May 24, 2015
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Romans 8:22-27
Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Of Pentecost, Polls, and Power

Click here for the full installment.

Chris Keating
The account of Pentecost in the Book of Acts is filled with vivid imagery -- but though there are plenty of “special effects,” what’s really notable is that a multinational crowd is gathered together. And when the Spirit descends on this veritable United Nations, the usual need for translators is rendered completely superfluous as “God’s deeds of power” are extolled -- and understood -- in a wide variety of languages. The necessity of being able to share the Good News with such a diverse audience not only describes the situation of those gathered for the first Pentecost; it’s also the challenge facing our churches today as we commemorate Pentecost. According to newly released research from the Pew Foundation, the share of the U.S. population who identify as Christian is sharply declining, while the number of those who call themselves “unaffiliated” is growing.

In the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Chris Keating delves into the implications of this research for our churches. With our “market share” rapidly decreasing, how do we respond? How do we go about communicating the gospel to the unchurched so that they “hear, each of [them], in [their] own native language”? As Chris points out, the typical practice of the mainline church has been to complain about this state of affairs and to “blame the customers.” As any firm can tell you, that’s not a successful long-term business model. Chris asks us to consider whether we have become so set in our ways that we are not allowing the Spirit to breathe life into our churches. How can we do a better job of reaching those -- especially young people -- who need the healing balm of God’s salvific grace? Here’s a preview:

Of Pentecost, Polls, and Power
by Chris Keating
Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost is coming, but the question to ponder is “Will anyone notice?”

It’s a serious question. This year, the church’s celebration of Pentecost is not competing with just the 37.5 million Americans who will be away from home. We’re up against a lot more than baseball, patriotic parades, and camping trips. Missing from church this Pentecost will be the ever-growing pool of Americans who have long since stopped attending.

We’ll be missing more than just Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia.

This isn’t news, of course, but the recently released Pew Religious Landscape Study documents just how quickly U.S. adults are leaving church. The survey indicates that there are about five million fewer Americans identifying as Christian than five years ago.

The impact is felt everywhere, and in every denomination. Those who identify as “nones” are still growing, as is the quite broad category of “nothing in particular.” The rapid decline is fueled in part by young adults (members of the “millennial” generation), but includes numbers from every age demographic. Like those gathered in Jerusalem who witnessed the Spirit’s descent on Pentecost, many are perplexed and confused. We’re saying to each other: “What does this mean?”

We can point fingers at kids who won’t come back, or argue about styles of music. We can panic and trade in our Geneva gowns for skinny hipster jeans. Or perhaps we can take a cue from Peter, who stood before a confused and chaotic crowd and raised his voice to say, “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”

Pentecost is coming -- will anyone notice?

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Immediate Word Team
(Click on photo
  for author's bio.)

George Reed

Mary Austin

Ronald H. Love

Dean Feldmeyer

Leah Lonsbury

Chris Keating

Robin Lostetter