Ministry Matters






EVENTS

Interceding for Zion

Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem draws unprecedented support from Christians, Jews and Arabs.

Believers in 70 nations will join on October 3 for what may be the largest prayer initiative in history for Israel. The Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem (DPPJ) was launched at the Jerusalem Prayer Banquet held in New York City on May 20, when more than 500 Christian and Jewish leaders gathered to affirm their commitment to praying for Israel.

The interdenominational gathering was co-chaired by Robert Stearns, executive director of Eagles' Wings (EW) in Clarence, N.Y., and Jack W. Hayford, founding pastor of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif., and sponsored by Eagles' Wings.

Stearns unveiled EW's ambitious plan labeled The Jerusalem Project, which calls for an International Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem on the first Sunday of October every year until the Messiah returns. EW is enlisting support from 20,000 churches in the United States and backing an astounding grass-roots prayer initiative of 50 million believers from 70 nations.

More than $100,000 was raised at the banquet to fund a $1 million budget that includes literature, videos, a Web site (www.daytopray.org), offices on six continents and scholarships for a college-student ambassador program in Israel.

The event's date coincides closely with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) on the Jewish calendar. Stearns explains that the correspondence was intentional. "We wanted to choose a day that recognized on the calendar the Jewish roots of our faith," he says. "For our prayers to coincide with the time frame."

The Jerusalem Project has been warmly received by Yona Metzger, the chief rabbi of Israel; Benjamin Netanyahu; and other members of the Knesset (Israel's parliament), as well as Arab leaders in Jerusalem.

Among 300 Christian leaders endorsing the initiative are Ministries Today's publisher, Stephen Strang, as well as David Yonggi Cho, Mike Bickle and Ted Haggard.

"People have different theologies and political perspectives, but all of us can agree that we need to follow the mandate to pray," Stearns says. "Let's begin from that and let the Lord work out our theological and political differences."

TRANSITIONS

Jack Hayford to Lead Foursquare Church

The Church on the Way's founding pastor will assume presidency.

A respected pastor and senior editorial advisor for Ministries Today, Jack Hayford has been elected president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

During the Foursquare's annual convention in San Francisco on June 3, Hayford, 70, was chosen from two other nominees--Glenn Burris, Foursquare's general supervisor since 2002; and Hayford's brother, Jim Hayford Sr., senior pastor of the Eastside Foursquare Church in suburban Seattle and supervisor of the Seattle district.

Hayford, who will assume office October 1, is the founding pastor of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif., and also started The King's College and Seminary in 1987. He plans to remain its chancellor while fulfilling his duties as Foursquare president.

As Foursquare president, Hayford said he hopes to see a renewal of spiritual vitality and leadership integrity within the Christian community as a whole and within Foursquare in particular.

"I hope to enfranchise a new, rising generation of leaders who are expectant and ready to join me in evidencing our values to always live, serve and lead as a people committed to biblical, relational and spiritual priorities and values that characterize New Testament leadership and lifestyle," Hayford said.

INNOVATIONS

YMCA@Church

A Houston megachurch is serving its community with a YMCA, job training and financial assistance.

People are flocking to Harvest Time Evangelistic Center for more than just church services. The 5,000-strong congregation has embraced the Greenspoint, Texas, area, which has some 75,000 residents, by establishing a YMCA, with plans to add a baseball and soccer field as part of a recreation complex.

Besides housing a Christian school and satellite-college campus, the church offers various faith-based community programs, including parenting classes, job-readiness workshops, free tax preparation through an on-site IRS office, an economic-development center that provides training for entrepreneurs and a mentoring ministry.

The church has had an influence on its large minority community, which was plagued by drug abuse and crime.

Bishop Shelton Bady, 42, who started Harvest Time with six members of a Bible-study group in 1990, said his congregation's community-focused ministries are based on Ecclesiastes 9:10, which says, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going."

Bady told Ministries Today that as a result of Harvest Time's YMCA and other community programs, more than 500 people have joined or started attending the church. A member of several local panels in Greenspoint, including the school district and the YMCA, Bady believes churches today need to be community-focused.

