The Future of Churches?

July 12, 2022

Recently I saw an old video on YouTube of the great comedian Rodney Dangerfield on the Johnny Carson show.

Of course, Rodney said he “didn’t get no respect.” When he sat next to Johnny, Carson kept asking Rodney questions like: “Do you have any hobbies we don’t know about?”; or “Has your mother-in-law ever complimented you for something?” So it was clear there was no prepared script. Just with adlibs, Dangerfield kept the audience in laughing stitches.

Finally, Rodney was so funny and had Carson laughing so vigorously that Johnny almost fell out of his seat. Carson often referred to Rodney Dangerfield as “the comedians‘ comedian!”

A similar compliment could be paid to Rev. Martha Creek. Many Unity Ministers would honor Martha by saying she is “the ministers’ minister.” Currently, Martha serves as a key advisor to Unity Worldwide Ministries. I can attest to the excellent suggestions and advice she has given me several times.

So it was not surprising that it was standing room only in the grand ballroom when Martha recently spoke at this year’s Unity Worldwide Ministries convention. Not only is she wise, but she is also hilarious like Rodney Dangerfield – only Martha gets a ton of respect!

Martha told us that when she was asked to speak at the convention, the topic she was given was, The Future of Churches? Upon hearing this, Martha took a well-deserved gulp and said, “Are there any other topics I could speak on?” But UWM leaders did not let her off the hook, and I am glad they didn’t.

As Martha looked around the ballroom, she asked, “Does anybody here know about the future of churches? If you do, please raise your hand … because if you know about the future of churches for certain, then you are ready for Ascension!” Nobody in the ballroom raised their hand.

“Well,” said Martha, “I, too, don’t know about the future of churches. But I would like to make 12 observations.” I think what followed were 12 very reasonable and cogent observations about things we will all have to deal with now and in the future. The number 12 is also very biblical.

So here are Martha’s 12 observations:

1. We are experiencing the demise of the pre-pandemic model of church. Church, as we knew it before the pandemic, will not come back.

According to Martha, we are not in a temporary transitional period where the church will bounce back to the “good old days.” Even without the pandemic, long-run demographic and social trends were seriously eroding the traditional model of church. The pandemic sped up the process and added some complications.

Martha said national data show that the typical church has recovered roughly 50% of its pre-pandemic Sunday attendance. She asked the audience of Unity ministers if this number and trend applied to them? The overwhelming majority of hands in the room went up and affirmed this observation.

Unity of Roanoke Valley is doing better than 50% and seems to be doing better than many other Unity congregations.

2. In this new environment, successful and growing churches will evolve and become much more than just Sunday meeting places. They evaluate their effectiveness beyond just the Sunday service(s).

3. The “vision” for the future will become increasingly clear. In the gospel after the resurrection, Jesus asked Peter several times if Peter loved him? Peter kept responding that he did love the Master. Jesus responded, “if you love me, then feed my sheep.“ He did not respond, “if you love me, then count my sheep.”

The point is that successful churches in the future will be those that can positively transform lives, which means so much more than just the number of people attending the Sunday service. Martha also pointed out that Jesus went out to meet with people and did not expect people would come to him. The successful church of the future can’t just expect people to come to it. Martha added that it must go out into the world where people are in this modern era. This newer paradigm redefines what churches are and how they will function.

4. At many churches, Sunday attendance will normalize at a lower number than before the pandemic. But this does not mean that a thriving church will serve fewer people now than before the pandemic. Martha noted that successful churches will serve people online and where they work, live, and play. This reminded me of the old saying, “if Mohammed doesn’t come to the mountain, then the mountain should go to Mohammed.”

5. Hybrid church will simply become church! What churches do online will become just as important as what they do in their buildings! Services and classes will increasingly become both in-person and online experiences. Those ineffective churches in this hybrid world will probably go the way of the dodo.

