Saturday, May 09, 2015

Thw World Hates You

Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number.  Acts 16:5

“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.  John 15:18-19

Sometimes, the picture of the early church that emerges in the reading from Acts of the Apostles is quite the opposite of the modern Church.  Sometimes, it is pretty similar but today is not one of those days.  With promises like the one made by Jesus in the Good News today, you might wonder how and why the Church was ever growing.  You can call Jesus many things but you cannot call him a master marketer.   The phrase, “I never promised you a Rose Garden” comes to mind.

People who are pampered by the promises of Madison Avenue are turning away from church-going with regularity.  With an outlook like Jesus conveys, no wonder that church attendance is in decline.  Accoring to one research group, less than 20% of Americans regularly attend church, an all-time low and steadily declining.  At this rate, by 2050, the percentage of the U.S. population attending church will be almost half of what it was in 1990.

Maybe people want more of a feel-good, do-unto-me world.  But Jesus asks for a do-unto-others mindset.  When you go to church, no one asks how fancy your car is.  No one asks how many bedrooms your house has.  No one asks how big your retirement account is. In the face of persecution, the early church continued to grow and people were less pre-occupied with building a comfortable life and nest egg.  Today, there is much talk about Judeo-Christian principles.  However, there is not much action on them.

We tend to like the celebrity factor in the Church.  The popularity of Pope Francis continues to grow.  However, his message might be falling on deaf ears.

According to the Pew Research Center, two years after becoming the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis continues to grow more popular among Americans.

Fully nine-in-ten U.S. Catholics now say they have a favorable view of Francis, including nearly six-in-ten who have a “very favorable” view. Francis’ favorability rating among U.S. Catholics is comparable to ratings for Pope John Paul II in the 1980s and ’90s, and has surpassed any favorability rating for Pope Benedict XVI in Pew Research Center surveys.

According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, more than 40 percent of Americans "say" they go to church weekly. As it turns out, however, less than 20 percent are actually in church. In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on weekends.  Let alone how they live every weekday…no matter how much they love the Pope.

Where is your spiritual community?  How does it help you grow?  What is trying to nudge it aside and take its place?

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