The Assemblies of God (AG) passed a controversial policy giving its 33,000 ministers more authority to officiate in marrying people who have been divorced, but a pastor who campaigned for the resolution says the move doesn't mean the denomination is becoming liberal.
"I don't believe this is an eroding of the conservative core of the Assemblies of God," Chris Maxwell, pastor of Evangel Assembly of God in Orlando, Fla., told Ministries Today.
This summer, a resolution was approved by a show of hands by the 3,734 delegates to the denomination's biennial convention in Washington, D.C.
"This is not a statement in favor of divorce," said Michael Jackson, a pastor from Janesville, Wis., who sponsored the resolution. Instead, Jackson said, the resolution empowers pastors to make their own decisions about who should marry for the 2.7 million-member Pentecostal denomination.
Maxwell, 43, who lobbied other pastors to support the resolution, agreed.
"I believe God forgives divorces just like He forgives murder or adultery," Maxwell said. "In my heart, I don't want to hold something against a person that God doesn't hold against them."
Under previous AG church law, ministers can only marry church members who were divorced because of adultery or abandonment.
Phil Nissley, a pastor from Taylor, Mich., unsuccessfully urged the general council, composed of delegates and pastors, to reject the change.
"It's time to uphold traditional values, godly values," said Nissley, who pointed out that President Bush spoke a day earlier on the news about the importance of marriage.
The General Council also voted to include women ministers in the governing body of the AG, or the general presbytery, which has 260 members. There are 5,502 women ministers in the AG. There are no women among the church's top 17 elected officials, said AG spokeswoman Juleen Turnage.
Source: Gannett News Service
Churches Turn to Surfing, Skateboarding
Churches in beach communities are riding the popularity of surfing and skateboarding in order to reach out to young adults.
Trying to make religion relevant to everyday life, congregations and ministries in recent years have been turning to the activities once considered fringe sports, despite their reputation as aggressive, anti-establishment sports.
Skateboarding and surfing have been thrust into the mainstream thanks to events such as the X-Games and movies such as Blue Crush. Some of the top professional boarders, including skater Jamie Thomas and surfer C.T. Taylor, are also outspoken Christians.
More surfing ministries have been launched from Hawaii to California and Florida, as surfers catch a new wave of spiritual fervor. In the last five years, Christian Surfers United States has grown from one to 12 chapters on the East Coast.
Professional surfer Bryan Jennings runs the Walking on Water Christian surf camp in San Diego, where youth learn to ride waves and sit in on daily Bible studies.
Jennings appears in the popular surfing video Changes. Campus Crusade for Christ has ordered 19,000 copies of Changes to be used as an evangelistic tool on college and university campuses.
Source: Orlando Sentinel, Charisma magazine
Bringind God the The Box Office
More congregations nationwide are sharing double billing with Hollywood in movie theaters. Mostly vacant on Sunday mornings, multiplexes have become practical solutions for churches in need of worship facilities.
Clint Wagnon, pastor of Crossway Church (www.crosswayflorida.com), a congregation that has met for nearly two years at a multiplex in Orange City, Fla., located near Orlando, says it's an "ideal setup" because of the low overhead and because the theater is set up for large-venue meetings.
"Most people who come to our church really like the environment. It's kind of a cozy feeling," says Wagnon, 30, whose 80-member congregation is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. "The setup is amenable for multimedia things that we do. The theater seating is the most comfortable seating around. It's been a real positive experience for us."
The Washington Post observed that the trend "is bringing God to the box office." Regal Entertainment Group (REG), owner of the country's largest theater chain, started the year with 10 churches meeting in its auditoriums. Now it has 50.
REG has access to more than 500 theaters in 36 states, advertising the cinemas as perfect venues for church planning and expansion, strategic ministries and worship events. REG's Web site even offers churches an informational church video.
In the past, churches might rent theater space, but only until they could afford a building of their own. But now there's a trend of congregations moving into multiplexes because the locations are well-known in their communities and the atmosphere is more appealing to people who consider traditional churches intimidating or boring, church leaders said.
Source: The Washington Post
Beliefs Influence Evangelistic Zeal
Christians who attend Spirit-filled congregations share the good news more than believers in mainline churches do.
According to a new survey by the Barna Research Group (BRG), three church groups--representing adults associated with the Assemblies of God (AG), nondenominational churches and Pentecostal churches--were the most active in sharing their faith in the last 12 months.
In a study that explored the evangelistic engagement of 4,265 adults, BRG found that two-thirds, or 67 percent, of those associated with an AG church were born again and had evangelized in the last year, as did 51 percent of people who regularly attend a nondenominational congregation.
Released in July, the study also revealed that 50 percent of the people in Pentecostal churches, other than AG congregations, were born-again evangelizers. BRG discovered the rates were lower for adults connected to Baptist (40 percent), Presbyterian (31 percent), Lutheran (24 percent), Methodist (21 percent), Episcopalian (13 percent) and Catholic (10 percent) churches.
