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  FROM THE APOSTLES DESK
FROM THE APOSTLES DESK
THE WHITE'S ITINERARY

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The 2020 project shows shifting complexity of organized religion.

Church historians, sociologists, and statisticians are going county by county, denomination by denomination, group of believers by group of believers, to compile the most complete record of organized religion in the country: the 2020 US Religion Census.

The official decennial census conducted by the United States government does not measure religious affiliation. Most data about religion in America comes from polling, but polling has its limits. So every 10 years, the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) counts and maps religious congregations in the US.

The project is a massive undertaking. In 2010, the organization counted 236 religious groups, with 344,894 congregations and 150,686,156 regular participants, releasing its results in a 726-page book with 31 color maps.

In 2020, they’re counting again: Southern Baptists and American Baptists, plus National, Progressive, Independent, Fundamental, Full Gospel, Free Will, and Original Free Will Baptists. They’re counting Grace Gospel Fellowships and Fellowships of Grace Brethren. Twelve types of Lutherans. Thirty affiliations of Amish. They’re counting churches without buildings and churches that meet in multiple locations, congregations with no denomination and congregations that belong to more than one.

In the process of coming up with the numbers, the census takers wrestle with the complexity of organized religion. They just want clean stats, but these data obsessives end up mapping denominational decline and transformation, migration, reorganization, and the seemingly endless shifts in the shape of church.

“There really is a feeling that maybe denominations have seen their day,” said Richard H. Taylor, a retired United ...

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God’s gift to us is the opportunity to touch the nations and be touched by them in a very warm, close, and personal way.

It was an unusual opportunity. A new role, just ten hours a week, had been created at my local church and now it was my job to help our congregation welcome the nations through a ministry to international students.

We began with a small group of volunteers and students. Sixteen years later, in cooperation with other local churches, we offered friendship, practical helps, and Bible discussion groups to more than 1,000 students each year.

These international students were eager to have friends. And they brightened our lives with their ideas and cultures. We learned so much from one another.

Consider some of their stories.

A student from Sri Lanka arrived wearing a cross necklace. When I inquired about it, she quickly responded, “I am a follower of the Christian God.” I asked if she had ever read the Bible or knew anything about Jesus. She said “no” but she had been praying to the Christian God and he frequently answered her prayers. She was eager to find out more about him.

Three students from Iraq were grateful for our friendship. In getting to know these guys, we learned they came from the cities of Ur, Babylon, and Nineveh! This prompted many meaningful discussions together.

Another student from China came already eager to serve in the ministry. Her grandfather, several generations back, had been led to Christ and discipled by Hudson Taylor. Her family was still walking with the Lord.

At one sports night in the church gym, a group of students from Saudi Arabia invented a game bouncing a soccer ball from their heads and feet into a basketball net. It was fun to watch and cheer them on.

Welcome parties were held at the beginning of each semester. It was common to greet students from more than 30 countries. ...

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An intentional degree is one in which people who have gone before you have thought deeply on it and created a curriculum to give you greater direction.

I write often about movements that are lay led and not requiring formal theological education. I though it might be helpful to explain that, in many circumsances, it is exactly what you might need.

You will probably not be surprised that I think thing. I’ve earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates, with much of my programs in cohorts with other students. I loved the journey to get each degree. These programs / degrees provided me with the formal knowledge and training I’ve needed to serve the Kingdom of God in all that I do.

Let me share three reasons formal ministry education matters today: specifically, I want to show you how formal education can help you grow in your ability to serve in any ministry role.

First, an intentional degree directs your learning in ways that shape you as a leader, pastor, minister, or in any other ministry role.

An intentional degree is one in which people who have gone before you have thought deeply on it and created a curriculum to give you greater direction.

The classes are almost always developed by people who have walked the path that you hope to walk before you walked it and longer than you walked it. This means the topics you study will help you in innumerable ways.

The fact remains that any of us could open our Bibles or read other books to give us a better education. If I did my own study, I would probably read about historical theology all day. But I might miss some things learned by systematic theology or biblical theology.

I might not read about pneumatology and soteriology. I might not look at leadership. I might become more enamored with history than with the biblical foundation for our faith.

A smart person knows what he or she doesn’t know, and the directed ...

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Survey finds very few respond to #PrayFor... hashtag campaigns.

The Bible repeatedly teaches the value of regular prayer. “Pray continually,” Paul tells the church in Thessalonica. Pray “in every situation,” he advises the church in Philippi. And to the church in Colossi he says, “Devote yourselves to prayer.”

The message is largely lost in Great Britain, however, where nearly 3 in 5 adults (57%) now say they never pray, up from 49 percent in 2017.

According to a new Savanta ComRes survey sponsored by Premier Christian News, 12 percent of British adults say they pray at least once a day. In contrast, a Pew Research Center survey last year found that 49 percent of Americans say they pray every day.

“It’s not particularly surprising to see less and less people are choosing to pray regularly,” said Marcus Jones, head of Premier Christian News. “What is interesting is despite many having big concerns about the future of our country and our world, people aren’t choosing to respond in prayer.”

