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Inform-ChurchSuit

Church Suit May Go to High Court

It’s not unusual for churches to rent school auditoriums for worship services. The Bronx Household of Faith just wants the same rights other community groups have to assemble in public schools during off hours. But school officials who preside over the New York borough are allegedly discriminating against the group because it would use the facility for religious services, the church claims.

The New York City Department of Education consistently rejected Bronx Household’s request to meet at a school building for weekend services until a federal district court in 2002 issued an injunction prohibiting the department from keeping churches out. Now the U.S. Supreme Court may decide the matter. It’s a case that could have far-reaching ramifications for churches across the nation that wish to hold meetings in public schools. read more

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The Politics of Sunday Sermons

Should government regulate Sunday morning sermons about political candidates? Most Protestant pastors don’t think so. A survey shows they want the freedom to preach what the Bible says about candidates’ positions.

 According to LifeWay Research, nearly nine out of 10 Protestant senior pastors believe government should not regulate sermons. 

“The survey confirmed what pastors of nearly every persuasion have told us for years: They don’t want the IRS or any other governmental agency to censor what they say from their pulpits,” said Alliance Defense Fund Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley.  read more

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Europe’s Illegal Faith

Religion is on the move in Europe, but it’s heading in the wrong direction for Christians.

On the one hand, the pilgrim industry is booming. The European Union, local governments and liberal churches are investing millions to modernize and market medieval pilgrim routes. Millions—including a growing number of nonbelievers and charismatic Christians—have set out on holy trails.

On the other hand, campaigns are mounting against Bible-believing Christians who hold on to Jesus as the only way. Europeans, even within the churches, perceive biblical persuasions and morals as fundamentalist and anti-democratic. In some cases biblical Christianity is already illegal.

For centuries European emperors and kings imposed their religion of choice upon subjects—and European governments still claim the right to control religion. Authorities increasingly intervene, judging which religious convictions are compatible with the ruling definition of European democracy—which is secular pluralism. read more

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Christian Support Divided Over Anti-Gay Pride Parade

A city councilman in Brazil is paving the way for heterosexuals to stand against excessive gay rights with the nation’s first Heterosexual Pride Day. But some Christian ministries that work with gays think this so-called Straight Pride Day sends a divisive message.

Carlos Apolinário’s legislation proposes to celebrate heterosexual pride on the third Sunday of December. Although the mayor could rain on the parade by not signing the bill, Heterosexual Pride Day is set to take place in Brazil’s largest city—São Paulo—where gay pride marches frequently take over the city streets.

“I respect gays and I am against any kind of aggression made against them,” Apolinário said. “The creation of Heterosexual Day does not symbolize a struggle against gays but against what I believe are excesses and privileges.” read more

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In Philly, a ‘Soul Patrol’ Church is Out to Win the City

Thumping music filling the air. Smoke rising from barbecue grills. And the ice-cold beer flowing freely. That’s the typical scene at block parties in north Philadelphia when the Deliverance Evangelistic Church van turns the corner—right before these street missionaries change the spiritual climate.

Indeed, the secular street party doesn’t daunt outreach leader David Young or his team of devil-busting soul-winners. As the group arrives, prayer, preaching and a call for souls goes forth in the City of Brotherly Love. Within 30 minutes, the block party bows to the gospel message.

It’s called “Operation Take the City,” a soul-winning program Deliverance Evangelistic Church runs in the hard streets of Philadelphia. Through its various outreach strategies the church sees about 3,000 people saved every year—in a city chilled by the realities of HIV infections that are dramatically outpacing the national average and one of the highest crime rates in the nation. read more

Inmates in Mexico Enjoy a Biblical-Style Meal

Jesus multiplied food twice in the Bible—and He’s still doing it today. It all happened during an Operation Mobilization (OM) prison outreach in Oaxaca, Mexico. Organizers had enough food for 70 people. But after the service started at the men’s prison in Pochulta, the inmates came in droves.

The meeting began with praise and worship, and a former drug addict offered his moving testimony, OM reported. Next came a drama, then a sermon from the Word of God that challenged the prisoners. OM reported that several men were so touched by the messages that tears ran down their cheeks. read more

Inform-TrinityChurch

Miami Church Eyes the Future With 2020 Vision

Rich Wilkerson has 2020 Vision—the name of his goal to reach 100,000 souls for Christ before 2020 by planting satellite campuses of Trinity Church across South Florida.

With its Miami Gardens facility jammed to capacity with four weekend services that minister to more than 4,000 members—and with a fast-growth online campus reaching about 500 people a week—Trinity returned to its roots by reopening its original church building in September.

