September 2016

BGEA releases new My Hope film ‘Decisions’

September 30 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

As evangelist Billy Graham approaches his 98th birthday, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has released a new video in the My Hope outreach that has reportedly led more than 10 million to Christ internationally.


Graham’s son Franklin delivers the gospel in the new evangelistic film “Decisions,” a 28-minute free resource featuring diverse Americans who accepted Christ as Savior during Franklin Graham’s 50-state Decision America Tour still in progress.
 
“I’ve been talking to people about the importance of decisions. I see thousands of people faced with a choice … and I want [them] to know the truth,” Franklin Graham said of his outreach. “Any time you have a crowd of people, I can guarantee there will be somebody in that crowd that doesn’t know Jesus Christ. So, every time I’m at the microphone I’m going to give the gospel.”
 
In his tour, the younger Graham is preaching and hosting prayer rallies in every state capitol, urging Americans to pray, vote and engage in politics to uphold biblical principles. The tour has attracted crowds of thousands since it began Jan. 5 in Des Moines, Iowa, and is set to end Oct. 13 in Raleigh, N.C.
 
The film is available by free download at MyHopewithBillyGraham.org and will be broadcast on local and Christian television networks beginning Oct. 10, BGEA vice president Steve Rhoads said in a press release.
 
“We are very happy to offer this resource to the church which will powerfully present the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Rhoads said. “The church in the United States has a unique opportunity at this moment to proclaim Jesus, who offers hope and redemption to a lost world. We pray that the good news will be preached and that God will bring a revival to His people.”
 
The patriarch Billy Graham, who turns 98 on Nov. 7, is not featured in the film, although he has spoken in earlier My Hope offerings. Franklin Graham said his father, who led millions to Christ during a 60-year international evangelistic ministry, today ministers mostly through prayer.
 
“He lives with limitations typical of old age – his eyesight is very poor, his hearing is not good, and he uses a wheelchair. Someone is with him in the house at all times,” he said of his father in a July letter to friends and supporters. “His ministry now is praying, and he looks forward to reports of what God is doing around the world. He always responds by saying ‘Praise the Lord’ as he points upward.”
 
Launched internationally in 2002, My Hope has presented the gospel in 60 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, and debuted in the U.S. in 2013 with “My Hope America.” More than 350,000 churches and 4 million individuals have participated in the evangelistic outreach, BGEA said, and more than 10 million individuals have made decisions to receive Christ, including 160,000 in the U.S.
 
“Decisions” follows My Hope America films “Value of a Soul” (2015), “Heaven” (2014) and “The Cross” (2013). BGEA is accepting pre-orders at MyHopewithBillyGraham.org for a free DVD version of Decisions, including a special 30-minute program that goes behind the scenes of the tour, slated to ship in early October. Meanwhile, a new film called “The Worth of a Soul” will release this fall in the United Kingdom in conjunction with My Hope U.K.
 
The last film in the series to feature Billy Graham was “Heaven.” The patriarch doesn’t expect anyone to remember him now, Franklin Graham said on his July 1 Decision America stop in Juneau, Alaska.
 
“So he’ll say, ‘If you meet anybody who remembers me, tell ’em hello,’” he said of his father.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)


Related articles:
100,000+ respond to Graham’s My Hope
Billy Graham marks 97th year with new film
Decision America kicks off in Iowa
Pray, vote, engage, Franklin Graham urges
Decision America tour coming to N.C.
 

9/30/2016 10:39:16 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Discerning ministry call focus of new book

September 30 2016 by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS

Jason Allen believes there are 10 questions that will help a Christ-follower decide whether or not they are being called by God into the ministry.


In the book Discerning Your Call to Ministry, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s  president poses questions to help students, aspiring pastors, and even current ones, grasp whether ministry is for them. Within the 154-page work, Allen gleans from Scripture, church history and his own personal experience as a former pastor and seminary president to offer a proper view of the pastorate, assisting readers in making an informed, confident decision about their service to God.
 
“The impetus of this book stems back to memories of confusion and a lack of direction as I was sensing God’s calling in my own life,” Allen said of the book that was released Sept. 6 by Moody Publishers.
 
“Now, years later as a seminary president,” he noted, “I daily receive correspondence from earnest men and women who are at a similar point as I once was. My desire is for them to read this book and obtain clarity, one way or the other, of their calling.”
 
The primary audience for the book includes any person sensing a call to pastoral ministry, Allen said. But it also can include those who are already serving in various capacities within the local church and may have incorrectly sensed such a call.
 
“Most Christians have an undeveloped, insufficiently-informed understanding of what it means to be called to the ministry,” Allen said.
 
“They are often in their own state of suspended animation, seeking certainty and assurance yet feeling ill-equipped to follow God’s call,” he said. “These are urgent and consequential deliberations. After all, what could be more unsettling than to embark on the ministry unsure if God is indeed leading you?”
 
Some of the questions Allen addresses in the book include the following:

  • Do you desire the ministry? 
  • Does your character meet God’s expectations?
  • Is your household in order?
  • Has God gifted you to preach and teach His Word?
  • Do you love the people of God?
  • Are you passionate about the gospel and Great Commission?
  • Are you ready to defend the faith?
  • Are you willing to surrender?