Global phenomena like secularization, immigration, and technological development are overhauling the church in the UK. CT reported in 2016 that for every Anglican church in London that closed its doors since 2010, more than three Pentecostal churches launched. Likewise, while many British churches are struggling to retain members, churches with strong bases of African and Asian immigrant believers are going strong. This is a key part of why there are now more churches than pubs in the UK.

Premier’s survey found that people of color—or BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) in UK terminology—comprise a larger share of British Christians who regularly attend church (15%) than of Brits who identify as Christian (6%).

As ...

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Highlights from our archives.

Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the United States, Christianity Today has featured many articles arguing for the sanctity of human life and examining how Christians can respond. Here’s a selection of some of our key articles on this topic over the decades.


The Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973. Christianity Today responded with this editorial in February 1973.


Norma McCorvey—known as “Roe” in Roe v. Wade—later came to faith in Christ and changed her views on abortion. This 1998 article details her conversion story.


“Ours is not the first abortion war,” Tim Stafford wrote in this 1989 CT cover story. In “The Abortion Wars: What Most Christians Don’t Know,” Stafford describes historical practices of abortion and infanticide and examines the Christian response.


Christian conviction about the sanctity of life is grounded in Scripture, yet the New Testament does not directly address abortion. In this 1993 article, Michael J. Gorman draws upon Jewish history and ancient texts to demonstrate that a “Jewish antiabortion consensus” was the norm in the first century and that “the earliest Christians shared the antiabortion position of their Jewish forebears.”


This 1999 article examines the prevailing sentiment that abortion is a necessary evil by debunking four myths about the purported need for legalized abortion.

That same year (1999), Frederica Matthewes-Green candidly addressed growing societal acceptance of legal abortion, asserting that while the “debate” may be over, “The pro-life ...

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Weird Bible names are on the rise. What’s behind the trend?

You probably know someone who’s given their child, and especially their baby boy, an obscure biblical name. Sunday schools are increasingly filled with baby boys named Asher, Silas, Hezekiah, or Ezra. Meanwhile boy names like John, Michael, David, and James appear to be falling out of favor.

The numbers back up this perception. According to current data from the Social Security Administration, “unusual” biblical names are getting more common for baby boys, with historically “rare” Bible names rising from about 0.5% of boys in the 1950s to a whopping 6.5% of baby boys today. Of all baby boys given uncommon or unconventional names, 17% had uncommon biblical names—the highest share since 1880.

What’s going on? Why are there so many Obadiahs and Eliases underfoot? And how do these name trends reflect religious and cultural patterns in the United States?

To understand the picture, we have to go back in time and look first at the numbers. Baby boys born in 1982 were more likely to have biblical names than in any other year since 1880, driven by the increased popularity of names like David, Matthew, Joshua, Daniel, and Timothy. While biblical boy names rose steadily in prominence from 20% of baby boys in 1935 to more than 35% in the early 1980s, baby girls saw a different trend. From 1880 until 2018, the share of baby girls with biblical names has fallen steadily from 19% to around 6% today.


FIG 1: ALL BIBLICAL NAMES

The rise in biblical boy names from 1880 to 1980 mostly included the monikers of major characters from the Old or New Testaments. In other words, parents gave their kids names that were generically spiritual: They referred to the Bible, but they weren’t too religious sounding. ...

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In today’s churches, we place more of an emphasis on church planting through people than we do church planting through churches.

Jack Redford’s 1978 book Planting New Churches became one of the most influential church planting books for a decade following its release. He believed all churches should be involved in planting new churches as a normal part of their work.

Ideas were adopted by many church planters, and his book quickly became the planting guide for many. Redford featured nine steps to planting a new church. These steps made church planting look something like this: form a missions committee, find the place to plant, and prepare and send volunteers to engage with that community.

Once enough members of that community were interested, small groups would emerge and meet together on Sunday mornings. Eventually, once the mission chapel was able, people would begin to focus on the administrative work to make the church official and legal.

Churches Planting Churches

These nine steps focused mainly on the mother church’s involvement. Typically, a denomination or church would send out its members to plant another church. People would physically move to new locations in order to invest in the community of the new church.

The foundations of the sending church and the new churches they started were practically identical to one another. In fact, mother church involvement was so important that people often used the analogy of one beehive creating a new hive. They talked about the mother church “hiving off”: giving some of its people and with that part of its DNA to the new church.

Entrepreneurial Planters

Over the next decade or so, the conversation began to change. Bob Logan and others talked about planters, not just churches planting churches. The entrepreneurial planter became more central.

From the late 80s forward, church planting ...

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Wednesday – 12:00 Noon & 6:00 p.m.

Saturday – 9:00 a.m.


    Abounding Love Ministries
    7076 Hooper Road
    Baton Rouge, Louisiana  70811
    Office Telephone:  (225)  356-4441 • Fax:  (225) 356-4454
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