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The ‘Clergified' Church

QUOTE: "We have to recognize that we've created the system that we loathe. I don't think the reason 15 percent serve is because 85 percent are lazy. We've created a system that glorifies the clergy and marginalized the laity. We got the outcome we created programs for. We've become ‘clergified.' There's a three-tiered structure: laypeople, clergy and missionaries. ... All religions tend to create a class of people who are above others so 1) they can revel in that and 2) the rest of us can say it's their job. Christianity was started without any of those structures, and ended up like so many false religions do when they create a ministry caste structure. When we see real movements of God take off, they happen when people are free." -Lifeway Research director Ed Stetzer [, 2/09] read more

Arrested for Life

A California pro-life pastor is currently serving a 30-day jail term and awaits further sentencing after being arrested for offering sidewalk counseling at an Oakland, Calif., abortion clinic. Walter B. Hoye II, pastor of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in Berkley, Calif., and founder of Issues4Life Foundation, was convicted last month of "unlawful approach" under an Oakland city ordinance that bars picketers from coming within eight feet of women entering an abortion clinic.

Hoye was originally sentenced to 30 days in jail, a $1,130 fine and three years probation. A further sentence, scheduled for March 20 because of a legality, however, could increase that to up to two years in prison and $4,000 in fines. read more

Smells Like Teen Spirit

If the teens in your church don't seem to care what you have to say, here's a possible reason why: A survey from Junior Achievement and pollster Deloitte found that a mere 3 percent see pastors and members of the clergy as role models. A slight majority of the under-18 crowd (54 percent) looks up to parents as role models, yet pastors were ranked lower than friends, teachers, coaches and siblings as those deemed worthy of emulating.

The survey, which provides a fascinating look at the current teen generation's moral compass, also found that although 80 percent feel equipped to make moral decisions in the business world, 40 percent believe they'll have to "break the rules" to succeed in life. Another 46 percent think lying to a parent is sometimes acceptable. In addition, a staggering 86 percent feel more accountable to themselves than to parents or guardians (52 percent), friends (41 percent) or society (33 percent). read more

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

Arkansas' Senate will soon vote on a bill that would allow churches to decide whether worshipers could bring weapons into church. Last Wednesday, the bill passed in the state's House by a 57-42 vote, which prompted concern from many church leaders.

"I believe it would disturb the sanctity and tranquility of church," said John Phillips, a pastor who was shot 23 years ago as he concluded a service at his Little Rock church. "Do you want ushers to stop you at the door and frisk you? ... People are not going to react the way they think they're going to react in the heat of the moment. It was utter chaos when I was shot."

Current Arkansas law allows those with concealed weapons permits to carry their guns anywhere except houses of worship and bars. The current bill, proposed by Rep. Beverly Pyle in response to the numerous church shootings around the country in recent years, would give churches the final decision on whether to allow members to carry arms into their sanctuaries.

"It is time we changed our concealed-handgun law to allow law-abiding citizens of the state of Arkansas the right to defend themselves and others should a situation happen in one of our churches," Pyle argued.

For many pastors and government watchdog groups alike, however, the main issue isn't one of churches protecting themselves against guns but instead against government infringement.

"It's not about gun rights, it's about church rights," said Nathan Petty, who leads Beech Grove Baptist Church in Fordyce. "Is it right for the state to make that decision for the church?"

Added Grant Exton, executive director of the Arkansas Concealed Carry Association: "It's a problem of (the government) telling churches what to do in an area of moral issue, where that should be none of their business." According to Exton, of the 48 states that currently allow concealed weapons to be carried, 42 place the decision with individual churches. "We have the government in an area that it shouldn't be." [AP, 2/12/09, 2/14/09] read more

It’s the End of the World As We Know It

QUOTE: "We're looking at the end of human history. That our generation is the generation that precedes the return of Christ, what a privilege, what a responsibility to share the gospel with the world in this generation. ... The world is crumbling, isn't it? And it's unraveling. And I don't think it's going to get better. I think superficially, maybe, but it's not really going to get better-not if what we're experiencing is the judgment of God, which I believe it is. ... We need to encourage each other and strengthen each other and pray for each other. It's going to take us [working] together to withstand the onslaught of the enemy in order to lift up Jesus in these last days." -Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of renowned evangelist Billy Graham and president of AnGeL Ministries, speaking to ministry leaders at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tenn. [, 2/12/09] read more

More ‘Marginalization’ of English Christians

Almost two-thirds of leaders within the Church of England believe that British Christians face discrimination at work because of their faith. An additional 60 percent say the deterioration of religious rights has occurred over the last decade under the United Kingdom's socialist-leaning Labour Party.

"What we are witnessing on a monthly, if not weekly basis here in the U.K. is a strategic, highly politicized marginalization of Christianity in the public arena," said Paul Eddy, a member of the diocese in Winchester.

Leaders from various sectors of the Anglican church met last week in London to discuss, among other things, the rapidly changing culture that is suppressing religious liberties among Christians. After admonishing the group not to "allow ourselves to be marginalized," Nezlin Sterling, the general secretary of the New Testament Assembly, warned, "I am of the belief that we in the church are so anxious to be politically correct that we on occasions forget to reflect on whether our actions are Christ-correct."

