Religion is much more important to Americans than to people living in other wealthy nations, according to a poll of 44 countries. With nearly six in 10 Americans (59 percent) saying religion plays a "very important" role in their lives, Americans are about twice as religious as Canadians (30 percent) and far more inclined to faith than people in Western Europe or Japan.
Released in December, the survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that America's inclination for belief makes it more akin to poorer countries than to other industrial societies.
"Wealthier nations tend to place less importance on religion--with the exception of the United States," the study said. "Americans' views are closer to people in developing nations than to the publics of developed nations."
Calling the contrasts "stark global regional divides," the study found France to be Western Europe's most secular public with just 11 percent of citizens saying religion was very important. The British were the most religious in Western Europe, with a third saying religion is very important. Only 12 percent of Japanese citizens said religion was very important.
Source: The Washington Times, Pew Global Attitudes Project
Broadest-Ever "Christian Alliance" Sought
Evangelical leaders are hailing a plan to create the broadest-ever alliance of Christians, calling it a move toward unprecedented unity in American Christendom.
Church leaders from 30 denominations agreed in January on a proposal to create the budding effort--tentatively called Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A.
The loosely knit alliance would represent five segments of U.S. Christianity, listed in the plan as "Evangelical/Pentecostal, Historic Protestant, Orthodox, Racial/Ethnic and Roman Catholic."
"I don't think there has ever been anything like this attempted before in this country," said Orange, Calif., Catholic Bishop Tod Brown, who along with Baltimore's Cardinal William Keeler was among the 55 participants who met at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.
Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, steering committee chair and chief executive of the Reformed Church in America, called the meeting "a remarkable breakthrough."
Kevin Mannoia, former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who attended the meeting, believes the alliance would help fulfill Jesus' prayer for unity in John 17.
"If Christian Churches Together moves toward becoming primarily a political or issue-driven organization, it will fail," said Mannoia, dean and CEO of the Haggard School of Theology at Azuza Pacific University in Azusa, Calif. "If it can retain a high commitment to truly seeking the unity of the church, then I think it will be effective."
However, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, the 15.9 million-strong Southern Baptist Convention, may be reluctant to join, though it had an observer at the January meeting.
Source: The Associated Press, Charisma News Service
Online Ministries Today Poll
"What is your top staffing problem?" is the question we asked in our Ministries Today online poll in February.
Almost 33 percent of pastors said that recruiting the right people is their biggest staffing issue. This was followed by 20 percent of pastors who stated that keeping communication flowing is what causes them the most concern.
Twenty percent worried most about funding salaries, and 10 percent were concerned about conflicting vision. On the upside, 12 percent said staff problems are minimal in their church.
For more detailed poll results, log on to www.ministriestoday.com. We post a new poll each month.
Pastors Gobble Up Christian Books
Americans may feel that religion is losing influence in society, but Christian books continue to have an affect on people's lives. A January study from the Barna Research Group (BRG) shows that half of all adults (48 percent) and teenagers (51 percent) reported reading at least one Christian book in the last year, other than the Bible.
Moreover, 35 percent of all adults and 34 percent of all teens purchased at least one Christian book (not including the Bible) in 2002.
The nationwide book-buying study, partially commissioned by Regal Books, also found that Protestant senior pastors are one of the most active book-buying segments, with 98 percent purchasing at least one book in the last year. The typical pastor bought 20 books last year (about four times as many as the typical adult).
"Pastoral longevity seems to be tied to an active reading life. Those who have lasted the longest in ministry tend to read more than do their short-lived peers," BRG president George Barna said. "Second, pastors who have been at one particular church for more than five years tend to read less." The survey polled 1,005 adults, 604 teens and 602 pastors.
Source: Barna Research Group
$10 God's-Laws Effort Buys Into Morality
Believing that the country will be a better place if the Ten Commandments are inscribed on children's hearts, a retired Tennessee couple are paying the price to see it happen.
Via their Ten Commandments Project, George and Marion Kelley offer youth under 16 $10 each if they can recite God's laws to an authorized adult witness such as a pastor, teacher or youth leader. At least 7,000 youngsters have earned the reward.
Launched in 1997, the project was prompted by a spate of petty crime killings in Nashville, which George Kelley saw as reflecting young people's lack of understanding about right and wrong. "Kids were running around shooting each other for tennis shoes and jackets," the 76-year-old retired flower-shop owner said.
The Kelleys started the morality memorization program with their own funds and have since received donations from others who welcome the effort. Kelley said he hopes 10 million children nationwide will take part. "If you have a small dream, nobody pays any attention to it."
Source: The Associated Press
Church's Debt Erased By 'Financial Miracle'
The leader of a Connecticut Pentecostal church says God performed "a mighty financial miracle," as the congregation recently paid off a 30-year mortgage in 29 months.
Community Tabernacle of Deliverance (CTD) in Stamford held a "mortgage-burning celebration" in December after the Community Churches of God congregation wiped out its $576,000 debt.
