Is anyone paying attention?

God has a plan for us. It's clearly outlined in the bible. Each book of the bible includes applicable story lines of how people made God-honoring choices about their relationships and what happened when they choose to indulge themselves, other people or other things. It's possible to have great relationships, set Kingdom-building goals and follow God where ever he leads when we understand and reap the benefits of a flourishing relationship with him. The next generation inherits God-centered behaviors, confirms a belief in Godly character and applies Godly living to their life choices no matter what the circumstance they may face. Trust, confidence, commitment, and assurance are all natural by-products.

To anyone paying attention, it's obvious that human relationships are bearing the brunt of the new moral code's repercussions. *If virtue becomes irrelevant and traditional morality is considered extreme, the next generation pays the price for the relational world without boundaries. Relationships are designed by God to help us define who we truly are and how we relate to others. Learning about how to have good faith relationships requires training, practice and follow through if we are to become God-honoring in them. Faithfulness is not easy in a society that continually encourages behaviors that are focused on self-fulfillment.

Relationships will lead to the painful death of the self-focused pursuits. Relationships require us to care about someone other than ourselves and can help release us from the self-inflicted prison of self-gratification. An unhealthy preoccupation with self has always been and continues to be a constant threat to humanity's flourishing. We were created in God's image. We were created for relationships. We have a heart, mind and soul. This is the arena of relationships. I believe Jesus' command shook-up the first-century crowd and continues to impact us as we hear it today. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul. This is the greatest command. We are invited to imagine life beyond our limitations and to search the richness of a relationship with a God who created us. Who knows what He has in store for us?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
 neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways
 and my thoughts than your thoughts."
 - Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV


*(David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons. Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme. Baker Books,2016. Page 120)



What's trending now?

Interior design: black wrought iron, rounded furniture, old-world ornamentation, Mexican Midcentury Modernism and Scandinavian flat weaves. (WSJ)

Technology: FBI opens Shooter's IPhone-Drops Demand on Apple, Infosys Engineer was Among the Brussels' Victims (WSJ)

Parenting: Financial Instability is Major Factor in Success or Failure of Children-Violence and Teen Pregnancy Next on the List (Pew)

Smaller Share of Women over 65 Living Alone: the Trend is Older Adults Living with Family Members (Pew)

2016 Election: Most Americans Say Government Doesn't Do Enough to Help Middle Class (Pew)

Presidential Race: Evangelicals Least Likely to Pay Attention to the 2016 Campaign (Barna)

Christianity: Five Ways Christianity is Increasingly Viewed as Extremist (Barna)

There is an endless supply of information out there. You may find research on almost any topic. The trick is to find reputable sources. Numbers are numbers but how we interpret the numbers is the game. The trends I found above are from the Wall Street Journal, Pew Research and Barna Research. Researchers investigate topics, gather data, analyze the data and report trends. Trends help researchers discover change.

Discovering trends can help us understand reality. The story we make up in our head or the hunch we are willing to invest in rarely match reality. In order to make the best decisions possible, we believe it's important to know the trends generally in the American church and specifically to Wheatland Salem Church when we are preparing for an all-church generosity series.

Trending is the title of our April series. We will be learning from experts like the ones I used above and leaders like Ed Stetzer who is a researcher, prolific writer and national speaker. He is one voice among many that continues to educate, prepare and help leaders make decisions about anything that has to do with church. Mr. Stetzer writes for Christianity Today but also has his own website, blog, and social media outlets.  Check him out. It's illuminating what his research reveals.

Here's why I believe it's important to know all this information.

Jesus issued two important directives to his followers. The heart of Jesus’ message and the church’s calling is summarized in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. From the GC2 we derive the Core Values of Wheatland Salem Church: relationships, personal transformation, mission, worship, future generations. This series will also serve as our “generosity series.” We believe “money follows mission.” By discovering how we are actually doing with Jesus' GC2 initiatives and telling stories of what we value at Wheatland, we believe can inspire generosity. We hope to educate the congregation on the types of givers, challenge people to consider prioritizing their giving and inform the congregations on the trends research reveals from American churches, United Methodist Churches and our own Wheatland Salem campuses.

Every time I think of you, I thank my God. And whenever I mention you in my prayers, it makes me happy. This is because you have taken part with me in spreading the good news from the first day you heard about it. God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:4-6 CEV