“God’s call is too noble, too consequential, and too glorious to be neglected,” Allen said. “Each person sensing a call to ministry must know for sure whether God has called them or not. My aim is to show them that they can.”
 
Allen noted, “I cannot be more pleased with the way Discerning Your Call to Ministry has turned out. It has been a privilege to partner with the Moody Publishing team to produce a book that, I pray, will assist Christ-followers who are grappling with the question of whether they are being called by God into the ministry.”
 
To purchase Discerning Your Call to Ministry through Moody Publishing, go to moodypublishers.com/books/bible-study-and-reference/discerning-your-call-to-ministry2/.
 

Recommendations for Discerning Your Call to Ministry:

Russell Moore
“One of the hardest questions I faced as a teenager was this one: how do I know if the call I feel to ministry is genuine,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission. “I wish I had had this book. Jason Allen is an experienced, thoughtful guide on what it means to serve Christ’s church as pastors and teachers. This book will not only help young, would-be ministers to discern their calling, but will also equip pastors and church leaders to disciple the next generation.”
 
Thom Rainer
“How do I know if I’m called to ministry? And how do I know if I’m ready to serve in ministry?” Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, said.
 
“These are two of the common questions I am asked again and again,” he said. “Now I have the perfect response: read Jason Allen’s Discerning Your Call to Ministry. This book is thoroughly biblical. It is immensely practical. And it is incredibly helpful. It is now my number one recommendation to those who sense God’s call to ministry in their own lives.”
 
Paige Patterson
“Not every day does one hear the wisdom of the ages from one of the youngest seminary presidents in America.” Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. “Discerning Your Call to Ministry is a crisp, phenomenally perceptive introduction to the ministry that ought to be read by every young man considering the ministry.
 
“I am especially thankful for Allen’s emphasis on the essential call of God to the ministry and for the importance of the pastor’s home,” he said. “Headed for the ministry? Drop by this book on your way.”
 
John MacArthur
“God’s call to full-time ministry is a concept few people understand or explain well,” said John MacArthur, pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif. “It’s not a mystical form of special revelation or an audible voice from heaven. And God doesn’t call men to pastoral ministry without gifting them for the task and sovereignly drawing their hearts to the work. Jason Allen skillfully outlines and explains the vital biblical principles for discerning whether a person is truly called to ministry. This helpful handbook answers scores of questions I hear from young men and potential seminary students all the time.”
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr.
“The Bible reveals both the glory and the burden of the call to ministry, and what we need is a faithful and pastoral presentation of the biblical vision of that call,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Thankfully, that is just what Jason Allen provides in this book. He clears away the confusion and faithfully sets out what the Bible reveals about what we rightly call the gospel ministry. It is timely and timeless in its approach, and it will be especially helpful to those considering a call to the ministry.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

9/30/2016 10:35:03 AM by T. Patrick Hudson, MBTS | with 0 comments



‘Great things from God’ seen by seminarians abroad

September 30 2016 by SWBTS Staff

Night market vendors were just beginning to set up their kiosks as the mission team prayerwalked the community around a mosque in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

SWBTS photo
Some 70 Madagascar church leaders completed their training as part of Southwestern Seminary’s five-year initiative to teach discipleship, doctrine and evangelism. The Southwestern mission teams and national leaders also evangelized together, recording 99 professions of faith.


The team’s leader, Keith Eitel, walked roughly a block behind his wife and a translator as they handed out Thai-language gospel tracts. One man, after receiving a tract, became puzzled.
 
As they later learned, the man was from Nepal and had only come to Chiang Mai for business; he, therefore, could not read Thai. When Eitel reached him, the man noticed that Eitel had the same kind of tract, so the man asked him, “Do you know what these are?”
 
Eitel, dean of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, gladly explained the gospel to him, and after the man asked a few questions, Eitel asked if he wanted to respond. The man spent a few more moments examining the tracts, which contained diagrams illustrating the gospel message.
 
He then looked up and said, “I need to do this.”
 
This summer, Southwestern deployed five mission teams around the world who experienced such divine appointments. God prepared the hearts of many whom they encountered, and the teams collectively saw 128 people profess Jesus as Lord in response to the gospel message.
 
In addition, seeds were planted for future decisions, and local leaders in the various locations gained added equipping for reaching the world for Christ. In light of such results, Eitel often ended his reports from the trips in which he participated with the phrase, “Praise the Lord!”
 

Japan, May 14-June 2

The summer’s first mission team deployed to Nagoya, Japan. Though they initially thought that recent security measures would limit their opportunities for sharing the gospel, they trusted the Lord to provide appointments with the right people, and five individuals ultimately prayed to receive Christ.
 
One was a student whom the team met on a college campus who already called herself a Christian. After developing a friendship with her, the Southwestern students invited her to join them for dinner. She accepted the invitation and brought some of her friends as well.
 
“After dinner, our students were able to have deeper conversations with the Japanese friends and shared the gospel with them,” master’s-degree student Ariel Lee recounted. “The girl who thought she was a Christian heard the gospel for the first time, and she decided to surrender her life to Christ.”
 

