Ministry News

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Prophetic Movement Leader Dies

Jill Austin, a prominent prophetic minister and founder of Master Potter Ministries, died on Friday evening after an intestinal problem resulted in two emergency surgeries last week. She was 60.

Austin’s unexpected death came ahead of several conferences at which she was to be the featured speaker, including this Friday’s New Year Prophetic Glory Conference in Islandia, N.Y., hosted by prophetic evangelist Matt Sorger. “She was taken quickly, but her life and inspiration will live on through many still here on earth,” said Sorger, who said Austin’s ministry deeply impacted his own.

“Jill carried an unusual anointing of fire, zeal and passion for Jesus,” he said. “Holy Spirit was her closest friend. Angels were her companions. She was full of life and was great fun to be with. My heart will greatly miss this fiery prophet, but my spirit rejoices that she is now dancing with Jesus in glory with a brand new body.”

According to Austin’s California-based ministry, doctors last Tuesday discovered that Austin’s intestines were twisted and cutting off her blood supply. With a life-threatening infection setting in, she underwent two emergency surgeries during which parts of her stomach, intestines and colon were removed.

On Thursday, Steve Shultz, founder of the Elijah List prophetic-ministry Web portal and a personal friend of Austin’s, sent an urgent prayer alert via e-mail asking intercessors to pray for a miracle in Austin’s body.

Early Friday morning Austin’s blood pressure was dangerously low and her kidneys were beginning to fail. Friends at her ministry posted a prayer update that morning saying Austin needed “a creative miracle.”

“Jill is in the most crucial hour of her life,” they stated.

Austin was ultimately unable to recover and died Friday evening.

“Our beloved Jill went home to be with Jesus,” her staff stated on the Web site. “Thank you all for standing with us and praying. She is now with her best friend, Holy Spirit, and dancing with her destiny.”

During a memorial service for Austin held on Monday afternoon at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) based in Kansas City, Mo., Patricia King, founder of Extreme Prophetic, said she will dearly miss her longtime friend. “Jill was the most amazing woman of God I've ever known,” King said. “So full of fire ... she had this way of convicting me, so deep, but with such love. Many of us here, and many around the world, will never be the same because of Jill Austin.”

Austin was a veteran leader within the prophetic movement. She was described on her ministry Web site as having “a catalytic and prophetic anointing” that could “break open the heavens.” She taught about the presence and power of the Holy Spirit for nearly three decades both at conferences worldwide and through CDs and books such as Dancing With Destiny and the allegorical Master Potter series.

Sorger said Austin celebrated her 60th birthday in Israel last year—ironically the 60th anniversary of the modern Jewish state—and that he recalls Austin telling people she was going to get married in 2009. It turns out that “she was,” he said. “To Jesus, her Bridegroom.”

Austin, who often spoke of her passion for theater, music, movies and dance, was also an instructor at IHOP’s Forerunner School of Prayer.

“I will always remember Jill for the way she valued the presence of the Holy Spirit and how she strengthened us in her prophetic ministry,” said Mike Bickle, founder of IHOP. “I will remember her courage to take a stand for what she believed in and her hunger for deeper intimacy with Jesus.”

Born and raised in Hollywood, Austin was an award-winning professional potter. She used her clay and potter’s wheel on stage in the early years of her ministry while speaking softly to audiences about the love and tenderness of God.

“As clay vessels, each of us must take a journey,” Austin wrote in a 1998 article in Spirit-Led Woman magazine. “The steps in this journey can be painful but are necessary for us to be transformed from broken bits of clay into anointed vessels that reflect the glory of the Lord.

“At the moment when you just know you're going to die, the Lord opens all the dampers,” she said of the spiritual refining process. “Shaking and crying, healing and deliverance, deep repentance and intercession fill the kiln as hungry hearts cry out for more of God. When the Lord walks through the kiln and sees Himself reflected on each vessel as in a mirror, He turns off the kiln. The Master Potter has perfected His work of art.”

During more recent ministry, Austin called Christians to “infiltrate” the media, urging believers to be proactive when receiving revelations from God through dreams, visions and visitations.

