QUOTE: “Those distinctions, which seemed so important as the various Protestant churches were identifying and evolving ... are really not that important to the average churchgoer in the United States.” —Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University, reacting to a recent study showing Americans are more loyal to the brands of their toothpaste or toilet paper than to their church denomination. The Ellison Research survey found that only 16 percent of all Protestants would consider only one denomination (compared to 22 and 19 percent who would do the same with toothpaste and toilet paper). Last year, a similar study from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life revealed that 44 percent of all Americans had switched from one denomination to another. “It has become unfashionable to claim to be denominationally loyal,” commented Nancy Ammerman, a sociologist of religion at Boston University School of Theology. “It has become ... kind of the way people expect to talk about their religiosity, to say that they wouldn’t put denomination above some other important criteria. … You can have very, very theologically conservative Presbyterian churches and very, very liberal Presbyterian churches, so people have sort of also gotten into their heads that the label on the door doesn’t tell them what they need to know.” [Religion News Service, 2/3/09]
As if Britain needed any more proof of its complete secularization, a nurse working in North Somerset, England, has been suspended for simply offering to pray for a patient. A registered nurse for more than 25 years, Caroline Petrie was caring for an elderly woman at the woman’s home when Petrie asked if she would like her to pray for her. The woman politely declined but complained to Petrie’s authorities the following day, which prompted an initial warning. The day after, however, Petrie was informed that she would not be allowed to work until the incident was fully investigated.
“We always take any concerns raised by our patients most seriously and conscientiously investigate any matter of this nature brought to our attention,” a spokesman for North Somerset Primary Care Trust said. “We are always keen to be respectful of our patients’ views and sensitivity as well as those of our staff.”
According to multiple sources, the elderly woman “said that she wasn’t offended but was concerned that someone else might be.” Petrie, who attends a Baptist church with her husband and two children, mentioned that she often offers to pray for her patients, many of whom take up her offer. “My concern is for the person as a whole, not just their health.”
Last October the 45-year-old nurse was reprimanded for an incident in which she gave a patient a homemade “prayer card.” Although the elderly man had happily accepted the item, his caregiver reported Petrie, which prompted her boss at the time to remind her, “Your NMC [Nursing Midwifery Council] code states that ‘you must demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity’ and ‘you must not use your professional status to promote causes that are not related to health.’”
Following her suspension, Petrie sought the help of the Christian Legal Centre, an organization of legal representative organization seeking to promote religious freedom and, in particular, protect Christians. She will learn later this week whether she’ll lose her job or be allowed to resume duties. [telegraph.co.uk, 2/1/09; bbc.co.uk, 2/1/09]
“The original gospel comes with signs and wonders, and what we witnessed last week was absolutely glorious. Miracles upon miracles,” Bonnke said in a ministry statement. “Without the miraculous the gospel would be an empty shell. But Jesus Christ is the same today. Miracles identify Him.”
Bonnke said there were numerous reports of the blind receiving sight and the lame walking. One man reported that he had been healed of HIV/AIDS. “One pastor had been shot in the arm by robbers and the arm had died,” said Bonnke, who led the meetings with evangelist David Kolenda. “He had spent a small fortune on doctors trying to save the arm, but they were unable to restore it and so he was scheduled to have it amputated. ... After the prayer, he received feeling in his hand again and use of two of his fingers, and his hand was still improving in real time as he gave his testimony.”
In another meeting, Bonnke said a 35-year-old man who had been unable to speak or hear since birth suddenly regained his hearing and was able to pronounce words after receiving prayer. Another man, who was born lame and at age 32 had been crawling from place to place his entire life, walked for the first time. On yet another night, a woman who had been unable to walk properly because of an accident leaped on the platform.
“We ought to have a blazing neon sign in every church with the words: ‘This Same Jesus,’” Bonnke said. “The Jesus we point to is the Jesus of saving grace, miracle power and healing mercy. What He was in the past He still is today. What He did in days gone by He still does in our day. When we preach Jesus as He is, He reveals Himself in confirmation of what is said.”
Along with the evangelistic meetings, CFAN hosted a Fire Conference where indigenous church leaders were taught about the power of the Holy Spirit and evangelism. Bonnke said “tens of thousands” of people were baptized in the Holy Spirit during the training.
