Friday, February 29, 2008

Disillusioned with organized religion?

Americans are switching denominations

A panoramic snapshot of American religious life in 2008 reveals an extraordinary dynamism that is reshaping the country's major traditions in historic ways.

Almost half of Americans have moved to a different religious denomination from that in which they were raised, and 28 percent have switched to a different major tradition or to no religion (i.e., from Roman Catholic to Protestant, Jewish to unaffiliated).

The fluidity is combining with immigration to spur dramatic changes in the religious landscape. Protestantism appears on the verge of losing its majority status. The number of "unaffiliated" Americans has doubled, to 16 percent. One-third of Catholics are now Latino, and the religion is depending on immigration to maintain its share of the population.

These shifts are captured in a survey released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

"The extent of change in the American religious marketplace is remarkable," says Luis Lugo, the Pew Forum's director, in an interview. "Everyone is losing and has difficulty retaining childhood members, but everyone is also gaining."

The report is the first of three Pew will release this year from a path breaking survey of the U.S. religious landscape. Based on interviews in English or Spanish with a representative sample of 35,000 adults, it describes America's religious composition and the changes under way. Later this spring, the second report will analyze Americans' beliefs and practices, and the third, their social and political values.

The movement between churches and denominations is not new, but the report documents its remarkable scope.

"Religious fluidity is part of a larger picture of fluidity in American life generally," says Wade Clark Roof, author of "Spiritual Marketplace" and professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara. "You can read this as 'It's what America is about -- we choose' ... The downside is enormous instability, lack of grounding, wandering in the wilderness."

Observers point to many reasons for the shifts. People may change churches because they relocate to a part of the country where different denominations predominate, or they may prefer another style of worship. Whatever the reasons, the survey reveals some clear winners and losers.

Protestantism, which has shaped American identity for generations, may soon become a minority faith. In the 1980s, 65 percent of Americans called themselves Protestants; today that number is down to 51 percent. Only 43 percent of those aged 18-29 say they are Protestant.

Much has been written about the declines in mainline churches. But in comparing the current religious affiliation of adults with their childhood affiliations, the survey found a net loss of 3.7 percent for Baptists (Baptists account for one-third of all Protestants and nearly two-thirds of black Protestant churches.)

Perhaps the big surprise, though, relates to Roman Catholicism, which experienced the greatest net loss. While 31.4 percent of adults say they were raised Catholic, today only 23.9 percent identify as Catholic, a net loss of 7.5 percent.

"The Catholic numbers are eye-popping," Lugo said. "One out of every 10 people you meet on the street is a former Catholic."

Fortunately for the Catholic Church, however, its share of the religious pie has remained steady in recent decades, due partly to conversions but largely to immigration. Catholics account for 24 percent of the adult population, but immigration could well boost its future share.

"Within our society, Protestants basically outnumber Catholics 2 to 1," Lugo says. "Among immigrants, it's the reverse: Catholics outnumber Protestants by more than 2 to 1."

The big winner on the shifting religious scene is the group of "unaffiliated" Americans. Today 16.1 percent of adults fit that category. Among young people 18 to 29, one-quarter are unaffiliated.

It's common for young adults completing education or starting careers to become detached from their faith connection. Other people may become disillusioned with organized religion.

"Scandals and conflicts lead some to distance themselves, even though they still hold Christian beliefs," says Darren Sherkat, a sociologist at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, who has studied the unaffiliated. "A perhaps growing percentage are disaffiliated because they don't hold Christian beliefs."

The survey found that 1.6 percent of adults call themselves atheists and 2.4 percent are agnostics (who consider God to be unknowable). The remaining 12 percent in "unaffiliated" split almost evenly between the secular and the religious, who may practice their faith on their own.

Although this category is growing the fastest, the survey shows that about half of the unaffiliated end up returning to a faith connection. Other research, however, indicates that many young people today are disaffected from Christianity, and religious leaders worry that they won't follow the usual return pattern.

Currently Christianity retains the allegiance of 78 percent of Americans. Nondenominational churches are growing and attracting about 5 percent of adults.

Other world faiths also now account for 5 percent of the population. Their net losses or gains in affiliation were relatively small: Jews dropped by 0.2 percent, Muslims gained by 0.1 percent, Buddhists gained by 0.3 percent and Hindus showed no change.

E.W. Scripps Co.
© 2007 Abilene Reporter-News

Is God real and relevant?

Veritas forum explores empirical proof of the Bible

By: Lindsey Coyne

Posted: 2/29/08

Last week, the Christian Faculty and Staff Network, along with several student organizations, had Texas A&M's annual Veritas forum. The Veritas forum, a nationally headquartered team, presents forums at universities across the nation in order to instill the relevance of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. The forum took place on two evenings and featured two keynote speakers addressing the question and ultimate validity of God in the universe.

The first of these speakers, Walter Bradley, a professor of mechanical behavior of materials at Baylor University and former A&M professor of mechanical engineering, gave scientific evidence of the complex characteristics of the universe in his presentation, "The Bio-Friendly Universe: By Design?"