Madagascar, May 26-June 12

Now in its fifth year, Southwestern’s Madagascar Embrace program began as an initiative to evangelize the unreached, unengaged Antandroy people group (UUPG) in the East African country. This year, in the city of Fort Dauphin, the mission team once again saw God’s blessings as local leaders came to learn the Word of God and share the gospel with the lost.
 
In daily training sessions, approximately 70 male and female national leaders came to learn discipleship, doctrine and evangelism from Southwestern teachers. In the afternoons, the Southwesterners and nationals went out together to visit friends and relatives to share the Good News. The team also devoted one weekend to evangelizing the neighborhoods around Fort Dauphin. After two weeks, the efforts had yielded 99 professions of faith.
 

Haiti, May 27-June 6

Over an 11-day period, a team of five students and faculty ministered in the community of Creve in northwest Haiti to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of the people. The team worked alongside Water4Nations and built three gravity-driven water purification towers to provide the entire community with clean water.
 
Bachelor of arts student Jim Sprouse said it was important to provide access to such a vital resource, but that it also served as a platform to engage in spiritual conversations.
 
“On the Sunday before we left,” Sprouse said, “I shared with many of the people in the community about how Jesus provides us with living water so that we never thirst again. These water purification systems become a springboard for the gospel message.”
 

Canada, June 20-July 29

The summer’s next mission team, encompassing 10 students from the College at Southwestern, deployed to Vancouver Island for six weeks of hands-on experience in evangelism, missions and church planting.
 
Striving to foster relationships within the community, the team, among other things, volunteered in a local homeless shelter for meal service. The effort opened the door for gospel conversations with people who frequented the shelter as well as its staff and other volunteers.
 
As reflected in many of their conversations, bachelor of arts student Christian Rowland said many people are interested in the message of the gospel but their apathy and search for tolerance hinders their willingness to respond.
 
“People are definitely searching for the truth, but they are searching in all the wrong places,” Rowland said. “I was really reminded of the urgency of the message of the gospel and the need for more workers.”
 

Thailand, July 7-25

Channeling their efforts primarily through spiritual conversations on college campuses and showing the JESUS film in mountain villages, the summer’s final team of 16 students and faculty went to Chiang Mai expecting great things from God – expectations that were met and even exceeded by the trip’s end as the team members personally saw 24 people come to faith in Christ.
 
A quote that Eitel often employed as an encouragement to the team was, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” This quote from missionary William Carey served as the guiding principle of not just the Thailand team, but all of Southwestern’s missionaries this summer.
 
“We tend to go into these experiences full of ‘attempting’ but we fail to be adequate in full expectation,” Eitel said. “So let’s go expecting to be surprised; to see what God is going to do.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by the communications staff of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)
 

9/30/2016 10:30:36 AM by SWBTS Staff | with 0 comments



Where’s the priority to help genocide victims?

September 30 2016 by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Sept. 22 bemoaned the Obama administration’s lack of action since acknowledging the ongoing genocide of religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East.
 
“They made the genocide declaration – and we’re glad they finally did – but now what? And the now what has been a big zero,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who leads The Helsinki Commission, an independent government agency which works to advance human rights around the world.
 
Secretary of State John Kerry admitted in March the Islamic State (ISIS) is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities within Iraq and Syria. Advocates had asked the State Department to make the determination for years. But today, lawmakers on the Helsinki Commission accused the Obama administration of saying the right things but not making genocide victims a foreign policy priority.
 
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the commission, said the tumultuous landscape in Syria and Iraq has been one of the great failures of this generation and the United States needs to do more to help minorities in the region.
 
“We don’t place a high enough priority on these issues,” he said. “[ISIS] is clearly targeting religious and ethnic minorities.”
 
Earlier this month, Smith and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., introduced legislation to help prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity and provide assistance to survivors.
 
The bill seeks to close loopholes within the U.S. criminal justice system to prosecute offenders within American borders who have committed crimes against humanity abroad.
 
David Scheffer, the former U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said the legislation will go a long way to address a void within the Department of Justice.
 
“The bill requires the attorney general, in consultation with the secretary of state, to conduct a review of existing criminal statutes concerning atrocity crimes,” Scheffer told the commission. “This review will confirm the reality of limited federal jurisdiction and lead, I hope, to additional legislation to cover egregious voids and gaps in the federal criminal code.”
 
He said the number of persons within U.S. borders who committed atrocities overseas is unknown, but their existence poses a threat to domestic security. Bringing them to justice sends a message to future perpetrators and helps bring closure to surviving victims.
 
The human rights and war crimes division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement currently has leads on 1,900 such criminals in the United States, and Schaffer said they may only be the tip of the iceberg.
 
But thousands of victims displaced by terror remain in Iraq and Syria, risking extinction.
 
Steve Rasche, who directs resettlement programs for the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, Iraq, told the commission 70,000 Christians in Northern Iraq are in desperate need of aid. Rasche said the archdiocese has not received any money from the U.S. government. All of its money and resources have come through private donations. Rasche requested lawmakers find a way to allocate $9 million in direct aid as he fears existing donors will dry up.
 
