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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

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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

Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit