The Strang Report http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report Sun, 05 Jul 2015 22:03:03 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb I'm Excited About The Sequel to the Movie God's Not Dead http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23719-i-m-excited-about-the-sequel-to-the-movie-god-s-not-dead http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23719-i-m-excited-about-the-sequel-to-the-movie-god-s-not-dead

One of the most successful Christian movies of 2014 was a low-budget film about apologetics called God's Not Dead. It was made for a little over $1 million, but grossed $100 million at the box office, including DVD sales. It now has more than 7 million fans on Facebook.

I knew about the movie before it happened because it was based on the book by the same title written by my longtime friend Rice Broocks. I knew Rice was a passionate apologist for the Christian faith and skilled at explaining complex Christian concepts in a way anyone could understand. I was also aware of the many faith films being made—most of them were mediocre. So I was skeptical when Rice called wanting coverage for the movie, especially since they were having trouble getting theaters to screen the movie. But wanting to encourage any effort to bring Christ into the wider culture, we gave the movie extensive coverage right at its release launch.   

I'm not the only one who liked the movie. When we ran our article, it was shared and reshared by our readers. The first weekend, the relatively few theaters showing the film were nearly sold out. The number of theaters showing the movie doubled the second week. Clearly something was happening. The rest is history.

I tell you this because last week I visited the set for God's Not Dead 2 in Arkansas. I was the guest of Troy Duhon, who provided the funding for the first God's Not Dead movie (which an insider told me may be one of the most successful movies in history based on return on investment).

I wasn't sure what to expect for a sequel, though. Would it be the same actors in a different setting? I rewatched the first as I flew to the set and noticed all sorts of subtleties in plot and characterization that I missed the first time I saw it.

I was impressed again by how good the movie was: the acting, cinematography, the Louisiana State University location. The film even featured a huge rock concert from the Newsboys and a scene where car struck and killed one of the main characters (but not before he accepted Christ).

The basis of the plot is how a young Christian university student defended his faith (using apologetics arguments from Rice Broocks' book) in his philosophy class before a hostile atheistic professor. Yet it had interesting subplots that somehow all fit together: a leftist reporter who discovered she was dying of cancer, and a Muslim student expelled from her home when she accepted Christ (but her father, who was a strict Muslim, was shown to be emotionally torn over losing his daughter).

Another subplot was the anguish of a Christian mother with Alzheimer's. But when she spoke with her wayward selfish son, she spoke about spiritual things with clarity as if she was being led by the Holy Spirit.  

The movie had star power: Willie and Korie Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame made two short appearances as themselves that added to the plot.

Hollywood has taken notice that clean "faith-friendly movies" are more successful than R-rated films. I'm constantly being invited to screenings where the marketers are hoping Christians will pack the theaters and fill marketers' pockets with money. I walked out of one screening recently, horribly disappointed at a movie that claimed to be faith based, but was nothing more than a Catholic priest, a couple of Scriptures and a heart-warming plot. It didn't come close to communicating the gospel or even real Christians being a light in a dark world.

But God's Not Dead filled this need—a strong Christian witness in a well-written, well-acted film. Its sequel is about a high school teacher, played by Melissa Joan Hart, who is arrested for speaking about Jesus in the classroom.

The movie climaxes with a courtroom scene in Little Rock, complete with real experts playing themselves being called to testify.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard and saw. The stars like Melissa Joan Hart and Sadie Robertson were likable and seemed passionate about this new movie. Everyone I talked to from Director Harold Cronk down to the extras said they believed the movie would help teach a generation of Christians how to defend their faith in an increasingly hostile environment.

It was fun watching the takes and retakes and to watch and listen on the monitors at Benton High School in Benton, Arkansas, about a half-hour outside of Little Rock. They used an actual classroom and some local teens, along with members of some Christian bands and the children of a few well-known Christian leaders as students in the school.

Troy was at my side most of the day, explaining the movie business and talking about some of the exciting things that resulted from the first God's Not Dead movie. He also gave me a play by play on what I was seeing and who was who. But when he would reel off how this actor or that actress was on some well-known network TV program, I was clueless because I don't follow those programs.

Many of the actors professed to be Christians, including Hart—who I know as a spokesperson for Wal-Mart—who told me being in the movie allowed her to "come out" as a Christian in Hollywood.

I've traveled the world, interviewed three U.S. presidents and spoken at the United Nations. But I was unprepared for how much fun this was. Even though I play the role of a CEO at the office, I think I must still be a reporter at heart, because I quickly fell back into that role as I interviewed Troy the financier, Harold the director and some of the stars.

While at the filming, I recorded numerous interviews to be used on upcoming podcasts of The Strang Report. You won't want to miss them over the next few weeks. If you haven't subscribed, click here to do so. We're excited how the number of our podcast subscribers is growing every day.

The first time around, no one knew how God's Not Dead would succeed. The promoters were starting from scratch to get an audience. This time around, they have a brand, and many people like me eager to see what is next. How many of their 7 million fans on Facebook do you think will want to see the sequel?

Leave your comments on what you thought about God's Not Dead or this trend toward faith-friendly films in Hollywood. Share this with your friends. Let's get a buzz going in anticipation of this exciting new movie that I believe will be better than the first.

Steve Strang is the founding editor and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook stephenestrang.

]]>
jessilyn.justice@gmail.com (Steve Strang) The Strang Report Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:30:00 -0400
It's Time to Stand Up and Be Counted http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23683-it-s-time-to-stand-up-and-be-counted http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23683-it-s-time-to-stand-up-and-be-counted

By now everyone has heard the bad news: The U.S. Supreme court in a 5-4 decision has legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. The good news is that finally Christians must stand up and be counted. Not only that, but we must resist this spiritual attack with the power of the Holy Spirit and believe that somehow something good will come out of this terrible decision.

