REVEREND ARTHUR JONES, LEAD PASTOR OF ST. ANDREW UMC’S CONTEMPORARY SERVICE-THE WELL,
AND HIS FATHER, BISHOP SCOTT J. JONES, RELEASE NEW BOOK TOGETHER:
"ASK" - Faith Questions in a Skeptical Age
BOOK SIGNING EVENT ON SEPTEMBER 15
Rev. Arthur Jones,a fifth generation Methodist minister and lead pastor of St. Andrew United Methodist Church’s Contemporary Worship Services, The Well, has co-authored his first book, ASK – Faith Questions in a Skeptical Age, with his father, Bishop Scott J. Jones. The book, which will be released in September by Abingdon Press, is now available for pre-order on Amazon for $14.99.
“The goal of this book is to let people know that it’s OK to ask questions – it’s how you find your framework for understanding your faith,” said Rev. Jones. “We live in a skeptical age. People – especially young people – express doubts about Christian faith. This book addresses the hard questions that all of us face when considering faith, religion and the church, and it does so in an understandable format that does not assume the reader has any previous background on religion.”
The questions addressed in the book include: Can only one religion be true? Why is there suffering and evil? How can I believe in science and creation? How can I believe in a God I can’t prove? Can I trust the Old Testament? Are marriage, sex, and family life religious issues? Was Jesus’ resurrection real? Why do Christians disagree about so many things?
“This is a book I wish I had had the first four years I was at St. Andrew, leading young adults in Bible Study,” added Rev. Jones. “Most conversations we had during that time as well as many I have today come from some form of these questions.”
Along with the book, a study guide and a DVD can be purchased of Rev. Arthur Jones and four other young adults that discuss the content and provide a launching place for small group discussions of these questions.
A graduate of Duke Divinity School, Rev. Jones, 31, has led his congregation at St. Andrew to an average attendance of 650 in less than three years. His father, the resident bishop of the Great Plains area of the United Methodist Church, previously served on the faculty at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University as well as pastor of three congregations in North Texas. Bishop Scott is the author of several previous books including The Wesleyan Way, The Evangelistic Love of God & Neighbor, Staying at the Table, and Wesley and the Quadrilateral, also published by Abingdon Press.
Rev. Jones first pitched the idea of the book to his father approximately one year ago. After reading The Wesleyan Way, his father’s first writing directed to lay people, as his previous books have been written for seminary students, Rev. Jones wished for a prequel to that book – something that could be shared with an even broader market.
“After discussing the idea with my father, we shared our thoughts with his publisher and heard back from them within 30 minutes,” added Rev Jones. “And the rest is history!”
To start the process, Rev. Jones drove to his father’s home in Wichita, Kansas, to discuss content for the book and spent four days working with him on an outline. They each wrote four chapters, which include a Rapid Response summary at the end of each chapter, providing readers a suggested short answer to the featured question.
“My Dad is a very precise, methodical man, so I had to learn how to operate in that sense,” added Rev. Jones. “But the great thing was that we saw eye to eye on our thoughts and vision for the book and the ways to answer these challenging questions.”
Bishop Scott Jones stands in a line of Methodist ministers stretching back to his maternal great-grandfather. His father, Jameson Jones, was a national United Methodist leader and served as dean of Duke Divinity School, as would Bishop Jones’ younger brother, L. Gregory Jones. His son Arthur Jones joined the staff of St. Andrew UMC in 2010 as an associate pastor, serving as lead pastor of The Well since its services began in 2012.
"I am so proud of my son and all he has accomplished,” added Bishop Jones. “It was great to work together on an important project like this.”
St. Andrew UMC will explore the book in all of its worship services through a multi-week sermon series, beginning September 13. Authors Rev. Jones and Bishop Jones invite the community to attend a special book signing and discussion on September 15, at 7 p.m., at St. Andrew, in Smith Worship Center where the contemporary service meets at the church. No reservations needed, and books will be available for purchase that night.
“The pastoral staff is excited about this new series, which demonstrates that St. Andrew is a church that welcomes these tough questions,” added Rev. Jones. “I can’t help but recite Matthew 7:7: ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.’ We want you to ask questions, explore your faith, and achieve greater understanding.”
“St. Andrew has always been a church that has encouraged me to think and ask questions,” said Lyndie Bishop, a church member. “I remember during one sermon series, Rev. Jones announced that he would be at a certain Starbucks location at a certain time for several weeks, and he told people if they had any questions or something they wanted to talk about, to come by and visit with him. In my opinion that was a brilliant idea. It provided a relaxed, comfortable format for discussion. The truth of the matter is there are many of us that have questions, but we afraid to ask because it might show we have doubts about our faith or we are not knowledgeable about the Bible or religious teachings. This is a book that doesn’t require you to have any previous knowledge. It also makes you think while challenging you to grow your faith.”
Since Rev. Arthur Jones began the contemporary services at St. Andrew UMC in 2012, his goal has been to create a substantive worship service that engages people and explains why faith matters.
“It has been wonderful to watch the impact our contemporary service has had on this church over the last few years,” said Senior Pastor Robert Hasley. “The contemporary service is the growing edge of this church. The number of young couples and parents with children up to age 2 attending worship at St. Andrew is much higher than it was four years ago. Rev. Jones and the contemporary worship team are reaching young adults at a time when research is reporting a severe decline of worshippers among this age group.”
According to the May 15, 2015, Pew Research Report, the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced in young adults. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations.
“I don’t think these non-Christian Millennials are atheist or agnostic,” added Rev. Jones. “I think they are bored. They don’t understand why faith matters, and they are not finding any relevance in Christian teachings. The church has failed to explain and answer well. There is hope with the church and in a church community, which can help you accomplish the good things that God wants for your life.
We are optimistic that this book and the fall sermon series will get people to think about their faith and what it really means. It’s OK to ask questions.”
For more information, visit http://www.askfaithquestions.com