"Living in one of Connecticut's most expensive counties with the economy rapidly declining while several members experienced layoffs, pay decreases and cut hours, we know that it was the mighty hand of God that wrought this miracle," Bishop Michael Densmore, 39, said.
Densmore said the miracle started in March 1999 when CTD was allowed to move into the new facility without paying anything to the owners of the property. Without acquiring a bank loan, CTD came up with a down payment of $210,000 in June 2000, which left the congregation a balance of $366,000.
The remaining debt was paid off "with strategic planning and persistent teaching on tithing and seed-sowing." "The debt was [originally supposed to be] paid off in 30 months," Densmore said. "During the final year, the payments were increased to allow [us] to pay off the mortgage in 29 months."
The final payment was used to host a celebration party to thank the more than 600 members of the inner-city ministry, which targets those with life-controlling problems.
Source: Charisma News Service
Amen: Part of a prayer that everyone knows.
Bulletin: 1. Air conditioning. 2. Your receipt for attending services.
Choir: Group whose singing allows the rest of the church to lip-sync.
Jonah: Original "Jaws" story.
Magi: Most famous trio to attend a baby shower.
Manger: Biblical illustration of holiday travel always being rough.
Pew: Medieval torture device still found in most churches.
Ten Commandments: Most important Top Ten list not given by David Letterman.
Ushers: Only people in church who don't understand pew's seating capacity.
Pastors 'Not Satisfied' With Churches
In a nationwide study that asked pastors to grade their own churches' performance in 15 different areas, not a single area was considered "excellent" by more than one-third of all ministers.
That's just one of the surprising findings by an Ellison Research of Phoenix survey, which was released in August. The Arizona company's poll of 567 ministers also revealed that only 34 percent rated as excellent the amount of personal fulfillment they receive from leading their churches.
The other highest-rated areas included the weekly worship services, music and the buildings and facilities, while more than 50 percent believed their churches do a "poor" job of ministering to single adults. Pastors also essentially admitted they do a lot better at reaching out to people overseas than next door.
"Other studies have shown that being the pastor of a church is often a job with high stress, long hours, high expectations, low pay and poor benefits," Ellison Research president Ron Sellers said. "Now throw on top of all of those issues the fact that most pastors are not satisfied with their churches' performance in many areas."
Source: Ellison Research of Phoenix
Two Churches 'Trading Spaces'
Two fast-growing congregations in Broken Arrow, Okla., decided to engage in a church version of musical chairs in the summer. Members of Broken Arrow Assembly of God (BAAG) and First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow (FBCBA) separately but simultaneously voted in June to exchange buildings because each had a facility that would better suit the other's temporary needs.
"We had phones hooked up to publicly announce the other's decision," BAAG pastor Thomas Harrison explained. "Both congregations cheered when both votes were nearly unanimous to accept the transition."
FBCBA senior pastor Nick Garland added: "We needed a buyer, and the Assemblies of God church needed a building."
The churches are three blocks apart. More than two years ago, the Baptist congregation had outgrown its 117,000-square-foot building it had been in for 98 years and moved to a new worship building, using the old one for Sunday school. Meanwhile, the AG congregation was outgrowing its 48,000-square-foot facility and was raising money for a new building, but needed transition space.
Source: Assemblies of God News
Names on Prayer Lists Restricted
A new Australian law restricts churches from placing names on prayer lists in bulletins unless they are given specific permission. Under a privacy act that took effect Dec. 21, clergy are also finding it increasingly difficult to visit patients in hospitals because of privacy legislation restrictions.
"If there is any doubt about what the individual's reasonable expectations are, it is good privacy practice to check with them first, especially where sensitive matters such as health or personal troubles are involved," said deputy privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.
But Anglican Bishop Roger Herft of Newcastle said the statute detracts from the spontaneity of comfort a person derives when he or she unexpectedly hears his or her name read aloud on the prayer list.
Some ministers have complained about getting access to sick people in hospitals because hospitals now cannot release that information. Patients must sign a permission form before they go to the hospital.
Source: Episcopal News Service
Church's Land Dispute Settled
A California megachurch has settled peacefully with city leaders who wanted to force the congregation to give up land earmarked for a new worship center so they could get money from it.
Cottonwood Christian Center in Cypress City agreed to sell its 18-acre development site to the city for $18 million, so long as it approves plans for a new church that will be built on 28 acres of land the congregation will buy nearby.
The agreement reached in February brings to an end a three-year battle that placed Cottonwood in the middle of a national debate over religious freedom issues. Cypress City was widely criticized for trying to use its right of eminent domain to force the church to sell the land so a shopping center that would generate much-needed tax dollars could be built there instead.
The Cottonwood case had set a precedent for other church-city disputes, Cottonwood pastor Bayless Conley said. "It's wrong to seize church land and turn it over to a private entity," said Conley. "It's a real testimony to the faith of our people in the church who trusted God through thick and thin."
Founded in 1983, the nondenominational church has grown to 5,000-strong and currently holds six weekend services in its existing, undersized home.
Source: The Orange County Register