Born-Again Makes a Comeback

With all the controversy over the term “evangelical” and the way our church attracts people from every direction, I’ve been wondering how we can best describe ourselves. Who knew a trip back to the 70’s might provide the answer.

Study: ‘Born Again’ Isn’t Just for Evangelicals Anymore

A new study has found that “born again” — a phrase that has typically been associated most closely with evangelicalism over the last few decades — is losing its exclusivity. Lots of Christians are referring to themselves as “born again” now, including Mainline Protestants and Catholics. …

[T]he “born again” identification is on the rise among lots of different types of Christians. While evangelicals and Black Protestants have long used “born again” as an identifier, that designation is on the rise across the board.

The big jumps were among two groups. First, Mainline Protestants — who’ve gone from 28 percent to 40 percent identifying since 1988. And Catholics doubled in the same time period. As Burge notes at Christianity Today “those increases are especially striking because neither tradition teaches that a born-again conversion is a necessary component of their faith.”

Exactly why that is isn’t clear, but Burge thinks it may have to do with people’s understanding of what being “born again” means. The more people attend church, the more likely they are to identify as “born again” so it could just mean that the definition is changing to “someone who takes their faith extra serious”.

With apologies to Relevant Magazine, this is almost the entire article, but there is a cool chart that is worth viewing if you follow the link.

Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians, a Brief Review

For years I’ve wished there was a book I could give to the “God-curious” people in my life, but there just wasn’t anything. Either the book was written by someone who apparently hadn’t met a non-Christian since the first Bush administration, or the writer assumed that their specific brand of Christianity was the only viable option. Or even worse in our day, the writer had no knowledge of science or culture or philosophy.
James Emery White understands non-believers and our current post-Christian culture. He writes for people who think about important issues, including faith. He honestly faces difficult questions like the problem of evil and the weird stuff in the Bible.

This is the book I can hand to people who may be drawn to faith but are still skeptical. And I don’t have to wince or explain parts of it away. Also, if you’re looking for a great explanation of the faith written at an accessible level that will help you understand the tough stuff for yourself, this is it.

Really glad this book is finally here.

Disclaimer: After purchasing a copy, I received a free copy of this book for agreeing to provide this review. I already gave my copy to a friend I hope will come to faith.

Christianity Is Good for You

We say living God’s standards is the best option, but is there evidence to back that up?


Here’s some solid evidence you can use in discussions (or for helping affirm your own faith). One disclaimer. This is a heavy article. They are reporting on their own study, “Does Religious Affiliation Protect People’s Well-Being? Evidence from the Great Recession after Correcting for Selection Effects.” I’ll copy some key findings and you can either read the article or save the link for your next appropriate discussion.

Weathering the Storm: How Faith Affects Well-Being

Active Christians exhibit greater current life satisfaction and are more likely to report that they are thriving. In addition, active Christians have higher levels of subjective well-being throughout the entire business cycle—not just in booms, but in the busts as well. Our results suggest that religion and religious communities will continue to play a driving role in helping people cope with change by keeping their eyes pointed towards the eternal even as storms surge around them.

Sociologists, psychologists, and public health scholars have previously studied the effects of religious affiliation on well-being, but these studies have been plagued by at least one of two challenges. First, samples in most studies are quite small, largely because running experiments is time-consuming and expensive. Second, the evidence is purely correlational—not causal. So, we tried something different.

Using nearly a decade of data, comprising millions of respondents from Gallup’s U.S. Daily Poll between 2008 and 2017, we explore the potential moderating effect of religion in our recent study, “Does Religious Affiliation Protect People’s Well-Being? Evidence from the Great Recession after Correcting for Selection Effects.”

The beauty of our data-driven approach is that we can compare individuals in a county at one point in time with observationally equivalent individuals in the same county at another point in time. We can then quantify how their reported SWB varies in response to different local economic conditions, which we measure using year-to-year county employment growth over every quarter. Because we can track respondents in the same county over time, our statistical model controls for differences across space—that is, the fact that a person in San Francisco is different in many ways from a person in Dallas.

<Told you it was heavy.>

Active Christians exhibit 6 percent greater current life satisfaction and are 6 percentage points more likely to report that they are thriving.

You can find the entire article here.

The Dominant Media Narrative of the Day

by Seth Godin

(Note: Normally, I quote part of an article then give you a link to the rest. But Seth writes such short, powerful blogs it doesn’t make sense to quote part of one. I will give you the link so you can go browse around. He says the most amazing things.)

The thing the media is talking about, in heavy rotation.

The breaking news, the one you’re required to give an opinion on.

The thing is, if it’s not for you, about you, or something you need to engage in, then who put it on your agenda?

The media benefits from turning you into their product, once you give them your attention.

Feel free, but do it because you’ve chosen to.

Here’s something to consider: the world doesn’t get better when you spend more time engaging with mass media. That’s pretty clear.

But it does get better when you spend more time doing things that matter. Actions matter.

