Excerpts from the
January 25, 2018 edition of
The FOSTER Letter—Religious
Suicide Epidemic In
’15, more than 44,000 Americans died by suicide, 1 death every 12
minutes, as the Department of Health and Human Services put it. The
overall suicide rate has grown by nearly 30% over the past 15 years,
prompting some to call it a new public health crisis.
Theology, with its more literal view of the Bible, is a
significant predictor of church growth while liberal theology leads
to decline. A recent Pew
Research study found that for all measures, growing church clergy
members are the most theologically conservative, while declining
church clergy members are the least. 93% of clergy members and 83%
of worshipers from growing churches agreed with the statement “Jesus
rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind
an empty tomb.” This compared with 67% of worshipers and 56% of
clergy members from declining churches. Further-more, all growing
church clergy members and 90% of their worshipers agreed that “God
performs miracles in answer to prayers” vs. 80% of worshipers and a
mere 44% of clergy members from declining churches.
(Washington Post 1/4/18)
1 in 4 Americans today consider
themselves to be evangelicals, finds LifeWay Research, but less than
half actually hold evangelical beliefs. When defined by beliefs and
not by identity, evangelicals are less white (58% vs. 70%), more
black (23% vs. 14%), and more likely to worship weekly (73% vs.
(Baptist Press 12/6/17)
Protect Time At The Table
21% of U.S. parents
strongly or somewhat agree family conversations are stunted because
of time spent on phones, and 42% say devices are a significant
disruption to family meals. 19% of families say members always bring
their phones or other devices to meals, 27% sometimes, 22% rarely
and 32% never or almost never. 12% of parents always take calls or
texts during family meals, 33% do so sometimes, 44% rarely and 11%
never. 29% of children always take calls or texts during family
meals, 18% sometimes, 29% rarely and 44% never.
Church Attendance in
America is declining. Recent surveys claim 38% of Americans are
churchgoers but only half that number actually find their way to
church on any given Sunday. When you look at younger Americans in
particular, the news is even more depressing. Sadly, only 28% of
younger Americans ages 23 to 37 attend church.
Communicate According to a Watson Wyatt Worldwide survey, U.S.
worker confidence in senior management declined between ’04 and ’05
from 51% to 49%. Confidence that senior management makes changes to
stay competitive dropped from 57% to 53%, and control costs fell
from 59% to 55%. Where senior management is “highly engaged” with
its workforce, confidence levels actually rose as much as 30 points.
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Reasons Americans Don’t
Read the Bible According to LifeWay Research, 27% of Americans
say they don’t prioritize it, while 15% don’t have time. 13% say
they’ve read it enough. Fewer say they don’t read books (9%), don’t
see how the Bible relates to them (9%), or don’t have a copy (6%).
10% disagree with what the Bible says.
Americans Are Split
over the nature of the Bible as a book. 40% say it’s a book worth
reading over and over, while 13% say it’s worth reading once. 22%
prefer referencing the Bible on an as-needed basis. 5% say the Bible
is a book not worth reading at all, while 19% are not sure.
(LifeWay Research 4/25/17)
Companies That Support Charities
have happier and more engaged employees, finds a new O. C. Tanner
study. This is particularly true if they help their employees get
involved in these charitable causes in the workplace. 71% of those
who work at companies that organize multiple holiday charitable
events throughout the holiday season believe the purpose of their
organization motivates them to do their best work. 84% believe their
organization has a clear purpose. 57% say these charity events had a
strongly positive effect on morale. 37% said these events made them
feel more connected to their company’s culture.
Clergy Ethical Rating Still
Declining Gallup has
measured Americans’ views on the honesty and ethics of the clergy 33
times since ’77. Although the overall average positive rating is
55%, it has fallen below that level since ’09. This year marks the
lowest rating to date, with 42% saying the clergy has “very high” or
“high” honesty and ethical standards. The historical high of 67%
occurred in ’85.
Bible Reading 87%
of U.S. households own a Bible, according to the American Bible
Society, and the average household has 3 finds LifeWay Research. 20%
of Americans have read through the Bible at least once. That
includes 11% who’ve read the entire Bible once and 9% multiple
times. Another 12% have read almost the entire Bible, while 15% have
read at least half. 53% of Americans have read relatively little of
the Bible. That includes 10% who have read none of it, 13% who have
read a few sentences and 30% who have read several passages or
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Guns in America 42%
of Americans say they live in a gun-owning household, while 30% say
they personally own a gun. 11%
do not, but live with someone who does. 48% of Americans grew up in
a household with guns and 59% say at least some of their friends own
guns while 72% have fired a gun. Protection tops the list of reasons
for owning a gun. And 74% say the right to own a firearm is
essential to their personal sense of freedom. 73% say they can’t see
them-selves ever not owning
a gun. Gun owners and non-owners have starkly different views on gun
violence in America. While 59% of those who do not own guns see gun
violence as a major problem in the U.S. today, just 33% of adults
who own guns agree.