Marriage has been under attack for decades. Divorce. Couples living together. A growing acceptance of homosexuality. And an acceptance by many of every sort of sexual behavior.

But this is different in that the Supreme Court has, as the Family Research Council said, "put our government on a collision course with America's cherished religious freedoms, explicitly guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution."

As Christian journalists, we will vigorously cover this story over the upcoming months and years. We will report on who is standing strong and who is caving in. We will not compromise what God's Word says and will do everything in our power to galvanize the church to uphold biblical principles regarding marriage and holy living.

The danger is that many Christians will be silent as they were when prayer was taken out of the schools, or even when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973. Back then it was mostly Roman Catholics who were publically opposed to abortion. Evangelicals only began to oppose abortion later.

This time many are saying that if necessary we will resort to civil disobedience—deciding to follow God's law rather than man's.

Within minutes of the Supreme Court announcement, leaders were issuing statements. For example, 100 evangelical leaders issued this, "Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage," saying "As evangelical Christians, we dissent from the court's ruling that redefines marriage. The state did not create the family and should not try to recreate the family in its own image."

Samuel Rodriguez, the head of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said the "decision redefining marriage serves as a de facto and legal catalyst of the marginalization of Americans who embrace a biblical worldview."

Bishop Joseph Mattera issued a statement on five things churches should immediately do to protect themselves from the Supreme Court "same-sex" marriage law, concluding that "if all else fails and the courts eventually override church bylaws, then the only alternative left will be for biblically based clergy to engage in civil disobedience and refuse to comply with the law—irrespective of the penalties, consequences and cultural stigma they will receive."

Even as I'm writing this, I'm getting statements from presidential candidates like Rick Santorum, who said: "This court ruling is the Roe v. Wade of the 21st century. It's an attack on religious freedom, an affront to the religious liberty of millions of Americans and a threat to the stability of our families. As president, I will do all within my power to overturn it."

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee pledged to "pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman."

We must also work with the many politicians who are outraged by this decision and who agree with the four Supreme Court Justices who dissented. We must have laws passed that protect our ability to "opt out." With some of the other wrong Supreme Court decisions, we as believers could opt out.  For example, there is nothing demanding that a Christian woman get an abortion or that a Christian doctor perform abortion.

But as we've already seen, Christian business people who make wedding cakes or arrange flowers for weddings have been fined for not doing business with same-sex couples. Will churches be forced to perform same-sex weddings, even for non-members?

I believe, like Mattera said, this will remove the wheat from the chaff. It will make Christians decide what they will or won't go along with. Like the pastors who defied the IRS for taking away their tax-exempt status for preaching about politics on a certain Sunday, I believe the government will back down if we stand strong. If not, we must stand strong anyway.

At the same time, we must have a Christlike spirit. To quote Rodriguez, we must reject and repudiate all vestiges of homophobia, intolerance and bigotry (toward the LGBT community) while simultaneously building a firewall against intolerance and bigotry toward followers of Christ who preach truth with love."

Most of those who have issued statements have been from the conservative branch of the evangelical community. I call on every Pentecostal denomination, every charismatic parachurch ministry and virtually every church to issue statements stating their positions. We invite leaders, pastors and ordinary Christians to write commentaries on what must be done. Send them, and we will publish as many as we feel should be published.

It's time to stand up and be counted.

Steve Strang is the founding editor and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook stephenestrang.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamedia.com (Steve Strang ) The Strang Report Fri, 26 Jun 2015 21:10:00 -0400
New Charisma Podcast Network to Highlight Future Conference http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23620-charisma-podcast-network-to-highlight-future-conference http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23620-charisma-podcast-network-to-highlight-future-conference

Pastor Jim Garlow's Future conference in San Diego this week was an amazing array of nearly 50 speakers giving leaders strategies on many issues from gay marriage to the threat of ISIS.

We will report on nearly every speaker in the days ahead. I told one leader that each speaker seemed better than the one before. We want to spread the interesting reports far and wide to mobilize the church far beyond the couple thousand who were able to hear the presentations live. The last session is 7 p.m. tonight and it's being streamed live here. The speeches from the conference will be posted this week at skylinechurch.org.

Charisma Media had the privilege of sponsoring the event because we believe it's important. It also gave me an opportunity to present the new Modern English Version, our new charismacaucus.com, about which I wrote last week.

It was also an opportunity to get out the word about our new Charisma Podcast Network. At the same time I was able to record many podcasts that we will release over the next few weeks on a podcast version of The Strang Report.

Our podcasts were recently put on iTunes. It was exciting for me to go to iTunes and to see my own logo and download several podcasts, including one I did on the importance of the Future conference. I encourage you to go there and download it. Below I tell you how to access all our podcasts.

I am thrilled we can offer our audience a new way to consume our content. For the last 40 years we have tried to remain on the cutting edge of distribution methods for Christian news and feature stories. We realize that our readers are highly mobile and look forward to receiving our content on their smartphones.

According to the Pew Research Center, podcast listening doubled between 2008 and 2015. The research indicated that those who have "listened to a podcast within the past month" currently exceed 17 percent of Americans age 17 and older. The Charisma Podcast Network (CPN) will produce many different programs to supply quality Christian content to the company's loyal following. The first podcast to launch will be the "Charisma News." The news product will be fueled by Charisma News content available online. Online content will be reformatted for podcast through the use of storytelling. The Charisma Podcast News segment will consist of one news story, well told, on a daily basis.