“We’ve been crying for space,” Wilkerson says. “My cousin, David Wilkerson, used to tell me to put all my eggs in one basket and then guard that basket with my life. He said you can never be dynamic until you become specific. So we’re reopening our original campus and we plan to launch on South Beach or midtown Miami next, God willing.” read more

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‘Charisma’ Article Inspires ‘Safe House’ for Girls

Carl Keyes has been working tirelessly to change the lives of individuals and communities around the world for decades. Now the founder of Aid for the World, an international humanitarian-aid organization, is spearheading a project of a different kind in his own backyard: a safe house for young girls rescued from the sex-slave industry.

“I get hundreds of emails every week from people that need help,” Keyes says. “Of course, I can’t help everybody, but when I read an email about a woman who was trying to rescue girls from forced prostitution and needed help renovating a historic home to house them, it felt right,” he adds, noting that the woman, Debbie Colton, had read about his organization in Charisma and decided to pursue his help.

“What has happened to these girls is not even human. Family members or boyfriends get young girls hooked on drugs, they are chained to a bed, and 25 to 30 times a day a man comes into their room for sex,” Keyes says. “When Debbie told me about this, I hit the ground crying and praying. I had to do something.” read more

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Prayers for IsraeI

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas presented a bid for full membership in the United Nations in September, blaming the failure of the peace process on Israel. Abbas called for a return to the 1967 lines. Meanwhile, Jews were at the Western Wall—praying. “Israel wants peace and a Palestinian state,” says The Israel Project’s Founder and President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. 

“Sadly, sometimes they seem to want it more than the Palestinians. I deeply hope that President Abbas will recognize that the issues of security, borders, water and refugees need to be resolved with mutual respect and agreements ... and cannot be imposed by the United Nations. He should drop his preconditions and hate and come to peace talks right away. Israel is ready for this conflict to end so both sides can have a better future.” read more

Mixed Offerings

There’s good news and bad news for local congregations supported by tithes and offerings. Although some churches are reporting a growth in offerings, others are still feeling the recessionary pinch in 2011.

  • 71% of pastors are meeting or exceeding budgets
  • 50% say more members are volunteering
  • 48% report more members have lost jobs
  • 22% of pastors report lower offerings 
  • 15% are delaying construction projects
  • 10% are delaying hiring

                                       Source: LifeWay Research read more

United We Stand (With Israel)

Christian ministries supporting God’s chosen nation in hour of need 

When God told Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3), He meant it. History is rich with examples of God’s blessing on nations that support Israel and judgment on nations that do not. 

Although all Christians are called to support Israel—after all, salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22)—some ministries have answered a special call to stand with Israel. Though they may take different approaches—some have launched prayer networks, others have set up headquarters in Jerusalem to help Jews there and still others lobby Congress—they have risen up to obey Scripture.

Ministry to Israel encourages Christians to get involved in what God is doing in Israel today. The 23-year-old U.S. ministry has established a prayer network, as well as a Jerusalem Support Center that works with new immigrants there to provide food, clothing and medical assistance. read more

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Has ‘Prosperity’ Hit Hard Times?

The solution for U.S. money woes isn’t ‘prosperity gospel,’ charismatics say

When Standard & Poor’s downgraded the United States’ credit rating, it sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average into a tailspin. That, combined with America’s more than $14.5 trillion national debt and Europe’s growing financial woes, have caused charismatic Christian leaders to stand up and speak out—and they aren’t preaching a “prosperity gospel” message.

Indeed, international evangelist Perry Stone says Americans better get used to major changes in the country and prepare accordingly. That, he says, is because the America we have known is changing. “We were promised in the 2008 election that America would fundamentally change,” Stone says. “America is changing, although I am not convinced this is the fundamental change most people had in mind.” read more

Praying for Our Enemies

Nov. 13 to be a day of prayer for the persecuted church and its oppressors

Intercessors around the world will head to their prayer closets on Nov. 13 to observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. They’ll pray for both persecuted Christians and their oppressors. In more than 60 countries, some 100 million Christians face persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. Of the world’s 6.8 billion people, 70 percent live in countries with high restrictions on religion, according to the Pew Research Forum on Religion & Public Life. 

“Millions are living every day under severe persecution because they choose to be followers of Christ,” says Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA. “Imagine the impact of millions of people all praying on one day for the same thing.” read more

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Digital Tools Build a Dream

Technology is the key to growth for Vision 2020’s global-discipleship project

Call it the Jesus movie of discipleship. It’s a new, technology-driven movement to raise up a generation of lively stones in spiritually dead places—believers who are willing to walk away from false religions and idols to follow Christ.

