Public Sees Religion’s Influence Waning

Posted: 26 Mar 2015 05:52 AM PDT

Nearly three-quarters of the public (72 percent) now thinks religion is losing influence in American life, up 5 percentage points from 2010 to the highest level in Pew Research polling over the past decade. And most people who say religion’s influence is waning see this as a bad thing.

Around the year 1510, a delegation of Christians from Sudan, which had been recently overrun by Muslim conquest, went to the Christian Ethiopian court and begged the emperor to send them bishops and priests. The Christians remaining in Sudan needed clergy to lead worship, administer the sacraments, and teach the people. But the emperor refused, sending them away empty-handed.

With no Christian worship, within 100 years Christianity in Sudan became extinct and forgotten until the twentieth century.

That historical moment is a useful example for Christians today.

For an idea of how Broadway United Methodist Church is turning the model of the urban church inside out, look for a moment at its food pantry, clothing ministry and after-school program.

They’ve been killed off.



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Questions for Reflection

What does the kingdom of God look like?

What heavy burdens are you worrying about that you need to hand over to God?

Can God handle taking care of me tomorrow if I am overwhelmed today?

Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God


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John 3:14-21

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’

“I’m grateful for work more important than how I happen to feel about it on any given day.” – Fred Croddock

Let us Pray

Metaphor – Light

Nic at night – Jesus in the Light

Evil in darkness – Justice in the light

Today is the fourth Sunday of Lent. Being that it is the fourth week there are some people who are celebrating the fact that they are the fourth week in to their discipline of fasting from a specific food or activity that has given them more time to be with God in prayer and devotion. There are others who are totally frustrated because they have not been able to keep their commitment to God and their focus on being closer with God.

During this fourth week of Lent some people are clear about what they need to do as we approach the time of remembering Jesus on the Cross and celebrating the resurrection of our Lord to deal with the temptations, frustrations and distractions that keep them from being able to hear the voice of God, move with the will of God and experience God’s best for their lives.  There are others who are clueless about what to do next because they have allowed the issues and vicissitudes of life to overwhelm them and obscure their vision of having a closer walk with the Master.

This fourth week of Lent is a time deep discernment for both groups of people. The people who are celebrating their commitment and discipline are asking the question do I continue fasting lunch on Wednesdays and giving the money to the soup kitchen.  Do I continue taping Scandal and Empire so that I can spend an entire evening in prayer and studying God’s Word.  The group of people who have not kept their commitment are asking the question to I pick myself up and recommit or do I continue to make excuses which builds walls of nothingness rather than disciplines that keep us connected to the Master of the Universe.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

For both groups of people I would like to encourage you to keep focused. Resurrection Day is approaching and the good news is that God’s grace is available to all.  Those who have kept their Lenten commitments may be finding it difficult to maintain and the temptations that you didn’t experience in the first three weeks is not staring you in the face and even hunting you down. God’s grace is available to you to have strength to endure.  Those who experienced challenges may be asking what the point is.  God’s grace is available to you to start today ad to remain faithful to the commitments to fast, pray and study.

In this fourth week of Lent we are engaged in looking at a possibly the most familiar text in the New Testament.  John 3:16 is a theme for signs at football games, street corners, soccer games, Facebook pages, Instagram pages, billboards and tracts left in airport restrooms. Non believers can even quote the text

“ ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

This verse is first a Word to Nicodemous to clarify for him the need to be born again and what that means.  This verse is also the glue and connection that explains verses 17-

Chapter 3 v. 1-15 deals with Nicodemous.  Nicodemous is struggling to understand what it means to be born again.  As a member of the Sanhedrin, and a Pharisee he representted the protectors of the religion.  He was “part of the old guard” and those who wanted to maintain religious purity and the traditions that had become so comfortable. Nicodemous had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo but he was seeing Jesus’ disciples and they were changing everything.  There was something different about them.  He wanted to know the next program, set of rituals and template to be a part of the movement When Jesus declared that he must be born again Nicodemous attempted to understand it within the framework of a controller with external membership requirements to be a part of this new movement.  Jesus was explaining to him that there needed to be a heart transplant.  Being born again was and is a bout surrendering your worldview to pursue living out the worldview of our Creator.