In the July issue of Charisma, Dr. Steve Greene writes about this important new distribution source.

"Our journey in remaining cutting edge with our online presence has led us to consider the vast potential in podcasting," Dr. Greene writes. "The podcasting industry is enjoying a revitalization on the heels of recent successes with podcasts produced by NPR and specifically WBEZ's 'This American Life.' One podcast in particular, 'Serial,' was the fastest podcast to reach the 5 million download milestone."

The Charisma Podcast Network launched this week with five shows for immediate release.

A second podcast titled "Charisma Connection" will feature an in-depth interview with a newsmaker or book author. I will join the network with my "The Strang Report" on a weekly basis.

Popular writer and Charisma News Editor Jennifer LeClaire will host her own podcast entitled "Walking in the Spirit." Dr. Greene hosts a leadership podcast, "Greenelines," which is based on his blog.

Other podcasts scheduled to be released this summer include "Javelin, Sports News the Charisma Way," "SpiritLed Woman" and "Charisma Life Stories." Podcasts from pastors and ministries are planned for future release.

You probably know that in addition to Charisma magazine, we publish Ministry Today and Christian Retailing. Several years ago, Charisma Media began distributing our content through websites and electronically delivered newsletters. In any given month more than 4 million unique visitors view our websites to find the latest news, ministry encouragement and inspiring testimonies. Our 39 newsletters reach more than 185,000 people with stories about what God is doing in the world and in the lives of His people.

You can access our podcasts by visiting charismapodcastnetwork.com or by visiting iTunes and searching Charisma Podcast Network.

I urge you to try them out. Then subscribe and help us get out the word!

Steve Strang is the founding editor and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook stephenestrang.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamedia.com (Steve Strang ) The Strang Report Wed, 17 Jun 2015 20:50:00 -0400
'Charisma Caucus': Where Faith and Politics Meet http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23525-where-faith-and-politics-meet-charisma-caucus http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23525-where-faith-and-politics-meet-charisma-caucus

In the past five years, our Charisma Media Internet traffic has grown exponentially to where we now get more traffic in one day than we did in an entire month previously.

It's happened because of God's grace, a great team and with meeting needs in the marketplace of ideas. This month, we're meeting a need we believe is out there with a robust new site called "Charisma Caucus ... where Faith and Politics Meet."  

The site describes Charisma Caucus as "a comprehensive, faith-based website designed to help readers stay abreast of the movers and shakers in American politics. With the upcoming 2016 presidential election, America needs to hear the voices of Christian voters more than ever."

Our hope is that Charisma Caucus inspires believers to act now and get involved in what many are calling "the most important presidential election in our nation's history."

Next week, we'll officially announce this at Pastor Jim Garlow's Future Conference in San Diego, but the site is online now with articles and opinions about Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Gov. George Pataki, Rick Perry and all the other candidates. (If you haven't decided to attend this conference click here to read what I wrote a couple of weeks ago with information about this important conference.

Next month, our online managing editor, Shawn Akers, writes about Charisma Caucus in the July issue of Charisma. To help bring focus to it, I'm using most of what he wrote here to share my own excitement on this important new site.

"At this critical hour in our nation's history, it is imperative for Americans—especially believers—to be aware of the country's political landscape," Akers wrote. Christians must not only be well-informed of who is shaping government policy, but also what hot-button issues will affect their lives in the days ahead.

"Since we launched charismanews.com, we've worked to bring you breaking news from a spiritual perspective," says Jennifer LeClaire, the senior editor at Charisma Media. "Our coverage has long included political issues, but with what prophetic voices and political pundits are calling the most important presidential election in our nation's history we are digging deeper to bring you in-depth analysis of the political news that matters most to our loyal readers."  

With morality spiraling downward along with government policy, America needs Christian voters' voices to be heard. Charisma Caucus will provide readers with commentaries with a biblical worldview from top Christian political analysts such as David Lane, Todd Starnes, Tony Perkins, Dr. Michael Brown, Jay Sekulow, Matt Barber and Mat Staver. You will hear from Christian organizations such as the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Center for Law and Justice.

The site will include profiles of every presidential candidate and up-to-date news surrounding each candidate through the primaries and the election. Charisma Caucus will also cover both the Democratic and Republican national conventions extensively.

Charisma Caucus encourages readers to take a proactive role in the site. We will post articles and provide resources that help readers take action on the political front—how to contact your government representatives, how to vote, how to prompt others to vote and how to pray for politicians. We provide information about groups and organizations that conduct prayer rallies and how churches can initiate voter registration drives.

In addition, we are creating a voter's guide that will inform readers how the political candidates stand on the important issues, along with our recommendations for upcoming elections. Christian voters, take heed to what these elections mean for the future of our country, and stay informed with Charisma Caucus.

Be among the first to see this new site. Then help us get out the word through social media. Not only will this be an interesting site to check regularly, but hopefully it will also inform millions of readers and help shape the future of the political landscape.

Steve Strang is the founding editor and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook stephenestrang.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamedia.com (Steve Strang ) The Strang Report Wed, 10 Jun 2015 15:00:00 -0400
At a Relevant Milestone, Here's Why I'm So Proud of Cameron http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23466-on-a-big-milestone-today-i-stand-as-a-proud-father-cameron http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23466-on-a-big-milestone-today-i-stand-as-a-proud-father-cameron

Congratulations to my son, Cameron, whose Relevant Media Group is 15 years old this week. If you read down, you can read what he posted on Facebook. As his dad, it's very heartwarming to read.

