Tag: #FaithUnderFire

Faith Under Fire – Long-term Lessons for Churches – 1/18/24

Faith Under Fire – Long-term Lessons for Churches – 1/18/24

What lessons learned during the “Covid Era” will help congregations thrive into the new future?

We have a return visit from Allison Norton of the Covid Religion Research Project, which is in the third year of a five-year study of 15,000 American congregations. In this new conversation Norton addresses how congregations are poised to either return to pre-pandemic patterns or use their relatively recent discoveries as springboards into faithful ministries.

There are divergent contexts in particular congregations and faith communities. Some are finding exhaustion and frustration are nudging people back toward wanting former programs and patterns. Norton says, though, and churches’ challenges from pre-2020 continue to happen. Other churches are maintaining some of the innovation and experimentation which Covid lockdowns forced upon them. She gives an example of a congregation which has had success with the elimination of large weekly worship events.

The research has found one key factor which is determining congregational health and vitality for current times and moving forward from here: whether or not there is an attitude of optimism.

Allison Norton is a faculty research associate for Hartford International University, based in Connecticut. She also directs the Pastoral Innovation Network of New England (PINNE).

This Lilly-funded study continues through 2025, taking surveys across various denominational and non-denominational churches, and doing in-depth analysis of church change since 2020. Reports, research results and recommendations are on the project’s social media and website: CovidReligionResearch.org , Facebook , X/Twitter , Newsletter

Congregational leaders and denominational networks can use these resources to foster ongoing evaluation, discussion and planning.


In addition to this podcast, you also can listen to our first interview with Allison Norton. That topic centered on how churches have rebounded short-term after however many months or years of shutdown, change and trying new methods.

Faith Under Fire – Christians support for the Jewish State – 01/11/24

Faith Under Fire – Christians support for the Jewish State – 01/11/24

“We have to understand that this is a SPIRITUAL battle, expressed in a MILITARY attack.”

— Susan Michael, on the October 7, 2023, attacks made against the nation of Israel

This week is the 13th week since Hamas militants poured across Israel’s southern border — killing, assaulting and kidnapping citizens of Israel and other nations.

This week, Greg Gillispie interview Susan Michael, the USA director of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. That ministry is praying for and offering tangible forms of support and relief in the Middle East. Some 300,000 citizens and settlers there have fled their homes in these three months, to escape the violence and threats.

ICEJ is also active to address the growing anti-Jewish rhetoric and threats to Jews everywhere.

Michael says Christians — individually and through their churches — need to boldly and confidently speak out against antisemitic violence, demonstrations and hatred. In this “Faith Under Fire” feature, she offers three practical steps which people of faith can undertake, wherever they live.  

This conversation referred to websites such as these:

  • IsraelAnswers.com: Ways for Christians and non-Christians to respond to propaganda which fails to tell the truth about Jews or the nation of Israel
  • Stop Antisemitism:  Action steps to battle against demostrations, protests and threats against America’s Jewish communities
  • Prayer Initiative: The call for the world to pray in these spiritual, cross-cultural, and military battles
  • icejusa.org: The main website of ICEJ, including the 30-year history of this groups active support of Israel and Israelis
Faith Under Fire – Post-Covid Rebounds – 01/04/24

Faith Under Fire – Post-Covid Rebounds – 01/04/24

A five-year research project on congregational vitality began just before the Covid shutdowns began in 2020. (The timing gives informative snapshots of the effect of the closing of church buildings, and the move of church life to electronic connections. It also gives us a long-view of how congregations have rebounded, and why some churches are seeing grow in the new era.)

That research has data from across the U.S. on how local churches fared during the pandemic, and analysis on how congregations have bounced back. Although local situations obviously vary, the national average is that overall worship attendance has nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels. When those who worship online or through social media are included, the average church which offers at least one virtual option is seeing increased participation.

Allison Norton of Hartford International University joins Family Life to talk about the Religion Research Project, how various kinds of congregations are faring now, and what lessons church leaders can take from the Covid era, and what “next steps” seem to be most effective for churches and church networks.

Allison Norton is a faculty associate at Hartford International, and oversees its Covid Religion Research project.

She also directs the Pastoral Innovation Network of New England.

The Covid Religion Research website offers insights from this survey of 15,000 congregations, a research library, and information guides for congregational and denominational leaders. You will find those resources here. The Lilly-funded project also offers a newsletter for past results and future updates.


Faith Under Fire – 2023’s Abortion Battles – 11/30/23

Faith Under Fire – 2023’s Abortion Battles – 11/30/23

Today’s “Faith Under Fire” Feature on Family Life features analysis of how the pro-abortion and pro-life movements have adapted this year, after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v Wade, sending the lawmaking decisions back to each of the 50 states.

