2008

On Sunday, the youngest daughter of the pastor of First Baptist Church in Teague lost her life in a car accident. She was returning to Howard Payne University after a weekend with her parents. The church’s web site is providing updates on the situation, including funeral times. To view it, click here.

Please be in prayer for the Beggs family and the entire church family.

‘Play to extinction’

October 22, 2008

Weston Ware, of Texans Against Gambling, sent out the following in an e-newsletter, and I thought it worth sharing:

“Every feature of a slot machine – its mathematical structure, visual graphics, sound dynamics, seating and screen ergonomics – is calibrated to increase a gambler’s “time on device” and to encourage “play to extinction,” which is industry jargon for playing until all your money is gone.”

This observation by gambling researcher Natasha Schull, of MIT, sums up the findings of her most recent work, Machine Zone: Technology and Compulsion in Las Vegas, to be published in 2009. It’s a book based on compulsive gamblers and the engineers who design modern slot machines.

We are sharing this with you to underscore the importance of building citizen opposition to expanding gambling in Texas. Video gambling terminals (aka slot machines) will be at the core of any push in Texas.

City Reach sees 316 come to faith in opening weekend

October 21, 2008

City Reach, a Baptist General Convention of Texas-sponsored effort to share the gospel, started last weekend in Fort Worth. Through a partnership between the Tarrant Baptist Hispanic Fellowship and the BGCT, 20-25 churches came together for a marriage seminar on Thursday and an all-day fiesta on Saturday.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 people attended the block party, according to Hector Mendez, Hispanic consultant for Tarrant Baptist Association. The event included a children’s area where clown shared the gospel, 50-60 people handing out tracts and six preachers throughout the day. There were activities for young and old alike.

The lastest report indicates 316 people came to faith as a result of the block party, many through the one-on-one relationships that were built when one of the volunteers shared a tract. The relationships shared with people that they are cared about, Mendez said. That provides the avenue through which the gospel could be shared.

Mendez rejoiced in the work the Lord did this weekend, but knows there is much more to do. Some people in Tarrant county still do not know the Lord. And for those who just started a relationship with God, area churches know they need to do follow up discipleship.

“We have so many people in Tarrant County that still do not have a relationship with the Lord,” Mendez said. “We’re trying to preach the gospel to the entire county.”