Fewer Than Half of Americans Belong to a Church (04.08.21)

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Plain Bible Teaching Podcast

This past Sunday, many made it a point to attend a worship service for Easter. However, there are now a majority of Americans who are not members of any local church. Yet the local church is part of God’s plan and our membership in a local church is important. Following the influence of the religious world in this regard will result in weaker churches and weaker Christians. In this episode, we will discuss why church membership is important.

STORY – Fewer Than Half of Americans Belong to a Church

“For the first time since it began its survey eight decades ago, Gallup finds that fewer than half of Americans have a formal membership in a local church.

“‘The U.S. remains a religious nation, with more than seven in 10 affiliating with some type of organized religion. However, far fewer, now less than half, have a formal membership with a specific house of worship,’ Gallup said.

“The survey, which began in 1937, found only 47% of Americans have a formal membership in a church.

“‘While it is possible that part of the decline seen in 2020 was temporary and related to the coronavirus pandemic, continued decline in future decades seems inevitable, given the much lower levels of religiosity and church membership among younger versus older generations of adults.’” (WND)

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Religion and Depression, Hallmark Channel’s LGBT Shift, and Being Religious or Spiritual (02.25.21)

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Plain Bible Teaching Podcast

After missing last week, the podcast is back and we have three new stories to discuss. The first discusses the complex connection between religion and mental health. Then we talk about the shifting values in what has traditionally been seen as “wholesome, family-friendly” entertainment. We end with a conversation about how people view themselves as being religious and/or spiritual.

STORY #1 – Attending Religious Services and Ward Off Depression

“Religion has been a source of comfort and support among believers for a long, long time. It’s often said that faith provides something to fall back on when everything else in life fails us. Now, a new study has investigated the complex relationship between religious experiences and mental health. Researchers from Westmont University find attending religious services helps attendees avoid or stave off depression. Unfortunately, not all of the project’s findings follow this pattern. […] ‘But what if the religious environment or beliefs themselves are the source of depressive symptoms?’ [study author Blake Victor Kent] asks. Researchers define ‘experience-driven religious environments’ as churches and other religious communities that normalize divine interactions and even tell parishioners to expect such experiences. ‘Those who struggle to establish an emotional connection to God may be constantly disappointed even though they work hard to hear from God and feel led by God. They may wonder whether God has abandoned them and why they’re not experiencing God the way everyone else seems to,’ Kent explains.” (Study Finds)

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STORY #2 – Hallmark Channel Promises More LGBT Characters and Storylines

“Hallmark Channel, once known for its sentimental and family-friendly movies, has announced it is making it a “big priority” in the coming year to increase the number of LGBT characters and plotlines it features in its films. […] Michelle Vicary, a Hallmark Channel executive, said the network is making it a “big priority” in 2021 to continue its progress in pushing LGBT themes.” (Disrn)

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STORY #3 – Most Americans Embrace Religion, Spirituality

“The multiyear research project from the Fetzer Institute on spirituality in America found 9 in 10 U.S. adults (89%) consider themselves spiritual, religious, or both. Most (70%) say they are both religious and spiritual. Around 1 in 6 say they are spiritual, but not religious (16%). Close to 1 in 10 (11%) say they are neither. Few (3%) say they are only religious.” (Lifeway Research)

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Practicing Church Discipline

Empty pews

Church discipline is often not a pleasant topic to discuss and is even more difficult to practice. Because of this, some congregations hardly discuss it at all. Then when a situation arises that requires it, they are either unsure how to proceed or they ignore it altogether and hope the problem simply goes away.

However, while church discipline is often difficult and painful to practice, there are times when it is absolutely necessary. Furthermore, the Scriptures show us that when it is done for the right reason and in the right way, it is actually for the good of the congregation and of the one from whom the church withdrew fellowship.

In this article, we are going to consider several passages in the New Testament that talk about this topic; but we will use Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 5 as the outline for our study.Continue Reading

When Is It Time to Leave a Congregation? (Episode 14)

Plain Bible Teaching Podcast

The question we’ll be considering in this episode was submitted via email:

When is it time to leave a congregation?

When difficult situations, challenges, problems, etc. affect our local churches, we often wonder if we should stay or leave to become part of another congregation. Besides this, even if we aren’t experiencing challenges or problems in our local church, we may sometimes wonder if it would be better for us to leave and become part of another congregation – for various reasons. In this episode, we’re going to consider some principles that will hopefully help us answer our question.

Do you have a question you would like to submit for a future episode? Fill out the Plain Bible Teaching Podcast question form.

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Taking Personal Responsibility

Pointing at ManIn a time of lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, and social distancing, we are more cut off from others than we had been previously. Obviously, there are challenges to this type of social arrangement – including spiritual challenges. One such challenge is that it is increasingly important for each of us to take personal responsibility for our faith and our standing before God. Paul mentioned this idea in his letter to the brethren in Philippi:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

Paul wanted these brethren to maintain their faithfulness even when he was absent from them and could not encourage them in person. The reason for the lack of in-person interaction is different today. And, of course, Paul was only speaking of himself as being absent from them; the brethren in Philippi were still together. However, the challenge described by Paul is the same. We must maintain our faithfulness, even without the in-person encouragement we are used to receiving from other Christians.

In this article, we are going to notice why personal responsibility is important, some ways in which we are to take personal responsibility, and also why taking personal responsibility should never cause us to think that isolation from fellow Christians is to be preferred.Continue Reading

Can (Should) Congregations Be “Marked”? (Episode 12)

Plain Bible Teaching Podcast

The question we’ll be considering in this episode was submitted via the podcast question submission form:

Can (should) congregations be “marked”?

If a local church drifts into apostasy, should we warn others about the congregation? If so, how should we do it? Is there some type of “official” designation we can place upon it?

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Turning Blessings into Curses

Honey

Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, that you not have it in excess and vomit it” (Proverbs 25:16).

In the Bible, honey is often used to symbolize God’s great blessings for man. When God told Moses of His plan to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and to the promised land of Canaan, He emphasized the goodness of the land by describing it as “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). Yet as the wise man pointed out in the verse above, that same blessing can be turned into something with a negative impact on us.

It is possible to take the good things with which God blesses us and turn them into something bad for us. This can be done by misuse, abuse, or excess. In this article, I would like to notice a few examples of how this can be done with certain blessings.Continue Reading