Experiencing God Via 'Virtual Faith'
By Eric Tiansay
(ogonek) Americans are logging on the Internet to experience God--but the pattern could prevent people from getting hooked up with a local church for discipleship, fellowship and service. A new survey by Christian pollster George Barna foresees "virtual faith" posing a threat to churches as they cope with the impact of technology on their ministries.
According to a report by the Barna Research Group (BRG), up to 50 million people before 2010 may depend primarily on the Web to satisfy their faith needs. The study is backed by the findings of religion and philosophy professor Brenda E. Brasher, author of the recent book Give Me That Online Religion. Brasher discovered more than 1 million online religion Web sites, noting that "virtual temples and churches dot the landscape of cyberspace almost as much as online flower shops and virtual bookstores do."
"Virtually every dimension of the faith community will be influenced by online faith developments," Barna said. The "cyberchurch" will expand to include self-produced and self-marketed worship music, e-mail broadcasting, theological chats, online meetings, broadcasts to shut-ins, live Webcasting of mission trips and ministry training from the best trainers and educators in the world, he said.
Barna predicted that "by the end of the decade we will have in excess of 10 percent of our population who rely upon the Internet for their entire spiritual experience." But this could also disrupt the makeup, structure and size of churches. "Some of them will be individuals who have not had a connection with a faith community, but millions of others will be people who drop out of the physical church in favor of the cyberchurch," Barna said.
The BRG study revealed that "people are in the early stages of warming up to the idea of cyberfaith"--with 8 percent of adults and 12 percent of teen-agers currently using the Web for spiritual experiences. More than two-thirds said they were likely to go online for religious experiences, such as listening to archived religious teaching, reading online devotionals and buying products.
Source: Barna Research Group, The Kansas City Star
(ogonek) Fewer Christians are tithing, and more are choosy about where they give their money--which means churches could see a financial crisis because of changing attitudes about the offering box. Giving to churches dropped significantly last year, even by those identified as born-again Christians, the Barna Research Group (BRG) found in a recent study.
Seventy percent of them gave to the church last year, down from 84 percent the previous year. Their average total gift for the year was $1,166, compared to $1,439 in 1999--a 19 percent drop.
In a nationwide survey of 1,005 adults, the California-based Christian organization also found that 32 percent of born-again believers claimed to tithe, but a check of their household income showed that only 12 percent actually did.
Additionally, BRG researchers found "baby busters"--those in their 20s through mid-30s--barely giving to faith-based causes. Meanwhile, "baby boomers"--mid-30s through mid-50s--were more generous, but not automatically prone to give to their churches. BRG president George Barna called them "value-donors, giving to organizations that they perceive to be providing personal benefits or significant, unduplicated value to society." Barna noted that as the two generations become more prolific within congregations, "their tendency to give less to churches will challenge ministries to reconceptualize their budgeting, fund raising and planning practices."
Source: Barna Research Group
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(ogonek) A missionary organization hopes to become more effective at "exposing the lies of Mormonism" after it recently relocated to the doorstep of a Mormon temple in Mesa, Ariz. Concerned Christians, operated by former Mormons Jim Robertson and his wife, Judy, moved into offices two blocks away from the Arizona temple.
"I want them to understand who Jesus really is," Jim Robertson said. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has about 154,000 church members in the Mesa region. The Robertsons' new office location provides a place for study and a meeting place for a support group of former church members. They hope curious Mormons from the temple will come by to read the books, some written by church members, and watch videos. Since they began their ministry 29 years ago, the Robertsons have helped lead more than 1,600 people out of the Mormon Church by telling them the truth about Jesus.
Source: The Arizona Republic
Moving Closer to 'Exposing Mormon Lies'
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Jim and Judy Robertson
Man's 'Crucifixion Message' Thwarted
(ogonek) A man who claimed to be a pastor tried to give an illustrated sermon on the crucifixion message but was thwarted by police.
Willie Dicks wanted to nail himself to a homemade crucifix in an Oakland, Calif., park to help people "find salvation," but was instead taken in for a psychiatric evaluation.
"My job is to tell everyone how they can be saved," a teary-eyed Dicks, 60, said before police arrived. Pastor Erik Nation, of the House of Prayer Evangelical Center, which meets at a recreation center across from the park, was asked to speak to Dicks. "I told him Jesus already did this for everyone," Nation said.
Dicks had a 9-foot crucifix, eight 3-inch nails laid on a white towel, a brand new hammer and bottle of disinfectant. Dicks asked a local youth to help him with the nails.
Source: The Oakland Tribune
(ogonek) A tiny charismatic church in a Florida community received an electric jolt thanks to a $2.2 million power bill. Linda Robson, pastor of the 15-member Matthew 25: Full Gospel Church on the Northside in Jacksonville, initially saw the bill when the congregation's bookkeeper handed her an envelope during a Sunday service in May.
"She had this look on her face," Robson said. "I said, 'Well, is it bad news?' She said, 'It could be...' There was just d isbelief. It shocked us all." JEA, the city's public utility, said the bill was an error by someone who punched the church's name and address onto another account and mailed out a bill. Rather than $2,241,573.74, the storefront church paid a new, adjusted bill of $17.59--close to what the congregation normally spends to operate five lights, a microwave, a coffeepot and a window air conditioner.
