Friday, October 29, 2010

U.S. Poll On Christian Contribution To Society

1 in 4 Americans can't think of recent positive contribution by Christians
By Electa Draper, The Denver Post

One in four Americans said they couldn't think of a single positive societal contribution made by Christians in recent years, according to a nationwide survey released Monday.

Also, one in 10 adults said they couldn't think of a recent positive contribution because Christians hadn't made one, the Barna Group reported.

On the positive side, almost one in five mentioned how U.S. Christians help poor and underprivileged people. Those under the age of 25 were most likely to reference such service.

Among other findings, researchers noted that Evangelical Christians over age 25 and those who said they are "mostly conservative" on socio- political matters were least likely to list serving the poor as an important contribution.

"Young Christians are avoiding alignment with politics and power and getting back to basics: love and service," said Gabe Lyons, author of "The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America."

Barna researchers asked two open-ended questions: What were Christians' recent positive contributions and what were the negative ones?

"Overall," researchers noted, "there was a more extensive and diverse list of complaints about Christians and their churches than there was of examples of the benefits they have provided to society."

At the top of the negatives list: One in five Americans, or 20 percent, said Christians have incited violence or hatred in the name of Jesus Christ. Of the non-Christians surveyed, 35 percent gave this response.

Thirteen percent of adults said church opposition to same-sex marriage was a negative. People under age 25 were twice as likely as other Americans to mention this as a problem.

"Young Christians are more empathetic to gay friends, neighbors and the other people in their lives," Lyons said. "It doesn't make sense to them to be 'anti-their friend.' " Lyons said they feel just as strongly about protecting life and opposing abortion.

Twelve percent of those surveyed said churches were too involved in political matters.

Another 12 percent cited the sexual- abuse scandals involving Catholic priests as most negative.

Among the most-mentioned positive contributions: Sixteen percent said Christians' efforts to advance belief in God or Jesus Christ were beneficial, and 14 percent said Christians help shape and protect the values and morals of the country.

Twelve percent said they couldn't think of any negative contributions.

The nonpartisan, for-profit research group conducted the phone survey, taking a random sample of 1,000 adults 18 and older Aug. 16-22. The maximum margin of sampling error given is plus or minus 3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Christian Ad Controversy

Is 'Christian roommate' ad legal?
By Tony Tagliavia

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Is a posting seeking a Christian roommate illegal discrimination or an exercise of constitutional rights?

It's very hard to tell which interpretation of the posting at a Grand Rapids-area church is exactly right, Cooley Law School Associate Professor Paul Sorensen told 24 Hour News 8 on Friday.

"I think it's important to point out that people could choose if they want to -- even under the federal law -- to live with someone who shares their own faith," the professor said. "The problem is, can you advertise seeking that type of person?"

State law appears to allow that advertising, Sorensen said, but it appears the federal Fair Housing Act does not.

The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan -- a local nonprofit -- filed a state civil rights complaint after it received a complaint about the posting, executive director Nancy Haynes said.

"Open and shut -- it's a violation," she said. "What if it said, 'looking for a black roommate,' or 'looking for a white roommate' or 'looking for a Hispanic roommate' ?"

Joel Oster, senior legal counsel for Christian legal group Alliance Defense Fund, said the logic used in the complaint would also mean the woman could not seek a female roommate.

He said ultimately, the issue is a constitutional one.

"They're quibbling," he said. "She has a first amendment right to free speech. She has a first amendment right to the free exercise of religion. And what they're basically telling her is she cannot go out there and seek out a Christian roommate."

Sorensen called that argument "broad ... and frankly, I think other than kind of the first-blush reaction to this, it's probably not going to go very far if it ever got into the courts or even at the civil rights department."

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is investigating the complaint. It was filed in September and the average complaint takes 10 months to investigate, department spokesman Harold Core said.

Haynes said she hopes the issue can be settled before that time passes. She said she wants to see the woman who posted the ad get some training -- and reimburse the Fair Housing Center for its investigation costs.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Crystal Cathedral Files Bankruptcy

*Article first noted on the Religion News Blog:

Crystal Cathedral megachurch, home of "Hour of Power," files for bankruptcy in California

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) — Crystal Cathedral, the megachurch birthplace of the televangelist show "Hour of Power," has filed for bankruptcy in Southern California after struggling to emerge from debt that exceeds $43 million.

In addition to a $36 million mortgage, the Orange County-based church owes $7.5 million to several hundred vendors for services ranging from advertising to the use of live animals in Easter and Christmas services.

