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Just A Thought or Two: Teaching Nones

THIS SUNDAY, OCT 30th, 2016

(traditional worship with a more intimate atmosphere, includes special music and sermon)

(traditional worship with special music and preaching, including a children’s moment)

(contemporary, informal worship with preaching and children’s moment)


Teaching Nones


As a teenager visiting a friend in a LaPorte, Indiana Catholic hospital, a nun taught me a lesson about NEVER sitting on a newly made, empty hospital bed. She spoke with a stern authority that caused me to jump off that hospital bed and stand there, humbled. Even now, all these years later, when I am visiting in the hospital and someone invites me to sit down on the edge of a hospital bed, I hear the voice of that LaPorte nun in my head. “No, thank you,” I say, “a nun years ago and taught me never to do that.”

I’ve been thinking about the “nones” this week. Not Roman Catholic teaching or nursing nuns, but the growing segment of Millennials who respond by saying “None” when asked about their religious association.


You may be surprised to hear that the 2015 Pew Research survey of 35,000 Americans revealed a remarkable level of stability in religious faith and such practices as prayer and worship. Roughly three quarters of all Americans claim a religious affiliation. The drop in the percentage of people who believe in God has declined just slightly from 92% to 89% since a similar survey in 2007.

And yet, there is a growing number of Americans—especially among the young adults known as the Millennial generation—who say they do not belong to any organized religion. The Pew Research Report said this: “A growing share of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, including some who self-identify as atheists or agnostics as well as many who describe their religion as ‘nothing in particular.’ Altogether, the religiously unaffiliated (also called the ‘nones’) now account for 23% of the adult population, up from 16% in 2007.”

Those of us who have been around the church for years have seen the Jesus community do amazing good things. Whether it is loving children and surrounding them with a gracious community, or feeding the hungry, or marching against racist laws and oppressive regimes, or pointing the world towards God through beautiful worship and genuine fellowship, we’ve seen and experienced good through our faith community!


If we’re honest, we can’t be surprised that a sizable number of young adults, while placing a high value on spirituality, service and community, want nothing to do with organized religion. We’ve seen—or contributed to—moments when brothers and sisters in the faith squabbled like toddlers. We’ve heard religious leaders make statements that were unkind, harsh, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, and lacking in compassion. Some faith communities have seemed to value buildings more than people, right belief over loving, control more than trust, and tradition more than openness to the Holy Spirit.


When I think about the “nones,” I find myself thinking about a high school friend who lives in Texas. She teaches at a first-rate university, and she has done her best to avoid organized religion most of her life.

If you listen to her, though, she is amazingly compassionate and honest. She speaks up for those who are treated unjustly, and is an advocate for turning tanks into plows. We’re Facebook friends, and when I look at her life and hear what she has to say, she looks in so many ways like a disciple of Jesus Christ. From time-to-time, I observe that she and Jesus would have enjoyed hanging out together.

What kind of church, what kind of Christian community, would be attractive to my Texas friend? Many Millennials speak about the importance of faith and spirituality, they are personally involved in building community and serving the least and the lost, so what kind of church might they join?


This coming Sunday, October 30th, we are beginning a four week series of sermons addressing some of the concerns of the “nones”. Sunday we look at the ways we might make a way for the spiritually hungry rather than getting between them and Jesus (Luke 19:1-10).

On the 6th of November, we’ll explore how we can avoid majoring in religious trivial games and focus on living in the now (Luke 20:27-38).

Instead of letting the current crises of the day control our lives, what would it look like if we were a community controlled not by today’s troubles but by the faithfulness of God? We’ll explore that on November 13th as we dig into Luke 21:5-19.

Finally, on Christ the King Sunday on November 20th, we will discuss how the church has tried to turn Jesus into an emperor rather than letting him be the Crucified Carpenter. What would it mean if we saw Jesus not as imperial ruler but a loving Suffering Servant (Luke 23:33-43)?

What kind of faith, what kind of church, would speak to the growing number of young adults who have stepped away?


That’s what the heading is over the 15th chapter of Luke in the Common English Bible. The chapter, which includes the story of the shepherd with the lost sheep, a woman with her lost coins, and the father with two sons, begins with “tax collectors and sinners” gathering around Jesus.

Jesus attracted people. Jesus attracted all kinds of people, for all sorts of reasons. His love was expansive, his grace was breath-taking, he hung out with all sorts of people, and he spoke truth in a way that was often shocking and usually life-changing.

The religious people, Luke says, grumbled “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” The veteran religious experts were upset because Jesus was doing what they were supposed to be doing for God—reaching people!

A friend invited me to hear his band play the other evening at the Salt Creek Brewery. It’s not the kind of place I might have chosen on my own, but I took a risk. What I found was fellowship, some fun music, and a great barbecue sandwich. I found myself, though, in a place and among people I wouldn’t have expected. I was there because a friend said, “Your name is on the guest list.”

Do you know people who have kept the church at arm’s length? (Maybe for good reasons!) Invite them to join us. Let them know you have put their name on the guest list.

See you Sunday!


In the service of the Carpenter,



Note: if you haven’t yet turned in your Pledge Form for 2017, please show your love for God by turning your financial promise in this week. You can pick up a form at the doors of the Sanctuary or in the office, or simply go on-line to www.fumcb.org/pledge2017.



  • HURRICANE RELIEF. If you want to give to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) work in Haiti and/or the American Southeast, make your checks out to First Methodist with a memo that the gift is for UMCOR. (You can also indicate either “Haiti” or “SE” to designate your gift, if you so wish.)



News about the First Methodist building:

  • New speakers have been installed in the Sanctuary. Portions of the main speaker, hanging from the ceiling, have not worked for years.
  • Work is going on to repair some of the “valleys” on our roof.
  • While repairing the Washington Street stairs won’t “fix” the building, we are getting estimates on what it will cost to rebuild them. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

A few reminders about entering and exiting the building:

  • To better welcome guests and parishioners, and to provide a safe environment, the only entrances open on Sunday mornings are those with ushers or greeters staffing them.
  • The Northwest alley door can be used on Sunday mornings. All other alley doors are locked to help us provide the safest environment possible for children, youth and adults.
  • The wooden doors on 4th street should be used for emergency exit only.




View details online, contact the church office and/or pick up a brochure for the Holy Land Trip in February of 2017. Led by Pastor Mark Fenstermacher, the trip is with experienced tour operator EO (Educational Opportunities Inc.). At this point it appears we may have approximately 20 persons making this life-changing journey. The cost is just over $3,000 per person (including airfare, hotel accommodations, tour guide, motor coach transportation in Israel, morning and evening meals, etc.) for those who did not register by July 11th. Contact Ms. Cath Foreman if you have questions. Click here to view the trip website




Faith? Yes.
Spirituality? Yes.
Religious Preference? None.


Good News for the “Nones”

A rising number of Americans show interest in faith and spirituality, but list their religious preference as “None.” Beginning this week, Pastor Mark will look at good news for the “nones” with a sermon titled “The None-Sense of Tree-Sitting.”






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