I am so proud of him. Most dads would probably be expected to say that, but I really am. Look what he's accomplished—he's influencing his generation for God and doing it with excellence. Last year, more than 73 million interacted with his content in print and online, including the president of the United States!

Sometimes people ask me if Relevant is part of Charisma Media. It isn't. It's a totally separate company with offices 12 miles away. We set it up to be separate 15 years ago. Other than the fact Cameron grew up hearing dinner conversation about magazine stuff, and his mother and I have done what we could to help, he is totally self made. It's not been easy. Not only must he live up to (or live down) who I am and what I do, but the media business is shifting—almost by the month. Yet he has navigated those waters successfully and he's making his mark.

Cameron posted this photo on Facebook. It's a classic—especially the cutout in the back of a WCW wrestler with my face on it. They called it Big Wrestling Steve. The younger generation has fun making fun of me, and I love it. I know they think I'm old-fashioned and stuffy in my coat and tie. But hey, at least I'm consistent!

If you don't subscribe to Relevant, get their newsletter or subscribe to the podcasts, I urge you to do so by clicking here.  

This week is another milestone for me too. I started work on Charisma 40 years ago. On Aug. 5 we'll celebrate our 40th anniversary. (That was the day the first issue came off the press five days late!). When Cameron started Relevant Media Group, we decided to also start on June 1—25 years to the day from when I started.

In each issue of Charisma this year, I've written a perspective on the charismatic movement over the past 40 years. Soon I'll run them as a Strang Report as we lead up to the actual 40th anniversary of Charisma in August, including a big anniversary issue that focuses on the 40 people we've covered who we believe have radically changed their world—the slogan we adopted for Charisma several years ago. You won't want to miss it.

While I'm sharing Facebook posts, let me mention one from Stephen Galloza, a Christian counselor and minister in the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches. He posted what he told me when we went boating this past weekend—his pastor passed along to him copies of Charisma when he was a teenager and it helped form his understanding of the Pentecostal/charismatic world.

Troy Anderson, the new executive editor of Charisma, told me the same thing when he interviewed. His youth pastor and mentor gave him copies of Charisma as a teen. While I assume most young people are more interested in Relevant than Charisma (and while we don't specifically write to that generation), I'm encouraged to know that Charisma helped form these two fine men. So, pass along your copies of Charisma to your kids or young people that you're mentoring. And if you don't subscribe to our print version, you can do so by clicking here.

And while I'm on a roll, let me encourage you to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.  I have thousands of followers but appreciate your help in getting more.

Here's what Cameron wrote on Facebook. Can you understand why I'm a proud dad?

Cameron Strang: Second-Generation Media Success

By Cameron Strang on Facebook

This pic is me and my dad on the first day of Relevant Media Group—exactly 15 years ago today. When I was a college sophomore, I had the idea to make media (that would) give voice to what God was doing in my generation. So for the next five years, I worked out a business plan, got experience any way I could, and devoured every resource on media and starting a business I could find.

Then in early 2000, after I got fired from my magazine job in Nashville, I took the leap. My parents gave us a free suite in the back of their office and their unwanted '80s office furniture, and on June 1, I was able to start the company. (Our office mascot, which you see behind us, was a cut-out of a WWE wrestler with my dad's face on it—we called him Big Wrestlin' Steve. I miss Big Wrestlin' Steve).

A few months later, I was in a lot of debt and realizing I had no idea what I was doing. But, we had started. In those days we did design work for clients, and on the side worked on our own media that we wanted to launch one day. As we send our 76th magazine to the printer today, I can't believe 15 years has passed. And while the mission is the same, everything else has changed. Last year more than 73 million people interacted with our content, which is mind-blowing. Most of our audience is digital now, but even the print magazine grew 51 percent last year. It's crazy.

An anniversary like today makes me stop and look at the journey. While there have been very hard years and painful sacrifices, I'm incredibly grateful to see what God has done. I want to thank everyone who has been a part of Relevant in some way. If you've read our content, downloaded a podcast, bought an issue (or a book, or one of our other magazines back in the day), thank you. To all of our advertisers, thank you. To everyone who has worked with me along the way, or written for us, thank you. To those who have mentored me, supported and challenged me, thank you.

Relevant is a living and breathing thing. It changes every year just like what God is doing and saying in this generation changes. I honestly feel like we're still just starting out and barely scratching the surface of what He's calling us to do. I'm more excited now than I was that first day. And that's a pretty cool feeling 15 years in.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamedia.com (Steve Strang ) The Strang Report Tue, 02 Jun 2015 19:05:00 -0400
Jerusalem 2015 Brings Evidence the Holy Spirit is Alive and Well http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23410-jerusalem-2015-brings-evidence-the-holy-spirit-is-alive-and-well-holy http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23410-jerusalem-2015-brings-evidence-the-holy-spirit-is-alive-and-well-holy

Jerusalem 2015 sponsored by Empowered21 proved to be a powerful event that brought Pentecostals and charismatics from around the world to Israel for Pentecost Sunday, a day when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is joyfully celebrated.

The five-day event was streamed live on the Internet. TBN recorded it and will use it along with interviews from leaders for a period of weeks. Our Charisma News  covered it and, if you follow me on Facebook or Twitteryou saw my posts of some of the worship, some clips of powerful preaching and people I met along the way.

I was amazed at the number of top leaders who came at their own expense to minister. The preaching and worship was the best of the best from around the world. E21 presented the first Lifetime Global Impact Awards to Reinhard Bonnke, Morris Cerullo, Jack Hayford, Marilyn Hickey, David Mainse and Vinson Synan.  