The church had been negotiating a repayment plan with vendors, but several filed lawsuits seeking quicker payment, which prompted a coalition formed by creditors to fall apart, church officials said.

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"Tough times never last, every storm comes to an end. Right now, people need to hear that message more than ever," Sheila Schuller Coleman, the Cathedral's senior pastor and daughter of the founder, told reporters Monday outside the worship hall.

"Everybody is hurting today. We are no exception," she said.

The church, founded in the mid-1950s by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller Sr., has already ordered major layoffs, cut the number of stations airing the "Hour of Power" and sold property to stay afloat. In addition, the 10,000-member church canceled this year's "Glory of Easter" pageant, which attracts thousands of visitors and is a regional holiday staple.

Vendors owed money by the church formed a committee in April and agreed to a moratorium to negotiate a repayment plan with the Crystal Cathedral.

Kristina Oliver, whose Hemet-based company provided live animals for the church's "Glory of Christmas" manger scene, said she doubts she will recover in full the $57,000 she is owed.

"The church never made any kind of advancement that they wanted to pay their debt, that they were willing to try to make it happen and every time we tried they told us, 'You can't tell us how to run our business,'" Oliver said.

"I'm upset because I have a 30-year relationship with them and you need to be up front, put all your cards on the table."

Crystal Cathedral was founded at a drive-in theater and attracted congregants with its sermons on the power of positive thinking. It features a soaring glass spire and is an architectural wonder and tourist destination.

The "Hour of Power" telecast, filmed in the cathedral's main sanctuary, at one point attracted 1.3 million viewers in 156 countries.

Church leaders said the telecast and Sunday services will continue while in bankruptcy.

Crystal Cathedral and other megachurches have suffered from the recession and reduced charitable giving.

The church saw revenue drop roughly 30 percent in 2009 and simply couldn't slash expenses quickly enough to avoid accruing the debt, said Jim Penner, a church pastor and executive producer of the "Hour of Power."

Penner said it became difficult to hold the vendors' committee together after several vendors filed lawsuits and obtained writs of attachment to try to collect their cash.

Now, the church is avoiding credit entirely and spends only the roughly $2 million it receives each month in donations and revenue, Penner said. The church still hopes to pay all of the vendors back in full, he said.

"What we're doing now is we're trying to walk what we preach, we're paying cash for things as we go," he said.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Two Chilean Miners Turn To Christ!

*Not only was the preservation and rescue of the Chilean miners miraculous--more acts of God also occurred, as two miners came to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior! Prayfully, more will see the light of the gospel of Christ.

2 Chilean miners accept Christ while trapped underground
Baptist Press, by Tristan Taylor

SANTIAGO, Chile (BP)--José Henríquez leads a small group of men in prayer every evening in northern Chile -- 2,300 feet below the surface of the earth.

For more than two months, 33 Chilean miners have been trapped beneath the desert floor in a chamber the size of a living room. A partial collapse blocked the mine exit Aug. 5.

Chilean Mining Minister Laurence Golborne confirmed Oct. 11 that a trial run of a rescue capsule was successful. The miners' rescue is scheduled to begin at midnight, Oct. 12.

When the mine collapsed, three of the miners -- including Henríquez -- were Christians. Since then, two more of them have made professions of faith.

"It was José who made the request that an evangelical pastor come to minister to the miners and their families," said Bryan Wolf, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary serving in Vallenar, Chile.

Rescue engineer Igor Bravo, a member of First Baptist Church of Santiago, was one of the first to hear of Henríquez's request for a pastor and contacted the Chilean Baptist Union.

Bernardino Morales, director of the Baptist union's Social Testimony Network, searched for a pastor who lived near the mine in Copiapó but no one was available. Two weeks ago he called Marcelo Leiva, pastor of Vallenar Baptist Church in Vallenar, Chile, located about two hours away.

"Pastor," Morales said to Leiva, "it's either you, or it's you."

Leiva's response: "Amen."

The miners had been on the pastor's heart before Bernardino called. He said Bravo contacting the Chilean Baptist Union was the "channel of blessing" that brought him to Camp Esperanza (Hope), where the miners' families are staying.

When Leiva arrived at the camp, he didn't know anyone. But Henríquez's family quickly connected him with other families.

"That [connection] allowed a lot of other people to hear the Word," Leiva says, "and to know that in the midst of this catastrophe, God is in control, and it is the Lord who has kept their family members alive."

The wife of one of the miners who became a Christian since being trapped in the mine met with Leiva over the past two weeks and also accepted Christ.

