Religion a Salad Bar in America

Posted on: 06/24/08 5:51 PM | by Jonathan McKee

“Religion today in the USA is a salad bar where people heap on upbeat beliefs they like and often leave the veggies — like strict doctrines — behind.”

Wow… what an indictment! That’s USA Today’s summary of the new data from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life‘s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey of 35,000 Americans. Most of these findings seem to parallel studies I quoted a few years ago about today’s culture in my Do They Run When They See You Coming book about reaching out to unchurched students.

This 2008 survey reveals some interesting findings about U.S. religious beliefs. A few highlights:

• 92% U.S. adults believe in God

58% say they pray at least once a day.

• 78% overall say there are “absolute standards of right and wrong,” but only 29% rely on their religion to delineate these standards. The majority (52%) turn to “practical experience and common sense,” with 9% relying on philosophy and reason, and 5% on scientific information.

• 74% say “there is a heaven, where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded,” but far fewer (59%) say there’s a “hell, where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished.”

• 70%, including a majority of all major Christian and non-Christian religious groups except Mormons, say “many religions can lead to eternal life.”

• 68% say “there’s more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion.”

• 44% want to preserve their religion’s traditional beliefs and practices. But most Catholics (67%), Jews (65%), mainline Christians (56%) and Muslims (51%) say their religion should either “adjust to new circumstances” or “adopt modern beliefs and practices.”

• 50% say “homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society,” but the most consistently traditional religious groups say society should discourage it — 76% of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 68% of Mormons, 61% of Muslims and 64% of evangelicals.

• 51% have a certain belief in a personal God, but 27% are less certain of this, 14% call God “an impersonal force,” and 5% reject any kind of God. “People say ‘God,’ and no one knows who they mean,” says Kosmin, director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

• 14% of all surveyed, including 28% of evangelicals, say religion is the “main influence in their political thinking.”

Check out this link for a fantastic little interactive graph with a collection of these findings. Very cool! (Pew Forum always has great research- you heard a few of these results from us recently in our Youth Culture Window article on church attendance).

Another interesting fact about all of this… apparently my home state of California proved to be “less religious” than other states. (Oh stop it… I know, I know!) LA Times summarized some of these findings.

These are great facts to familiarize ourselves with to better understand the culture we’re trying to reach out to.

300 jr. highers

Posted on: 06/22/08 11:29 AM | by Jonathan McKee

My family just got back from a weeklong camp where I spoke to about 300 jr. highers. The week was fantastic. The kids really responded to the messages, with about 40 kids making first time decisions to follow Christ that week, and even more making commitments to purge habits or temptations from their life and recommit to live for Him. The week also provided my family with some great “down” time between talks. We hiked, kayak, watched almost the whole Lord of the Rings Trilogy (yeah… that takes a while) … we just enjoyed some good time of “chilling.” I really enjoy the every once in a while that I get to bring my family on these trips.

Pray specifically for two kids from this camp… I’ll call them “Brian” and “Andrew.” They stopped by our family’s cabin one night at the camp to just thank me for what I shared. Both have been getting into some trouble at home, smoking a lot of weed and looking for answers. They said that this week provided those answers. They want to go back and live differently. We talked about how they could do that.

Please pray for these two kids. According to brand new Center for Disease Control “Youth Risk Behavior” report, 49.1% of today’s students have tried marijuana by the time they graduate from high school, and 25% of them are current users (have used in the last 30 days). Not all kids smoke weed. But kids are looking for answers in all the wrong places. I love the opportunity to be able to point kids like  “Brian” and “Andrew” toward answers that fulfill. 

God is good!

Tragedy at the Steven Curtis Chapman Home

Posted on: 05/22/08 10:30 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Many of you might have read about the incredible loss Steven Curtis Chapman and his family suffered yesterday in their rural Williamson County home just south of Nashville.

The 5-year-old daughter of Grammy-winning Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman was struck and killed Wednesday by a sport utility vehicle driven by her brother, authorities said.

Please take a moment and pray for the family. Several family members witnessed the accident.

Maria, one of the Christian singer’s six children, was taken by LifeFlight to Vanderbilt Hospital, which confirmed the death, according to Laura McPherson, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

The 5-year-old was hit by an SUV driven by her teenage brother, she said. Police did not give the driver’s name.

