"Many Americans have heard about the tens of thousands who are active in the underground North Korean church, but an equally amazing trend is the growing number of North Korean exiles who are eager to return to China and North Korea to reach their countrymen," says H.S. Foley, chief executive officer of Seoul USA.
Though based in Colorado Springs, Colo., Seoul USA takes in North Korean exiles in Seoul, South Korea, and trains them for a year to take the gospel to fellow North Koreans in North Korea, China or various other countries. The ministry recently launched this equipping program under a new initiative called Underground University.Said Foley: "The fact that North Koreans are eager to risk their lives by returning to North Korea to spread the Christian message makes us want to equip them with the comprehensive training they'll need to survive." [christiannewswire.com, 2/12/09]
While the ongoing “battle of the billboards“ continues across the Pond between an atheist group and Christians, a university-based ministry is taking another approach to telling the truth about God.
In January, the British Humanist Association (BHA) launched a marketing campaign that plastered more than 800 buses in London with an ad reading: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Response from various Christian organizations and believers has ranged from countering billboard ads to one bus operator refusing to drive his “no God”-labeled bus.
Now Christian Unions (CU), a collegiate ministry working on campuses throughout the United Kingdom, is using the highly publicized showdown to further discussions among young adults about God. Over the next two months, student leaders within the ministry will distribute more than 400,000 free copies of a special student edition of Mark’s Gospel.
“Richard Dawkins [the prominent atheist who endorsed the BHA campaign] is to be thanked for once again, raising the profile of God,” said CU communications manager Pod Bhogal. “His book The God Delusion was a brilliant platform for CUs to host events where the claims about God and Jesus Christ could be openly discussed, and through that, people have become Christians. Now his bus adverts clearly proclaim that atheists cannot be sure. This is evidently not a good basis to stop worrying! … Apathy is the greatest spiritual danger in our land, whereas Dawkins’ militant atheism gets everybody thinking and talking. We are grateful to him for keeping God on the nation’s agenda.”
As a follow-up to the Gospel distribution, CU is organizing outreach events such as lunchtime public forums, debates, lectures, question-and-answer sessions and café meetings. [christianpost.com, 2/5/09]
QUOTE: “Relevancy means speaking to the true battles people are facing in terms of depression, exhaustion, joblessness, inability to connect with God, etc. I do not see most pastors at all in touch with how the majority of their listeners have no idea how to hear from God. This should be a top priority. Relevancy is understanding what your typical parishioner goes through; everything from killer rush hours to family breakdowns. … Part of the problem is that pastors do not want to admit that much of Christianity does not work. So many of the promises in Scripture simply don’t come true, and people cannot wrap their minds around that contradiction. Now, there are ways around this, but it’s the rare pastor who gets it that people are struggling with what their lives are like and what the Bible stays—and the wide gulf in between. Speaking to those hard spots would be so helpful. … After a while people think they must be awful Christians because the system is not working for them, so they drop out out of sheer discouragement. That does not need to happen, yet this goes on all the time. Folks hate being part of something in which all they do is fail.” —Quitting Church author Julia Duin, who was part of the Jesus movement and charismatic renewal movement, on why most American churches have failed in their attempts to be “relevant” and, consequently, why so many Americans have stopped going to church [beliefnet.com, 2/3/09]
The Christian founder of a worldwide house-building ministry, which has erected nearly 200,000 homes in 100 countries since 1976, died last Tuesday after a brief illness. He was 74.
Family and friends referred to Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity, as a “true servant leader” with a “genuine heart” that was dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide.
“We are truly overwhelmed with the love and support from family, friends and supporters of my father’s work from all over the country and the world,” Fuller’s son, Chris, said on behalf of the Fuller family. “Despite the loss of a beloved husband, father and grandfather, our spirits are high. We know that Dad is in heaven now, and we will celebrate his life’s accomplishments and continue to carry out his vision.”
Fuller expanded his missionaryvision for helping the poor build houses four years ago, when he opened the Fuller Center for Housing in Americus, Ga. He dedicated the Fuller Center as “a Christ-centered, faith-driven organization witnessing the love of God by providing opportunities for families to have a simple, decent place to live.”
Fuller’s many decades of philanthropy inspired a wide range of fans and supporters worldwide, including past U.S. presidents. On Tuesday, former President Jimmy Carter issued a statement in which he called Fuller “one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known,” according to a statement received by the Fuller Center. “He used his remarkable gifts as an entrepreneur for the benefit of millions of needy people around the world by providing them with decent housing,” Carter said. “As the founder of Habitat for Humanity and later the Fuller Center, he was an inspiration to me, other members of our family and an untold number of volunteers who worked side-by-side under his leadership.”
In the past, former President Bill Clinton said he didn’t think it was an exaggeration to say: “Millard Fuller has literally revolutionized the concept of philanthropy.”
Fuller is survived by his wife of 50 years, Linda Caldwell Fuller, their four children: Chris, Kim, Faith and Georgia, and nine grandchildren. [charismamag.com, 2/4/09]
According to the Fund for Theological Education, fewer than half of all rural churches have a full-time, seminary-trained pastor. And for the first time ever, the majority of seminary graduates aren’t from rural areas. When the higher cost of attracting new pastors is factored in (those with seminary degrees now average a starting salary of $35,000), this means most rural churches now face a triform, cyclical dilemma: 1) Fewer pastors are willing to lead a rural church because 2) these dwindling (and aging) congregations can’t afford to pay high enough salaries to at least cover their seminary debt—which 3) ultimately leads to fewer new leaders and pastors emerging from such communities.
In recent years, dozens of small-town churches have responded to the problem by “sharing” a pastor with other congregations. Some ministers travel hundreds of miles in a weekend to serve as many as five churches (which have even crossed denominational lines). Yet many congregations—particularly in the Midwest, where only one in five has a full-time pastor with a seminary degree—have been forced to close.
“It’s a religious crisis, for sure,” said Daniel Wolpert, a 30-something seminary graduate who serves as pastor of First Presbyterian in Crookston, Minn. “And to the extent that these churches are anchoring institutions, it’s a crisis of community.” [time.com, 1/29/09]