While attendance records were not discussed, it seemed that the largest groups came from Asia—mainly from Indonesia and China. On the last night, those of us in leadership formed prayer tunnels and prayed for every person in less than half an hour. I served with five others and prayed for mostly Chinese attendees who seemed overwhelmed being prayed for on Pentecost in Jerusalem. I felt out of my element, but I stepped out in faith and prayed in the Spirit for those who passed before me. It was a powerful experience.

Billy Wilson, president of Oral Roberts University, and Dr. George Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, are co-chairs of Empowered21, which grew out of the Azusa Centennial in 2006. The vision of E21, which I endorse, is that every person on earth would have an authentic encounter with Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit by Pentecost 2033.

Charisma Media served as one of the event's main sponsors and presented the Modern English Version of the Bible, which the public seemingly received well. I spoke with leaders about it, explaining that in only nine months it had cracked the top 10 among all translations. Many leaders like Dr. Mark Williams and Dr. Jack Hayford have given rousing endorsements. Other leaders seemed to like the idea of a new literal translation into modern English in the King James tradition.

During the conference, author and worship artist Faytene Grasseschi from Canada and I emceed a session in the arena. She gave away a CD of the worship that took place at the event. I gave away a copy of the MEV; a lady from Africa almost tackled me to get it, much to everyone's delight! Later, Cris Doornbos, CEO of David C. Cook (which owns Integrity Music) and I co-chaired a breakout session on media. I said I'd give away a Bible and the place was packed. I conducted a short writer's seminar and connected with many new writers for Charisma House and Charisma News.

I flew home yesterday feeling full and inspired. The renewal movement seems alive and well. The conference put an emphasis on the next generation and raising up leaders. And the more than 100 volunteers from ORU seemed to be everywhere serving and encouraging.

The event encountered a few problems. It began with the fact that, while services were held Wednesday and Thursday night, no service could be held on Friday night in observance of the Jewish Sabbath. Not only that, but the following day is the holiday Shavuot—Feast of First Fruits. It was as if two consecutive Sabbaths had occurred. On Pentecost Sunday night, we had to wait until 8:15 p.m. when Shavuot ended. While we were lined up outside waiting, officials kept us out longer just in case the first star hadn't come out signaling the beginning of the new day.

On Friday, a special celebration was planned in Manger Square in Bethlehem partly to show solidarity with Christians in the Palestinian area and to avoid the Jewish Sabbath. But there was so much local controversy over this that, hours before the event, local officials cancelled it. It was moved to the area during the late afternoon, a time that had been allotted to travel to Bethlehem. But we had to end by sundown!

The next day, a special baptism was held in the Jordan River was planned where a few Jordanian Christians were baptized on the Jordanian side as a sign of Christian unity. I missed this because I was interviewed on TBN about the Modern English Version.

Some people took Saturday and Sunday to view a few of the many significant sites in the Holy Land. Since I've been six times previously, I did no touring. But I used the time to drive to Tel Aviv to visit a messianic congregation called Adonai Roi (The Lord is my Shepherd) on Shabbat. What a blessing to see this thriving congregation. It's worth seeing the video clip of Senior Pastor Avi Mizrachi saying the Shema. The children also did a little dance for Shavuot, which I'd never seen.

The next day—Sunday—I attended Calvary Baptist Church in East Jerusalem pastored by an amazing young man named Steven Khoury whom I'd met on my last trip to Israel. Even though the name said Baptist, the service was fully charismatic. And the congregation of about 120 (huge in Israel) is solidly pro-Israel, unlike some Arab Christians. I was so impressed by what I saw, we will be writing about this congregation and their efforts to buy a much-needed building.

Another thing that impressed me was the new Friends of Zion Heritage Center founded by my longtime friend Mike Evans. It's a multimedia experience that tells how Christians were early supporters of Israel and how many like Corrie ten Boom risked their lives to save Jews during the holocaust. We'll write about this later as well.

I felt the goals articulated in the beginning were achieved:

  • To unite the global Spirit-filled community together intergenerationally for the purposes of seeking a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the 21st century
  • To focus the energy and resources of the Spirit-empowered global church on the harvest and the challenge before us
  • To provide a platform for addressing the crucial issues facing the 21st-century Spirit-empowered church
  • To discover contemporary methods, vocabulary, spiritual grace and relational favor for engaging every generation in Spirit-empowered living
  • To witness greater convergence and collaboration of Spirit-empowered ministries around the world

To witness greater convergence and collaboration of Spirit-empowered ministries around the world

I've been to many large Pentecostal gatherings over the years—probably an average of one a year for 40 years. This one had a good spirit. No big egos were evident. Powerful ministry took place.

Despite the doom and gloom we often hear, there seemed to be optimism about the work of the Holy Spirit around the world. If anything, the message seemed to be that, with the world we live in, we have no choice but to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Steve Strang is the founding editor and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook (stephenestrang).

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamedia.com (Steve Strang ) The Strang Report Tue, 26 May 2015 19:30:00 -0400
Christian Leaders, Join Jim Garlow to Help Save America's Future http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23347-christian-leaders-join-jim-garlow-to-help-save-america-s-future http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23347-christian-leaders-join-jim-garlow-to-help-save-america-s-future

As America and Western civilization have spiraled downward, the pulpits of America have been notably silent. But if America is going to turn things around, it will require Christian leaders to understand the centrality of God's Word to every challenge we face in American society today, and to preach it!

Thankfully, many pastors are waking up to this responsibility. One is Pastor Jim Garlow of Skyline Church near San Diego, California, who has fearlessly stood for righteousness, including when he led the successful effort to approve Proposition 8 in California which amended the California constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Now he's calling pastors and leaders to meet him in La Mesa, California, June 14-17 for an event called The Future Conference.