"We know that people's behavior is driven by their beliefs, and the research showed that the most significant distinction between those who share Christ with the culture and those who don't relates to their religious beliefs," BRG president George Barna said.
Source: Barna Research Group
Kenneth Hagin Sr., Dead at 86, Was 'Father of Faith Movement'
Prominent charismatic Bible teacher Kenneth Hagin Sr. died on Sept. 19 after collapsing five days earlier in Tulsa, Okla., where his worldwide ministry has been based since 1966. He was 86.
Known internationally as the father of the Word of Faith movement, Hagin began his ministry in Texas in 1949 and later moved to Oklahoma to establish the Rhema Bible Training Center in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow. He was considered a spiritual father by many well-known charismatic ministers, including Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Jerry Savelle, Keith Butler and Casey Treat--and by thousands of pastors and evangelists who either graduated from the Rhema school or were influenced by his books and recorded teachings.
Hagin focused his message on healing and faith. He eventually formed a network of churches, the Rhema Ministerial Association International, which now serves 1,440 congregations. Most of them emphasize such doctrinal distinctives as biblical prosperity, divine healing and the power of positive confession.
Hagin's many books provided instruction on the use of spiritual gifts such as discernment, healing and deliverance from demons. His own dramatic encounters with God in visions led him to write I Believe in Visions (1972) and I Went to Hell (1982).
His best-selling book was The Believer's Authority, which has sold more than 1 million copies. In all, more than 53 million copies of his 125 titles are in circulation, a Rhema spokesperson said.
More than 23,000 students have graduated from the Rhema school, and it has extension campuses in 13 other nations including Brazil, Germany, India, Singapore and South Africa.
Hagin's doctrines were sometimes criticized, most vehemently by D.R. McConnell in the 1988 book A Different Gospel. But Hagin and his son, Kenneth Jr.--who currently pastors the 8,000-member Rhema Bible Church in Tulsa and leads the Rhema ministry--rarely addressed their critics or responded to accusations. In fact, Hagin wrote a favorite phrase in his Bible that said: "The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it."
In a statement, Hagin Jr. said his father did not simply practice what he preached. "He preached what he lived. His great legacy of faith will live on in the countless lives that have been healed, touched and changed through his ministry," Hagin Jr. said.
Hagin Jr. will continue to lead the Rhema Bible Church as well as all other facets of the Rhema ministry, which include Faith Library Publications, the Faith Seminar of the Air radio program, and the Rhema Prayer and Healing Center, which was established in 1979.
Because Hagin Sr. battled a childhood illness and experienced divine healing during his youth, he placed special importance on healing and wanted all Christians to know that they had spiritual authority over sickness. Numerous testimonies of healings have been published in Rhema's magazine, The Word of Faith, which currently has almost 250,000 subscribers.
Source: Charisma magazine
Crusader for HIV-Infected Believers Dies
Herb Hall, a California evangelist who sought to bridge the gap between HIV-infected Christians and their churches, died of complications stemming from AIDS. Hall was 47 when he died July 12 in Garden Grove.
A former layperson, Hall co-founded Irvine, Calif.-based "He Intends Victory" after being diagnosed with AIDS in 1989 and finding himself ostracized by his church. Hall's ministry sought to educate churches about AIDS and comfort Christians with the disease, preaching a message of tolerance and unconditional love.
"He played a unique role in providing a bridge between the HIV community, and Christian and faith communities," said Pearl Jemison-Smith of the AIDS Services Foundation in Orange County, Calif.
Ordained in 1995, Hall traveled the world educating Christians about AIDS prevention. He attended World AIDS conferences and gave radio interviews, sometimes being criticized by callers who said he deserved his disease for previously engaging in homosexual acts.
Source: the Associated Press
Promise Keepers Leader Resigns
Promise Keepers (PK) president and founder Bill McCartney has stepped down from the pioneering men's ministry--citing a desire to care for his wife and spend more time with his family.
McCartney, whose resignation announcement was made during a PK board meeting in September, officially resigned Oct. 1.
McCartney, 63, had been on a board-approved leave of absence in order to care for his 60-year-old wife, Lyndi, who is battling a serious lung disease.
"God has assigned me to be a husband and a grandfather," McCartney, who has four children and 10 grandchildren, said in a statement. "The ministry of Promise Keepers is not finished; it is needed now more than ever. I am confident that the Lord will direct and empower the ministry to move forward in strength and support--the opportunities for PK are limitless."
PK board chair and retired U.S. Army Gen. Alonzo Short will continue serving as interim president, a role he has held since McCartney went on a six-month sabbatical in March.
Since McCartney founded the Denver-based ministry with Dave Wardell, Promise Keepers has ministered to 5 million men worldwide, primarily in stadium and arena conferences. McCartney, head football coach at the University of Colorado from 1982 to 1994, founded PK in 1990, the year he led the team to its only national championship.