Jim Harden is President of Compass Care, which operates pregnancy care centers in Albany, Rochester and Buffalo. One of their facilties was firebombed and vandalized, showing how opposition to the pro-life movement has been harsher and more violent in multiple locations across the country this year. Harden tells Family Life that those who are most strident in making abortions legal are less concerned about women’s rights or women’s health care, but more interested in maintaining their profitable businesses.

He quotes research that indicates that the number of Americans who believe at least some restrictions or oversight of abortion providers has grown this year to the largest percentage in our lifetimes.

There also are new statistics this week that show 32,000 more babies were saved in 2023 than the preceding year.

Incurable Faith – Joy amid Longsuffering – Andrea Herzer (#2) – 11/16/23

Incurable Faith – Joy amid Longsuffering – Andrea Herzer (#2) – 11/16/23

Family Life’s “Faith Under Fire

Andrea Herzer has been journaling about her life with multiple illnesses, debilitating health issues, and a strong inspiring reliance on God. She compiled those writings into a devotional book to encourage others who are looking for that pathway to a life that overflows with the Lord’s sustaining love — no matter what happens with pain, or healing, or suffering, or loss.

Her book’s title recognizes the way that some diagnoses are labeled “incurable”. Yet, she emphasizes that hope and peace can infuse people who face cancer, chronic pain, multiple surgeries, a long convalescence, or any other health issue. Incurable Faith is a partner along that long journey.

This is our second conversation with Herzer. In this interview, she talks about her early days of waiting for healing, as she first sought a return to “normal”. That process of waiting and healing and abiding has now stretched across 20 years. Weaving together her experience and multiple Biblical truths, she offers what she has learned about keeping your spirit at peace. She also encourages caregivers and family members who accompany patients through such processes.

Also: what friends and visitors from church do that is very unhelpful — plus recommendations on ways to be incredibly helpful amid the patience, impatience and loneliness of longsuffering.


You can also listen to our first conversation with Andrea Herzer, and you’ll find resources she recommends.


Resources and background:


Faith Under Fire – Medical Authoritarianism – 11/09/23

Faith Under Fire – Medical Authoritarianism – 11/09/23

Two years ago, there was a split among public opinion about the efficacy of Covid-19 protection methods. <a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/group-scientists-workers-holding-tubes_7333734.htm#query=group%20scientists&position=4&from_view=keyword&track=ais">Image by pikisuperstar</a> on Freepik

Now, our guest contends that even more widespread distrust of public health officials bodes a dangerous future, should another widespread epidemic arise.

A Christian psychology professor says the challenge came when scientists went beyond measuring and analyzing data, also making decisions which should be the prerogative of the elected leaders, or of the people.  Luke Conway is on the faculty of Grove City College. He says it became hard to “follow the science” when some of the scientists were against doing good science by refusing to consider other scientific evidence and other researchers’ observations. Conway contends that most of those who lean into authoritarianism, censorship or name-calling are primarily motivated by fear. He quotes Scripture that “perfect love casts out fear.” [1 John 4:8]

In this Family Life Interview, he also emphasizes the roles for politicians and the general public to take all the available information — from all angles and emphases — and come up with the best decisions. He ends the conversation with his prescription for navigating social strife and cultural disagreements. A Christ-mandated involvement will bring about restoration, consensus and hope — when people of faith start with a good dose of humility, a commitment to love those who disagree, and seek the best welfare of the city, nation or community.


“Early in the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci is reported to have said to Donald Trump: “I just do medical advice. I don’t think about things like the economy and the secondary impacts. I’m just an infectious diseases doctor. Your job as president is to take everything else into consideration.”  —Luke G. Conway, writing for the Institute for Faith and Freedom at Grove City, PA. His full essay on the topic (using a sports rulebook analogy) is e-published here.

Luke Conway is also a fellow at the Institute for Faith and Freedom, and frequently writes about academic research and socio-political trends.


Freedom of Speech & Freedom of Humor – 11/02/23

Freedom of Speech & Freedom of Humor – 11/02/23

The so-called “Cancel Culture” seeks to silence divergent voices, and among those who are being squeezed are today’s humorists.

Comedy outlets — from television shows to magazines to stand-up clubs to websites — are facing increasing pressure to “toe the line” drawn by the “powers that be”.

One proponent of free speech is the leader of the satirical humor website The Babylon Bee. CEO Seth Dillon talks about political speech, social commentary, and the context of public dialogue in our culture. In this special Family Life Interview, Dillon tells about how The Bee was booted off of what was then called Twitter, after it posted a joke about a White House advisor.

Dillon talks about:

  • How humor is one of the best ways to speak the truth, especially when many others aren’t
  • Why many people — with public roles or not — have been frightened or shamed into silence
  • The state of comedy today, and what it says about us
  • Highlights of The Bee’s absurd jokes … which ended up becoming true, which he considers absurd.
  • Why TV shows, writers and online comedians need to skewer the foibles of Democrats and Republicans and social movements of all types.


