Congregations big and little: 6-19-09
June 19, 2009
What would you guess is the average size of the religious congregations in the United States?
Would it shock you to know that it's only about 75?
That's the conclusion of the latest version of the National Congregations Study. At the same time, the average person attending worship is one of about 400 regular participants of that congregation.
This, as the study authors note, may seem contradictory but it isn't. It just means that most congregations are small (90 percent have 350 or fewer members) but most people participate in large congregations -- so many of them, in fact, that their numbers account for most religious adherents in the country.
Here are some of the other primary findings of the latest survey:
Most congregations are small but most people are in large congregations.
Worship services are becoming more informal.
* Congregational leaders are still overwhelmingly male.
* Predominantly white congregations are more ethnically diverse.
* Congregations embrace technology.
* Congregations and clergy are getting older.
* Congregations’ position in the social class structure remains unchanged.
* Congregations’ involvement in social service activities remains unchanged.
* Only a small minority of congregations describe themselves as theologically “liberal,” even within the Protestant mainline.
* Congregations are more tolerant and inclusive than we might expect them to be, even when it comes to hot-button issues.
* There has been no significant increase in congregational conflict since 1998.
* Congregations’ involvement in political activities is largely unchanged since 1998.
How do these findings jibe with your own experiences? I worship in a congregation of just under 1,000 members, though as my denomination reports, "Presbyterian churches tend to be small. About seven out of ten (72 percent) of congregations have 200 or fewer members. The average, or mean, size of a Presbyterian church is 204 members. The median size is 103. More than three-fourths have 250 or fewer members. Almost half (49%) have 100 or fewer."
(The photo here today is from http://www.spaldingnet.com/images/churches.jpg, with photography by Dream-Weaver.com.)
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IRAN'S CLERGY COULD POINT THE WAY
In Iran, this analysis concludes, the future may be up to the Islamic clerics, most of whom have remained silent since the recent and probably fraudulent president election. If they line up behind the opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, they could carry the day for reformers who back the idea that elections should reflect the will of the voters. Let's hope they step up to the plate. AND: By the way, an interview to be aired this weekend on "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly" on PBS has to do with religion in Iran and is already available online. Click here for it.
The leader of the opposition to President Ahmadinthehead is THE FATHER IF THE IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM!
We are being had, either way it goes.
Posted by: Will Graham | June 19, 2009 at 12:22 AM
The "reformist" candidate of course hates Israel as much as Ahmamadinthehead.
The Iranians, taking advantage of Obama's appeasement, will soon have the bomb.
(Dolores asked how I know this...after all, Bush is said to have been wrong about Iraq. But Dolores pretends not to know the difference: Hussein DENIED having the bomb, the Iranians BOAST about their program! And the "reformist" is the FATHER of the program.)
Israel can not, of course, allow the Iranians to get the bomb; to do so would be national suicide.
This, they will not allow. They will not go quietly this time...The SAMPSON OPTION is a reality.
Posted by: Will Graham | June 19, 2009 at 06:40 AM
It takes a lot of Human Energy and Resources, to build all the Religious Churches.
Why not use that Energy and Resources, for the Living Humans, instead of for buildings usually used once a week, for 'Life After Death 'teachings?
Where did God come from on Earth? Space? What was the Origin of God? Holy Religious Books describe their Individual God/Gods, Goddesses and Angels.
Many Religions use Genesis, as their Source of God/'Us' in our Human Image. God did walk and talk to the Humans they Reproduced.
God/'Us' Humans, did Create/Colonize Life on Earth. High Tech Humans today, in the Image of God/Us, Know how to Create/Colonize Life on a Planet.
Genesis 1:26a. KJV. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion...."
Genesis 2:22. "And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man."
This Reproduction is Cloning a female from a male. These Human Clones were to be the Caretakers of the Life on Earth.
What do Temples made by Human Hands, with steeples that resemble spaceships launching, have to do with Genesis?
This Human Construction, is the Memory of our High Tech Science Ancestors from Space, who were Male and Female Clones.
And they Reproduced Male and Female Clones, not one Pair, to start populating Planet Earth.
Why did the Clones start Heterosexual Reproduction? Generation Birth, Death and Rebirth, replaced High Tech Eternal Physical Life After Birth.
The Big Question is Why?
We need High Tech Translations of All Scripture and Myth, to understand the Truth, that our High Tech Science today did not Evolve, but was on Earth 'in the beginning', and during the Noah/Atlantis High Tech Society.
Posted by: Dolores Lear | June 19, 2009 at 07:12 AM
What are the Gifts on Earth? Eternal Physical Life After Birth? This is possible in a High Tech Human Society, with High Tech Equal Reproduction.