“I was captivated by Jill’s zeal and fire in the Lord,” Sorger said. “I’ll never forget her famous words: ‘Do you want a visitation? How hungry are you? Is your shadow dangerous?’ Her passion stirred a hunger in my heart for more of Holy Spirit.

“I honor the life she lived in devotion to God,” he added. “I honor the anointing she carried on her life. I honor her friend, Holy Spirit. I believe when a seed is planted in the ground, it does not remain alone, but it produces a harvest. I believe Jill’s life will be multiplied through those who knew and were impacted by her.”

Austin is survived by two sisters, Judith and Joan; one brother, Jon Mark; and several nieces and nephews.

Funeral services were held Monday afternoon near IHOP in Lee’s Summit, Mo. A second memorial service will be held on Friday at Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, Calif.  Check the Master Potter Web site for further details. [charismamag.com, 1/12/09]

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Global Church Crying for Cease-fire

Churches around the world echoed a singular cry last week calling for a cease-fire to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. In the United Kingdom, leaders from Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities met and released a statement urging British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to expend greater effort in ending the violence that has killed more than 850 Palestinians—including 230-plus children—and 13 Israelis since it began on Dec. 27. In addition, more than 3,300 people have reportedly been injured amid the conflict.

Both Israel and Hamas leaders have ignored a U.N. Security Council mandate to stop fighting, instead continuing the barrage of rocket fire and bombings throughout Southern Israel and the Gaza Strip. In explaining the massive discrepancy of fatalities between the two sides, Israel claims Hamas is using civilians as human shields.

“Behind all the horrors of death and destruction in Gaza are human faces and human stories,” said the statement released by British religious leaders. “Behind all the statistics for those killed and wounded, on either side, are human beings, each one a child of God.” Among those also officially calling for cease-fire are the World Council of Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Church of the Brethren. Several other parachurch ministries are involved in providing immediate aid to families caught amid the crossfire.

“What you see on television cannot be compared to what is happening,” reported Manuel Musallam, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Gaza City. “The word love is choking in my throat. … We are living like animals in Gaza. We cry and nobody hears us. I am asking God for mercy and pray that the light of Christianity continues to shine in Gaza.” [christianpost.com, 1/11/09; Catholic News Service, 1/5/09]

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Setting the Captives Free

QUOTE: “As a Christian, I can’t be satisfied knowing there are people living in such a condition. As a Christian, I’m a steward of the image of God. And every person on the face of the earth bears that image. I became responsible for Eka the day I met her.” —former Portland, Ore., youth pastor Mike Mercer, who founded and directs a nonprofit ministry called Compassion First to help individuals such as Eka, a young Indonesian sex slave, not only break free from her life as a prostitute, but also integrate into a rehabilitation and education network. Compassion First is one of the many emerging ministries trying to reach the estimated 27 million-plus slaves worldwide—an effort USA Today columnist Tom Krattenmaker says is indicative of “what evangelical Christianity increasingly looks like in the new century, and in the new paradigm.” [usatoday.com, 1/12/09] read more

In Jesus’ Name

The drama surrounding Rick Warren’s forthcoming invocation at President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremony just won’t subside. After being maligned by both gay-rights groups and evangelicals for accepting Obama’s invitation, the Saddleback Church pastor is now being grilled on whether he’ll offer his prayer in the name of Jesus.

“I’m a Christian pastor so I will pray the only kind of prayer I know how to pray,” Warren stated last week in a written response. “Prayers are not to be sermons, speeches, position statements nor political posturing. They are humble, personal appeals to God.”

At George W. Bush’s inauguration, both Franklin Graham and Kirbyjon Caldwell concluded their prayers in Jesus’ name—including Caldwell’s delivery “in the name that’s above all other names, Jesus the Christ”—which drew harsh criticism and led to renowned atheist Michael Newdow claiming in a lawsuit the utterance was an “unconstitutional endorsement of religion.” In 2005, Caldwell again prayed in Jesus’ name but added the line, “respecting persons of all faiths.”