The Good Place’s Odd Ending

One of my favorite shows of the past few years was The Good Place. It ended recently, and I must admit mixed feelings. I’ll miss the characters and enjoyed them each getting a rather satisfying send off. But the philosopher in me was troubled by the ending, as was my inner theologian.

Here is another pastor/theologian/philosopher’s take. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And, oh yeah, spoilers below.

The Good Place Finds Meaning in the End

Joel Mayward, February 3, 2020

Everything good must come to an end in order to be meaningful. That’s the message at the center of The Good Place, the afterlife comedy that ended last week after four seasons and 52 hilarious, philosophically enriching episodes.

Whereas Jean-Paul Sartre declared in his play No Exit that “hell is other people,” The Good Place proposed that heaven is other people; the loving friendships of the “Soul Squad” were genuinely salvific for the entirety of humanity. What began as an experiment in hell by the demonic architect Michael (Ted Danson) on four unsuspecting humans—the sinfully spunky Eleanor (Kristen Bell), moral philosophy professor Chidi (William Jackson Harper), aristocratic philanthropist Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and Floridian doofus Jason (Manny Jacinto)—concludes with a poignant and provocative solution to the problem of an eternal afterlife: death itself.

This is an eternal afterlife wholly absent of God, where humans endure character-forming tests by a group of trained demons until everyone eventually earns their way into a paradise of hedonism for eternity, until they feel complete (at best) or bored (at worst), in which case they voluntarily end their own existence. It’s a hybrid of universalism, syncretism, and—to put it bluntly—a type of hereafter suicide.

I confess, I initially found myself truly troubled by The Good Place’s apparent atheistic cosmic euthanasia, which seemed like an overly romanticized view of death. Yet, upon reflection, I think there’s some truth to discern here, particularly for Christians. If God has conquered death through Christ, then we need not glorify or fear death, even as we grieve its reality and mourn with those who mourn. Death is not our ultimate source of meaning for existence—God is. As there’s a time to be born and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to laugh, we can face all of it with a sober recognition of the real sadness of death and a courageous hope anchored in God’s unending love for us.

You can read the rest of the article here. (It’s a brief, easy read.)

Songs Are Getting Sadder. Why?

This article is a cheat, since we’re technically finishing our 21 Days of Prayer, but if you’re looking for something to pray about for our culture, this could definitely make your list.

Honestly, I think the author misses the boat on why the songs are getting more negative. (Not sure if she’s been on Twitter recently.) But the data is very convincing that negative words have increased significantly in my lifetime while the use of positive words has declined.

Instead of quoting the article, which is worth reading (at least the first half, because…previous paragraph), I’m going to show you the graphs. FYI, they looked at over 150,000 songs from 1965 to 2015, zeroing in on the Billboard Annual Hot 100 for each year.

As always, you can read the full article here.

Improving Your Prayer Life

How about some good, practical tips to being more fulfilled in your time with God?

Ten Tips to Help Your Prayer Life

Greg Koukl

For a few hardy prayer warriors, talking with God is as easy as breathing; it happens almost effortlessly. When you ask them how they do it, they simply shrug and reply, “I just pray.” Unfortunately, that’s about as helpful as John McEnroe saying “I just hit the ball,” when asked for some tips on more effective tennis. It may be easy for him to “just hit the ball”, but most of us hackers need a little more fundamental instruction to get the job done. With that in mind, we’ve included here some practical guidelines that might make your time with the Lord more fruitful. Not all of the suggestions will apply to your particular situation, but if you begin by incorporating a few of them, I’m confident your prayer life will improve.

Finish the article here.

A More Powerful Prayer Life

If you want a concept explained so anyone can understand it Rick Warren is your go-to guy. Here he takes on how to make your prayer life more powerful.

Normally, I quote a good bit from an article to get your attention, but this article is so concise I’m just going to send you straight there. 12 keys in 12 brief paragraphs that could well take your prayer life to a new level.

12 Keys to a More Powerful Prayer Life

Read the article here.

Getting Good at Prayer Isn’t the Point

By John Ortberg

If you ever feel guilty about not praying enough, raise your mental hand. If someone at a party were to ask you: “How is your prayer life these days?” (which, by the way, is a great way to kill a conversation at a party), what would you say? Is the state of your prayer life determined by how often you pray? How long you pray? Is it measured by how many people you are praying for, or how much faith you pray with, or how many prayers get answered? …

The goal of prayer is not to get good at prayer, not to see who can spend the longest time in prayer. (Jesus said not to pray like the pagans who believe they will be heard because of their many words.) The goal is not to pray with greater feelings of certainty, or greater eloquence, or even greater frequency.

The goal of prayer is to live all my life and to do all my ministry in the joyful awareness that God is present, right here, right now. This is the prayer-filled life that can sustain and empower a life of ministry.

You can hopefully read the full article here, though it may be behind a paywall where I have a subscription. If you want to read it and can’t, message me and I can probably get you either access or a copy.