What is Eternal Life After Death? All Life made from Elements, returns to Elements when they Die, to be used again? Elements do not Die.
Was Eternal Human Physical Life in Genesis, lost, when Perfect Human Clones Sinned, that were Reproduced by High Tech Science Human Nature, of Intelligent Human Design?
Imperfect Human Reproduction, by the Lower Human Nature of Heterosexual Body Birth, resulted in Evolution on Earth up to the High Tech Society of Noah/Atlantis.
They were destroyed in a Planetary Flood, and Humans again have Evolved up to High Tech Science and a Planetary Fire.
The Result of Body Birth Sin: Killing, and the Seven Deadly Lifestyle Sins of Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, Anger, Lust, Envy, and Pride.
No matter what Temple building for worship, Humans make with their Human Hands, All Humans Die and Return to the Elements, from which they were made.
There is a given number of Elements in a Solar System to be used, and reused, until the Sun Dies. But Universe Elements never Die.
Each Day comes bearing it's own gifts. Untie the bow.
How many of the bows do most Humans untie each day, of the Seven Deadly Sins? What is the Cure? High Tech Regeneration?
Humans today, should use our High Tech Science to Reproduce Perfect Humans, like the Perfect Humans in Genesis, Reproduced by God/Us, our High Tech Human Ancestors.
With Balanced High Tech, and High Tech Regeneration, Intelligent Designed Humans can Live Forever on Planets and in Spaceships, like our Human High Tech Ancestors, God/Us in Genesis.
Posted by: Dolores Lear | June 19, 2009 at 08:23 AM
"Israel can not, of course, allow the Iranians to get the bomb; to do so would be national suicide."
If anyone else gets a Nuclear Bomb, it will be Planet Suicide. How many more countries need the Bomb, before the Last Days of Life on Earth, 'Arm'ageddon War?
Gun toys have always been a draw to Fallen Misbred Humans, and now we are not playing with toys anymore.
So far, as each new Country had developed Nuclear Bombs, it seems to control any trigger happy country, like the USA did not have, when it had the Atom Bomb.
No one else could fight back. Now we have the planet covered with our toy bombs. Who will be the One to use them first this time?
Will it be a Planetary Suicide? Will all the other Countries fire back, or at each others Enemies?
A Very interesting Living and Dying Lifestyle, is on Earth's Horizon, compared with of all the past Living and Dying Lifestyles.
Will this Nuclear War, Finally be the War to End All Wars, and Kill our Home Planet?
Posted by: Dolores Lear | June 19, 2009 at 10:00 AM
It does sound bad that whichever man becomes President in Iran, their stance on foreign policy is pretty similar. I guess what might be better about the reform President, would be that he doesn't seem as intent on policing people's personal and social lives -- which would mean more freedom of expression. I googled to learn more about the views of the Iranian PEOPLE themselves regarding Israel, but haven't found anything yet.
But I did learn from the interview Bill linked to with Geneive Abdo, that many Iranians don't like the way that Ahmadinejad seems to be propelling them toward a conflict with Israel in the near future. So maybe with this in mind, the reform candidate who seems to have more respect for the individual, might be less-inclined to want to start a war with Israel.
I forgot to say yesterday that I agree with Iggy that the U.S., like other developed nations, seems to be VOLUNTARILY moving toward semi-socialism. I also agree that Capitalism is the best way for individuals and countries to prosper and get their needs met.
And what seems to be happening is, when a large enough proportion of a population has plenty to eat, and good options and prospects for the future, they start feeling disturbed when they see others around them (especially children, elderly, and disabled) going hungry, not having health care, and suffering from educational and career disadvantages. So they voluntarily want to distribute the wealth and opportunity more. (Continued)
Posted by: Susan | June 19, 2009 at 12:18 PM
(Continued) About voluntary socialism: you know, it's just awful hard to sit at the park enjoying a feast, while hungry children are standing there watching. It's natural to want to share when you have something to share, and that's what we and I think most people do. It's no fun to have fun when there's someone feeling left out.
I'm not quite sure what happened in Eastern Europe -- but from reading James A. Michener's "Poland," I get the impression that it may be similar to what happened in the American South. Meaning, the luxuriant wealth of the few rested on the existence of an underclass that worked itself to the bone, and had no rights, being literally considered the property of the landowners.
In America, we do have some extreme wealth, and not complete equality-of-opprtunity yet -- but at least there is opportunity for most people to make a decent living, and also to have comfort and enjoyment throughout their lives. I think this is because we no longer allow one person to own another. If someone works for you, you pay them, and if you treat them badly, they'll leave you and go to someone they like better. And a worker here today can become self-employed, if they have the motivation to put in the time and assume the extra responsibility and risk.