Miners' families have been staying at Camp Hope for weeks in what Leiva describes as rudimentary conditions. They receive three meals a day and sleep on mats inside government-provided military tents. Despite the simple accommodations, being close to their loved ones brings them comfort.

After the frenzy of activity during the day subsides, Leiva finds the families are more available to talk with him in the evenings. He has noticed the difference between the families who know Christ and the families who do not.

"This has been a testimony to what the Lord can do in a person's life," Leiva said. "Those that are the children of the Lord have been those that have shown, even in the midst of the storm, a testimony of peace, tranquility and trust in the Lord."

At Henríquez's request, Leiva was recently given 10 minutes to speak through a telephone that connects the trapped miners with the rescue crew. Leiva used that time to pray for Henríquez and encourage him.

Henríquez sent a letter to Leiva on behalf of the trapped miners, calling him a blessing and thanking him for being there with their families. Leiva also has been sending down letters of encouragement to the trapped miners.

Besides Leiva, a Pentecostal pastor is the only other evangelical preacher allowed in the camp. The two have been working together when they can and have made a "good team," Leiva said.

Leiva has had the opportunity to witness to family members, Chilean policemen and foreign press -- including a Japanese reporter, Wolfe said. Leiva also wrote down a Scripture portion from Psalms and gave it to Mining Minister Laurence Golborne.

As the rescue draws near, the families in Camp Hope are anxious. Leiva realizes that this unique opportunity to share the Gospel is a fleeting one.

"Let's do our job and fulfill the purpose for which God brought us here," Leiva said. "Not to just have a protagonist role without sharing the Gospel. Because this camp, in a few more days, is going to close and the people will return home.

"Pray that we, the children of God, will do our job," Leiva said.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Racial Diversity In Congregations

Congregations Struggle to Get--and Keep--Racially Diverse Members
Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media
Baylor University

One of the Rev. Martin Luther King's famous statements was that 11 a.m. Sunday morning was "the most segregated hour of Christian America."

More than half a century later -- despite myriad task forces, initiatives and informal efforts by church leaders and congregations to increase racial diversity in the pews -- nine in 10 congregations have a single racial group that accounts for more than 80 percent of their membership, said Dr. Kevin Dougherty, assistant professor of sociology at Baylor University.

Equally significant is that congregations that manage to attract worshippers of other races have difficulty keeping them, according to research by Dougherty and Dr. Christopher P. Scheitle, senior research assistant at The Pennsylvania State University. They co-authored the article "Race, Diversity, and Membership Duration in Religious Congregations" published in the academic journal Sociological Inquiry in August.

"Socially, we've become much more integrated in schools, the military and businesses. But in the places where we worship, segregation still seems to be the norm," Dougherty said.

"It's not just an issue of attraction, of getting them into the door, but of retention," he said. "Can we keep them? Our research indicates that we've not been able to."

In learning whether, and why, minority members leave congregations faster than majority members, Dougherty and Scheitle studied data from the U.S. Congregational Life Survey of 2001, a survey of more than 100,000 worshippers in more than 400 congregations representing more than 50 faith groups.

One theory is that the more groups an organization tries to serve, the less effective it is at serving any specific group. Specialist organizations tend to do better than generalist organizations. And congregations are no different.

A Korean church that tries to add other ethnic groups is still likely to serve its traditional majority better, whether it comes to the type of food served at a potluck, the type of ministries it offers or the use of the Korean language, Dougherty said.

The decision is not necessarily conscious or malicious, but simply a matter of habit and the greater visibility of the majority, according to the article.

"People choose churches where they feel comfortable," Dougherty said. "Maybe they get challenged there, but they're going for the comfort."

But diversity comes with a cost, usually to both minorities and majorities, he said.

In trying to fit in, minority members may feel they are abandoning part of their identity. A 2003 study of a Filipino congregation showed that non-Filipino members tended to have fewer friends within the congregation and felt like outsiders. Such feelings may lead to lower attendance and eventually leaving.

"It doesn't matter whether you're a white member of a Latino church or a black attending a white church or what the specific groups are," Dougherty said. "If you're the under-represented group, do you call it 'my church'? That feeling of 'us' is the key."

Power is another issue. Minority members may feel that they are tokens. Scheitle and Dougherty found that until minority members represent 40 percent of a congregation, they are at a higher risk of leaving.

"That's when we expect retention, when minority members say, 'There's enough of me that I see we have some say,'" Dougherty said. Conversely, once the minority is more than 40 percent, some majority members start to leave.

