USA Today or the Bible?


Who can you believe more? 

The Bible and USA Today offer facts and faith about the world. In the USA Today, one gets a daily snapshot of the “goings on” in these United States and the world. It’s all there. 

Politics and money, crime and punishment, movies and moguls, war and peace, home, crop and gas prices plus a whole lot more. The Bible offers past news as good news for all the above and the kingdom to come. Prophets and priests; lay and clergy, nations and sacred institutions testify about the vitality and helpfulness of a God who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent; Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. And yet, there are times when “the daily news” seems more credible than” the good news” of the gospel. Below is a case in point. 

Says our Lord in Luke 10:1-2 and Matthew 9:35-38, THE HARVEST IS PLENTIFUL BUT THE LABORERS ARE FEW… Mark 6:7-12 and John 4:35 concur, generally speaking. People available to join the church of Jesus Christ are as boundless as grains of sand. “The laborers are few” has to do with the countless number of clergy and laity unwilling or unable to “go make disciples”, to “seek and save the lost,” to “rescue the perishing” or to “train a new generation in the way it should go.” Herein lays one cause and effect of Jesus’ proposition. If more laborers were in the field, the church would grow. Is the Bible correct? Can we believe that Jesus’ proposal will really bear fruit?   
Maybe the word from The USA Today on church life has more credibility than scripture? Perhaps, it describes your family situation? Maybe, it reflects the churches’ reality for the long term. Here is a headline printed in Tuesday’s October 9, USA Today; Protestants lose majority status in U.S
Article writer Cathy Lynn Grossman drew several conclusions from a survey done by the Pew Research Center for the People & Press, 2002-2012 (respondents in 2007 were 9,443 and 17,010 in 2012). First, America is no longer predominantly Protestant. Second, “Those who left,” jettisoned a denominational affiliation not their faith. Called the “Nones,” meaning no religious identity, their growing numbers moved them to second place behind the Roman Catholics. Mainline and evangelical Protestant churches have   tumbled to third place, once occupied by the “Nones.” Third, “Nones” say they can’t make sense of a predetermined system of beliefs, e.g. the Apostles’ Creed.  “Nones” have decided to pick and choose what religious values to embrace while others have found peace functioning as “agnostics.” Actually, the number of “Nones” have added to the harvest not diminished it. Can we believe that? Better still, who can you believe more, the USA Today or the Bible?
The church is continually mired in the struggle to speak to the needs of its diverse constituency and to Him who called this church into being. No matter how hard the church tries, it will not be able to answer faith questions to the satisfaction of every adherent. Increasingly, our family and friends won’t embrace “I believe.” Many of them have sought firmer ground versus uncertainties like “maybe, perhaps, God knows and Jesus said.” 
True, but we’re stuck with making our way through life the way it is. “It ain’t clear and the path ain’t straight or always discernible.” For example, if the Pew Forum survey results are seen in the light of political conversation regarding polls in this presidential election, “Nones”, those with no religious identity, may not be an emerging force at all. As a skeptic would say, “Who knows whether 9,443 respondents in 2007 or 17,010 respondents in 2012 portray the actual state of organized religion in America with a population estimated to be 313 million? Given the skepticism about religion and politics, can you believe what you read in the paper anymore than Holy Writ?   
Grossman, who wrote the article on the emergence of the “Nones” as an emerging force, shared some interesting feedback from those who believe the “Nones” as an emerging force. “They’re everyone,” she wrote. “They’re everywhere. They’re gone, and they’re not coming back.” Really!! Guess what, the respondents forgot or put no stock in a Jesus’ saying that I believe; “with God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37 & Mt. 19:26). Jesus’ saying opposes absolutism such as “they’re gone and they’re not coming back.”   
Like everyone, “Nones” are a part of the harvest that Christ seeks. Some folk will come back. New persons will join because of family or the need to study the scripture with others. Having children will bring folk to Christ. Weddings, funerals, baptisms, crises, public and private will bring them back. Modern day John the Baptists, Mother Teresa’s, marching off to war and facing one’s death will add new adherents and bring some back.  The loving, caring inclusive, liberating soul of Christ and his church will bring them back. Others will join Christ on the journey through our precept and example. Regardless of the age, the harvest will always be plentiful. If 1% of the folk in our neighborhood, with no religious identity attended our churches and got involved in our ministries to God and neighbor, no church would have enough space to serve them.   
Jesus said, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest.” I’m asking in prayer, articles, sermons, as Bishop, as forgiven sinner, as believer of One who called me to follow Him, “Please Lord, send more laborers into your harvest from the length and breadth of IGRC.  Inspire them to grow the church.   Amen.”
When I was consecrated a Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Ft. Wayne, Indiana on July 19, 1996 along with Bishops Joseph Sprague, John Hopkins and Michael Coyner, we received a stole. The creator wrote the words of Jesus on a yellow patch. It stated, “THE FIELDS ARE RIPE FOR HARVEST.” I believe it. And I’m still encouraged!! For the words of a faith-filled, very effective new church start pastor 2000 years ago still ring true. “We too shall reap if we faint not,” he said. (Galatians 6:9 KJV.)