By Ken Walker
A new prayer effort mentioned in the September/October issue of Ministries Today is already paying dividends.
Led by itinerant prayer teacher Terry Teykl, "A Prayer Force in the Workplace" solicits prayer requests by placing prayer boxes in credit unions, computer stores, dentists' offices and other businesses. The effort encourages Christians to get involved in lost people's lives.
"Jesus told us to raise the dead, but how can we raise the dead if we don't go where they're at?" asked Teykl, a former United Methodist pastor who founded Renewal Ministries four years ago. "Sometimes the church becomes a spiritual massage parlor where we prophesy over ourselves and pray for ourselves."
Though he first discussed the initiative last January, it took two months to get production rolling. By mid summer, churches and prayer groups had ordered more than 5,200 prayer boxes.
The most creative placement was by an individual who mounted a box on a post, where motorists could drop in requests from their cars. Other boxes placed in plants and credit unions have generated up to 50 requests in a week, most concerning marital problems.
Teykl has a vision of 1 million being placed throughout the nation.
"I call it Box 3:16--God's address for hurting people," said the Houston-based teacher, who has links with 3,000 church-based prayer rooms across the country.
He encourages participants to collect the requests and give them to intercessors at their city's 24-hour prayer center. While his small town doesn't have such a round-the-clock effort yet, a pastor in central Indiana takes them to a weekly, interdenominational ministers' prayer gathering.
Clarence Phairas of the Pendleton Church of God in Anderson, Ind., said his congregation has placed eight boxes around their small community. While some don't generate that many requests, he says those numbers aren't as important as the spiritual impact.
"Some weeks we don't get any, but it opens up conversations," he said. "You don't just get requests, you build relationships with people. I've witnessed to [one business owner] and prayed for her. I tell people we pray for them and their business."
After leaving one at a restaurant, Phairas was asked the following week by the owner if he believed in poltergeists. She went on to describe strange occurrences in her business, such as things flying off counters or falling on the floor. Besides the owner, four employees were very upset.
When Phairas and several others went to the basement, their hair stood on end. But they persisted, anointing various places with oil and rebuking demons. Two months later, the woman told him the disturbances had ceased.
"At one place where I put a box, a woman came up and said, 'Are you a man of God?' and she didn't even know me," the pastor marveled. "It puts a spiritual climate in there. I don't understand it; I just know it works."
"I feel it's an idea the Holy Spirit gave us," Teykl says. "The prayer box is a symbol, getting the compassion of Jesus released for those who are hurting."
Hello...hello? If you let your fingers do the walking when it comes to contacting a church, chances are you will be left drumming them in frustration. A survey by the Barna Research Group found that many churches simply don't answer the phone.
Researchers failed to make contact with a real, live person at 40 percent of 3,764 Protestant churches dialed across the country, despite repeated callbacks--up to a dozen times. Only half of the churches where no one answered had a machine.
Mainline churches were slightly more responsive than evangelical churches--with a 73 percent answer rate, compared with 66 percent. Charismatic and Pentecostal churches had a below-average response rate of 53 percent, while black churches overall had the lowest response rate.
Denominationally dialing, the phone testers tabulated the following responses:
Christian & Missionary Alliance 100 percent
Missionary Baptist 76 percent
Southern Baptist 66 percent
Assemblies of God 62 percent
Church of God in Christ 28 percent
American Methodist Episcopal Zion 9 percent.
Prayer Boxes Give 'God's Address' to People in Need
Horrific tales of lengthy and sometimes costly tussles between congregations and city zoning czars littered the landscape of church growth in the 1990s . But those days are over.
Before heading home for a summer hiatus, lawmakers in Washington, D.C., zipped legislation through the Senate and the House of Representatives that increases a church's rights. In July, with unanimous consent votes, each house approved The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). President Clinton signed it into law in September.
The legislation states that "no government can impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution." It also guarantees the rights of all faiths, and specifically declares that no government can banish religious assemblies from its jurisdiction.