I'm writing this to encourage pastors and Christian leaders to attend in order to be equipped to speak up and speak out. I believe the conference is so important that Charisma Media has signed on as one of the sponsors. I also will be in attendance.

"This is not the typical pastors conference," Garlow told me. "We are addressing many of the nation's most challenging issues with gutsy, cutting-edge solutions.

"Many pastors don't seem to take seriously the fact that there are biblical principles that can be applied to every component of community and national life. The purpose of the Future Conference is to educate, embolden and activate pastors, Christian leaders and serious followers of Jesus Christ."

Garlow told me he believes if America's 325,000 churches were preaching and teaching distinctly biblical economics, the American people "wouldn't have elected 535 representatives in Congress who are spending the nation into economic oblivion."

"What's missing?" Garlow asks rhetorically. "It's the Word of God applied to national life—in this case economic issues."

This is only one of 20 issues being covered by 50 speakers. The conference also will address the catastrophic loss of religious liberty in this nation and its future implications. In addition, speakers will address the topic of terrorism at home and abroad, as well as poverty, racism and human trafficking.

"Speakers will not be philosophical. There's no time for that," Garlow told me. "Each will be highly practical with takeaway points."

The list of speakers is distinguished and the topics are crucial for America. You can find them both here by clicking on skylinechurch.org.

I urge you to encourage your pastor to attend, and maybe offer to pay his way! Think of it as an investment in your church and America's future at a time we need every pastor to be bold and help change the direction of this nation.

Steve Strang is the founding editor and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter @sstrang or Facebook (stephenestrang).

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamedia.com (Steve Strang ) The Strang Report Mon, 18 May 2015 13:30:00 -0400
Here's an Inspiring Story of Grace and a Leader With Vision http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23282-here-s-an-inspiring-story-of-grace-and-a-leader-with-vision http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23282-here-s-an-inspiring-story-of-grace-and-a-leader-with-vision

I am always inspired by stories of vision—where a leader is able to go against the tide and believes God to build something in spite of trends.

That is the story of Phil Chamberlain, a pastor I met with last week while I was in Texas. His story in growing a nearly defunct United Methodist Church is all that and more. It is also a story of grace. In fact, that is the name of the church, Palestine Grace United Methodist Church.

But this isn't just a story of church growth. It's about the creative solution of how a bankrupt golf course became a blessing not only to the church but to the entire community.

The Cliffs Notes version of this story is that, through teaching on praise and worship and relying on the Holy Spirit, Pastor Phil has experienced 48 percent growth year in and year out for the past four years. Click here to see a short clip of him telling the story in his own words.

I have known Phil for several years. I heard about the growth of his church but had no idea of the details until I met with him on a business trip to Dallas. His story impressed me so much that I wanted to share it with you here in the hopes that it will inspire you. Even if you are not a pastor, you can believe God for great things in your life.  

Ten years ago, Grace moved from its downtown location to an abandoned social security office. By the time Phil became the lead pastor four years ago, the church had dwindled to 35 people and was in danger of closing.

"We weren't on death's doorstep, but we were in death's front yard," Pastor Phil told me. "The people were desperate for vision."

Vision was something God had given him for the church. Moving to Texas from Colorado Springs, he had been employed by a megachurch and later helped plant a church.

"Those experiences were a seminal moment in my life. They taught me about vision, leadership and the grace of God like no other," he said.

Phil-Chamberlin-phoGrowing a church in the Bible belt of East Texas, which already had 150 churches nearby, wouldn't be easy. But God opened the door to carve a niche that other churches weren't pursuing.

"People are hungry for the grace of God," Pastor Phil says, "They need a word from God and to know God is for them." Grace could understand that. The church had gone through a difficult 10 years prior with a scandal. Everybody in town knew about it. So God led the leadership team to a new tagline: 'The People of the Second Chance.' What better (witness) than a church that needed a second chance, becoming a place for people who needed a second chance with God."

The leadership began focusing on the grace of God found in Luke 15 in the story of the Prodigal Son. From that theme, they helped people understand the heart of God toward people.

In the process, they discovered that this biblical idea resonated with people.

"We all know we're sinners," Pastor Phil said. " Instead of beating people up, we focus on lifting them up to the grace of God. And it's the kindness of the Lord that leads them to repentance. They don't want to sin when they fall in love with the goodness of the Lord."

Pastor Phil punctuates his messages with his own failures, often with a lot of humor. "The result hasn't been a focus on the softness on sin, but on the greatness of God who can use messed-up people," he said.

Pastor Phil says he hates to waste peoples' time because they've been through "hell" all week long and they need a bit of "heaven" when they come in those doors. It needs to feel like home.

The atmosphere has been electric and is resonating with the community. A year into Pastor Phil's ministry, Grace's former building was too small to accommodate the crowds. "We used to joke that everyone was welcome except the fire marshall. But then, one Sunday, I got scared at how over-capacity we were," Pastor Phil says.

Looking to expand into a new location, Grace's leadership was frustrated by obstacles to building on land they owned. Then, an out-of-the-box idea came one day.

"One day, a lady tells me the former country club is for sale. I laugh because there is no way we can afford the huge price tag," Pastor Phil said.

But she insisted that the price had been cut by two-thirds. "So to humor her, I asked our realtor to check into it. The realtor called back and said, 'No, that's not the right price.' I knew it couldn't be that low. But the realtor interrupts and says, 'No, it's $300,000 lower than that. The price dropped again this morning.'"