"Animosity can grow," Dougherty said. "There may be a feeling of 'They're taking our church away from us' or 'They're not doing things our way.' Churches want diversity -- but usually the people who want it most are the ones it costs the least. They aren't the ones sacrificing culture, heritage and customs."

Usually the first members of a minority group to join a congregation are a special type of person, Dougherty said. "Those people are called 'boundary spanners.' They're willing to tolerate risk. They're the pioneers. They pave the way for others from their ethnic group to follow."

Some characteristics of congregations that have been successful in becoming diverse:

• Racially diverse leaders.

• Racially inclusive worship. Diverse congregations "tend to be more expressive, with more clapping, more raising of the hands, more verbal affirmation," Dougherty said. "If you look at congregations of blacks and whites, you'll see more 'Amens' and clapping, but not as much as in a black church. The services likely will last longer, but not last as long as at a black church. Out of diversity comes something that is different for both."

• Opportunities for member interaction. Dougherty sees small groups as helpful for diversity. "Small groups are a powerful way to forge relationships," he said. In previous research, he found that small groups are a common feature of racially mixed congregations.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Albert Mohler Stands Agaist Yoga

My hats off to Albert Mohler for taking a stand against Christians practicing yoga. Christians need to review their bibles and see how God looks at the merging of false religion into our faith in Him. I know of several who feel yoga is ok, and even astrology. It is not ok with God, and if anyone feels yoga amplifies their Christian faith; they probably need to review who their god really is. An article concerning the controversy is below:

9) When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
10) There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,
11) Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
12) For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

*I would not mess with astrology, yoga, horoscopes, hypnosis, mantras,...these things are an abomination!!

ISAIAH 47:10-14
10) For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am , and none else beside me.
11) Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.
12) Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast labored from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.
13) Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.
14) Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.


Southern Baptist leader on yoga: Not Christianity

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Southern Baptist leader who is calling for Christians to avoid yoga and its spiritual attachments is getting plenty of pushback from enthusiasts who defend the ancient practice.

Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler says the stretching and meditative discipline derived from Eastern religions is not a Christian pathway to God.

Mohler said he objects to "the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine."

"That's just not Christianity," Mohler told The Associated Press.

Mohler said feedback has come through e-mail and comments on blogs and other websites since he wrote an essay to address questions about yoga he has heard for years.

"I'm really surprised by the depth of the commitment to yoga found on the part of many who identify as Christians," Mohler said.

Yoga fans say their numbers have been growing in the U.S. A 2008 study by the Yoga Journal put the number at 15.8 million, or nearly 7 percent of adults. About 6.7 percent of American adults are Southern Baptists, according to a 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Mohler argued in his online essay last month that Christians who practice yoga "must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga."

He said his view is "not an eccentric Christian position."

Other Christian leaders have said practicing yoga is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. Pat Robertson has called the chanting and other spiritual components that go along with yoga "really spooky." California megachurch pastor John MacArthur called yoga a "false religion." Muslim clerics have banned Muslims from practicing yoga in Egypt, Malaysia and Indonesia, citing similar concerns.

Yoga proponents say the wide-ranging discipline, which originated in India, offers physical and mental healing through stretching poses and concentration.

"Lots of people come to yoga because they are often in chronic pain. Others come because they think it's a nice workout," said Allison Terracio, who runs the Infinite Bliss studio in Louisville.

And some yoga studios have made the techniques more palatable for Christians by removing the chanting and associations to eastern religions, namely Hinduism and its multiple deities.

Stephanie Dillon, who has injected Christian themes into her studio in Louisville, said yoga brought her closer to her Christian faith, which had faded after college and service in the Army.

"What I found is that it opened my spirit, it renewed my spirituality," Dillon said. "That happened first and then I went back to church." Dillon attends Southeast Christian Church in Louisville and says many evangelical Christians from the church attend her yoga classes.

She said she prayed on the question of whether to mix yoga and Christianity before opening her studio, PM Yoga, where she discusses her relationship with Jesus during classes.

"My objection (to Mohler's view) personally is that I feel that yoga enhances a person's spirituality," Dillon said. "I don't like to look at religion from a law standpoint but a relationship standpoint, a relationship with Jesus Christ specifically."

Mohler wrote the essay after reading "The Subtle Body," where author Stefanie Syman traces the history of yoga in America. Syman noted the growing popularity of yoga in the U.S. by pointing out that first lady Michelle Obama has added it to the festivities at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the front lawn.

Mohler said many people have written him to say they're simply doing exercises and forgoing yoga's eastern mysticism and meditation.