Smith told me he has not spoken to any lawmakers who are opposed to doing more to help. But no one feels a sense of urgency to act, he said. Today marked the seventh hearing Smith has led on addressing acts of ISIS genocide – the first coming more than three years ago.
 
“The atrocities in Iraq and Syria have been so horrible, for so long, with so little action from the administration, that it has been difficult to [keep] hope,” he said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Evan Wilt writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 
 

9/30/2016 10:22:21 AM by Evan Wilt, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



‘Modern Family’ debuts transgender child character

September 30 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

An 8-year-old girl who lives as a transgender boy appears on the Sept. 28 episode of ABC’s Modern Family, portraying a transgender friend of Lily, the daughter of the show’s leading gay couple, the series’ director has announced.


Modern Family Director Ryan Case identifies the show’s first openly transgender actor on Twitter, saying, “He’s 8 years old, from Atlanta, and just happens to be transgender. He plays Lily’s friend Tom in this week’s Modern Family.”
 
Jeff Johnston, issues analyst for the marriage and parenting group Focus on the Family (FOTF), told Baptist Press the episode would likely confuse children.
 
“Kids aren’t equipped to sort out that kind of falsehood from the real truth,” Johnston said. “And in this case this is especially sad because this is a child, this is a little girl who is trapped in a false identity and for whatever reason, she has rejected her girlhood and believes she’s a boy or wants to be a boy, and her family and now the producers of the show are affirming this little girl in a false identity.”
 
The debut of a transgender child on the show, Johnston said, is part of a broader cultural push throughout entertainment, education, news and politics to further the transgender “ideology that says that people can switch sexes ... but the ideology also says that there might be a wide variety of genders.”
 
Washington state, Johnston noted as an example, has a new recommended curriculum that kids should be taught in kindergarten that there are a wide variety of gender identities.
 
In Sept. 28’s episode, “A Stereotypical Day,” the show’s gay couple Cam and Mitchell overhear Lily insulting Tom during a sleepover and interject to the children a lesson about acceptance, the Associated Press reported.
 
“I’m sure there’s a lot of kids that watch this show,” Johnston said. “Christian parents need to be careful about what their kids are seeing and about the messages that they receive from the culture.”
 
He recommended FOTF free online resources for parents concerned about the issue, including “Talking to Your Children About Transgender Issues,” which gives simple suggestions about dealing with the subject if your children are exposed to the topic.
 
“The first step would be to teach your kids the truth,” Johnston said, “that God created humans male and female in his image as boys and girls and men and women. And yes some people get confused about this and we want to love them, but we don’t have to agree with them about this issue.”
 
The continuing Modern Family storyline now in its eighth season is confusing to children, Johnston said, as it features a gay couple with a female daughter who now has a transgender friend.
 
“We want our children to know that a family is started when a mom and dad come together in marriage and begin to have children. And marriage is what unites the mother and the father with the children that they have,” Johnston said. “When same-sex couples are portrayed on television, and transgender children are portrayed, it’s confusing for kids and it teaches them something that’s not good or true, and it’s not the way God designed things to be.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

9/30/2016 10:17:45 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Study: Americans love God & Bible, fuzzy on details

September 29 2016 by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends

Americans apparently don’t know much about theology, according to a study released Sept. 28. Most say God wrote the Bible. But they’re not sure everything in it is true.


Six in 10 say everyone eventually goes to heaven, but half say only those who believe in Jesus will be saved. And while 7 in 10 say there’s only one true God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – two-thirds say God accepts worship of all faiths.
 
Those are among the findings of a survey of American views on Christian theology from LifeWay Research, who conducted the study April 14-20.
 
Scott McConnell, executive director of the evangelical research firm, says most Americans still identify as Christians. But they seem to be confused about some of the details of their faith.
 
For example, he said, about two-thirds of Americans believe Jesus is God while half say Jesus is a being created by God. Those two beliefs don’t seem to match, he said.
 
“Contradictory and incompatible beliefs are okay for most people,” McConnell said.
 
The online survey on theology was sponsored by Orlando-based Ligonier Ministries. Researchers asked 47 questions on topics from prayer and the Bible to heaven and hell.
 
Among the findings:
 

Americans think God likes all religions.


Two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) say God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Twenty-four percent disagree. Twelve percent are not sure.
 
Americans of all ages hold this belief, from those 18 to 34 years old (62 percent) to those 50 and older (67 percent). More than half of African-Americans (69 percent), Hispanics (65 percent), whites (63 percent) and Asian-Americans (57 percent) agree.
 
The one holdout: Americans with evangelical beliefs (48 percent), who are less likely than Americans who don’t have evangelical beliefs (67 percent) to hold this view.
 

Evangelical believers say hell is for real. Other Americans aren’t so sure.


Eighty-four percent of those who hold evangelical beliefs say hell is a place of eternal judgment, where God sends all people who do not personally trust in Jesus Christ. Only 30 percent of Americans who don’t have evangelical beliefs hold that view.
 
