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2012 Candidates Talk Faith

Recognizing the power of Christian voters, 2012 presidential hopefuls are already beginning to stake out their territory in the religious landscape.

In March, likely Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who converted to Catholicism two years ago, spoke at Cornerstone Church, a San Antonio megachurch pastored by John Hagee. The thrice-married former house speaker told his audience that he was concerned his grandchildren could eventually find themselves "in a secular atheist country" that is potentially dominated by "radical Islamists." read more

Mentoring Conference Call

Pastors Stephen Strader, John Blanchard and Bart Malone will team up with Steve Strang and participate in our next "Mentoring" conference call. This roundtable discussion will focus on their involvement in the National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL).

The discussion will center on how Dr. Mark Rutland's NICL has impacted their ministries, what they've learned and how they've implemented the strategies and systems they gleaned from the institute. read more

Ministry Ethics Panel Named

After concluding his three-year probe of ministries accused of financial misconduct, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley invited the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) to form a 15-member panel of ministry leaders to conduct an independent review to "self-reform" religious organizations.

The newly-formed Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations (CAPRO) includes in its membership Oral Roberts University President Mark Rutland, Campus Crusade for Christ President Stephen Douglass and megachurch pastors Joel Hunter and Bishop Kenneth Ulmer. read more

Cash, Check or Swipe?

A recent LifeWay Research study revealed that 14 percent of churches allow their members to give online. The larger the church the more likely congregants have the option of e-giving—from 55 percent of churches with average worship attendance of 500 to as low as four percent for churches with fewer than 50 attendees.

Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, noted that this trend is linked to the broader trend of cashless purchasing.

"Fewer and fewer Americans cash their paychecks or carry a checkbook," he said. "Some churches are finding that the payment preferences of enough of their congregation have changed to warrant putting an offering plate online in addition to passing them in their worship services." read more

God and Natural Disasters

As Japan vibrates in the wake of more aftershocks following the March earthquake and tsunami, a new study by the Religion News Service reveals that 51 percent of American evangelicals believe that "God sometimes punishes nations for the sins of some of its citizens."

The poll, which surveyed 1,008 people in the days following the earthquake and tsunami, indicated that although not all Americans think that God uses disasters to punish nations, a majority believe that He has control over the natural world.

In spite of evangelicals' private beliefs that God controls natural disasters—and may even punish nations for their sins—they are often quick to disavow those who attempt to connect specific sins with specific disasters. read more

Easter Gimmicks?

Depending on your perspective, pastors tend to use either highly creative methods or cheesy gimmicks to attract newcomers to church on Easter—the most-attended Sunday of the year. Easter breakfasts, pageants, cantatas and sunrise services are often a thing of the past as churches vie for attention and attendees. Here is a roundup of some of this year’s more unusual ideas: read more

Nothing Certain but (the Bible) Death and Taxes

Tax time is upon us. Opinions concerning taxation range from Coolidge's estimation that "Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery" to FDR's remark that "Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society." Will Rogers said, "The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has." read more

High Court OKs Tax Credits for Religious School Scholarships

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged Arizona's tax breaks for voluntary donations that benefit private-school scholarships, many of them Christian-based. The state program provides dollar-for-dollar income-tax credits for money that's given to school tuition organizations, or STOs. Writing for the majority of the 5-4 ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy said taxpayers who challenged the program lacked "standing," a legal requirement necessary for a case to be heard. read more

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Former Church of God Leader Ray H. Hughes Sr. Dies

Dr. Ray H. Hughes Sr., former general overseer of the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) and past president of Lee University and the National Association of Evangelicals, died late Monday night. He was 87. Hughes was the top leader of the denomination on three separate occasions, the most recent in 1996. He is the only person in the 125-year history of the Church of God to serve as the denominational leader three times.