Fundamental Differences between men and women, but men and women
have different views on
the cause of these differences.
Majorities of women who see gender differences in the way people
express their feelings, excel at work and approach parenting say
differences between men and women are mostly based on societal
expectations. Men who see differences in these areas tend to believe
biology is the root.
Christianity Has Been Growing
at an Exponential Rate
in the last couple of decades in Iran, causing the Islamic
government a great deal of concern. There are now 3 million Iranian
Christians due to massive conversion increases from Islam. Fox
News reported in ’16, “The number of Muslim converts who are
risking prison or death by secretly worshipping as Christians in
Iran’s house church movement has grown to as many as 1 million
people, according to watchdog groups.” Something powerful is
happening in Iran, despite the intense persecution Christians
are facing. (LifeSite
Disturbing Views Increasing
Only about half of
the world’s young people (ages 18-21) support free speech, but
nearly two-thirds support same-sex “marriage,” according to a
Varkey Foundation study
highlighted by The Economist. The study also found 74% of
young people worldwide support the same rights for
transgender-identifying individuals as for others. 66% of young
people worldwide think “safe abortion” should be legal. 44% of U.S.
millennials would prefer to live under socialism than capitalism.
42% prefer a capitalistic society.
(LifeSite News 1/3/18)
Unpartnered In the
past 10 years, the share of U.S. adults living without a spouse or
partner has increased. This rise in “unpartnered” Americans, from
39% in ’07 to 42% today, has been most pronounced among young
adults: Roughly 6 in 10 adults under 35 are now living without a
spouse or partner. It has also risen more sharply among those who
are not employed.
(Pew Fact Tank 12/26/17)
China Is On Course
to become ‘world’s most Christian nation’ within 15 years. The
number of Christians in Communist China is growing so steadily that
2030 it could have more churchgoers than America.
Telegraph 4/14/14, LifeSite News 1/4/18)
Do the Right Thing
While CVS general merchandise sales fell 5% in ‛15, thanks to the
pharmacy chain’s decision to ban nicotine products; the positive
attention generated helped push pharmacy services revenues up 13.5%.
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Most Receptive to the Gospel during times of significant life
change. Here are a few of those times from Church Growth Network’s
Gary McIntosh: * Following the birth of a child. * Following a move.
* Following a divorce. * During a crisis event, e.g. death, injury,
a job layoff, etc. * During a time of hurt. * During a period of
physical renewal. * During the transition to single parenting. *
During the child-care years. Churches that recognize and address
these opportunities see more fruitful evangelism efforts as God
gives the increase.
(CT Pastors 1/17/18)
Urban Church Conundrum
U.S. Communities that are
arguably in most need of the social supports churches provide are
the communities where churches seem to be vanishing, and where new,
upstart church activity is not happening. In ’16, a Barna Group
study of 769 church start-ups found
half were in wealthier locations. Barna’s Brooke Hempell noted
church work in economically disadvantaged or economically mixed
areas presents a higher degree of difficulty. Urban area churches
tend to be extremely financially strapped. Not only is it more
expensive for them to operate, they also serve more needy
populations. Churches, especially new ones with young leadership and
young congregants, seem to be a feature of stable and upwardly
mobile communities. The disadvantaged communities most in need of
the services churches exist in part to provide, cannot afford to
start and sustain those churches and thus they are not getting them.
Social Isolation A
recent study found that among users 19 to 32, those who spend more
than 2 hours a day on social media have twice the risk of feeling
socially isolated against people who spend less than 30 minutes a
day on the same platforms (American
Journal of Preventative Medicine, 7/17).
has declined nearly 8%, with 71% of U.S. adults identifying as
Christians today vs. 78% in ’07. Nones increased 6 percentage points
over this same time, from 16% to 23%. Non-Christian Faiths grew very
slightly, 1% from very low numbers of 5% in ’07. The greatest
increases were found among Muslims and Hindus, both of which
generally doubled. But, when you break down the various Christian
traditions and identities, it is clear mainline protestant churches
have collectively lost 5 million members since ’07 for a total of 36
million adults today vs. 62 million American evangelical adults, up
by 5 million over the same period. These are the churches that seek
to be faithful to the teachings of historic, biblical Christianity.
(Focus on the Family 1/8/18)
2018 World Watch List
For decades, North Korea has clearly been the world’s worst
persecutor of Christians, but now another nation nearly matches it.
But rivaling it this year, according to Open Door’s 2018 World
Watch List, is Afghanistan, which ranked No. 2 by less than a
point. North Korea’s total score was 94 (on a 100-point scale),
pushed above Afghanistan’s 93 by a 0.6 difference in their violence
rating. In the other five categories measured—private life, family
life, community life, national life, and church life—both countries
received the worst scores possible.
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