Nicodemous had a hard time understanding this and this is why Jesus as he was teaching his disciples in a clarifying statement made it clear.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.

The  world in greek is Mundos = chaos

For God so loved God’s people in the chaos of that he offered his only son as a pure sacrifice for our sin so that when we believe in his son we can live with the hope of eternal life in heavenly places

God sending Jesus was all about love

Jesus going to the cross was all about love

With this understanding of unconditional, sacrificial, absolute,  no holds bars kind of love was not natural for someone like Nicodemous who had influence, prestige, position and power.

Nicodemus was self-determined, Self-directed, Self Sufficient, Self-reliant and Living with privilege and prestige.

Nicodemus under the cover of darkness and in secrecy wanted to know what the membership rules were and Jesus was teaching that your heart has to experience a transplant

Self-determination needs to yield to listening to the voice of God and pursuing the Destiny the spoken to you by the Spirit of God

Self-direction needs to yield to being directed by God

Self-sufficiency needs to yield to trusting in God to fulfill every need

Self-reliance needs to yield to accountability to brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

Nicodemous was looking for the right formula

If I do this then God will do (Fill in the blank) – For the record God is not a cosmic bell hop responding to our desires, request and every whim. God doesn’t have a formula.  If there were conditions on God loving humankind then he would not have sent his Son

  • God does not love us because we are innocent like Adam and Eve were before they thought of disobeying God.  –
  • God does not love us because we are God’s chosen people being led into the Promised Land.  -
  • God does not love us because we have earned God’s favor by always doing the right thing.  -
  • God does not love us because we have lived in perfect obedience and without sin.  – The reality is that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God

God loved the world and loves us even in our mess, chaos, drama and confusion.

God loves us in spite of the chaos

God loves us even though we are not obedient

God loves us regardless of whether we are doing well with our Lenten commitments or falling short

God loves us regardless of life situation

God loves us regardless of our education

God loves us regardless of church position

God loves us regardless of financial stability

God loves us regardless of our sexual orientation

God loves us regardless of our political affiliation

God loves us regardless of our influence, power, prestige and position.

God sacrificed his son because God loves us.  He has opened the door for us to have eternal life even when some will choose not to enter in.  This was totally confusing to Nicodemous and Jesus’s clarifying statement also becomes the bridge to greater understanding about our response to God’s love invading our heart.

God’s Love in our lives is not for us to feel good about God but to be change agents in a world full of chaos.  We are to be the Light of God in the midst of darkness.

As people of the light we are called to confront evil

Gordon – It’s time to light it up!

This city- this state-this conference-this nation should experience the light of Christ shining in Gordon

We are the ones called to confront domestic violence

We are the ones called to confront human trafficking

We are the ones called to eliminate hunger in our community

We are the ones called to eliminate homelessness

We are the ones called to eliminate babies being born with no prenatal care

We are the ones called to remind the world that there is an AIDS epidemic and there are people right here in Nashville struggling

We are the ones called to let the world know that Black lives matter

We are the ones called to address the conditions and oppressive systems that create and maintain mass incarceration

We are the ones called to strengthen marriages

We are the ones called to be the voice in the wilderness letting people know that Jesus is coming back

  1. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

The truth is that God’s love has been given to those who believe.

The power of God’s love is

  • Transformative – We have to be different, live different and relate to the world differently after we have received the unconditional, sacrificial love of God in our lives.
  • Empowering – Giving voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless
  • Weapon – against injustice and oppression

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.   2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV

This gives us clear instruction and marching orders on how to live out the love that God has demonstrated to us. It requires growing in Christ – Growing in love – Growing in our focus on the empty tomb.  Let this also serve as the commitment to live out these last three weeks of the journey to the cross.


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