Within a few months, Grace bought the country club with a new building large enough to serve its congregation and 116 acres that included a golf course. The club had been closed down for four years and had been infested with wild hogs that destroyed the course.

The first question was, "What do we do with the course?" One of the board members happened to be the superintendent for the local independent school district.

She and Pastor Phil were having a meeting where they both had an idea to share, and they both wanted to go first. As it turns out, it was the same idea that God had placed on their hearts: What if the Palestine ISD leased the golf course and ran it as a public course so that students can learn the basics of business management and other real-world knowledge for college credit? A month after buying the land, Grace leased the golf course to the school district.

"It's a win for Grace, a win for the school and a win for the community," Pastor Phil says. "They educate kids. The community benefits. And we have a mission field in our own backyard."

Indeed, there is no other similar golf course partnership on record in the United States between a church and school—particularly a public school.

Coming onto the property at Grace for the first time, guests are greeted by creative signs like "God allows Mulligans" and "God is NOT mad at you." This focus on grace has impressed the community where neighbors often stop members to tell them how much they appreciate what God is doing.

Pastor Phil recalls a lady flagging him down in the parking lot. "I thought she was going to complain about the traffic," he said.

Instead, the lady broke down in tears sobbing because of family problems. She felt alone and condemned. But when she saw the sign, "God is NOT mad at you," it touched her that God really does care about her.

She is now a server at Grace. People will drive on the parking lot and immediately feel at home because of the Spirit of the Lord. This is due to the prayer walking and 24/7 praise music that has emanated from the building since they bought it. "The first thing we did after we turned the electric on is turn on praise music. We saturated the place with the sound of heaven," Pastor Phil said.

The vision for the property is large. They include plans to establish a prayer center, children's ministry center, youth center, a worship and discipleship school for ministers in training to go and plant other churches, and a planned residential development on part of the acreage.

After renovations were complete, Grace moved into their new facility in March, 2014, but they quickly ran out of room by September of the same year. Multiple services have eased the pressure of growth but the main service is still over capacity.

This month, Grace is breaking ground for a new worship center that will be open within the next year. "We're still believing God for that $1 million" to build the new facility, Pastor Phil says. "He'll do it. He is faithful!"

"We're in the middle of a miracle here," says Pastor Phil, "God is doing this. I'm not smart enough to figure this out. East Texas is the place of stagnant churches. But God is breaking through with fresh wind and fresh fire here."

The mission field is large: 29,000 people in the county don't have a church. When does Grace stop growing? "When all 29,000 people find Jesus in a local church," Pastor Phil says. "The Father wants them home."

Steve Strang is the founding editor and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter @sstrang or Facebook (stephenestrang).

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamedia.com (Steve Strang ) The Strang Report Tue, 12 May 2015 18:05:00 -0400
Amid Christian Persecution, There Is Good News in the Middle East http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23191-amid-christian-persecution-there-is-good-news-in-the-middle-east http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23191-amid-christian-persecution-there-is-good-news-in-the-middle-east

At the recent meeting at the United Nations highlighting the persecution of Christians, there was a surprisingly positive report from one presenter who said that the church is growing in Iran, in spite of or because of the persecution of Christians by Muslims.

As already reported, there is plenty of bad news from the region. Each year, 100 million Christians suffer persecution, imprisonment and even death for their sacred religious beliefs. According to The Voice of the Martyrs, a ministry dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide, "more people have died for their faith in Christ in the last 100 years" than in the previous 19 centuries combined.

While it seems in some countries we are literally seeing watching the genocide of Jesus' followers in the Middle East, the Iranian speaker who now lives in the United States says the church is growing largely because of Christian television being beamed into the country. There is a real spiritual vacuum; people long for a spiritual reality that Islam cannot provide.

Recently I interviewed Christian leaders from three different Muslim nations. One source explained to me that ISIS considers moderate Muslims as infidels, so they also have a "price to pay." As Shia and Sunni Muslims fight each other, "a Shia mosque being destroyed (one day) and the next day a Sunni mosque being destroyed (isn't uncommon)," he told me. "And in between, of course, Christians were being smashed especially when they are located under the region of ISIS. So, in general, the Christians are paying a very high price, but other Muslims are suffering too, especially those like the Yazidi people. They pay a very high price exactly like the Christians because they are considered as infidel from the ISIS groups."  

But, now for some good news. For their security, I am giving no names and being ambiguous about locations. For authenticity, I'm quoting my sources as much as possible within the bullet points. Let the facts speak for themselves. To my knowledge, these stories have never before been reported.

  • "The good part of the story, is that God is using this to change the perspective of Christians in front of many Muslims. God is using this to open the eyes and ears of many Muslims to see the reality of who God is. God is not the God of violence. God should be the God of love—should be the good God, the God that the gospel is preached so many of them are coming, seeking and asking about the things of Christianity.  
  • "While the Christians under the persecution, they were very giving, very loving, blessing. Every time they were interviewed after such a massacre, they spoke positively toward the country, toward Muslims, forgiving their persecutors, praying for them, asking forgiveness for them which is unheard of.
  • "Every time Muslims were killed, their families, their parents asked for revenge. Here, every time they asked for forgiveness so many people started to compare. What is this? What spirit do you have? This is completely out of the box, out of their expectations. So God is using this in a mighty way to bring glory to Himself and to bring people to reconciliation with Him, with themselves and with their community.
  • "More than that, now in Egypt, the government is trying to do their best to pay back what the Christians did to save the country. It could have been a civil war between the Christians and Muslims, but because the Christians reacted in a loving and forgiving way, (Christians) saved Egypt. The Muslim community came to us and said, Because of you, God saved Egypt. God saved us because of the church. For the first time, the Muslim community is changing their perspective about the church and Christians.
  • "Systematically, the radical Muslim, they are doing something to wipe out, if possible, you know, the Christian community, the radical Muslim. But the moderate Muslim actually is good. They are a friend of Christians. But this radical, they are like terrorists, so they keep attacking.