It's not perfect here by any means -- but I think our system makes for a lot more happiness -- and happy people enjoy themselves more when others around them are happy, which I think is why the majority of voters in the developing world, seem to want to balance their capitalism with at least partial socialism. It's only natural when you think about it.
Posted by: Susan | June 19, 2009 at 12:46 PM
Some of you who are Atheists have commented that liberal Christians like Bill and me are "harmless" -- and I just got to wondering: What do you think about what Sam Harris said in his debate with Reza Aslan?
He thinks that people of faith who are moderate or progressive (well, he was specifically talking about Muslims) can cause harm through protecting the religion by putting a better face on it to the public, which can end up sheilding the more extreme factions who may be violent.
What does everyone think about this?
Posted by: Susan | June 19, 2009 at 04:23 PM
Interesting question, Susan...I think what Harris was saying was that no matter what form your religious beliefs take there is no place for you in the Atheist system.
And I think he is protecting atheism by putting a better face on it to the public, which can end up sheilding the more extreme factions of atheism which may be violent.
As Harris himself says, "Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believng them." TEOF, pages 52-53
Note that he is saying people can be killed for BELIEFS not just ACTIONS.
He also argues for pre-emptive nuclear war, and torture...you couldn't kill enough Muslims to keep Harris and his pal Hitchens (a great fan of the Iraq war) happy.
If people like the New Atheists, and local promoters like Cole and Iggy ever get control, people like me are going to the Gulags.
Posted by: adam harrison | June 19, 2009 at 05:32 PM
I think most religions in the world have started out with best of intentions in regard to social justice. Unfortunately these intentions have rarely been carried out as the religions changed their focus from this life to the next and have focused too much on heaven and hell, divine judgement and all that.
You spoke of "voluntary socialism". In a capitalist world this is very unlikely to happen. Spreading wealth around is not very popular with capitalists is it ? Governments sometimes have to force them to do it ! That's what taxes are for !
Iggy wrote yesterday of the similarities between Jesus type communism with a small "c", and political Communism with a large "C". I'm surprised no one who reads this page picked up on this.
Whatever happened to the Jesus injunction: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on this earth, where moth and dust doth corrupt and thieves break in and steal." ?
Instead this country has created a new religion and a new God: worship of the "Almighty Dollar" with "In God we Trust" on the currency !
I think after 8 years of right wing politics this country needs a good dose of socialism to get back to what should be its religious roots of "caring for the least of these."
Posted by: Red Biddy | June 19, 2009 at 05:51 PM
Did Sam Harris really say that ?
I'm in the middle of reading Raza Aslan's book on Islam and he said that the way Mohammad set up the religion in Medina (where it all began) is not at all the way the Islamic religion is now in the modern world.
Same with Christianity don't you think ? It started out as a kind of "communism" i.e. caring for the poor, pooling of resources etc...
just like the religion of Islam did coincidentally ! One of the "pillars" of Islam ("pillar" being a "must" for every Moslem) is giving alms to the poor.
Does Christianity have this "pillar" as part of its religion ?
Posted by: Red Biddy | June 19, 2009 at 06:08 PM
I don't believe you put a better face on Christianity by claiming that nobody will have "body and soul destroyed in Hell"--you nullify Christianity and God's righteousness by such claims. You nullify Christianity when you ignore sin and its eternal effects. You nullify the grace of God when you claim that God will forgive *everyone*, regardless of their desires, simply because He is God. (That was the original lie told by the serpent and believed by Eve!) You deprive people of salvation that comes only by admitting sin, repenting of sin, seeking forgiveness from God, and believing that there can be forgiveness through Jesus Christ. You nullify the reason that God became flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Don't assume Bill believes that everyone will be saved, regardless of their desires, Susan. That breed of liberalism is destructive heresy to which Bill Tammeus would never subscribe. You're not putting a better face on Christianity with those ideas--you're robbing people in need of God's grace from ever seeking it. There is no healing, no forgiveness, no cleansing and rebirth, and no salvation without God's grace. Sin must be dealt with, and its consequences cannot be ignored.
It wasn't for no reason that Christ, God in the flesh, allowed his blood to be shed. You can't put that new face on Christianity, Susan, regadless of how much you want to rewrite Christianity.
There is no better face that you can put on Christianity than God who forgives those who acknowledge sin, repent of sin and who believe in God's forgiveness. There is no better face than a righteous God who can forgive those who acknowledge their need for forgiveness, who want to change, and who seek and believe in God's forgiveness.
Posted by: Just Thinking | June 19, 2009 at 06:22 PM
adamh, I guess I'm not all that familiar with Sam Harris -- but, again, I don't think we should assume that ALL Atheists want to declare "Gulag" on Christians -- just as I don't think we should assume that all conservative Christians go around saying "God hates America" like Fred Phelps.