Overall, fewer than half (40 percent) of Americans say those who don’t believe in Jesus will go to hell.
 

Many evangelical believers say everybody goes to heaven. They also believe that only those who trust Jesus as their Savior are saved.

Two-thirds of those with evangelical beliefs (64 percent) say heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones.
 
That’s slightly higher than Americans in general (60 percent).
 
By definition, all those with evangelical beliefs affirm that only people who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation. Overall, about half of Americans (54 percent) say only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone receive eternal salvation.
 

Everybody sins but it’s no big deal.


Americans admit they aren’t perfect. But they give each other the benefit of the doubt. Two-thirds (65 percent) agree that everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. More than half (57 percent) say it would be fair for God to show His wrath against sin. But that wrath seems to be reserved only for the worst sinners.
 
Three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans disagree with the idea that even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation. That includes almost two-thirds (62 percent) who strongly disagree.
 

The resurrection really happened. But not everything else in the Bible did.

More than half of Americans (58 percent) say God is the author of the Bible. About half say the Bible alone is the written Word of God (52 percent). Two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) say the biblical accounts of the physical (bodily) resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. A quarter (23 percent) disagree. Thirteen percent are not sure. Almost all of those with evangelical beliefs (98 percent) agree, as do more than half of Americans who do not hold evangelical beliefs (56 percent).
 
Fewer than half of Americans (47 percent) say the Bible is 100 percent accurate in all it teaches. Forty-three percent disagree. Ten percent are not sure.
 
Americans are also split over whether the Bible is literally true. Just under half (44 percent) say the Bible contains helpful myths but isn’t literally true. Forty-five percent disagree. Half of Americans (51 percent) say the Bible was written for each person to interpret as he or she chooses. Forty percent disagree. Nine percent are not sure.
 

Americans believe in the Trinity. But it’s complicated.


Seven out of 10 Americans (69 percent) agree there is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Six in 10 say Jesus is both divine and human (61 percent).
 
But they’re fuzzy on the details of the Trinity. More than half (52 percent) say Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God. And 56 percent say the Holy Spirit is a force rather than a person. The Holy Spirit seems to be particularly confusing: A quarter (28 percent) say the Spirit is a divine being but not equal to God the Father and Jesus. Half (51 percent) disagree. Twenty-one percent are not sure.
 

Americans disagree about sex, abortion, homosexuality and gender.

About half of Americans (49 percent) say sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin. Forty-four percent say it’s not a sin. Seven percent are not sure.
 
Forty-nine percent say abortion is a sin. Forty percent say it is not. Eleven percent are not sure. Almost 4 in 10 (38 percent) say gender identity is a matter of choice. Half (51 percent) disagree. One in 10 (11 percent) is not sure.
 
Forty-two percent of Americans say the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today. Forty-four percent disagree. Fourteen percent are not sure.
 
Women (53 percent) are more likely than men (45 percent) to say sex outside of marriage is a sin. Those who are high school grads or less (56 percent) are more likely to agree than those with bachelor’s degrees (44 percent) or graduate degrees (40 percent). Those with evangelical beliefs (91 percent) are more than twice as likely to agree as those who do not have evangelical beliefs (40 percent).
 
Americans with evangelical beliefs (87 percent) are more likely to say abortion is a sin than other Americans (41 percent). They are also less likely (32 percent) to say gender identity is a choice than other Americans (40 percent).
 

Personal salvation takes work.

Three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) say people must contribute their own effort for personal salvation. Half of Americans (52 percent) say good deeds help them earn a spot in heaven. Sixty percent agree that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of their sin.
 

Withholding communion is frowned upon.

Sixty-two percent of churchgoers disagree with the statement, “My local church has the authority to withhold the Lord’s Supper from me and exclude me from the fellowship of the church.” Twenty-nine percent agree. Nine percent are not sure.
 
Men are more likely to agree (32 percent) than women (27 percent). Churchgoers with household incomes over $100,000 (65 percent) are more likely to disagree than those with incomes less than $25,000 (56 percent).
 
Those with evangelical beliefs (38 percent) are more likely to say a church can withhold communion or exclude people than churchgoers who do not hold evangelical beliefs (25 percent).
 

Most Americans don’t buy the prosperity gospel – especially if they have money.

Two-thirds (63 percent) disagree with the idea that God will always reward true faith with material blessings. A quarter agree. Twelve percent are not sure.
 
Men (28 percent) are more likely to believe in the prosperity gospel than women (22 percent). Poor Americans – those with incomes under $25,000 – are more likely (28 percent) to agree than those with incomes over $100,000 (20 percent).
 
Those with high school degrees or less (33 percent) are more likely to believe that God blesses the faithful with material blessings than those with graduate degrees (18 percent).
 
Americans with evangelical beliefs (37 percent) are most likely to agree with the prosperity gospel. Americans who do not hold evangelical beliefs are more skeptical (23 percent).
 
McConnell said Christian theology is both simple and complicated. Most Americans agree with simple truths like “Jesus arose” and “Jesus saves,” he said, but few believe they need saving or they are not good by nature.
 