So what advice would he give to churches that want to be more community-oriented? "They need to focus on the core values," said Bady, who has an MBA from the University of Texas and a master's degree in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.

"We exist for God's glory, and evangelism is the No. 1 priority. From this mind-set, utilize the grace of God to touch as many people as possible in as many ways possible."

NEWSBITES

Forgiving a Cross-burner

A teen vandal receives Christ in jail after burning a cross in a pastor's yard.

An African American Pentecostal pastor in Washington state says a white teen who burned a makeshift cross in his lawn has received Christ due to the incident. On March 24, two 16-year-old cousins burned the cross on the yard of Jason Martin, who leads Jesus Is Lord Life Tabernacle in Marysville.

"In this day and age, who could have done something like this?" Martin, 38, told Ministries Today, recalling his first thoughts after finding firefighters dousing a 5-foot-by-3-foot cross on the front lawn of his home in Arlington, a predominantly white community located about 40 miles north of Seattle.

But Martin said he was not angry with the two boys who turned themselves in to police. The two served 30 days in jail and were given a nine-month probation period.

"I first wrote letters to them, letting them know that I forgave them for what they did," he explained. "I then went to court, where they both apologized to my wife and I for what they had done. I visited them and spoke with one of the cousins who had given his life to the Lord."

He noted that the cross-burning has had a positive effect on his 200-member nondenominational church.

"We had 62 souls saved in our church in the month of April, and it has increased my love and awareness for the hurting people, as well as giving me a greater awareness of my responsibility as a Christian," he said.

"What Satan intended to be an act of hate, God has taken and turned it into an opportunity to show love and forgiveness, and bring it out into the light for the entire world to see," added Martin, who also received a visit from Washington Gov. Gary Locke after the cross-burning.

During his first sermon after the incident, Martin preached from Romans 12, telling the standing-room-only crowd, "Do not repay evil for evil, but conquer evil by doing good."

Lyle Estep, 23, a member of Martin's church, said his pastor "has been preaching this stuff for a long time."

"He's actually walking what he's preaching," he said. "He's not angry with these people. I think it's awesome that God is using this for good."

NEWSBITES

Scripture Shortage

A lack of Bibles in China is giving rise to cults and false teachings.

Christians in China have long faced threats of persecution and strict governmental controls, but the astounding growth of the church in that nation has brought a new challenge to the forefront.

According to many evangelical Chinese church leaders, a shortage of Bibles has rendered many Chinese Christians vulnerable to the false teachings of cults.

"So many spiritual babies are born; who is going to take care of them?" a Bible League ministry partner asked. "If we don't take care of them, the cults will."

Such groups prey on the hunger for spiritual truth that many Chinese feel after decades of communism and the eradication of religion during the Cultural Revolution.

There are an estimated 80 million Christians living in China, with more than 50 million without Bibles.

Bible League officials say the combination of spiritual hunger and lack of God's Word makes new Christians vulnerable to cults.

One group, known as Eastern Lightning (or Lightning from the East), targets underground church members.

According to the China Aid Association, the group uses threats, seduction, kidnapping and even torture to convert Christians to its theology, which includes reincarnation and denies the Trinity. Without the Bible to reference, Chinese believers often don't realize that they are being led astray.

Last year, the Bible League (www.bibleleague.org) placed more than 770,000 Bibles in China's house churches through a program called Project Philip, which teaches Christians how to guide their family members, friends and neighbors through Bible studies. The program has helped new Christians get grounded in the Bible, enabling them to be less vulnerable to the influence of cults.

STUDIES

Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) Joins 25 Largest Denominations

A fourth Pentecostal group has joined the 25 largest denominations in the United States, reflecting the continuing increase in the number of adherents to Pentecostal traditions. That's according to the National Council of Churches' Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches 2004, released in March.

With 944,857 members and newly ranked 25th, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) joins the Church of God in Christ (5,499,875, ranked fourth); the Assemblies of God (2,687,366, ranked 10th), and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World Inc. (1.5 million, tied for 16th along with two other church bodies) as the largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States.

Leading any other single U.S. denomination is the Catholic Church, reporting 66,407,105 adherents, followed by the Southern Baptist Convention (16,247,736) and the United Methodist Church (8,251,042).

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