“Thousands upon thousands of wonderful Christians were soaking up the Word of God,” Bonnke said. “Our mission is power, not routine. Our role is that of power men, laying the power lines into powerless lives. Then Jesus does the rest.”
A native of Germany, Bonnke has been leading evangelistic crusades throughout Africa for more than 30 years, at times drawing more than a million people to one event. In 2000, he began a campaign to see 100 million come to Christ in that decade. So far, CFAN has recorded more than 44 million decisions for Christ.
CFAN’s next crusade will be held in Mubi, Nigeria, in February. [charismamag.com, 1/30/09]
QUOTE: “I have two principles that guide my decisions as a father, a husband and a pastor. … Principle One: Do the right thing, for the right reason, even at my own hurt. Principle Two: Say what you mean and mean what you say. These two principles were put to the test this past week as I navigated the media frenzy surrounding the new allegations involving our church. I have told several close friends this week that it is really hurtful to be criticized so strongly for simply doing the right thing. I actually believe it is easier to accept criticism after doing something wrong. If that were the case, I would stand before my family, my church and the media and simply accept the responsibility and the consequences. But when no wrong act has been committed, it hurts to be misunderstood or questioned. … When my integrity is questioned, I try not to be defensive but I also want truth. In the end, I know God sees my heart and ultimately He is my judge. I trust my reputation into His hands and believe that He will ultimately defend me. … These two principles are big leadership ideas that I hope are adopted by everyone in a position of influence or authority. It is a sacred responsibility to lead people and I consider it an honor to be called pastor. —New Life Church senior pastor Brady Boyd, blogging after a week in which he and his church’s leadership were criticized for concealing certain details involved in the Ted Haggard scandal [newlifeblogs.com, 1/30/09]
Though it’s a pastor’s dream to shepherd a flock of mature, passionate believers concerned about living out their faith each day, most would settle for leading those who are simply “concerned about religion.” So where are you most likely to find such spiritually minded individuals in the United States? According to more than 350,000 people who answered the question “Is religion an important part of your daily life?” your best bet—not surprisingly—is to head to the Bible Belt.
Eighty-five percent of respondents in Mississippi answered yes to the Gallup Poll question, making it the “most religious” state in the country. Close behind were Alabama (82 percent), South Carolina (80 percent), Tennessee (79 percent), Louisiana (78 percent) and Arkansas (78 percent). On the other side of the spectrum were (in order): Vermont (42 percent); New Hampshire (46 percent); Maine (48 percent); Massachusetts (48 percent) and Alaska (51 percent).
Experts say although the concern for religion among individuals is obviously regionally characterized—with the South being the most religious and New England being the least—the reasons for this aren’t so clear. For instance, despite its high population of African-Americans (who are comparatively more religious than other races), Mississippi still would rank as the most religious state even if only the white population were considered.
Overall, 65 percent of all Americans said religion was a daily priority. [Religion News Service, 1/30/09]
QUOTE: “My wife and I just started the P90X workout program. (And yes, it is as intense as the infomercials indicate.) We’re up at 5 a.m. and are getting our behinds kicked for a full hour, six days a week. Persecution is the P90X of the church. It will help us lose the fat of carnality, build our heart rate as we love Jesus and others (especially our enemies) and rip our spiritual muscles out. Why do you think the early church was so spiritually chiseled? They were chased, beaten, crucified and flogged. … I believe there will be many churches who give into the coming cultural and political pressure to take their foot off of the evangelistic gas peddle and stamp hard on the doctrinal brakes. These churches will buy the lie that they are making more of a difference by being culturally relevant. They will hide behind the fact that they are doing acts of social justice and preaching an evangelism without words. But evangelism without words is the oxyest moron of all. These churches will preach a nice Jesus in the nicest part of the Gospels. They will stay away from the angry parts of the Old Testament and the ‘not so nice’ parts of the Gospels. … The divide between these two kinds of churches in a P90X future will be much wider and deeper than they are today. I am convinced pastors and church leaders will have to pick a side. Because in this kind of future there is no middle ground.” —youth ministry leader Greg Stier of Dare 2 Share Ministries, offering his take on the future church in the United States [christianpost.com, 1/29/09]