Red Biddy, I can't remember Harris's exact words from the debate -- but I think what I said is a pretty fair paraphrase of what he said.
And Just Thinking, it's obvious that you and I have some very different beliefs about why God became human and why He needed to die -- but I actually don't see what Jesus did as any less necessary now, than I did before, back when my beliefs were more similar to yours. And, seriously, I think Christianity has been rewritten and embellished so much through the centuries -- so when you say I'm trying to "rewrite" it, how do you know the "rewrite" isn't closer to the actual relationship God wants to have with us?
And I honestly am not making any assumptions about Bill's beliefs. I do get the impression that we are both liberal-leaning (but I could be wrong, and hopefully Bill will set me straight if he doesn't like being described as "liberal-leaning") -- but that still allows for a ton of variation in terms of specific beliefs on specific issues.
Posted by: Susan | June 19, 2009 at 08:14 PM
Red Biddy, you are right in pointing out that taxation isn't voluntary. I've even met a few Americans who'd like to do away with personal income tax, because they think what we pay for sales tax should cover things like the roads -- but these anti-tax people seem like rather the minority.
If they were a majority, then why haven't we yet voted in people who would genuinely work toward doing away with personal income taxes? I mean, if there were enough PEOPLE who were truly anti-tax, surely SOME of them would be running for office, even without knowing how on earth they'd ever get paid, LOL -- just because they believe what they believe so strongly. And if there were enough people who thought like this, and enough people voting for them, I think we'd be seeing a major overhaul of our tax system, and an overhaul of a lot of other stuff that's now covered by taxes.
If there were enough people who wanted it, it would happen. The fact that it's not happening tells me that the majority of Americans are in favor of taxation, even though I'm sure that no two people agree on how it should all be allocated.
Oh, and I totally missed Iggy's big C, little c. Thanks for pointing it out!
Posted by: Susan | June 19, 2009 at 08:40 PM
AdamH wrote>>>>>>"Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believng them."people can be killed for BELIEFS not just ACTIONS.
******Christian Looney Alert for AdamH/Will Graham*******
He slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall ... according to the word of the LORD.--1 Kg.16:11-12
Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth.--Psalms 58:6
Therefore he smote it; and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up.--2 Kg.15:16
And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also. -- Genesis 38:10
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces.--Psalms 2:9
The LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast.--Ex.13:15
And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also. -- Genesis 38:10
They shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth.--Jer.8:2-3
David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron.--2 Sam.4:12
He's causing the plagues so that we can tell stories about the plagues. He's torturing the Egyptians so that we will worship Him. What kind of insecure and cruel God murders -- murders first-born children -- so that His followers will obey Him, and will tell stories about Him?
Posted by: IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org | June 19, 2009 at 09:13 PM
You wrote, "And, seriously, I think Christianity has been rewritten and embellished so much through the centuries -- so when you say I'm trying to 'rewrite' it, how do you know the 'rewrite' isn't closer to the actual relationship God wants to have with us?"
Dealing with Truth requires asking, "Who says so?" and "By whose authority?"
We have a Bible and we have early manuscripts, Susan. Where are those vastly divergent manuscripts that would indicate some major 'rewrite' of Christianity, Susan? Who says so? By whose authority? Truth is Truth, Susan.
When did this vast 'rewrite' of Christianity occur? Shortly after the death of Jesus. 10 years after? 50 years after? 100 years after? 600 years after? When?
Your 'rewrite' claims are reminiscent of Islamic claims about Christianity. Mohammad formally declared that the Gospels were correct. Long after Mohammad's death, Muslims wanted to backtrack in order to deny the divinity of Christ, clearly declared in the Gospels. So they claimed that there was a major 'rewrite' of Christianity, and that Mohammad was referring to the 'original' Christianity! PROBLEM: Mohammad declared the Gospels that he saw after 600 AD to be correct! Sometime after that, all TENS OF THOUSANDS of existing manuscripts were secretly changed and replaced without anyone noticing. So when did that 'rewrite' occur. Never! That's when.
Susan, are your delusions of a major 'rewrite' of Christianity Islamic in origin? Or did you invent this lie for yourself? Here's the Truth: There was no major 'rewrite.' You just don't believe Christianity!!!!
Finally, Susan, Bill has said he's been a member of the same PCUSA Presbyterian Church for decades. He has been involved in leadership, given sermons, and has helped choose clergy. He doesn't hold wacko views that "nobody will go to Hell!" You 'impressions' aren't grounded in facts.
Posted by: Just Thinking | June 20, 2009 at 12:22 AM