Seth Dillon says his experience with deplatforming and censorship has placed him on the front lines of the battle for free speech in the public square. In addition to owning and writing for The Bee, Dillon travels the country to speak at conferences and college campuses about the effectiveness of humor, the “moral imperative of mockery”, and the dangers of silencing competing voices. Some of his videos are posted here. The website started as a Christian satire e-publication.

Dillon is in Pennsylvania next week to speak at the “Friends of the Family” Banquet of the Pennsylvania Family Institute. His presentation is Monday, November 6, at Hershey.


A Special Family Life Interview – Riley Gaines & Protection of Women’s Sports – 10/31/23

A Special Family Life Interview – Riley Gaines & Protection of Women’s Sports – 10/31/23

Riley Gaines has been one of the prominent speakers on issues of trans-gender inclusion in women’s sports. The University of Kentucky graduate put her grad school and future dental career on hold, and now travels the country to advocate for women’s sports. She tells Family Life’s Greg Gillispie that her message is not about personal attacks on people who transition to the opposite gender. Rather, she is standing up for safety, dignity and fairness among women and girls — be that in single-sex locker rooms, athletic competition, and dangers when stronger trans athletes share the arena with women. Her advocacy extended beyond sports. She is concerned about men who swap genders going into women’s prisons, safety and decorum in public restrooms, and the lack of truth expressed as this debate roars along.

In this Family Life interview, she also previews her upcoming presentation at Hershey, Pennsylvania, on November 6 (well over 1,000 people are expected to attend). She talks about how her Christian faith has strengthened her calling. She tells how her identity from the Lord helped her face the opposition, cancellations and even a few confrontations she has experienced from those who hold other views.


Riley Gaines Barker won five SEC swimming titles and has been named an All-American 12 times. At a 2022 NCAA Championship, she tied (down to the exact 1/100th of a second) with swimmer Lia Thomas who was born male, and who shared a locker room with born-female athletes.  Thomas was awarded that trophy, despite the tie, because a meet official saw the occasion as an opportunity to support trans athletes succeeding in women’s competitions.

She has testified at the U.S. House and Senate, speaks to college audiences and state legislatures, and is a frequent guest on national and local media outlets. She also started a podcast on women’s rights, sports, and faith. Riley Gaines commends to her supporters this report on Single-Sex Competition in American Sports in our time.

For information (and tickets availability) for her keynote speech at the Pennsylvania Family Institute’s Annual Banquet on Monday, November 6, go to PAFamily.org

Faith Under Fire – Clergy Appreciation – Pastors are “under fire” these days – 10/26/23

Faith Under Fire – Clergy Appreciation – Pastors are “under fire” these days – 10/26/23

Perspectives, especially during Clergy Appreciation Month: Relighting the fire in pastors’ souls

During this Clergy Appreciation Month, this Family Life interview gets an assessment on the stresses and challenges which local pastors and preachers have faced for multiple years.

The Rev. Sandy Hasenauer, a denominational official for 50+ American Baptist Churches in the Rochester/Genesee region of New York, talks about the trends of burn-out and flame-out demonstrated in national surveys. (A Barna survey says 48 to 52% of today’s pastors have “seriously considered leaving the ministry” in the past 12 months.) She offers some practical ways that congregations can boost their pastors in simple and practical ways.

Some techniques which are appreciated by clergy — and their families:

  • simple handwritten notes and cards with a word of encouragement and thanks (handwritten messages, she says, stands out in an e-mail/texting atmosphere
  • offering fair pay and benefits, and reevaluating this compensation annually
  • attending worship in person (pastors have expressed a loss of energy when significant percentages of the church stay home to worship virtually)

Hasenauer tells us that while October is Clergy Appreciation month, there are many ways that church members and congregations’ leadership councils can pray for and demonstrate care for their pastors year-round.

A Pastoral Perspective on the Middle East war – Dave Bretch – 10/19/23

A Pastoral Perspective on the Middle East war – Dave Bretch – 10/19/23

A Spiritual Perspective to the Israel/Hamas War :  How Far Back Does This Conflict Go and What Does the Bible have to say about it?

Issues involved in the latest war between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East are complicated and complex.

A southern New York pastor who has traveled to the Holy Lands offers his perspectives and Biblical insights on the tragic war which fired up less than two weeks ago in southern Israel.

Dave Bretch is pastor of Beartown Road Alliance Church near Corning.  Bob Price, anchor of the Family Life Noon Report, aired an extended interview with Rev. Bretch. Topics include:

  • Everyday realities and dangers faced by Christians living in Israel and the areas surrounding it.
  • History — and the philosophy — which formed the 20th-Century nation of Israel
  • Biblical background on the fighting over that small but vital geography
  • Bretch’s personal memories of his trip to the West Bank, and what people there face



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