When asked about Warren’s situation, Graham said: “For a Christian, especially for an evangelical pastor, the Bible teaches us that we are to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. How can a minister pray any other way? If you don’t want someone to pray in Jesus’ name, don’t invite an evangelical minister.”

Just how much has American culture changed that this has become an issue? When Richard Nixon was sworn in as president in 1969, Billy Graham virtually offered an invitation to salvation, concluding his prayer “in the Name of the Prince of Peace who shed His blood on the Cross that men might have eternal life.” [AP, 12/30/08]

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Sin City’s Strip Church

In 2002, Craig Gross and his wife, Jeanette, rented a booth at the country’s largest porn convention in Las Vegas in an effort to launch XXXChurch.com and offer light in a dark place. Since then, the Grosses’ ministry has expanded to porn shows throughout the country, hundreds of speaking engagements at churches, books, documentaries and an assortment of other projects that reach people around the world. Yet as 2009 begins, XXXChurch.com is returning to where it all began: Sin City.

“It makes perfect sense for who we’re trying to reach, the temptations that this city has to offer, and the call that we feel that God’s put in our lives to do this,” Craig Gross says of his plans to start a church on the infamous strip early this year. “Las Vegas is known as sin city and that’s where we need to be.” Gross and his family, along with a handful of other staff members from Fireproof Ministries, have already relocated to Las Vegas to establish a church in the epicenter of North American sex trafficking and prostitution.

“I think the church does a poor job overall when it comes to evangelism,” Gross says. “We get content with our members and then we spend time satisfying just our members and we lose that focus of Jesus [who] said, ‘I came for the sick, not the healthy.’” To that degree, Gross and his staff plan to set up a booth at every possible trade show—from auto industry to plumbing—in Las Vegas with the intent of veering attendees away from the city’s notorious temptations and instead toward a place of refuge located only steps away: The Strip Church.

“I know the world is watching,” Gross says to those wondering what keeps him from becoming another “moral maverick” who falls prey to the very temptation he rails against. “I know that people at these shows—people at churches—are waiting for me to fall, waiting for our team now, even [after] moving here. If I go down, what did I do for the last seven years? Why build something and then watch that come crashing down because it will. I didn’t move here to be closer to prostitutes and strip clubs—I can’t go there. … We didn’t move here to be Las Vegas, but we came here to change Las Vegas. If that’s one family at a time, it’s worth it.” [abcnews.com, 12/5/08]

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The New Evangelist

QUOTE: “I try to preach with simple language, not the language of scholars. People are attracted to new preachers like me because they want religious solutions to daily problems, not someone talking to them about the afterlife. … People want to change their lives in the way they are devout. We are in a defining time in Islam, and this will help us open ourselves up to the world.” —Mostafa Hosni, a 30-year-old Islamic TV preacher who, along with a new generation of young Muslim “satellite sheiks,” are presenting a “moderate” Islam that’s less about rules and regulations and more about helping young Muslims deal with real-life problems. Hosni is one of the rising young televangelist celebrities who fill auditoriums and sell their sermons on CDs in both the United States and the Middle East—much to the chagrin of fundamentalist Muslims such as Abu Islam Ahmed Abdullah, a Salafi sheik. “These new preachers are nice and pleasant, but … they are not preaching Islam,” Abdullah says. “It’s a sham. They are an extension of the Western conspiracy to influence the region. … It doesn’t impact the spirit. The girls in their audiences wear veils, but they also wear lipstick and tight clothes. They think they’re religious because the modern preachers tell them so. They’re deceived.” [latimes.com, 12/31/08; nytimes.com, 1/2/09] read more

A Century of Distributing the Word

Don’t think your ministry can make a difference? Tell that to a couple of businessmen who met in a crowded hotel in 1898 and decided to create an organization dedicated to serving the traveling soul. Now celebrating its 100-year anniversary, the Gideons International, founded by John Nicholson and Sam Hill, has distributed an astounding 1.5 billion Bibles since 1908, when the group began placing Scripture in hotel rooms.