Source: Promise Keepers
YWAM Founder's Father Dies
Thomas Cunningham, the father of Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With a Mission (YWAM), died. The Center, Texas, native was 92 when he died July 15 in a Springdale, Ark., nursing facility.
Cunningham was in his 20s when he began his ministry as an itinerant evangelist. He married Jewell, also a young preacher, and together they pastored churches in Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
He later became known as "Mr. Missions" as he helped send out hundreds of missionaries, traveled to more than 140 nations and raised more than $60 million to assist missionaries.
When his son, Loren, began YWAM in 1960, one of the largest missions agencies in the world, Cunningham and his wife became stalwart supporters in prayer and giving to their son. The couple gave one-third of their income to missionaries throughout most of their lives.
Source: Assist News Service
Canadian Christian TV Pioneer Moves On
David Mainse, founder and host of a long-running Canadian Christian TV show, stepped down in July to commune with Canada's aboriginal people and campaign against same-sex marriage.
Mainse, 67, who started Burlington, Ontario-based 100 Huntley Street more than 41 years ago, turned the host's chair over to his youngest son, Ron.
A Canadian Methodist missionary's son, Mainse, who underwent open-heart surgery, plans to work with his native people. Mainse is an honorary chief of the Oneidas, a Six Nations tribe near London, Ontario.
But he is also intent "on the maintaining of the word marriage to mean a man and a woman." Courts in Ontario and British Columbia ruled that it is unconstitutional to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples, and the federal government has announced it would not appeal those decisions.
"Anything that changes the meaning of a word which has been within the human family, weakens the word [marriage]," he said. "It dilutes it. It waters it down somewhat. ...To me this is a religious issue and therefore it's on my turf. So I have a lot to learn and a long way to go."
Source: The (Toronto) Globe and Mail
Charismatic Bible Teacher Derek Prince Dies
Internationally known charismatic Bible teacher and author Derek Prince has died of heart failure. According to Derek Prince Ministries (DPM) officials, Prince, 88, who had a series of chronic illnesses, died during his sleep Sept. 24 at his Jerusalem home.
Prince lived in Israel off and on since the 1940s, and had a teaching and healing ministry that spanned more than seven decades.
His daily radio broadcast, "Today With Derek Prince," reaches more than half the world and includes translations in Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Malagasy, Mongolian, Russian, Samoan, Spanish and Tongan.
He wrote more than 45 books, including devotionals and topical teachings on the Holy Spirit, faith, marriage, deliverance, healing, prayer and fasting and Israel. Prince's The Spirit-Filled Believer's Handbook has been translated into more than 60 languages.
But Prince did not set out to be in ministry. Born in India of British parents, he received his education in England at prestigious Eaton College and Kings College, and was a senior research student at Cambridge University.
While serving with the British army in World War II, he began to study the Bible as a philosophical work and became a Christian.
After the army posted him to Jerusalem at the end of the war, Prince witnessed the Jewish people returning to Israel from around the world, and he interpreted it as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Israel's restoration became a main focus of his teaching ministry through the years.
"We owe the Jewish people an enormous debt," Prince has said of the Jewish people. "Without them, the church would have no patriarchs, no prophets, no apostles, no Bible and no Savior. My most precious possession in life is my Bible, and I owe it to the Jewish people."
His books Our Debt to Israel, The Last Word on the Middle East, and The Destiny of Israel and the Church, and his speaking on the subject have informed Christians worldwide of their scriptural responsibilities to Israel and the Jewish people.
Prince's funeral service was held in Jerusalem Sept. 26. A memorial service was held at DPM's United States' headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., soon after. Prince is survived by 11 children and an extended family of more than 150 relatives.
For more information on Prince's book, The Spirit-Filled Believer's Handbook, go to http://cbw.strang.com or call (800) 283-8494.
Source: Charisma News Service
What's New in 2004
Ministries Today Looks at Fivefold Ministries
Ministries Today Looks at Fivefold Ministries
It's not just business as usual for Ministries Today. In 2004, we will be focusing on the fivefold ministries described by Paul in Ephesians 4.
During our yearlong emphasis, we will be meeting with key leaders in the church to answer the questions that arise in discussing this sometimes controversial topic in a balanced and constructive manner:
Is the apostolic movement really a new phenomenon? What relationships should prophets have with the local church? Has the church lost its passion for evangelism and missions? How is the role of the pastor changing in the 21st century? Has there been a divorce of the Word and the Spirit in our teaching?
Each issue of Ministries Today, from March through December, will focus on one of the fivefold ministry gifts, with an introductory issue in January/February, including practical teaching from Ted Haggard, a profile of Kong Hee and his 12,000-member church in the heart of Singapore, a theological reflection from charismatic theologian, J. Rodman Williams and an interview with leadership expert, John Maxwell.
Besides the thematic content, each issue will continue to bring you information on news and cultural trends affecting your ministry, thought-provoking columns from pastors and leaders working in the trenches, and reviews of resources such as books, music, curriculum and technology to help make your ministry more effective.