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Missions-minded? Not So Much

According to the latest Barna survey, only 11 percent of all churchgoers have been on a short-term missions trip. That’s only 2 percent higher than the overall percentage of Americans who have been on any kind of brief service trip. To make matters worse, the majority of those who have gone on a missions trip did so more than five years ago—which amounts to 8 million adults out of the 228 million living in the United States. Among the most active short-term missionaries are evangelical Christians, 23 percent of whom have ventured out to share the gospel. (Interestingly enough, only 1 percent of Americans have taken a missions trip as a family.) [barna.org, 10/6/08]

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If You Can't Go to Africa, Go Online

With technology making the world smaller and nonprofit donations in decline, some missionary organizations are finding their solution online. Global Media Outreach (GMO), a ministry of more than 70 topically based sites, has accumulated an online missionary force of more than 2,000 volunteers who reply to questions submitted online from site visitors. According to GMO founder and chairman Walt Wilson, more than 1.7 million people made decisions for Christ in 2007 alone. The phenomenal success, he says, is due to two reasons: “We know something about search-engine optimization, and No. 2, I believe firmly that when a person is seriously seeking the face of God He is going to reveal Himself. So I believe a good deal of our success and our traffic comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. It is not that we’re so smart or special.” [christianpost.com, 10/9/08]

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Can't We All Just Get Along?

According to the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, there are more than 550 "interfaith centers" in the United States—many of which have begun since 9/11—dedicated to combining various faiths in the same house of worship. "I wanted to build a church where Christians are not in charge," says one Seventh-day Adventist pastor who leads the Faith House Manhattan in New York. "We wanted to include all the people who have a right to belong and be partners in the discussion, not as outsiders that need to be converted, but as insiders that we need to be interdependent with." Not surprisingly, many interfaith centers are particularly attractive to women. "Interfaith organizations provide opportunities for women's leadership in a way that oftentimes the religious traditions themselves do not, simply because those positions do not need to be sanctioned by any religious head or body," explains Pluralism Project spokeswoman Kathryn Lohre. [Religion News Service, 10/27/08]

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An Open-Door Crisis

QUOTE: “Abundant life has nothing to do with bank solvency or market health. Jesus’ invitation to lead generous lives of sharing does not hinge on personal, corporate or national financial security. The present crisis opens the door for us to accept Jesus’ expectation that as pastors, we are called to build beloved communities whose life together centers on trust, sharing, justice and sacrifice.” —Jim Antal, president of the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ, writing to pastors in a letter called “Abundance in a Time of Scarcity” [boston.com, 10/6/08]

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Out With the New, in With the ... Old?

October may be marked as "Pastor Appreciation Month," but Robert A. Schuller likely isn't feeling the love this week. On Saturday, the senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, Calif., was ousted from the church's long-running television show, Hour of Power, by his own father, Robert H. Schuller, who founded the renowned megachurch and handed over his ministry to his son in 2006. Though the younger Schuller will continue to lead the congregation, his dismissal from the show stemmed from a disagreement about expanding the show beyond a single personality and including other guest speakers. "The real minister's name that we honor is Jesus, not Schuller," said the elder during Sunday's service, adding that he hoped Hour of Power would continue to air "for decades, centuries to come. Because of that, we don't want one face ... to be a spokesman." Although Robert A. Schuller believed he could carry the show alone, he was overruled by both his father and the church's board of directors—a decision which has strained the father-son relationship. "We're trying to do the best we can and bring about a deeper reconciliation," said one church associate. "[Their relationship] is not irreparable, but it's gone through some difficult days." [latimes.com, 10/27/08]

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The Church That Isn't a Church

QUOTE: "I was called to start a mission, not a church. There is a difference. ... You don't try to preach ... what is sin and what isn't sin. A mission is a place where you ask nonbelievers to come and find faith and hope and feel love. We're a mission first, a church second." —Robert H. Schuller, explaining his and the church board's decision on Sunday. For decades, Schuller was known for preaching positive-thinking sermons that appealed to a wide audience, including those turned off by traditional religion. Since taking over three years ago, however, Schuller's son has veered slightly from this path by preaching directly from the Bible and taking stronger stances on various moral issues. [latimes.com, 10/27/08]

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