We Are Not Ranking Well These Days!

Two somewhat similar religious/church studies have come to my attention in the past week, and our area and the state of Maryland does not score well in either.

bible-cities-square-220x220The first is a Barna Research Group look at how the Bible is viewed in 96 geographical areas of the country – around major cities. It ranks the most and least “Bible-minded” cities by examining how people in those urban areas view the Scriptures. The research asked about how much people use the Bible, as well as how much they value its authority – thereby reflecting the overall openness or resistance to God’s Word.

Cities and urban areas in the top 10 were:  Knoxville, TN (52% of the population is Bible-minded), Shreveport, LA (52%), Chattanooga, TN (52%), Birmingham, AL (50%), Jackson, MS (50%), Springfield, MO (49%), Charlotte, NC (48%), Lynchburg, VA (48%), Huntsville-Decatur, AL (48%), and Charleston, WV (47%).

At the bottom of the list were Providence, RI (9%), Albany, NY (10%), Burlington, VT (16%), Portland, ME (16%), Hartford, CT (16%), Boston, MA (16%), San Francisco, CA (16%), Phoenix, AZ (17%), Buffalo, NY (18%), New York, NY (18%), Cedar Rapids, IA (18%), and Las Vegas, NV (18%).

So where was Hagerstown? Well, we were grouped as “Washington D.C./Hagerstown” and ranked 63rd at 25% … not so great. I guess it can be argued that the District dragged us down!

The other listing that caught my eye was written in an article called 493 Churches to Watch in 2013. This was actually a compilation of 22 lists of U.S. churches since 2004 that have been chronicled as the largest, fastest-growing, and best known for influence, innovation, or church planting. I am sorry to report that Tri-State Fellowship did not make the list. However, nothing remotely close to us made the list either; and there were only a handful of Maryland churches – mostly ethnic congregations – from the Baltimore and D.C. area in Md.  Probably the closest to Hagerstown of any church on the list is McLean Bible Church in Virginia.

This is not the easiest area in which to minister, but there sure are a lot of people to reach out to with the truth!

A Terrible Indignity

Today I have suffered an incredible and terrible indignity. Horrible!

I went to a pastors luncheon meeting at the local Golden Corral. Being a buffet, you pay as you enter and then find your seat. As I sat down and looked at the receipt, I could not believe what I saw!  It said: “senior lunch discount.”GoldenCorral_logo

What?  Just what was the girl at the cash register thinking?  I happened to see a sign that said discounts for age 60 and over upon notification. So why would I get it? Why would the befuddled visually-challenged young woman behind the register give me this discount without even asking?  Even though I had a birthday last week, I am FAR from 60 years old!

So, why do restaurants offer these discounts to older people? I think it is because they think that older folks are shriveling up and wasting away … that they can’t eat nearly so much.

So, my mission was clear. I decided they needed to be punished for their disrespectful indignity. There was one thing to do – eat in such a fashion that they wished I’d never shown up!

Goal accomplished! So take THAT Golden Corral! And train your young women to have better eyes for youth and vigor!

I looked at the stock market prices today – expecting to see a severe drop in Golden Corral values … but it is actually a private company … a poorer private company.


Thinking Soberly

Oh no … with that title, here comes a Randy Buchman rant on the evils of alcohol. Not this time, though most of you know what I think about that!

Today is a takeoff on this Scripture from Romans 12:3 …

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

I’d like to think that I could throw a fastball like my favorite guys at Camden Yards, and I made 10s of thousands of throws growing up to do it … but could never make it into the high 80s.  I’d like to think I could run like Frank Shorter, but I couldn’t even run at my best the number of miles he ran in a week when in a rest mode. I’d like to think I’m a legit Civil War scholar like the guys whose books I read, but honestly, they’ve forgotten more than I’ve learned.

Apparently we have increasingly encouraged a new generation of Americans to such an extent that they think they are rather significantly special and gifted.

A 47-year study of 9 million young adults has revealed that more than ever, college students are more likely to view themselves as especially gifted and talented – even in the face of declining statistical analyses to support the contention. Those who self identify as particularly gifted has risen 30% in the past 30 years. Much blame for this is placed upon the abilities of technology – through such as Facebook and Twitter – to make oneself the center of one’s world, replete with huge numbers of “friends” and “followers”.

And I suppose this result is the fruit of participation trophies in youth sports, granted to kids for simply being on the team and finishing the season, whether they won anything or not. This is the fruit of grade inflation and re-centered SAT standards. It is the end result of the self-esteem movement.

But what’s wrong with self-esteem? Well, understood correctly, nothing … for it is actually a proper and healthy view of self in the universe. That is, if one sees oneself for what he is in Christ, and only because of God’s grace.

That passage quoted above from Romans goes on to say that we have each been given gifts for the service of others – that we might give what is beneficial to others, even as we receive where we lack. And in Christ, one is – to quote Anchorman – “kind of a big deal.” A person in Christ is royalty (1 Peter 2:9) and an ambassador of the King of Kings (2 Corinthians 5:21). But not because of what we have done, but because of Christ’s work and God’s grace in opening our eyes to this truth.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whichthe world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. – Galatians 6:14