What do today's teens aspire to become after graduation, and how does the input from pastors and church leaders influence these aspirations? A study released from the Barna Group reveals that, while teens may look to the church for career advice, there is a disconnect between where teens’ future professional interests lie and the encouragement and instruction they receive in their church or faith community.
Only 38 percent of youth pastors and 36 percent of senior pastors say they frequently discuss college plans with their students, and this counsel is more likely to happen when "there is a clear strategy for student ministry in the church, and in those churches that work effectively with teen leaders," the study noted.
Recent public statements by megachurch pastors in response to a scandal-ridden peer reveal differing perspectives on repentance, restoration and ministerial ethics.
Last September, four men—all former members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta—claimed the church's pastor, Eddie Long, used gifts, trips and money to coerce them into engaging in sex acts with him. Although no criminal charges were filed, Long settled with his accusers last month, leading some church leaders who had previously reserved judgment to speak out.
On June 5, fellow Atlanta pastor Creflo Dollar urged his World Changers Church to refrain from gossiping about the Long scandal and warned disgruntled New Birth members that they would not find a listening ear at his church.
"That preacher's still anointed to do what he was called to. He just had a wreck. The blood will take care of his issue just like it will take care of yours," Dollar stated. "And I just can't believe that people would leave their preacher because he had a wreck, instead of praying for him."
A survey of 2,196 Protestant leaders from around the world highlighted the concerns shared by Christians in 166 countries and the divergent outlooks for the church in the Global North (Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) and the Global South (sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America and most of Asia).
On Wednesday, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life released the results of a survey of those invited to attend the Third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization, a 10-day gathering of ministers and lay leaders held in October in Cape Town, South Africa. The leaders surveyed expressed agreement on theological and social issues, such as abortion, homosexuality, the authority of Scripture and the uniqueness of Christ, but leaders from the Global North and the Global South expressed differing outlooks for the future of the church in their parts of the world.
Former pastor and author Francis Chan has jumped into the debate on heaven, hell and eternal punishment with book titled Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity and the Things We've Made Up to be released in July.
Although he doesn't directly mention Rob Bell's controversial book, Love Wins, in a YouTube video discussing the topic, Chan expresses concern for carelessness in discussing eternal matters.
"We can't just have these theological discussions about a doctrine when we're talking about people's eternal destinies here," he said. "We've got to lay everything on the table, I want to just present all of the facts, everything I can think of in this book [holding a Bible] and let you decide, not sway you."
When pastoral scandals hit the mainstream news, often the first item cited as evidence that a minister is misusing his or her position is the housing allowance tax break that allows pastors to deduct housing expenses from their income. Sometimes the pastor in question will claim his entire salary as housing allowance. For others, its the sheer size of the allowance that raises suspicion.
At the request of Senator Charles Grassley, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) will lead the independent commission to investigate and offer recommendations to lawmakers on a list of eight issues related to ministry ethics and finances. Housing allowances are near the top of the list.
With Mormon candidates such as former congressman John Huntsman and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney considering 2012 runs for president, evangelicals are beginning to discuss the implications of a Mormon president. In a controversial column at the Patheos website, author Warren Cole Smith argued that "a vote for Romney is a vote for the LDS Church."
Smith admitted that evangelicals will be attracted to a Mormon candidate's shared views on social and moral issues, but argued that they shouldn't overlook the fact that Mormons have a different religous worldview than evangelicals, and that worldview shapes their behavior. He pointed to Mormons' various positions, from polygamy to racial discrimination, that have been reversed in light of "continuing revelation" that comes through the church's prophets.
In the wake of Family Radio founder Harold Camping's failed rapture predictions, unbelievers are mocking and evangelicals are distancing themselves from the sect whose followers traveled around the world renting billboards and motor homes with signs proclaiming the end of the world on May 21. One billboard playfully reproving Camping—a photo of which quickly went viral—was unveiled on May 22, reading, “That was awkward. ‘No one knows the day or the hour …’”
Cornerstone World Outreach Center, a Sioux City, Iowa, church, has filed for bankruptcy, three years after completing a new $8 million building program. An Ohio contracting company won a lawsuit against the church in an attempt to recover $3.6 million the church had failed to repay after the building was completed.
In a statement announcing the bankruptcy, Cornerstone's pastor, Cary Gordon, cited "complications arising from an inability to achieve funding during the economic climate" and a breakdown of negotiations between the church and the contractor.
Cornerstone's plight is only the most recent of financial woes for churches attempting to weather the economic recession.
