Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Interfaith Marriages are Increasing due to watered-down beliefs

Interfaith marriages are on the rise. In 1988, a General Social Survey showed 15 percent of couples were married to someone of a different religion. The statistic rose to 25 percent by 2006.

Currently (2010), various surveys show that approximately 50 percent of Christians and Jewish people are intermarried to people of another faith.

The figure drops dramatically for those who are regularly and vitally involved in worship services, ministry and reading their Bible or Torah, such as Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians. These people are more likely to marry within their own belief system.

Christianity and Judaism run the risk of becoming watered down, hybrid faiths when people intermarry or stop religious observances. It is harder to decide how to raise children. Sometimes it’s not even discussed before the wedding day. The answer unfortunately often becomes “we’ll do both and let the kids decide for themselves.” The next step is dropping all traditions, holidays and Bible study because it’s too hard to keep up, or confusion among the children becomes obvious.

In today’s society where whatever we want to do is tolerated and even applauded, the Bible (both Old and New Testament) has become politically incorrect, and people aren’t learning the principles God had in mind. So couples are already entering marriage with a so-so understanding of obeying God's word, or none at all.

In the Old Testament, God commanded the original Jewish generations to remain separate and not intermarry with people who worshiped other gods (Deuteronomy 7:3, Joshua 23:12, Ezra 9:14). In the New Testament, Christians are not supposed to be unequally “yoked” or bound together with non-believers (2 Corinthians 6:14). Yoked comes from two oxen strapped together to carry water or goods.

The result of intermarriage becomes a wishy-washy relationship with God that determines how we live, and it’s because we have our traditions confused with real heartfelt love for God. So pretty soon, there is no true worship left. The next thing to be left behind is a moral compass.

Deut 6:4-9: Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Proverbs 22:6: Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

(Scriptures taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.)

Photo: Wedding rings, in public domain at Wikimedia Commons.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

House Churches Growing in Popularity in the U.S.

A recent USA Today article reported figures from the Barna Group and Pew Research Polls that both indicated more Americans are attending small house churches.

Some possible reasons:
-They may still be members of larger churches looking for smaller, less formal groups to meet with on other days.

-They've left “organized church” completely for what they consider to be a more intimate and more genuine form of worship.          

-Many Americans feel that similar persecution of Christians (as well as a surge in anti-Semitism) to that which is taking place in other countries is starting in America, and that it's time to get used to worshiping in smaller, less obvious places.

What are some differences between mega, small and house churches?
The majority of churches in America are small (50 to 300 members), with a minority of “megachurches” over 1,000 members.
From my experience, members of small churches tend to stay put in their church, as they are satisfied with the fellowship, care and attention from the small staff, giving and receiving care and love from each other and discovering ministry opportunities.

A drawback to this which I’ve seen often is that small congregations are more unlikely to be receptive to changing methods and styles to draw in new people and younger, more technically savvy and “attraction-thirsty” generations. Not that it’s the best thing to do, but it’s an outreach tool to draw people in, and then let God work on everyone’s hearts to blend together in worshipping the Lord.

Megachurches also offer many ministry opportunities, or at the opposite end, anonymity to those who want to worship quietly and just do a weekly observance.

One drawback to megachurches is that, without attending some of their smaller group functions or Sunday school, you won’t get to know other members of the congregation. But if you get involved, you’ll find many smaller church “families” within the family.

House churches generally concentrate more on delving into and discussing God’s word together rather than just listening to the person in the pulpit.

House churches are different from home Bible Study groups in that a house church may contain all the aspects of a church worship service, but in a home setting rather than a formal building.

As with any church, there is a danger of being pulled into the house church leader’s own agenda (if he/she has anything in mind other than biblical) if you are not reading the Bible for yourself. “Test the spirits,” says 1 John 4:1 – there are many impostors who want to draw people in.

In the early days of Christianity, most original believers in Jesus attended small house churches. However, in Acts 2, “all were gathered together in one place,” and about two thousand people accepted the Lord as their Savior.

I guess you could call that a megachurch!

Photo: Center Church on the Green, New Haven Connecticut. Photo is in public domain as Historic American Building, Library of Congress.

(Extra source for house church growth info: Florida Baptist Witness, 8/26/10, p. 19.)
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