When it comes to zoning laws for churches, the act means that local municipalities must treat them on equal terms with nonreligious tenants or property owners. No longer can a city council decide there are too many churches or that a particular denomination is undesirable.
Among past zoning cases were those in:
**Chicago, where one suburb barred a congregation from worshiping in a converted office building because of the potential loss of tax revenue
**California, where a congregation was sent an eviction notice because the movie theater it leased did not meet city zoning code requirements for a church--even though the building met code for a nonreligious assembly
**Ohio, where a town tried to prevent a Baptist church from relocating near a golf course, arguing there were already too many churches.
To counter this type of local zoning, Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., sponsored the Religious Land Use Act in the Senate and garnered bipartisan backing from such diverse groups as the Baptist Joint Committee, the National Association of Evangelicals, the American Jewish Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way. The only vocal opposition came from the American Society of Atheists.
Hatch called the bill one of the "most important bills of the century." Kennedy said it addressed "obvious threats to religious liberty."
While the act makes it easier for churches to build and expand, they must still adhere to local codes or gain variances. The legislation does allow stricter codes, but only when a local government can demonstrate a "compelling" need that cannot be met in another way.
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The 1990s will go down in history as the most innovative decade in history for prayer initiatives, according to prayer and intercession leader C. Peter Wagner.
In a review of 10 years of the United Prayer Track, which he directed for the A.D. 2000 & Beyond Movement, Wagner--one of the co-founders of the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.--spotlighted 20 key innovations and milestones in prayer for world evangelization that helped the global prayer movement "end the decade on a level which could not even have been imagined" in 1990.
Among the new initiatives he singled out were the concepts of strategic-level spiritual warfare and identificational repentance, personal intercession for leaders, on-site prayer through prayer journeys and praise marches, and spiritual mapping.
The 10 most significant events, he said, included the first international March for Jesus, the monthlong Praying Through the Window focus on the least-evangelized parts of the world, the Reconciliation Walk that retraced the steps of the medieval crusaders and included apologies to Muslims, and the publication of prayer profiles of the almost 1,800 largest unreached people groups in the so-called 10/40 Window.
C. Peter Wagner
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The "R" in movie ratings should stand for "risky" rather than restricted--financially, that is. For although adult-oriented movies make up the bulk of studio releases, they are less likely to produce a good return on investment than more family-friendly fare.
That is the conclusion of a study by economics professor Arthur De Vany, who found that more than half the films released in the last decade were rated R, less than 3 percent were rated G, and the rest were split roughly equally between PG and PG-13.
But R-rated films were not quite half as likely as PG releases to gross $25 million domestically--with non-Rs all much cheaper to produce. De Vany said that not a single R movie made the list of the top 10 grossing films of all time. That is headed by Titanic (PG-13), followed by Star Wars, Star Wars Episode 1, and E.T., all PGs.
Bill Bright is to retire as the leader of Campus Crusade for Christ International (CCCI), the international ministry he founded almost half a century ago. When he steps down next summer, Bright will be replaced by Steve Douglass, 55, who has served with the ministry for 30 years.
Bright will continue his ministry involvement as chairman of CCCI's board of directors. He plans to devote more time to writing ministry curriculum and producing training videos for the ministry's International Leadership University.
Founded in 1951, CCCI has 22,000 full-time staff worldwide and a new international headquarters in Orlando, Fla., where Douglass will be based. "Only God could equip a person for this task, and I am well aware of that," Douglass said.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? grand prize winner Kim Hunt from Collierville, Tenn., is offering his own kind of lifeline. He is giving away some of his winnings to groups starting new churches.
He told The Dallas Morning News that he wants to "help make sure that churches that are being started don't have problems arising from lack of funds."
Psychologists have admitted that religious faith can help people recover from drug and alcohol abuse. A study presented to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association found that people who embraced religion or spirituality were more optimistic about life and better able to handle stress.