Recent Research on Gratitude in America

Posted on by Thomas Smith

 How often, and in what circumstances, do people actually say thanks? The results reveal more evidence for a phenomenon sometimes called the gratitude gap—given how often they feel it, and how important they think it is, Americans do not express gratitude very often.

  • Almost half of people express gratitude on a daily basis to immediate family (spouses, children, parents—though elsewhere in the survey 63 percent indicated daily gratitude expression to spouses), and less than 15 percent express daily gratitude to friends or colleagues.
  • Bosses, regrettably, were placed the category of “never” being thanked by 35 percent of those polled.
  • Asked about everyday encounters, less than 50 percent said they would be “very likely” to thank salespeople that helped them, as well the postman, the cleaning staff etc. Only wait staff at nice restaurants surpassed this threshold, with 58 percent “very likely” to receive thanks. TSA screeners, at the other extreme, were only “very likely” to be thanked by 22 percent of people.
  • Asked about their children, people indicate expressing gratitude widely and often—a heartwarming and promising exception to the gratitude gap.

Who is grateful?

  • Women were more grateful than men on almost every measure.
  • People were least likely to express gratitude in workplaces…despite wishing to be thanked more often themselves at work.
  • Being religious was associated with greater feelings of gratitude.
  • 18-to-24 year olds express gratitude less often than any other age group, and are more likely to express gratitude for self-serving reasons.
  • Married people are more grateful—51 percent expressing gratitude on a regular basis compared to 35 percent of singles.

How does age affect gratitude?

To explore whether gratitude trends are changing, people were asked to rate their own gratitude over time.

  • On two different questions, 88 percent of those polled said that they were just, if not more, grateful today than they were 3,4, or 10 years ago.
  • 92 percent of people indicated that they have been feeling the same or more gratitude over the last few years.
  • When asked about “most people today” (e.g., not themselves), people said gratitude levels were declining; only 19 percent selected the option that most people today are “more likely to have an attitude of gratitude than 10 or 20 years ago.”
  • 60 percent thought that people are less likely to express gratitude today than 100 year ago.

The Church that grew without trying- Alan Kreider

Posted on by Thomas Smith

We tend to forget how surprising the growth of the early church was. Nobody had to join the churches. People were not compelled to become members by invading armies or the imposition of laws; social convention did not induce them to do so. Indeed, Christianity grew despite the opposition of laws and social convention. These were formidable disincentives. In addition, the possibility of death in persecution loomed over the pre-Constantinian church, although few Christians were actually executed. In many places baptismal candidates sensed that “every Christian was by definition a candidate for death.”

The expansion of the churches was not organized – it simply happened.
Nevertheless the churches grew. Why? After AD 312, when the emperor Constantine I aligned himself with Christianity and began to promote it, the church’s growth is not hard to explain. But before Constantine the expansion is improbable enough to require a sustained attempt to understand it. The growth was odd. According to the evidence at our disposal, the expansion of the churches was not organized, the product of a mission program; it simply happened. Further, the growth was not carefully thought through.

Early Christian leaders did not engage in debates between rival “mission strategies.” The Christians wrote a lot; according to classicist Robin Lane Fox, “most of the best Greek and Latin literature which remains [from the later second and third centuries] is Christian.” And what they wrote is surprising. The Christians wrote treatises on patience – three of them. But they did not write a single treatise on evangelism. Further, to assist their growing congregations with practical concerns, the Christians wrote “church orders,” manuals that provided guidance for the life and worship of congregations.

Most improbable of all, the churches did not use their worship services to attract new people. In the aftermath of the persecution of Nero in AD 68, churches around the empire – at varying speeds in varying places – closed their doors to outsiders. By the end of the second century, most of them had instituted what liturgical scholars have called the disciplina arcani, the “discipline of the secret,” which barred outsiders from entering “private” Christian worship services and ordered believers not to talk to outsiders about what went on behind the closed doors.

The early Christians attributed the church’s growth to the patient work of God.
Fear motivated this closing – fear of people who might disrupt their gatherings or spy on them. By the third century, some churches assigned deacons to stand at the doors, monitoring the people as they arrived. It is not surprising that pagans responded to their exclusion from Christian worship by speculation and gossip.

 

The baptized Christians, on the other hand, knew how powerful the worship services were in their own lives – early fourth-century North African believers said simply, “We cannot go without the Lord’s Supper.” They knew that worship services were to glorify God and edify the faithful, not to evangelize outsiders.