“Basic Christian theology is easy to find on a church’s beliefs webpage, yet most Americans don’t understand how the pieces are related,” he said.
 
Methodology: A demographically balanced online panel was used for interviewing American adults. Three thousand surveys were completed from April 14-20. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error from the online panel does not exceed plus or minus two percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups. Slight weights were used to balance gender, age, ethnicity, income, region and religion.
 
Those with evangelical beliefs were determined using the National Association of Evangelicals and LifeWay Research evangelical beliefs research definition.
 
For more information on the study, visit LifeWayResearch.com or view the complete report PDF.
 
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine.)
 

9/29/2016 9:06:58 AM by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends | with 1 comments



See You At the Pole launches ‘I Am Hope’ outreach

September 29 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

An estimated million or more students in the U.S. and 63 foreign countries publicly gathered around school flagpoles Sept. 28 and prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Facebook photo, Ignition
Students at Knoch High School in Saxonburg, Pa., posted this photo on Facebook of their Sept. 28 See You At the Pole prayer event, incorporating the See You At the Pole 2016 logo.


The annual See You At the Pole (SYATP) interdenominational Christian outreach is augmented this year with the launch of the I Am Hope outreach leading up to the Oct. 21 release of the film I Am Not Ashamed.
 
Private and public school students of all grade levels were encouraged to gather at their respective school flagpoles at 7 a.m. local time for prayer, and many have documented their participation on Facebook and Twitter. Students have the option of holding such events any day during the week of Sept. 25, designated the Global Week of Student Prayer, allowing for school calendars and holidays that may fall on Sept. 28 in other countries.
 
Travis Deans, co-executive director of Teens for Christ student ministry, hosted one of many advance events Sept. 25 to encourage student participation in SYATP. Deans estimated 600 students representing about 50 school districts attended his advance event, Ignition, at The Bible Chapel, a nondenominational megachurch south of Pittsburg.
 
“We want to encourage students to live out their faith at school,” Deans said. “Anybody can be a Christian at church, but if a student can live out their faith in school, it’s probably a very genuine faith. And if they can share their faith at school, if they can share Christ with others in that environment, they’re probably going to be able to do that anywhere they go the rest of their lives.”
 
He has held the Ignition event the past 11 years, he said, annually drawing between 400 and 1,000 students.


“We feel like we’re helping prepare students for whatever God has for them by living out their faith in that environment right now,” Deans said. Many students who attended Ignition have already posted photos of their SYATP events on the Ignition Facebook page.
 
SYATP organizers this year partnered with the Pure Flix Faith and Family Alliance ministry and ad hoc partners to kick off the national six-week “I Am Hope” evangelistic and discipleship movement targeting students. I Am Hope is inspired by the Pure Flix film I’m Not Ashamed, which portrays the life of Rachel Joy Scott, a 17-year-old student shot to death by classmates at Columbine High School after she publicly reaffirmed her faith in Christ.
 
Thousands of ministries, youth and young adults are participating in I Am Hope, Pure Flix Alliance said in a press release today. Franklin Santagate, vice president of global strategic alliances for Pure Flix Entertainment, said SYATP is an excellent platform to launch I Am Hope.
 
“We feel that we are carrying out Rachel’s mission to reach out to those who need hope and healing in their lives and know that this is just the beginning of the ripple effect that this [I Am Hope] movement will have for youth across the country,” Santagate said in the press release. “We are thrilled to kick off the I Am Hope movement at one of the most important times during the school year when students publicly gather to express their faith.”
 
SYATP national field director Doug Clark said the film, opening Oct. 21, honestly communicates Scott’s faith struggle and can be a model for students living out their faith in schools around the country.
 
“I would love to see a Rachel on every campus,” Clark told BP. “When there’s a student like that on a campus it is catalytic.”
 
The annual SYATP event grew out of a 1990 DiscipleNow weekend, when a small group of students prayed at flagpoles at different schools on a Saturday night. Inspired by the small event, youth leaders across Texas organized SYATP in 1990 and drew 45,000 students to prayer meetings in four states. By the next year, an estimated 1 million students gathered in prayer at flagpoles across the nation, according to the SYATP website.
 
While international reports are spotty, among foreign countries and territories that already have sent Clark photos documenting their participation this year, he said, are South Korea, Guatemala, the Philippines, Guam and the Dominican Republic.
 
The event does not violate U.S. laws against prayer in schools, as all prayer is student-led, before school hours and outside of any school building, according to the SYATP website. But the site encourages students to pray off campus if school administrators object to the event.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

9/29/2016 9:06:15 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Disney film true tale of Christian faith, triumph

September 29 2016 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

A girl living in poverty in the Katwe slums of Kampala, Uganda, becomes a national chess champion and enriches her life with Christ in Disney’s Queen of Katwe, based on a true story of struggle and triumph.


Disney maintains faith elements in telling the story of a young Phiona Mutesi who learned chess through the evangelistic Sports Outreach Ministry (SOM) and became a national champion and subject of the Queen of Katwe book that precedes the film.
 
Sal Ferlise, CEO of SOM based in Lynchburg, Va., with programs internationally, told Baptist Press he is pleased with Disney’s treatment of the true story of faith, although the filmmaker does take creative license with Mutesi’s journey.
 