A group of alumni from Wheaton College have formed OneWheaton, an organization to provide support for the gay community on the conservative Christian campus and to promote the view that homosexual practice is compatible with the Christian faith.
"If you are a student and this is part of your story, your sexual identity is not a tragic sign of the sinful nature of the world," a letter to Wheaton students posted on the group's website reads. "You are not tragic. Your desire for companionship, intimacy and love is not shameful. It is to be affirmed and celebrated just as you are to be affirmed and celebrated."
Church planting can be an attractive opportunity for entrepreneurial leaders and those wishing to start churches without the baggage and limitations of beginning ministry on staff at an existing church. But many find themselves encountering the commonly-repeated statistic that 80 percent of church plants fail in the first year.
In response to the growing interest in new church planting, LifeWay Research unveiled an online Church Planter Candidate Assessment (CPCA) during the Expontential Conference in Orlando. Fla. LifeWay worked with 11 denominations and church-planting networks to develop the tool to aid them—and other organizations—in evaluating strengths and weaknesses of candidates who desire to establish new churches.
Two pro-life groups, Christian Defense Coalition and Survivors, are sure to generate some controversy with a clever new anti-abortion campaign called "Defund Klanned Parenthood." The groups plan to focus on the fact that Planned Parenthood was founded on the principles of Margaret Sanger and point out racist statements made by Sanger, as well as her connections to the Ku Klux Klan.
"We are launching 'Defund "Klanned" Parenthood' to expose the reality that Planned Parenthood founder, Margaret Sanger, was a racist who supported the agenda of the Ku Klux Klan, spoke at their events and wanted to reduce the number of African-Americans," said Christian Defense Coalition director, Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney. "We are calling upon the members of Congress, who have given billions of public money to Planned Parenthood over the years, to defund this group whose roots are racist, bigoted and extremist."
Congregations in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia gathered in tents, borrowed space or in buildings with the sunlight streaming through the damaged—or nonexistent—roofs. Last week's storm, which has claimed 340-plus lives so far, was the most devastating natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans in 2005.
In the town of Phil Campbell, Ala., a tornado killed 20 people and destroyed 40 percent of the homes. At the Phil Campbell Church of God, congregants gathered on a bare concrete slab. Pastor Chris Burns—who lost his own home in the tornado—delivered his sermon behind the remains of the altar and in front of a cross with a hand-lettered sign reading, "He makes all things new."
In the wake of David Wilkerson's April 27 death, bloggers, reporters, friends, family and ministry partners are joining in the outpouring of recollections and reflections on his impact on the church during his 50-plus years of ministry. The following is a collection of media items that paint a picture of Wilkerson's remarkable life:
•·Check out Charisma magazine's tribute to Wilkerson, with a photo gallery, videos and written remembrances.
•·David Wilkerson's younger brother, Don, offers personal memories of sharing life and ministry with his brother.
The release of Love Wins, by Michigan pastor Rob Bell, initiated a firestorm of blog posts, news articles and even mainstream media attention on the topic of hell. The controversial pastor's book, which suggests that everyone will eventually be saved and challenges the traditional Christian view of hell as eternal punishment, has been met with criticism in the evangelical community. But a recent study from The Barna Group reveals that the functional universalism of Love Wins may be held by many professing Christians.
"Despite their own personal faith convictions, many born again Christians embrace certain aspects of universalist thought," the April 18 report, titled "What Americans Believe About Universalism and Pluralism," stated. "One-quarter of born again Christians said that all people are eventually saved or accepted by God (25 percent) and that it doesn’t matter what religious faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons (26 percent). An even larger percentage of born again Christians (40 percent) indicated that they believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God."
Sojourn Community Church, a fast-growing baptist congregation in Louisville, Ky., is moving into the soaring gothic sanctuary once occupied by St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, a parish that has been closed since 1996.
Founded in 2000, Sojourn's restoration of the historic building highlights a century-long trend that has been overlooked by Catholics and Protestants alike.
Although books and articles have been written on the more recent trend of Protestants converting to Catholicism, this dynamic is a mere trickle compared to the losses the Catholic church has sustained in the last century.
"One out of every 10 Americans is an ex-Catholic," Thomas Reese notes in an April 18 article in the National Catholic Reporter. "If they were a separate denomination, they would be the third-largest denomination in the United States, after Catholics and Baptists. One of three people who were raised Catholic no longer identifies as Catholic."
Reese's article, which generated buzz and debate in the Catholic world, argued that the primary reason people leave the Catholic church for Protestantism is not disagreement with the church's doctrinal or social positions, but spiritual hunger.