The teen was driving a Toyota Land Cruiser down the driveway of the rural home at about 5:30 p.m. and several children were playing in the area, McPherson said. He did not see Maria in the driveway before the vehicle struck her, she said.   –

Pray for the brother who was the driver. I can’t even imagine the regret he must be feeling right now.

Maria was the youngest of the family’s three adopted children.

Posted in Music, News, Prayer |  | Leave A Comment

Dear God

Posted on: 04/23/08 4:07 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I’m always intrigued by people’s conceptions of God. I have found that their expressions of these perceptions don’t necessarily reflect what someone truly believes, more what is convenient or easier to swallow. But they do give us a glimpse into their attitudes and feelings about God.

I guess that’s why this Dear God web site didn’t surprise me.

The Times Online describes the site as “new and achingly cool” allowing you to “petition the deity of your choosing with worries and requests and to read other people’s. Replies not guaranteed.” The site allows people to “share their inner-most hopes and fears with their version of God.”

How P.C.

Clicking there, you’ll find the prayers divided by topic. I was directed to a whole section full of prayers expressing doubt, even anger. Many of these reveal a porthole into the world of people that aren’t that excited about God. Take this email from Benjamin in Sydney Australia for example:

Dear GOD!Do you really expect me not to have sex with my girlfriend? Do you really expect me to not love my father for his sexual orientation? Do you real expect me not to have fun, not to drink and not to eat meat? Do you really expect me to surrender my whole life for you? Seriously god, you are not the center of the universe. Please stop taking over peoples lives. YOUR CREATED THEM – YOU DO NOT OWN THEM!!! Benjamin, Sydney/Australia


South Dakota

Posted on: 03/29/08 3:48 AM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s 3:40 AM Saturday (yeah, trust me, I’m TIRED!) and I’m getting ready to head out to the airport to hop on the first flight out to Denver, then on to South Dakota. I will land in Sioux Falls and then drive into Huron where I’ll be speaking at an event tonight, then teaching a parenting workshop on Sunday afternoon (then flying home Sunday night).

This is an exciting trip. When I speak on Saturday night I’ll be speaking to parents and kids. It’s a big event that will be bringing out a huge portion of the small community as well as people from surrounding communities. It’s a church audience and my challenge will be to reach out beyond the church walls.

Sunday is a parent workshop. I’ll be talking to about 125 to 150 parents about today’s youth culture and raising our kids right before rebellion. I love this kind of training workshop… I’m looking forward to it.

Huron, SD is one of the coldest places I have been! Last time I traveled there it was about 7 degrees and the people there were excited how warm it was! I learned to appreciate heated seats (before then, I always wondered about the need of that. Now I don’t ask.) I checked and it’s supposed to be 42 in SD today. (Whew!) That’s still a tad colder than my chilly Sacramento 62 degrees today.

Well… off I go. If you think of it, please pray for my speaking and my travel.

Thanks so much for your prayers

Posted in Personal, Prayer, Travel |  | Leave A Comment

The Source “East Coast/West Coast” Thing

Posted on: 02/22/08 4:01 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Yesterday was a fun day for us here at THE SOURCE as David, our East Coast guy, flew West and connected with me before I flew East.

David R. Smith has been one of our speakers and writers for years, but in the fall of 2007 we were able to hire him enough hours where he can now speak, train and write full time. David lives in Tampa… our East Coast rep of sorts. I’m in Sacramento doing the West Coast thang. Funny though… I’m flying to Pennsylvania this weekend for a camp I am speaking at, and David is teaching one of our workshops in California this weekend. I had him come out a day early so we could do a few podcasts (note our cool podcast picture) and hang out. It’s not often we get to hang out together.

So yesterday I picked him up from the airport around noonish, we got some BAR B Q, and then came back to my home office, worked on his seminar a bit, and record two podcasts. One of the podcasts we recorded was our next episode of our new podcast for teenagers, A Li’l Bit. We’re really excited about this podcast. It’s a weekly podcast we just launched for teenagers to get them in the WORD each week. This is simply because we’ve noticed that more teenagers carry iPods than they do Bibles. We figure that maybe we can get the WORD in their heads through earphones if not through reading it.

After working we at dinner and watched American Idol with my Family (Where I picked 4 out of the 4 that got dropped… YEAH!) David was on East Coast time so he sacked early. I’m leaving on a 6:15 flight this morning, so I’m up at o’ dark thirty. Pray for our speaking and training this weekend if you think of it.

Posted in Personal, Prayer, Travel |  | Leave A Comment

Our Response to Another School Shooting

Posted on: 02/15/08 12:04 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Most of us have already read the story of Steven P. Kazmierczak, the gunman who went on a shooting rampage at Northern Illinois University. Apparantly he recently stopped taking medication, went ballistic, and opened fire in a geology class, shooting 21 people, killing 5, then taking his own life.

This time the shooter didn’t seem like a “troubled” kid seeking revenge (as we’ve seen in many past shootings). University police said that Kazmierczak was actually an “award-winning” student “revered” by colleagues and faculty.

The sad thing is… this trajedy is nothing new. We’ve seen it so many times we can’t even count.

So what can we do?

1. Use this as an opportunity to dialogue with kids about the trajedy. Lane Palmer, a Columbine youth pastor/counselor who worked with kids through the 1999 shooting, advised the following:

It is vitally important that we help our teens walk through events like these for many reasons. Some youth leaders might be hesitant to talk with their groups about the recent tragedy for fear that it will only intensify the stress and fear already imbedded in their emotions. The fact is, the opposite is true. The excess of various emotions that were released over the past few days need a healthy outlet, otherwise they will work their way out in negative ways.

One thing that helped me with our students was to help them put labels on what they are experiencing (stress, fear, sadness, etc.), then talk about ways to address each individual one. For example, if they are feeling sadness, ask them what has helped them in the past with those feelings. If they are anxious, walk them through the whole concept of how God is still in control, so we need not be anxious about the future (i.e. Matthew 6:25-34). This could happen on a corporate and individual level.

I think the other key issue here is the chance we have to bring up the important issues in life. When events like this occur, we have a golden opportunity to help teens evaluate their spiritual condition. As well, many times you’ll see a lot of new faces in your group after events like these, because students are looking for answers. Again- what a great opening for evangelism.

Lane talks more about this in my interview with him last April after the Virginia Tech shooting. He answers questions like, “What youth group would you run this week” and links some resources for discussions on dealing with tragedy

2. Pray for the families and friends of the slain victims:

  • Daniel Parmenter, 20, Westchester, Ill.
  • Catalina Garcia, 20, Cicero, Ill.
  • Ryanne Mace, 19, Carpentersville, Ill.
  • Julianna Gehant, 32, Mendota, Ill.
  • Gayle Dubowski, 20, Carol Stream, Ill.

Posted in News, Prayer |  | Leave A Comment

Squeaking Through to Wisconsin

Posted on: 02/1/08 5:03 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Today I flew out of Sacramento on a direct flight to Chicago where I popped in my rental car to drive 2 hours to one of my favorite camps to speak at, Timber-lee Christian Camp.

I gotta admit, last night I had my doubts if I’d ever get here- the weather was looking pretty bad. My dad was flying back from Kansas City where he did a workshop and he said everything was stopped at Ohare (Chicago’s Airport.. my destination this morning). Sure enough, flights were being canceled or delayed up to five hours due to heavy snow in the midwest.

So this morning I checked flight status and surprisingly everything was fine (when I was leaving my house at 4 AM). But 5 minutes before we were supposed to board we received word of a delay (figures). Chicago had a foot of snow last night and they were limiting incoming flights. I popped open my laptop and began getting some work done. They actually didn’t delay long. Bottom line… we only arrived in Chicago an hour late. (Whew! There are a lot of people stuck in airports across the country right now. I squeaked through!)

I was in my rental car (a 4×4) navigating through the newly fallen snow by 1:30 PM and stopping at my favorite pizza place in the world, Giordano’s, at 2:30. (I wrote about Giordannos in an earlier blog.. wow… that’s some great pizza! This is my only time scheduled to pass through Chicago in the next six months… I had to get my fix!)

I arrived at the camp around dinner time and got settled in. I am excited about the weekend. I speak once tonight, twice Saturday, and once Sunday. I’m doing a new series on our two natures. Tonight I talk about the world’s focus on “external,” and God’s focus on “internal.” Tomorrow I’ll dive into our two natures (Romans 8) and reveal how we need to give it up to God and let Him work in us instead of us trying to “do works.” It should be a fun time.

I’d love your prayers as I speak to this group of high school kids this weekend. You can also pray for a mighty tail wind on the way home so I can catch the last 5 minutes of the SUPER BOWL!!!!    🙂

Posted in Personal, Prayer, Travel |  | Leave A Comment