“I think there’s an untold number of people that have had their lives changed as a result of reading the Gideon Bible or New Testament,” said Steve Smith, director of communications and development for the Gideons. “We’ve been blessed to learn the details of many of those and are confident there are still many more we have not yet learned about.” Last year alone the interdenominational ministry gave out nearly 77 million Gideon Scriptures, translated into 85 languages in 187 countries around the world.

“What it’s done is actually changed our culture,” commented Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. “People expect there to be a Bible in a hotel room. There’s hardly anything that’s parallel to it.” [AP, 1/1/09; gideons.org, 1/5/09] read more

Now-Times Prophecy

QUOTE: “The flood of prophecies for 2009 have begun to come in. They sound remarkably similar to most I have been hearing for the past 15 years. ‘This is the year of revival! This is the year of His power. This is the year of increase! This is the year of harvest!’ … There is a major problem with all of the prophecies about revival to come. It is a religious problem, which Jesus encountered. Religion will get all excited about the Messiah to come but try to kill Him when He is standing in their midst. Why? The Messiah in the future does not demand faith and obedience now! The revival to come does not demand obedience now. We can feel all warm and fuzzy about the wonderful word and clap at what God will do while conveniently forgetting that wherever people are simply obeying Jesus they are seeing the kingdom multiply now.” —Steve Hill, co-founder of worldwide ministry Harvest Now, responding to the numerous prophetic words that typically come at New Year’s [harvest-now.org, 1/4/09]

 

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A Worshipping, Foreclosing Church

Three-quarters of the nation’s 335,000 churches are virtually or completely mortgage-free. But for many of those in the minority carrying a loan on their property, what were already tight times—due to decreased giving from financially stretched churchgoers—are quickly becoming tough times.

A recent report by First American CoreLogic discovered that hundreds of churches are facing foreclosure, almost all of which were affected by the mortgage boom in recent years that saw church-issued mortgages increase 50 percent from 2002 to 2005. According to the U.S. Census, spending on church construction rose from $3.8 billion in 1997 to $6.2 billion in 2007. A separate study found that church borrowing as a whole peaked at $28 billion nationwide in 2006, including mortgages, construction loans and church bonds.

“There have been too many churches with a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude,” says N. Michael Tangen, executive vice president at American Investors Group, a church lender in Minnetonka, Minn. “They had glory in their eyes that wasn’t backed up with adequate business plans and cash flow.”

Those loaning churches money can attest to the bubble bursting. In its 45-year history, the Evangelical Christian Credit Union in Brea, Calif., had foreclosed on only two churches. This year it has served foreclosure papers to seven of its 2,000 members, and its president says the company expects to add to that number in the coming months. Another church lender, Church Mortgage & Loan Corp. of Maitland, Fla., has already foreclosed on 10 church properties in the past two years and, as a result, had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.

“Some of the mentality that you saw taking hold of the residential marketplace probably shifted into the church,” says Dan Mikes, executive vice president of the church banking division of Bank of the West. “Lenders loaned far too much, they loaned into lofty projections of future growth, and they just saddled the churches with far too much debt.” [wsj.com, 12/23/08; nytimes.com, 12/26/08] read more

Church of England Today, Church of the Few Tomorrow

A report from the statistical arm of England’s Bible Society claims that within a generation the number of people attending Church of England services will be a tenth of the current—and already plummeting—amount. Peter Brierley, former executive director of Christian Research, says that based on a “snapshot” church census and an extrapolation of recent church attendance trends, only 87,800 people will be attending Anglican services in 2050 —down from almost 1 million today. Critics say the study is incomplete and doesn’t factor in the growing sector of para-church worship. Many also argue that it’s extremely difficult to form an accurate prediction in such religiously tumultuous times for the country.

Yet the downward trend of England’s longstanding religious establishment is undeniable. “Church attendance has already been in decline for over 60 years, all over Britain, in all major denominations and across all age groups, except the over-65s,” said Keith Porteous-Wood of the National Secular Society. “Independent statisticians now have enough data to predict confidently that the decline will continue until Christianity becomes a minority sect of largely elderly people, in little more than a generation.” [guardian.co.uk, 12/21/08] read more

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