A widely respected evangelical leader, Hughes rose to top leadership posts in several other organizations, including president of Pentecostal Fellowship of North America and the Pentecostal World Conference. During his chairmanship of the PWC, he led worldwide conferences in Oslo (1992), Jerusalem (1995) and Seoul (1998). read more

Breaking the Church-Growth Barriers

Planting a church and serving as lead pastor is the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I started Bayside Community Church in the spring of 2002 with 20 core leaders that I called the “Dream Team.” We launched our first service that September with 220 people; by December that number had dropped to 87. I remember looking at other church models and asking myself, Why were these churches moving so much faster and making it appear so easy? I wish I had known about the barriers to growing a church before I began this journey. read more

No Charges for Pastors Who Aided Runaway Teen Convert

Six adults, including three pastors, who helped Christian convert Rifqa Bary as a minor run away from her family's Ohio home will not be criminally charged. Prosecutors in Ohio and Florida decided not to file charges against the six for helping Bary leave her Muslim household in Columbus for sanctuary in Orlando, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Police had recommended charging the adults for aiding the underage teen runaway. read more

Study: Pastors Value Soul Winning Over Member Giving

Pastors are more concerned about outreach and evangelism than getting congregants to give more money, according to the findings of a national study of U.S. clergy by research firm Barna Group. When asked what areas they would most like to see develop or grow in the next year with their church or ministry, 46 percent of pastors said they are most interested in outreach and evangelism. read more

Japan Disaster Creates Unprecedented Challenges for Christian Responders

Experts are already predicting that the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan will rank among the most costly natural disasters on record. Three days later, officials struggled to deal with the dead, hospitals ran out of medicine, and entire communities in the hardest-hit areas remained completely silent. Peter Howard with Food For the Hungry (FH) says: "It's a modern country, so this is unparalleled for the scale of this disaster in a modern country. People are without food and without shelter. The Japanese emergency services are moving very quickly, along with the Japanese military. The U.S. military is heavily engaged, so it's really an international partnership on a large scale." read more

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Still Time to Register for Leadership Institute This Month

More than 40 leaders attended the first session of Dr. Mark Rutland's National Institute of Christian Leadership in February, and they all are planning to attend the next session March 28-30. You can click here to listen to what some of these raving fans had to say about Dr. Rutland and the practical leadership teaching they received. If you missed the first session, it's not too late to sign up for the second session later this month. We're also enrolling now for the 2012 sessions. Check out www.drmarkrutland.com or contact us for details. read more

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Join the 'Servolution'!

Servolution. It’s a different kind of word. It’s a different kind of revolution. Usually we think of revolutions as involving angry mobs or military coups, but this is an entirely different angle. It is a revolution that starts by serving those around you. And it isn’t a revolution that unseats governments and political forces. It changes hearts and lives. It makes people realize that there’s a loving God who wants to forgive their sins and give them hope. read more

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Say Hello to the Phone-In Healing Service

In today’s world you can do just about anything over the phone. You can order food. You can pay your bills—and you can get your healing. At least that’s the premise of an evangelism outreach in Seal Beach, Calif. If you are too busy to visit a church and have hands laid on you, two Seal Beach area ministries have your back.

Pastor Benjamin Altschul of Great Among The Nations and senior pastor Gwyn Vanghn of Faith Christian Assembly are partnering on a March 20 event to let people phone in their prayer requests for healing—and they are expecting miracles. read more

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Register for the March Session of Dr. Mark Rutland's Institute

Over 40 leaders attended the first session of Dr. Mark Rutland's National Institute of Christian Leadership in February and they are all planning to attend the next session on March 28-30. You can click here to listen to what some of these raving fans had to say about Dr. Rutland and the practical leadership teaching they received. If you missed the first session, it's not too late to sign up for the second session in March. We're also enrolling now for the 2012 sessions. Check out www.drmarkrutland.com or contact us for details. read more

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Don’t Lose Your Personal Touch During Growth Seasons

I have a pastor’s heart. I really love the people I’ve been called to minister to as lead pastor of River Valley Church in Apple Valley, Minn. They are my spiritual family and friends. But because I want to be involved in their lives, I’m challenged by the rapid growth in our church. One of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in a growing church is my inability to be everything to everyone, and to be everywhere every time there is a need. read more

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PreachingToday.com Announces Book Winners

Among the winners of PreachingToday.com's annual Preaching Today Book Awards are a biography of a major theological figure of the 20th century and an expository volume on the Old Testament as source material for sermons.

Chosen by votes from preaching experts and the editors of PreachingToday.com, the books of the year were divided into two categories—Enhancing the Preacher's Skill and Feeding the Preacher's Soul. read more

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