Does God Reward the Faithful?

Well, 57% of megachurch attendees think so, at least according to a 2007 Baylor University survey.

So reports a fascinating article in AdWeek (HT: Bob Carlton, finder of all articles stimulating).  The point of the article is to once again remind advertising and marketing peeps that Americans are a very religious people.  In fact, we are surely the most religious of all industrialized countries.

This is a point I try to make repeatedly, like I did a couple weeks ago when reflecting on my time in Australia.  And I make it right at the outset of The New Christians.  In Australia, committed Christians really are dealing with a large segment of the population with no Christian background.  It makes catechesis particularly relevant, and you can see why programs like the Alpha Course catch on there and in the U.K.

But in the U.S. in general, and in my locale in particular, Christianity is in the drinking water.  Every year that I taught confirmation class at Colonial Church while on staff there, parents with no connection to the church would arrive in September with their 15-year-olds and enroll them in the program.  Confirmation at Colonial was a fairly rigorous, 12-month process that included lots of church history and theology, two retreats, spiritual disciplines and a summer mission trip.

To this day, the churches in my hometown have between 50 and 200 ninth graders in their confirmation classes.  And while those numbers skew higher than other parts of the country, Minnesota is still one of the most progressive (read, liberal) places in the country.  And yet, here we are, full of big churches and big youth groups.

Nevertheless, erstwhile church planters journey around this land, claiming that they’re going to save the “most unchurched city in America.”  Which city is that?  Depends on whom you ask (as we discovered this summer on the Church Basement Roadshow).

While it’s true that too often those who work in advertising, marketing, journalism, and politics have underestimated the religiosity of Americans, those of us in the church world dare not make that same mistake.

By the way, in answer to the opening question: The rain falls equally on the just and the unjust.

ABC Interview

Yes, that ABC: The Australian Broadcasting Network.  I was interviewed for their religious issues show, Sunday Nights, by Noel Debien.  He was fantastic — thoughtful, knowledgable, curious.  Everything you want in a long-form interview.  Afterwards, he told me that I was “passionate” and “discursive.”  Looking back, I probably could have been less discursive!  But, oh well, I’ve always appreciated tangents.

Tony Jones on Sunday Nights, Australian Broadcasting Network

A Report from Black Stump

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Australia Day Four – A Day Off

My hosts mercifully gave me a day off on Friday.  I needed it, since I was honestly tired of hearing myself talk.  Duncan, who has now blogged about my visit, and his wife, Ennis, drove me to Broadbeach on the Gold Coast.  From there, we walked north along the gorgeous beach to Surfers Paradise and had a leisurely breakfast as we watched “nippers” being trained.

We arrived back at Duncan’s in time to hear Sarah Palin ramble incoherently about various topics and watch Gwen Ifill like a deer-in-headlights refuse to ask any follow-up questions.  Biden, I thought, was his usual knowledgeable self, if a bit dry.

(BTW, I think this is interesting to note: People in the States, and here in Australia, often talk to me about how the dominance of the U.S. is waning, how India and China are already the ascendant global powers, etc.  But, here in Australia, at 11 o’clock in the morning, the U.S. vice presidential debate was played in its entirety, both on television and radio.  And I imagine that also happened in most Western countries yesterday.  Do the Australians cover the Chinese financial markets with the same eye as the U.S. financial markets?  No.  Do they broadcast the parliament of India like they do the U.S. Congress?  No.

Globalization has surely relativized the dominance of the U.S. in world affairs, but from where I sit on the other side of the globe, the U.S. still captures the imagination of the world in a way that no other country does.  And, of course, the transparency of our political machinery aids in this.)

Duncan drove me to the airport and I had an eventless flight back to Sydney.  Fuzz retrieved me, and we made our way through rush hour traffic back to his place in The Hills.  Along the way, he told me many stories about his consulting work with youth ministry in Egypt, which sounds fascinating.

Carolyn and Fuzz then took me to dinner at their favorite seafood place and, as you can see below, ordered the seafood platter which means that we ate far too much food, complemented by a fine Australian white wine.

Like I said, it was good to have a day off.

Carolyn and Fuzz Kitto with the Seafood Platter

Carolyn and Fuzz Kitto with the Seafood Platter


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