The man behind the movement is Berin Gilfillan. When he launched the International School of Ministry (ISOM) 20 years ago, Gilfillan set out to train laborers for the end-time harvest by planting his video curriculum in local churches around the world. Today there are more than 15,000 training sites in 142 nations airing the materials in 70 languages. But he’s still not satisfied. read more

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A PeopIe in Crisis

When the United Nations declared a famine in two regions of Somalia, Christian ministries went into action to relieve the suffering. But from geographic obstacles to terrorist groups blocking incoming aid, dangers thwart getting food and water to starving men, women and children in Africa’s eastern horn. In Somalia, the victims number about 3.7 million.

Youth With A Mission (YWAM) associates in east Africa report from the area that the crisis is worse in some locations. In parts of Kenya, drought victims number more than 4 million. Many of them are unreached tribal people, and 80 percent of the victims are women and children.

“What can we do as Christians who love our neighbors?” YWAM’s Amir Ibrahim asks. “I am reminded of the story of the Good Samaritan—that the person who shows an act of mercy is the real and true neighbor. Our acts of practical assistance will open doors in this region.” read more

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Timing the Spirit

Have worship services gotten too long for contemporary attention spans?

One London church leader is trying to persuade fellow clergy that today’s worship services are excessively long.

How long would you estimate your attention span to be? Ten minutes? A half hour? Ninety minutes? It is safe to say that the length of one’s attention span would ultimately depend on the topic or issue at hand. What if the topic was your Creator—the lover of your soul? read more

Inform-MinistryVietnam

Celebrating 100 Years of Ministry in Vietnam

The Evangelical Church of Vietnam (also known as Tin Lanh) is celebrating 100 years of ministry in the communist country. Today there are 1.2 million believers in Vietnam, most of them part of the group. However, of the 71 people groups in Vietnam, 52 still include less than 2 percent who follow Jesus. About 40 million people in North Vietnam do not know Christ. “[The Vietnam believers] want to be a force for Jesus,” says Missionary Alliance President Gary Benedict. “They are a sleeping giant in the cause of missions.” read more

Inform-BillVonetteBright

What’s in a Name?

Why Campus Crusade for Christ will be known as Cru in the U.S. starting in 2012

Campus Crusade for Christ in the U.S. is changing its name to Cru. The new name will be adopted in early 2012. The U.S. ministry hopes the new name will overcome existing barriers and perceptions inherent in the original name.

“From the beginning, Bill [Bright] was open to changing our name. He never felt it was set in stone,” says Vonette Bright, who co-founded Campus Crusade for Christ with her husband. “In fact, he actually considered changing the name 20 or 25 years ago. 

“We want to remove any obstacle to people hearing about the most important person who ever lived: 
Jesus Christ.”

The name, selected from a pool of 1,600 potential names, has a track record within Campus Crusade for Christ. Since the mid-1990s it has been used locally on the majority of their campus ministries in the U.S..

“This decision has been saturated with prayer,” says Steve Douglass, president of Campus Crusade for Christ. “We only want what God wants for us. And while we are excited about this name, we are even more excited about our renewed commitment to our mission. We believe this new name will position us to connect better with the next generation.” read more

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Prayers For Jerusalem

Mark Rutland is adding his leadership support to the 2011 Day of Prayer

Mark Rutland, the president of Oral Roberts University and a best-selling author, has joined the Day of Prayer. The event is observed on the first Sunday of every October. This global grassroots prayer movement, led by Robert Stearns and Jack Hayford, calls Christians to unite in prayer across denominational, cultural and political differences on Sunday, Oct. 2.

Prayers will ask for God’s peace, blessing and provision on Jerusalem and its people. Last year, churches in more than 175 nations—including seven predominantly Muslim countries—participated in this multinational and religiously diverse prayer initiative, and prayer resources were translated into some 23 languages.

“Prayer for peace anywhere is blessed,” Rutland says. “Prayer for Jerusalem anytime is blessed. Prayer for the peace of Jerusalem is the perfect match.” read more

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‘Chrislam’ Rising

The movement to blend Christianity with Islam is spreading rapidly in the U.S. 

Communities across the nation are taking Christianity and Islam—two diametrically opposed theologies—and working to blend them together.

“Chrislam, as the name suggests, is a growing movement wherein some Christians are seeking to find common ground with Muslims,” explains theologian Bill Muehlenberg of the doctrine that began in Nigeria in the 1980s. “Indeed, it actually seeks to combine Christianity with Islam. ”

Chrislam has gained significant momentum since the seed was planted nearly three decades ago. Earlier this year Christian communities in Dallas, Chicago, Washington and other cities placed Qurans in church pews—right alongside Bibles—and preached about the Prophet Muhammad. read more

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