And yet, ­improbably, the movement was growing. In number, size, and geographical spread, churches were expanding without any of the probable prerequisites for church growth. The early Christians noted this with wonder and attributed it to the patient work of God. Teaching catechumens in Caesarea around AD 240, Origen observed that throughout history God had been faithful to Israel, sending them prophets, turning them back from their sins.
“See how great the harvest is, even though there are few workers. But also in another way God plans always that the net is thrown on the lake of this life, and all kinds of fish are caught. He sends out many fishers, he sends out many hunters, they hunt from every hill. See how great a plan it is concerning the salvation of the nations.”

The churches grew because the faith that these fishers and hunters embodied was attractive to people who were dissatisfied with their old cultural and religious habits, who felt pushed to explore new possibilities, and who then encountered Christians who embodied a new manner of life that pulled them toward what the Christians called “rebirth” into a new life.
“We do not speak great things but we live them.” –Cyprian

Twenty-first-century Christians must live with this heritage. We will not do things precisely as the early Christians did, but the early believers may give us new perspectives and point us to a “lost bequest.”As we rediscover this bequest, we will not make facile generalizations or construct how-to formulas. Instead, we will say with Cyprian and other early Christians: “We do not speak great things but we live them.”

To Let Go -author unknown

Posted on by Thomas Smith

In these tumultuous days, in these days of storms and fires and wars and such, as Jesus himself spoke of, I was reminded that I am not God and that Man as skilled and scientific as He has become still cannot change the track of the hurricane by one foot.Feelings of loss of control panic us. Yet peace can be created in our personal world by "letting go".

I thought this to be helpful in putting things into a perspective that would give us all more peace. Pastor Tom

To " let go": doesn't mean to stop caring, it means I cant do it all for you. It's not cutting myself off,its realizing I don't control another. To let go is to not enable further and to let consequences be the better teacher. Its admitting that I really don't have power, the outcome is not mine to decide.

To let go is to stop blaming and trying to change someone, and instead change myself. To let go is care about but not always provide care for. Its not fixing everything but showing support in other ways.

It is not judging others critically and realizing we are all fallible human beings. To let go means not constantly being the protector but trusting God to help someone through a hard reality. It means not living in constant denial of truth but accepting that truth. It is not being harsh and critical about another's actions while leaving my own not inspected.

It means living in the moment and recognizing that time cannot be saved. It means recognizing that the past is just that, past, and only the present and the next days to come, which also are the present, hold value. To let go means fear less and love more.

 

Christianity Still Strong

Posted on by Thomas Smith

Two thousand years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, faithful Christians are still standing strong.
In the U.S. in particular, Christianity remains the dominant religion.
"Overall, U.S. adults with college degrees are less religious than others, but this pattern does not hold among Christians," a recent study by Pew Research Center found. "Americans with college degrees are no less likely than others to report attending religious services on a weekly basis."
So regardless of education level, Christian commitment to the faith appears consistent across the spectrum.
"Overall, 70 percent of Christians with college degrees have a high level of religious commitment on a scale incorporating four common measures of religious observance (worship attendance, frequency of prayer, belief in God and the self-described importance of religion in one's life), as do 73 percent of those with some college and 71 percent of those with no college experience," according to Pew, which released its study at the end of April.
The group found that individuals with a college degree are more likely than others to identify as atheist or agnostic.
While roughly 71 percent of Americans consider themselves Christians, some 20 percent of the population , Pew noted.
Back in 2015, the group reported, "An extensive new survey of more than 35,000 U.S. adults finds that the percentages who say they believe in God, pray daily and regularly go to church or other religious services all have declined modestly in recent years ... But the Pew Research Center study also finds a great deal of stability in the U.S. religious landscape. The recent decrease in religious beliefs and behaviors is largely attributable to the 'nones' -- the growing minority of Americans, particularly in the millennial generation, who say they do not belong to any organized faith."
NPR weighed in on this as well: "While church attendance has declined sharply in western Europe, secularization has been less evident in the United States. The number of Americans who list their church affiliation as 'none' has certainly increased, but more than 70 percent still identify generally as Christian."
"Among mainline Protestants, for example, college graduates were actually found to be more likely than non-college graduates to report weekly church attendance," NPR.com noted.
Across the globe, Christianity is still the most popular religion. An estimated 2.2 billion Christians live around the world. Islam, the second largest religion in the world, has an estimated 1.5 billion followers.