6. The in-person part of church will have to become much more personal! Martha, in effect, spoke about the importance of spirit circles and other smaller groups where people “know your name” (as they said in the old TV show Cheers). Martha made a critical point here. Everybody doesn’t need to know everybody else’s name. But everybody must have a sense of belonging and personal connection in this “beloved community.“

7. Information will have to move online, and “transformation experiences” will have to become more personal. If these two qualities are lacking, a church might not make it in the future.

8. “Location-independent“ church members will become more important. In our case, more of our members might not live in the Roanoke Valley. Or they may have lived here once, but now they have moved away.

9. Pastors will experience a diminished sense of authority in these newer models of a successful church. “Healthy ministers” will experience this shift as a good friend and a sign of real progress.

10. A ministerial “brain drain” will become serious. Martha believes that a growing number of people will feel burnt out and rapidly leave the ministry. When I heard Martha make this point, I reflected on my seminary class. Yes, a good number of people in my Unity Institute and Seminary class are no longer in the ministry.

11. There will be an exit of “uninvested investors.” By this, Martha meant that donors gave substantial amounts to churches in the past even though they were not active in the church. Martha believes that if these donors are not actively engaged in a church, they will be much less likely to continue giving.

12. In terms of churches and the environment impacting churches, things will become even more unpredictable in the future. As Martha put it, “Expect the unexpected!”

I would be very interested in your reactions and reflections on Martha’s 12 points. This is a vital discussion that we all should have. You can email me at RBelous5@gmail.com or text me at 571-215-9481. Also, I would love to sit down and discuss the above.

I believe our actions now will go a long way in determining the future health of churches. Our thoughts, feelings, and actions – combined with prayer and meditation – can make the difference. While church as we knew it might not come back exactly the way it was before the pandemic, I believe that the best could be yet to come in terms of spirituality.

We are co-creators with Spirit and have “the Christ within, the hope of glory.”

Many blessings,

Rev. Rick

Inspiration from Rev. Betty

God, Our Help in Every Need

Matthew 11:28 & 30 ~ “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

During the time that Jesus spent on this earth, he taught that God is our Loving Parent and desires only good for us, His Children. It is not our Heavenly Father’s Will that any of His children should suffered. Jesus encouraged his followers by speaking words of hope and encouragement.

To be heavy laden is to be burdened with mortal beliefs and cares. At that time, the people were burdened by their beliefs and cares. Jesus showed compassion for them and gave them hope. He taught them the Truth of their being–that they were created in God’s Exact Image.

With all that is happening in the world around us, we might, indeed, feel heavily burdened; but I believe that Jesus meant his words of hope for then and for ever more.

Denial: I deny everything in this world that is unlike God.
Affirmation: I affirm all is Spirit. Only the Good is True.

Psalm 54:4 ~ “Behold, God is my helper.”

Provided by Rev. Betty A. Tarpley

Breath of God

04-14-2020 ~Inspirational Thought from Rev. Betty

Breath of God

We have just observed Lent, Palm Sunday, and the Easter Resurrection. This year, due to the pandemic, we haven’t been able to gather together for our usual observance. For me, during this time, I have turned to spiritual hymns, the Bible, and on-line services. One hymn, in particular, keeps going over and over in my mind—“Breathe on Me, Breath of God.” I share with you the first verse:

Breathe on me, Breath of God, Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love, And do what Thou wouldst do.

This reminded me of Jesus’ resurrection and when in the evening of the same day, the disciples were hiding, fearful of the Jews; and Jesus came and stood in the midst of them and said, Peace be unto you. John 20:19. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. John 20:22. This is an Aramaic idiom; “He breathed on them” means “he encouraged them.”

The disciples were discouraged when Jesus was crucified, but when he “breathed on them” after his resurrection, the disciples were empowered. At this time in our earthly journey, we can sing, read Scripture, and be encouraged, knowing we have the Faith, Peace, and Power to move through this experience. We include all people in our thoughts of Perfect Peace.