Bradley said his research in this field is to highlight "what about the universe makes it a place for complex life forms." His findings run the gamut of formulas and figures across chemistry, physics and genetics. Ultimately, the whole of the evidence provided by Bradley demonstrated that if there were an absence of certain value-specific universal constants, this planet would be incapable of supporting human life. Specifically, the values associated to the amount of "dark energy" present at the Big Bang is precisely what is needed for the universe to form. Bradley equates his interest and research in this field to his own personal beliefs in Christian deism. Within the past 15 years, everything he has found has reinforced his beliefs.

"Nothing about our universe is random, chaotic or purposeless," Bradley said, even though the deductions of past scientists suggest otherwise. Bradley co-authored a book, The Mystery of Life's Origins, based on these findings, and has presented this information in forums on more than 100 college campuses to more than 40,000 students nationwide.

Sherri Verm, a senior political science major, found the information contained in Bradley's presentation quite remarkable.

"I decided to attend because I found it very interesting that science and math could potentially work together to prove some element of theology," Verm said. She said she identified with the simple analogy Bradley offered the crowd about the chances of rolling a die 100 times and getting a six to make the emphasis about how unique, diverse and deliberate the constants of the universe actually are.

"Dr. Bradley's explanations have solidified my beliefs even more with unquestionable proof that there is a higher being at work in the universe," Verm said.

The second of the two featured speakers at the Veritas forum was A&M's Stephen McDaniel, professor of marketing and assistant department head in the Mays Business School. His presentation, "How Do We Know the Bible is True? Evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Archaeological Findings," focused on the unearthing of the Dead Sea Scrolls and what they prove about the legitimacy of the Old Testament.

The scrolls, discovered in 1946 in a cave in Qumran near the northwestern part of the Dead Sea, have actually disproved numerous assumptions about the inaccuracy of Old Testament divinations. These scrolls include, among other biblical and archaeological findings, more than 230 copies of biblical texts and commentaries including the books of Habakkuk, Nahum, Psalms and Genesis. McDaniel highlighted two benefits in the findings of these scrolls.

"[Manuscripts] show how accurate scribes were in making copies of the Bible through the years," McDaniel said. "The scrolls validate Old Testament prophecies."

Critics of the provable existence of Jesus Christ have argued that prophecies about Jesus were added more than 900 years after his death, insinuating that New Testament scribes rewrote history to serve their beliefs in God. Once these scrolls were found and the Dead Sea Scroll Committee translated the manuscripts, they found prophecies about the birth and life of Christ that predate his existence by more than 100 years.

McDaniel, a self-professed researcher by nature, began his quest for the truth of these scrolls based on his need for empirical proof of his religious beliefs. He traveled to Qumran and took tours of Egypt and Israel to see firsthand the geographical setting of the biblical stories he had come to know so well. To this day, he has maintained his interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls as the discoveries about their content and subsequent evidence increase.

In attendance of McDaniel's presentation was Kristen West, marketing graduate student.

"His summary of the significance of the findings of the scrolls was what I appreciated the most," West said.

Another point that impacted West was the fact that the scrolls show prophetic evidence of the life of Christ years before he was born.

"The presentation enhanced my beliefs and gave me an accurate point of reference when describing my faith to someone else," she said.

© Copyright 2008 The Battalion

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How to Destroy Your Marriage!

Marital Mistake: Igniting Fires with an Untamed Tongue

Dr. David B. Hawkins

Fire is one of those elements that can either be our friend, keeping us warm and dry, or our foe, creating incomparable damage. Likewise, the tongue can either encourage or destroy. As the Apostle James said, "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness." (James 3: 9) James goes on to say the tongue is like a spark that can set a mighty forest ablaze.

Fire creates searing heat. Perhaps more destructively, however, is the fact that fire consumes the oxygen needed to survive. Fire robs us of life just as the tongue can set a mortal blaze in our marriages, stealing vitality from our life.

For any fire to continue it needs fuel. Thankfully, fire cannot burn on its own. I received a vivid lesson about fire and fuel one warm summer day when I was about ten years old. I was lying in the tall grass behind my house with a couple of buddies. With stalks of dried grass hanging out of our mouths we were telling stories and enjoying ourselves. Life couldn’t have been sweeter.

To ten-year olds, those stalks of grass were temptingly similar to a forbidden cigarette and one of us wondered what it would be like to "smoke" a few of those blades of grass. It all seemed innocent enough. We gathered our "cigarettes" and proceeded to light up. Suddenly, without warning, a spark caught in a bundle of dried grass, and then another, until we were faced with an inferno beyond our control. Realizing the potential danger of the fire, we ran for the help of my dad. Three screaming boys immediately caught his attention. We formed a "bucket brigade" and were able to douse the fire and get on to the next important issue—explaining all of this to my very angry father.

An innocent outing, an impulsive act, a furious outburst of potential danger. We contained the problem quickly and limited the damage.

Like that field, a marriage can become tinder dry at times, ready for a spark to ignite things. A season of dryness, or ongoing conflict, can set the stage for an angry outburst of deadly proportions.

"But, I just can’t help it," twenty-seven year old Karen said recently. "I just get so mad that I say what’s on the top of my mind. I know I can be extremely hurtful. We have called each other the most horrible names, and are embarrassed about it. We both have biting tongues, and know it."