I'll close with an incredible story from Indonesia, where Christians showed love to the Muslims who persecuted them. Outside of Afghanistan, Indonesia, is considered the second largest base of the radical, like al-Qaida, even ISIS. Yet the church is growing at a rate of 2 million converts a year. If you missed my report on this, click here.

Persecution in Indonesia is less in the big cities, where most of the problems where laws are passed to keep churches from renting public buildings. But in some of the outlying islands, there is real persecution. One story of Christian love and forgiveness shows why the church is growing. Again, I'm quoting my source, edited only for space and clarity.

  • "So there was a village in the east side of Indonesia. One day radical Muslims used this opportunity to that village. The village is mostly Christian, so they burned their houses, killed them, and they came with 500 soldiers with all the weapons. But then the Christians were cornered into a church building inside, so they killed 211 of them in one day and injured about 140 people. And then, the church, you know, next day they buried the dead and it was so sad. And so they made a monument there. (After this the Christians ministered to the Muslims) and because of the love of the Christian many were born again. They accepted Christ; there was a revival.  
  • "(So the Christians) began to pray, 'Lord, we don't have any building on Sunday to worship You. Can you give us money to rebuild it?' So when they prayed, God spoke to them, you know, 'I don't want you to use the money to rebuild your church first. I want you to collect the first offering and give it to the Muslims who killed you, who persecuted you. Give it to them so they can renovate their mosque also.' So they obeyed. Very hard for them, you know, because they were the enemy of them. But anyway, after they prayed, they were convinced by God and then they said, 'OK, God. We want to obey.' So they took that first offering, which is huge for them, $5,000 U.S. dollars. And then, they brought that money with praise and worship. I think about 2,000 people marched to the next village, you know, with joy, came to them and said, 'God told us to give you this money to rebuild your village and your facilities.' The Muslim leader wept. They said, 'Why you love us? We attacked you. We destroyed your building. Why you love us?'
  • "The Christians said, 'Because Jesus told us to do this.' They all wept and one of them stood up and said, 'Hey, Muslim people, we need to do something. Go to the jungle and cut all the bamboo tree and donate it to the church.' So they took all the bamboo trees and brought it to the church and donated it. So the government was so moved because of this, what the Christians did to the Muslims, so the government decided to give $15,000 U.S. dollars to rebuild the church building and by the help of many churches, you know, the church was able to rebuild and very beautiful, not only the church building but the people now experience tremendous revival. Now they are born again and almost 100 percent of that village become Christian."
]]>
shawn.akers@charismamedia.com (Steve Strang ) The Strang Report Tue, 28 Apr 2015 18:30:00 -0400
We Must Focus on Ending Persecution of Christians Worldwide http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23127-we-must-focus-on-ending-persecution-of-christians-worldwide http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/the-strang-report/23127-we-must-focus-on-ending-persecution-of-christians-worldwide

Last Friday I had the privilege of speaking at the United Nations on the topic of the persecuted church. If you missed what I said, click here. Even though I've had many wonderful experiences in my role as a Christian journalist, it was a peak experience to go to that august assembly and be given the floor to speak out for those who have no voice.

Since Friday there have been reports of Christians thrown overboard by Muslims on a migrant ship in the Mediterranean apparently only because they were Christians. And some Ethiopians were slaughtered in Libya only because they were Christians.

When will the killing end? The United Nations and U.S. leaders must pass resolutions to protect Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

It's also vitally important that President Obama appoint a Special Envoy for the protection of religious minorities in the Middle East and call for the establishment of an International Day of Prayer in solidarity with Christians in the Middle East.

There was an impressive lineup of speakers from Rabbi Jonathan Cahn to Lt. Gen. (Ret) William Boykin, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, and representatives from nearly every segment of the Christian community. The speeches were so good that we will publish most of them in the next two weeks. It's my way of giving attention to the problem.

While it was a great honor to be invited to speak and I delivered my remarks with conviction, I realized the real value in my being there wasn't to speak as much as for me to be reminded of the seriousness of the problem. Also, it reminded me that I can't be content to write about it from time to time rather than make it a focus.

We must focus on this. If we don't, who will? And we can't just feel persecution of Christians is something that only applies to others in some far away place. If one part of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer. And in a way, we're victims of the same anti-Christian feelings—there is more societal discrimination of Christians in the West too.

I call on other Christian media like Christianity Today, WND, Christian Post and Salem Communications to focus on this too. In addition, Christian radios and TV should raise awareness since the secular media seem to minimize it.

Friday's event, as historic as it was, received minimal coverage in the press.

So you can help by making your friends and fellow church members aware of the problem. Speak up. Make your voice heard. Forward articles on Christian persecution to your friends on social media—including the ones we publish.

And pray. We must pray for those who suffer. We must pray the suffering will end. We must pray that the U.N. will speak up to condemn this as unacceptable in the civilized world.

Do you agree? Leave your thoughts below.

Steve Strang is the founding editor and publisher of Charisma. Follow him on Twitter @sstrang or Facebook (stephenestrang).

To read more about Christian persecution and Islamic terrorism, please check out Mark Gabriel's Journey Into the Mind of an Islamic Terrorist. You can purchase the book by clicking here.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamedia.com (Steve Strang ) The Strang Report Tue, 21 Apr 2015 19:00:00 -0400