"My response to that would be simple and straightforward: You're just not doing yoga," Mohler said.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Spirit of Perversion

*Some good points in this article from Lee Grady. I still pray he will examine his NAR connections and its theology.


The Fire of Holiness vs. the Spirit of Perversion
By Lee Grady

Moral failure in our ranks has become an epidemic—and the only solution is a heaven-sent spiritual housecleaning.

I'm sure you felt as heartsick as I did when you heard about the nightmarish charges leveled against Atlanta preacher Eddie Long of New Birth Full Gospel Baptist Church. While I passed through two airports last Thursday, CNN was airing the sordid details of the lawsuits filed by two young men who are accusing Long of coercing them into sex. Two more men have since come forward with similar lawsuits.

Whether the charges are true or not (please pray for Long and his church during this ordeal), it was awkward to hear newscasters suggesting that a married Pentecostal bishop had abused his power and carried on secret gay affairs. What's really sad is that in our sexually desensitized culture people don't even blush when they hear such talk about a minister.
"We must preach the full gospel, not a neutered version that avoids any mention of sin, judgment or holiness. The redemption of Jesus does not give us a license to sin, and those who teach such heresy will be held especially liable."

In a sermon last Sunday, Long dismissed the allegations and vowed to fight his accusers. Most members of his 25,000-member church rallied behind him, even after incriminating photos began circulating. Long has not explained the suggestive photos of himself or how the young men obtained them, but he declared he is "not the man" he is portrayed to be in the lawsuits.

At this point it is Bishop Long's word against the four men, and we will soon endure the embarrassment of a civil trial that could be very ugly—and even more shameful if evidence supports the accusations. As with the Catholic child abuse cover-up, and numerous recent scandals among Christian leaders, the name of Jesus will be dragged through the mud and Christians will be broad-brushed as hypocrites who preach one thing and do another.

I started noticing a disturbing trend way before the allegations against Bishop Long surfaced. A sinister spirit of perversion has invaded the ranks of charismatic churches. Here are just a few examples that have been reported to me by people familiar with the situations:

* The leader of one supposedly Christian ministry encouraged the wives of two men to have adulterous affairs, and then asked the women to provide detailed descriptions of their activities
* A group of traveling ministers routinely met for weekend getaways that included wife-swapping
* The male leader of a "prophetic" church on the West Coast seduced several men in his core leadership team. (The church shut down after the sin was exposed.)
* A pastor learned that members of his staff were having sexual affairs in the sanctuary of his church, and he did nothing to stop the debauchery.
* A church in the Southeast hosted a marriage seminar in which Christian couples were encouraged to install poles in their bedrooms so wives could engage in pole dancing prior to sex. (Question: Didn't pole dancing originate in strip clubs? Did someone visit a strip club to get this idea?)

Forgive me for being so graphic. It gives me no pleasure to describe sins that should never be named among believers, especially those who claim to be "Spirit-filled." Any leader who engages in or tolerates such behavior has no business laying his filthy hands on people in a church and pretending to have the Holy Spirit.

The spirit of perversion resembles the cult of Baal worship, which caused ancient Israel to backslide constantly. In the New Testament, it is associated with Jezebel, the priestess of Baal, and it manifests when false teachers invade the church and lead people into idolatry and immorality (see Rev. 2:20). It attacks church leaders because the enemy's goal is to contaminate the people through defiled pulpits.

God raised up an Elijah to confront Baal and Jezebel. To pull down the stronghold of perversion in today's compromised church, we must have an army of fearless men and women who live in the fire of holiness and who preach the Word without compromise. Not perfect people, but those who have allowed the Refiner to consume their selfish pride and materialistic greed—the breeding grounds of perversion. Not self-righteous people, but humble, broken men and women like Elijah, who was prepared on the backside of the desert before he confronted Baal's prophets on Mount Carmel.

We need holiness, and true holiness is not legalism. We preach the mercy of the cross and God's amazing love for sinners. We offer forgiveness and healing to those who have been immoral. The blood of Jesus and the renewing power of the Spirit can free any repentant person from the bondage of sexual sin. But we must also warn believers that those who turn from Christ, and return to perversion, have trampled His blood and "insulted the spirit of grace" (see Hebrews 10:29).

We must preach the full gospel, not a neutered version that avoids any mention of sin, judgment or holiness. The redemption of Jesus does not give us a license to sin, and those who teach such heresy will be held especially liable.

My prayer is a desperate one: Lord, baptize us in the fire of Your holiness! I hope you are desperate for the same flame. Ask Him to rekindle the Refiner's fire in you.