MAY and CAN...

Philippians 4:13 – “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”

I remember my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Burch, drilling the class on the fundamentals of proper usage of often misused words. We started with homophones and moved onto common grammatical errors. Most particularly, the use of “can” and “may”. (Today the two are used interchangeably when asking for permission.) But, to Mrs. Burch, the error of using the wrong word when asking for permission was enough to have you stay after school to “dust all the erasers”. On one particular day, Cody Pirkle walked up to Mrs. Burch’s desk and said, “Mrs. Burch, can I go to the “Lieberry” to get a book on pigs for my essay?” – Mrs. Burch peered over her half-rim glasses and in genteel voice that was as soft as the fluffy powder blue cashmere sweater she wore in the classroom almost every day and with a long drawn out Southern Drawl, “Well, Mr. Pirkle, I do not know the answer to your inquiry, but you may make a foray to the book repository and may I suggest you visit the reference section while you are perusing the periodicals so that you

might determine the proper formal usage of modal and semi- modals in our common vernacular?”.

There used to be a distinction between Can and May. Can denoted ability to do (usually physical ability) and may was used to ask or grant permission to do something or go somewhere.

Attending Church Is a Good Indicator of Faith Practice

Even though a majority of Americans identify as Christian and say religious faith is very important in their life, these huge proportions belie the much smaller number of Americans who regularly practice their faith. When a variable like church attendance is added to the mix, a majority becomes the minority. When a self-identified Christian attends a religious service at least once a month and says their faith is very important in their life, Barna considers that person a “practicing Christian.” After applying this triangulation of affiliation, self-identification and practice, the numbers

The following is from an article published by the Barna Research Group in September of last year.

The Christian church has been a cornerstone of American life for centuries, but much has changed in the last 30 years. Americans are attending church less, and more people are experiencing and practicing their faith outside of its four walls. Millennials, in particular, are coming of age at a time of great skepticism and cynicism toward institutions—particularly the church. Add to this the broader secularizing trend in American culture, and a growing antagonism toward faith claims, and these are uncertain times for the U.S. church. Based on a large pool of data collected over the course of this year, Barna conducted an analysis on the state of the church, looking closely at affiliation, attendance and practice to determine the overall health of Christ’s Body in America.

Most Americans Identify as Christian

Debates continue to rage over whether the United States is a “Christian” nation. Some believe the Constitution gives special treatment or preference to Christianity, but others make their claims based on sheer numbers—and they have a point: Most people in this country identify as Christian. Almost three-quarters of Americans (73%) say they are a Christian, while only one-fifth (20%) claim no faith at all (that includes atheists and agnostics). A fraction (6%) identify with faiths like Islam, Buddhism, Judaism or Hinduism, and 1 percent are unsure. Not only do most Americans identify as Christian, but a similar percentage (73%) also agree that religious faith is very important in their life (52% strongly agree + 21% somewhat agree).

drop to around one in three U.S. adults (31%) who fall under this classification. Barna researchers argue this represents a more accurate

picture of Christian faith in America, one that reflects the reality of a secularizing nation.

Another way Barna measures religious decline is through the “post- Christian” metric. If an individual meets 60 percent or more of a set of factors, which includes things like disbelief in God or identifying as atheist or agnostic, and they do not participate in practices such as Bible reading, prayer and church attendance (full description below), they are considered post-Christian. Based on this metric, almost half of all American adults (48%) are post-Christian.

One of the most interesting “takeaways” for me was the startling statistic that “regular” church attendance is now considered just one Sunday a month!!! Some people may hear the results of the Barna research and may be resigned to give up and bemoan the decline in church attendance. While still others may adopt an attitude of, “Well, we are here every Sunday and if folks want to come the doors are open.” And still, others may opine the “good old days” when Church was the only option for social engagement and interchange. OR, we CAN, seek to “do” something to change the trend.

We CAN accept the MAY Challenge. Once you invite folks to attend worship with you- then you MAY follow-up and invite them to lunch with you and then you MAY invite them to your class or small group, too!

My Daddy had a favorite saying, “Can’t never could.” If we don’t invite folks, they probably won’t come to worship on their own. You MAY be saying, “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t attend church!” Then I say to you, “You MAY need to expand your circle of friends so you CAN invite your “new” friends to worship with you at Rome First.” You MAY choose to invite folks to go with you to the place(s) where you serve in the community as a way of introducing them to some of the other members of the faith community at Rome First. Or, you MAY be saying, “I CAN’T invite folks; what if they say ‘NO’?” Then I say to you, “You MAY say you CAN’T but I believe you CAN and MAY be surprised when you try and find that you CAN invite folks and that they MAY choose to come and see for themselves the great things that are happening in the lives of the people of Rome First.

You have both permission and ability. You MAY choose how to use the ability you have to help others see that they CAN be a part of a loving faith filled faithful community.

People usually do what they want to do. Perhaps, they might choose to come to worship with you at Rome First if you invited them? They might and they could. Because they MAY and they CAN. (If they say they Can’t because they don’t drive, then you MAY tell them that you will come and pick them up!)

At Rome First we have open hearts, open minds and open doors. Rome First is a great place to worship and the people of Rome First are kind, generous, welcoming and fun! WOW! Sounds like the perfect invitation...? You MAY use it and Yes, You CAN!

See you in worship in MAY! I am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to meet your “new” friends and welcome them to worship at Rome First! You MAY tell your friends they might just come to worship just to see what surprise I might have in store for the month of MAY. I CAN come up with some interesting “off the wall” applications for living out our faith. I might and I could!

Shalom, Robert ><>