The survey comes on the heels of two high-profile cases in England in which a community nurse and a school receptionist both faced disciplinary action for involving prayer while on the job. Late last year, veteran nurse Caroline Petrie was suspended for offering to pray for an elderly patient. After almost two months, hospital officials reinstated Petrie two weeks ago, adding that nurses did not have to "set aside their faith" in the workplace.

That hasn't been the case for Jennie Cain, however. A receptionist at her daughter's elementary school, Cain sent a personal e-mail to 10 friends asking for prayer after her 5-year-old daughter was reprimanded for talking to a classmate about God and heaven during class. When the e-mail found its way to the school's headmaster, Cain was promptly suspended while officials launched an investigation into her actions. [, 2/13-15/09;, 2/7/09] read more

R-Rated Preaching

QUOTE: "At a time when American young people are hit in the face with graphic sexuality in every facet of our culture, the church should be a safe haven where the sacredness and privacy of the act of marriage is respected by pastors. ... For generations, Christian pastors have managed to convey the Scripture's teachings on fornication, adultery and the beauty of sexuality within marriage without sullying and cheapening it. Mark Driscoll is a sad product of our times. While waving his orthodox doctrinal credentials, he has simultaneously embraced the spirit of the age when it comes to his treatment of sex. In the process, he is pornifying the church and only adding to the moral squalor of our culture." --Ingrid Schlueter, producer and host of Crosstalk Radio Talk Show, criticizing Seattle's Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll for his frequent and often explicit way of addressing the topic of sex from the pulpit [, 2/11/09] read more

Returning to the Landmines

For more than 50 years, Christians in North Korea have lived under the constant threat of death for their belief in Jesus Christ. Yet despite ongoing poverty, famine and persecution, the underground church in North Korea continues to not only exist, but also increase. Now a new movement is growing among these Communist-ruled believers, according to a ministry leader that trains North Korean exiles to return to their homeland as missionaries.

"Many Americans have heard about the tens of thousands who are active in the underground North Korean church, but an equally amazing trend is the growing number of North Korean exiles who are eager to return to China and North Korea to reach their countrymen," says H.S. Foley, chief executive officer of Seoul USA.

Though based in Colorado Springs, Colo., Seoul USA takes in North Korean exiles in Seoul, South Korea, and trains them for a year to take the gospel to fellow North Koreans in North Korea, China or various other countries. The ministry recently launched this equipping program under a new initiative called Underground University.

Said Foley: "The fact that North Koreans are eager to risk their lives by returning to North Korea to spread the Christian message makes us want to equip them with the comprehensive training they'll need to survive." [, 2/12/09] read more

Thanks for the God Nod, Mr. Atheist

While the ongoing “battle of the billboards“ continues across the Pond between an atheist group and Christians, a university-based ministry is taking another approach to telling the truth about God.

In January, the British Humanist Association (BHA) launched a marketing campaign that plastered more than 800 buses in London with an ad reading: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Response from various Christian organizations and believers has ranged from countering billboard ads to one bus operator refusing to drive his “no God”-labeled bus.

Now Christian Unions (CU), a collegiate ministry working on campuses throughout the United Kingdom, is using the highly publicized showdown to further discussions among young adults about God. Over the next two months, student leaders within the ministry will distribute more than 400,000 free copies of a special student edition of Mark’s Gospel.

“Richard Dawkins [the prominent atheist who endorsed the BHA campaign] is to be thanked for once again, raising the profile of God,” said CU communications manager Pod Bhogal. “His book The God Delusion was a brilliant platform for CUs to host events where the claims about God and Jesus Christ could be openly discussed, and through that, people have become Christians. Now his bus adverts clearly proclaim that atheists cannot be sure. This is evidently not a good basis to stop worrying! … Apathy is the greatest spiritual danger in our land, whereas Dawkins’ militant atheism gets everybody thinking and talking. We are grateful to him for keeping God on the nation’s agenda.”

As a follow-up to the Gospel distribution, CU is organizing outreach events such as lunchtime public forums, debates, lectures, question-and-answer sessions and café meetings. [, 2/5/09]

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‘Much of Christianity Does Not Work’

QUOTE:Relevancy means speaking to the true battles people are facing in terms of depression, exhaustion, joblessness, inability to connect with God, etc. I do not see most pastors at all in touch with how the majority of their listeners have no idea how to hear from God. This should be a top priority. Relevancy is understanding what your typical parishioner goes through; everything from killer rush hours to family breakdowns. … Part of the problem is that pastors do not want to admit that much of Christianity does not work. So many of the promises in Scripture simply don’t come true, and people cannot wrap their minds around that contradiction. Now, there are ways around this, but it’s the rare pastor who gets it that people are struggling with what their lives are like and what the Bible stays—and the wide gulf in between. Speaking to those hard spots would be so helpful. … After a while people think they must be awful Christians because the system is not working for them, so they drop out out of sheer discouragement. That does not need to happen, yet this goes on all the time. Folks hate being part of something in which all they do is fail.” —Quitting Church author Julia Duin, who was part of the Jesus movement and charismatic renewal movement, on why most American churches have failed in their attempts to be “relevant” and, consequently, why so many Americans have stopped going to church [, 2/3/09]

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