Source: The Jacksonville Times-Union
Church Gets Shocking Electric Bill
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Pastor Delivers in a Pinch
(ogonek) A Florida youth pastor welcomed the latest addition to his flock with open arms. In May, Jeff Beebe helped his wife deliver their daughter, Megann, right outside a local hospital's emergency entrance. "We almost made it inside," said the 36-year-old minister at Christ Presbyterian Church in Ormond Beach. "I pulled right in front of the emergency doors and leaned on the horn to signal for help."
Baby Megann wasn't due until Mother's Day weekend, but mother Cyndy's labor pains started about two weeks early. After calling a baby sitter to stay with their two children, the couple took off for the hospital. But halfway there, the baby started to arrive. Beebe stopped at the emergency drop-off area, but he took action when no one came out to help. "I put my hand down and the head was already out," he said. "I had to move the [umbilical] cord a little and then the baby just came out into my arms."
Source: The Daytona News-Journal
'Awesomeness of God's Creation'
(ogonek) Brent Moore feels blessed to shepherd a small church in a place called by many, "the world's most magnificent cathedral."
Moore pastors Yosemite Community Church, a nondenominational congregation that meets at the 120-year-old Yosemite Chapel in Yosemite National Park, Calif.
Indeed, there aren't many chapels where there are spectacular views of Yosemite Falls, the third highest in the planet, or the world famous, 8,800-foot-high granite Half Dome. "It's very nice to be able to look out these windows and see the awesomeness of God's creation," chapel visitor Cheri Lytle said. "God just seems so powerful to me here."
Source: The Fresno Bee
Disaster Victims Flood Church
(ogonek) About 5,000 people who lost homes and belongings due to Tropical Storm Allison flooded a Pentecostal church in Houston, which was transformed into a makeshift emergency shelter. The 30,000-member Lakewood Church canceled services for the first time in its 42-year history in early June after people sought refuge at the congregation's sprawling campus.
"Glad to have you back. Where were you all last Sunday?" senior pastor Joel Osteen jokingly asked worshipers, who returned to Lakewood to pray, seek help and offer assistance to those in need. "We had church last Sunday. We just had a different type of sermon."
Lakewood wasn't a designated Red Cross shelter, but church leaders willingly took in flood victims as Allison dumped more than 30 inches of rain across parts of Houston. About 27,000 homes were damaged by the storm, which was blamed for at least 22 deaths and an estimated $2.1 billion in damage.
Source: The Associated Press
Donations for disaster relief after flood
(ogonek) A Kansas church came up with a high-octane approach to express their faith. Heartland Community Church in Lawrence provided relief for area motorists this spring by "buying down" gas to $1.29 per gallon at a local gas station. The usual price at the pumps was $1.69 per gallon.
"This is just showing God's love in a practical way, as opposed to standing on the street corner with an open Bible preaching," said church member Randy McGuinness. "It's putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak."
Members also washed windshields and passed out free soft drinks and coffee. The church set aside $1,000 for the project. The concept originated from a church in Cincinnati, which had a similar outreach.
Source: The Lawrence Journal-World
Church Fuels Gospel Outreach
Lightning Hits Couple Leaving Church
(ogonek) Keeping up with the Joneses can be dangerous. Richard Jones, 50, and his wife, Colleen, 46, of Land O' Lakes, Fla., survived an indirect lightning strike as they left a church service in June. The couple was taken to a local hospital and later released, but the incident jolted hundreds at Tampa's Idlewild Baptist Church, including an 81-year-old woman who was knocked to the ground.
"My sermon today was about the power of almighty God," said senior pastor Ken Whitten, who led the congregation in prayer after the lightning struck. "This just shows we never know what could happen in our lives from one day to the next."
A bolt of lightning struck a tree in the parking lot near the Joneses' car, who were leaving the early morning service as people arrived for the late service. "The current went through the tree and to the pavement where they were standing," said Kevin Miller, Idlewild's associate pastor.
Source: The Tampa Tribune
(ogonek) It's common knowledge that being a "preacher's kid" (PK) isn't easy, especially if your parents are famous ministers. That is why organizers decided to have the inaugural PK Connection conference for ministers' children in June at Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church in Washington, D.C.
"There is a need for a PK conference because it is imperative to encourage PKs to realize our own vision in accordance with, but not limited to, that of our parents," said Kristel Owens, 21, whose parents pastor the church. "We want to strengthen PKs to maintain the godly principles that we've been exposed to all our lives."
Owens started the PK Connection in October with fellow pastors' children, Robert Rasheed Flake, Jamar Jakes, Paul Morton Jr. and Kalilia Wilson. The group's well-known fathers include pastor Floyd Flake, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Bishop Paul Morton Sr. and pastor Willie Wilson. The group's parents supported and funded the venture.
The gathering, which attracted more than 2,000 participants, featured various seminars, including "Tricks and Traps," "How Much Can I Bear" and "Carrying the Mantle."
Source: Charisma News Service
Conference Ministers to Preachers' Kids
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