“We’re actually ecstatic because we believe [the movie] is going to be a tremendous bridge between the faith-based approach to restoring hope and transforming lives, and … the humanitarian approach that normally a Disney company would accentuate more so,” Ferlise said. “So we see those two [approaches] kind of coming together in maybe not as overt a fashion on the Christian side, but it’s definitely there. You can’t walk away from [viewing the movie] if you’re intelligent and not realize that there’s a faith element that’s transcending through the process.”
 
Mutesi encountered SOM through the Agape Church based in a makeshift building in Kampala, where her mentor and SOM coach Robert Katende was building a chess team with children living in the slums, most of whom could not afford to attend school. The ministry taught them chess, discipled them and helped place them in Christian schools in the community.
 
The movie includes frequent scenes of prayer, features the SOM logo with a cross prominently on the ministry van, and includes scenes set in the actual Agape Church, all elements Ferlise said might not have been included were it not for God.
 
“We are absolutely delighted with the outcome, because the truth is Disney is the 800-pound gorilla in the room and what they say basically goes,” Ferlise said. “But by the grace of God and prayer on the part of a lot of people” the film has a faith “baseline. But again, we see that as miraculous because they [Disney] are not normally friendly to that type of environment.”

Photo by Leigh Ann Loeblein
Phiona Mutesi, the chess champion whose faith, struggles and triumphs are featured in Disney’s film “Queen of Katwe,” grew up in the Katwe slums of Kampala, Uganda, shown in this February 2015 photo.


Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo, himself a professing Christian, portrays Katende and appreciates the use of the church building in the film’s production.
 
“It’s a rickety old church, but there’s so much love in there,” Oyelowo said in comments released by promoter Grace Hill Media. The church is described as a single-story building made of weathered wooden planks haphazardly mounted with sunlight streaming through the holes, and has a rusted corrugated roof. Ferlise describes Agape as a nondenominational Christian church.
 
Lupito Nyongo, who holds an Academy Award for her supporting acting role in Twelve Years a Slave, plays Mutesi’s mother Harriet Mutesi; newcomer Madina Nalwanga, who grew up in a Kampala slum, portrays the lead character.
 
Now 20, Mutesi is still being discipled by Katende and lives a humble life in Kampala, although she is Uganda’s female chess champion and a Woman Candidate Master, the first step towards the Grand Master chess championship she desires. She authored the book Queen of Katwe.
 
“She has given her life to the Lord,” Ferlise said of Mutesi, who had lived a transient life since her father’s death when she was three. The ministry raised enough money to move Mutesi’s mother and siblings out of the slums to a modest home on the Kampala countryside. Mutesi lives with Katende’s family when she is not in school, Ferlise said, allowing her to attend church and continue her Christian discipleship. While her mother is a Christian, Ferlise said, she has not had the privilege of attaining an education.
 
“All of our programs are led by committed Christian leaders. We use the term coach in the field, because we believe they are coaching them both practically in terms of the sports involvement, in terms of life skills, in terms of mentoring and coaching them in their walk and helping them develop a stronger faith.”
 
SOM is an evangelical non denominational ministry supported by partners and churches, Ferlise said, many of them Southern Baptist, including Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., pastored by Jonathan Falwell. Among other Southern Baptist supporters, Ferlise said, are Ana Jarai Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C.; Carmel Baptist Church, Matthews, N.C., and First Baptist Church, Lubbock, Texas.
 
Queen of Katwe opens in wide release Sept. 30, after debuting in select theaters Sept. 23.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

9/29/2016 9:05:55 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Roy Moore trial leaves supporters hopeful

September 29 2016 by David Roach, Baptist Press

As Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore stood trial Sept. 28 on charges he defied federal court rulings on same-sex marriage, an attorney for the Alabama Baptist Convention’s public policy auxiliary said he was “optimistic” Moore would retain his job.

Photo by Mary Pope


Rules of the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC), the nine-judge panel before which Moore was tried, state that failure to issue a ruling within 10 days “shall constitute an acquittal.” A unanimous ruling is required to remove him from office, though a six-judge majority may impose lesser penalties.
 
“It’s difficult to predict what the judges that are sitting on the Judicial Inquiry Commission may do,” said Eric Johnston, an attorney who advises the Alabama Citizens Action Program, an auxiliary of the Alabama Baptist Convention. “I would be optimistic that they would look at it and say, ‘I may not agree with him on the marriage issue, but he didn’t do anything unlawful.’”
 
The media “has hyped [the case] up a great deal,” Johnston told Baptist Press, adding the present accusations are less clear cut than the 2003 case in which Moore was removed from office for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments display from the Alabama Judicial Building. In that case, Moore “was in violation of a federal court order.”
 
Moore, a Southern Baptist, was elected chief justice again in 2012.
 
At issue in the current case is a Jan. 6 administrative order in which Moore stated Alabama’s 68 probate judges had “a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage licenses contrary to” the state’s ban on same-sex marriage until the Alabama Supreme Court clarified the relationship between state law and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
 
Three months after Moore’s administrative order, the Alabama Supreme Court rejected challenges to same-sex marriage in the state and ruled the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling required its legalization.
 