Isaiah 26:3 ~ “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee…”

Health Tip

There are many things we can each do to prevent the spread of viruses. One of the best things is hand washing. We are asked to wash our hands often with soap and water–before handling food or touching our face, after handling food, before and after contact with someone, before and after using the restroom, …. And we are told that we should wash our hands for at least 20 seconds. There are lots of 20 second songs to sing or hum as a way of timing the 20 seconds. ‘Happy birthday’ is one of them. How about singing the second verse, “God is blessing you now”. to get in a 20 second prayer boost while getting clean hands.

If soap and water isn’t available, use a hand sanitizer with a base of at least 60% alcohol. And, guess what? That should be rubbed vigorously for 20 seconds! You can affirm God’s blessing then, too!

Classes and Study Groups

We will continue to hold our Wednesday Prayer and Meditation. However all other groups are being held at the discretion of the facilitator. Please check with your facilitator. The office may not be aware of any recent change.

Blessings to Rev. Linda

As we bid farewell to Rev. Linda Taylor, we are profoundly grateful for her many blessings to our congregation and community in her eight and a half years with us.  Among her accomplishments are: helping us navigate through a major renovation and expansion, introducing a brilliant fundraising idea that paid for our new roof, creating and leading several year-long Disciples study groups, facilitating a Mastermind focus group that lead to a new and refreshed vision and mission statement and Spirit Groups, rigorously developing and monitoring a realistic budget, increasing our income by inviting new like-minded people to our church through hosting the annual Body, Mind, Spirit Fest, and gently but steadily moving us forward on our spiritual paths into a community-lead consciousness.  

Through all of this she remained open, accessible, and humble – a true demonstration and example of walking the path of Spirit.

We love and bless her as she continues to follow her own spiritual path, wherever that leads, knowing that we are better for her time with us and are also prepared for our next exciting step in spiritual evolution.  Because of her efforts, we are ready to welcome in a new leader that is our vibrational match.

Join me in sending love and blessings to Rev. Linda Taylor and her husband, Riley, as they begin their new, spirit-guided adventure back to Texas and family.  We are a better, stronger, more Spirit-led and capable due to her eight and a half years with us.  She is a shining example of walking the spiritual path with grace, humility, insight, vision, practicality, and intuition.  We send them on the wings of prayer, knowing that we are all held in the hands of God. 

Happy New Year to all,

Sue Frankel

President, URV BOD

The Forever Angels

A new study, a new book, a new challenge to what we think we know about life and death, reincarnation, and the life continuum. This presentation will both surprise and startle you! The book, The Forever Angels, Near-Death Experiences in Childhood and Their Lifelong Impact, is like nothing else you’ve ever read! It is a groundbreaking study of the lifelong effects of near-death experiences in the newly born, babies, toddlers, and children up to age five.

 P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D., is a distinguished researcher of near-death experiences, prayer chaplain, spiritual counselor, and visionary. She is the author of 15 books including Children of the Fifth WorldBeyond the Indigo Children, and The New Kids and Near-Death Experiences. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. This event will include a PowerPoint presentation plus Q&A. Books will be available for sale.

 The Forever Angels

September 15, 2019

1:00pm-3:00pmSanctuary

$20.00

The Magic of Manifestation

The universe is always operating in divine balance and manifestation follows these universal laws. Learning this language will free you to create a life you are in love with. Join Deborah Steddom for a two-hour interactive workshop exploring the pleasures and pitfalls of creating your own reality.
Learn how to free yourself from old patterns; experience the power of your thoughts; and expand self-trust and understanding!

Workshop fee $20

Energy Healing Expo

 
Energy Healers of the Roanoke Valley, including some
of our Myrtle Fillmore Holistic Healing Center
practitioners, invite you to join us for an
 Energy Healing Expo
 April 13 1:00PM to 5:00PM
 Gathering Room
 
Come learn about and experience the many different
 types of energy and holistic healing available in the Roanoke Valley . We will have many different modalities available for you to experience including Massage,
 Access Bars, LaHoChi, Reiki, Spiritual
 Psychotherapy, and more!
 
We will be selling tickets for $20 for 20 minutes of services($1/minute for additional time) Gift certificates
 will also be available.