The JIC alleges in a 293-page complaint filed in May that Moore “failed to respect and comply with the law,” citing Obergefell among other cases, and seeks to have Moore removed from office.
 
When Moore arrived at his trial, he received a standing ovation from courtroom onlookers, according to a live Twitter feed of the proceedings hosted by AL.com. His popularity also was reflected in an August poll that found him atop the field of likely 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidates, AL.com reported.
 
In Moore’s testimony to the JIC, he said it was “ridiculous” to suggest he told probate judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court, according to tweets posted on AL.com.
 
“I don’t encourage anyone to defy a federal court or state court order,” Moore said according to the Associated Press. “I gave them a status in the case, a status of the facts that these orders exist. That is all I did.”
 
Moore’s attorney Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the nonprofit legal organization Liberty Counsel, said in a statement the chief justice “merely gave a status report on the pending case and the JIC overstepped its authority to bring these politically-motivated charges.”
 
Staver cited a passage in Moore’s January memo to probate judges that seemed to support his argument.
 
In the passage Moore wrote, “I am not at liberty to provide any guidance to the Alabama probate judges on the effect of Obergefell on the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court. That issue remains before the entire Court which continues to deliberate on the matter.”
 
Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which filed multiple complaints over Moore’s conduct, told NPR the chief justice “doesn’t know the difference between being a judge and being a preacher” and “thinks his religious beliefs should trump his obligations under the law.”
 
John Carroll, a former SPLC legal director, was retained by the JIC as co-prosecutor of the case. Carroll currently is professor of law at Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention.
 
People traveled from as far away as Illinois and Missouri to attend Moore’s trial, according to Tweets posted on AL.com, with some coming by bus.
 
Moore has been suspended from the bench since May pending the outcome of his case.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

9/29/2016 9:05:02 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



U.S. lawmakers plead for Mexico’s persecuted evangelicals

September 29 2016 by Julia A. Seymour, WORLD News Service

Evangelical Christians in rural villages of southern Mexico have suffered persecution for decades.
 
For many years, their suffering went unnoticed except by persecution watchdog groups like Christian Solidarity Worldwide, International Christian Concern (ICC), Open Doors, and Voice of the Martyrs.
 
But the Protestants’ plight finally is getting some high-profile attention.
 
In what ICC called a “historic first,” 13 U.S. lawmakers on the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission sent a letter to Mexico’s attorney general, Arely Gonzalez, calling for prosecution of religious freedom violators.
 
In villages in four Mexican states, syncretists or “traditionalist” Catholics, who have blended Catholicism with their indigenous pagan practices, have persecuted evangelicals at least since the 1970s, said ICC advocacy director Isaac Six, who noted more than 150 instances of persecution just in recent years.
 
Christians have been fired, driven into exile, and even imprisoned for years under false charges – especially in Chiapas, said Emily Fuentes, a spokeswoman for Open Doors. “Traditionalists” view their blended tribal and Catholic beliefs, rituals, and superstitions as part of their cultural identity, which is why they perceive evangelicalism as a threat, she said.
 
The persecution often starts out small, such as cutting off electricity or water supplies over a dispute such as paying into the village fund for religious festivals, Six said. Festival rituals often contain alcohol or drug use, prompting some evangelicals to refuse to participate, he added. Sometimes disagreements escalate to threats or violence.
 
Recently, authorities told Protestant convert Lauro Pérez Núñez to leave his village of La Chachalaca, in the district of Santiago Camotlán, Oaxaca, for violating the local “custom” of holding traditionalist beliefs, according to World Watch Monitor (WWM).
 
But no such crime exists – Mexico’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
 
“In the beginning there were about 16 families in the village that practiced [evangelical Christianity],” Núñez said. “But the accusations that we were against the beliefs of the majority, that we were attempting to go against the community, made many stop expressing their ideas.”
 
Officials imprisoned Núñez several times and demanded he recant his new faith.
 
“Since I did not accept, they told me that they would end up throwing me out of the village and they would no longer recognize me as a citizen,” he said. Local schools refused to teach his children.
 
In 2016, Núñez appealed and a district court ruled he could return home. But the community still insisted he leave. Locals threatened to kill him, and a mob surrounded his mother’s house, threatening to seize it if he did not flee.
 
Earlier cases were even more severe. In 1997, authorities arrested 79 men in the Acteal region of Chiapas for participating in a massacre. Many were evangelicals innocent of the crime. Some spent more than a decade in prison on false charges, according to Open Doors. The charity helped fight for the falsely accused, securing freedom for all but one by 2015. They were still not allowed to return home.
 
Six hopes the letter from U.S. legislators and a recent visit by David Saperstein, U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, will “send a signal to Mexican officials that there is a diplomatic cost to ignoring these violations” and motivate them to act.
 
“We see this as a lack of political will, not a lack of political capacity,” he added.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Julia A. Seymour writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville, N.C. Used by permission.)
 

9/29/2016 9:04:41 AM by Julia A. Seymour, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



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