Karen and Doug, clients of mine, were newly married and already having problems. I watched as Doug nodded his head to Karen’s rendition of the problem. I asked them to explain more about their problem.

"My husband and I can’t seem to agree on anything. I mention to him that I want more help around the house, and somehow we end up in World War III. I hate it."

"It’s true," Doug said soberly. "We don’t know how it happens, but when we fight, which is not all the time, it gets bad. We say things we would never say at other times, and we’ve nearly called it quits because of it."

"Well," I said slowly. "I have a saying—‘If it’s predictable, it’s preventable."

"It certainly is predictable," Karen said wryly. "The preventable part is questionable."

I could clearly see the pain Karen and Doug were in. They had hurt each other deeply with, impetuous, ill-spoken words.

"It takes a lot of self-control to slow things down enough to see what you two are doing so you can change the pattern."

"Doug is just as tired of my biting tongue as I am," Karen said.

"I can get pretty sarcastic and angry, too," Doug replied, "and we’re both tired of our bickering."

"Good," I said. "Being tired of how things are going is a great place for God to work in our lives. We have to get to the point where we are at our wits end—then God can step in."

We spent the rest of our session exploring the roots of their anger and biting tongues. We discussed how their anger and sharp words had caused tremendous pain in their marriage, to the point where they had nearly separated several times. It had scared both of them, and they wanted to learn new tools.

One of the tools I shared was "speaking from your most vulnerable self." This requires slowing down the process and exploring what other feelings could be shared rather than anger—which so often is hurtful. We discussed how anger is a secondary emotion, and how we need to look beneath the surface and learn to share other more vulnerable emotions that lay below the surface.

We discussed common underlying feelings known as GIFT:

• Guilt: anger often covers feelings of unexpressed guilt.

• Inferiority: anger often covers feelings of insecurity or inferiority.

• Fear: this is often an emotion that is difficult to express, but can be powerful when expressed appropriately.

• Trauma: conflicts often reawaken previous trauma in your life, creating hypersensitivity to an issue.

Karen and Doug seemed relieved to hear that their problems were normal and could be remedied. They agreed to slow things down when they became defensive, to guard their tongues and to look deeply to see if there were other, more vulnerable emotions needing expression. They agreed to take time outs when needed. It would take work, but they agreed to take these new insights home to practice.

Are you using an untamed tongue in your marriage? Have you said things you regret later? Consider taming your tongue. Recognize and own your primary feelings, practice some of the tools in this article, and allow God to heal problems without anger and harsh words. You’ll be glad you did.

Editor's note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to him at
This article was adapted from Nine Critical Mistakes Most Couples Make (Harvest House Publishers, 2005).

Dr. David B. Hawkins is a Visiting Professor at International Christian University and specializes in interpersonal relationship counseling as well as domestic violence and emotional abuse in relationships. He has been a frequent guest on Moody Radio Mid-day Connection, Focus on the Family, and At Home Live. You can visit his website at

I’m not the person for a job like that!

What are Your God-Given Abilities?

Dan Miller

Remember when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush? God told Moses he wanted him to go back to Egypt and lead the people out to the promised land. Moses looked and said – “You’ve got to be kidding – I’m not the person for a job like that.” God assured Moses he would prepare the way and he would provide some pretty convincing miracles. Still Moses had a hard time believing he was up to the task. He pleaded – “I can’t speak well, I don’t have a college degree, I’m a convicted felon – please, send anyone else!”

Now here we have someone with an obvious opportunity. Wouldn’t you like for God to lay out such a clear plan for you; and to promise success in advance. That wasn’t good enough for Moses. He kept trying to convince God he didn’t have any of the necessary requirements for accomplishing this big job. Moses said “they won’t believe me. I don’t have anything to qualify me for doing something great.” God said, “What is that in your hand?” If you don’t remember, it was his shepherd’s staff, which turned out to be a pretty significant part of his leadership. He turned it into a snake, parted the Red Sea with it and did some other pretty cool stuff.

If you think you’re stuck, don’t have any unusual talents, don’t have the right degrees, and don’t have the credibility to have people take you seriously – let me ask you a question: “What do you have in your hand?” What natural talents do you have? What is it that you do with excellence? Do you make beautiful candles? Delicious bread? Encourage the elderly? Grow stunning flowers? Handle your children with grace? You get the idea – just look at what you have right in front of you.

With God’s help you may already have everything you need for greatness. Don’t balk when you hear your call!

Dan Miller is President of The Business Source, founder of "48 Days" and author of 48 Days To The Work You Love and 48 Days To Creative Income. He is the growing authority for creating effective life plans that are achieved by integrating natural gifts, unique personality traits and one's own values and passions. His unique clarification of how God gifts us will introduce you to a new sense of freedom and fulfillment of your life's calling. For more information, visit .

Find this article at: living/features

How many people am I reaching out to?

Synergize! Attracts 2,100 Christians to Win the Next Billion

More than 2,100 Christian leaders from around the world descended upon Atlanta last week for a three-day conference to help empower church leaders to reach the next billion people for Christ.

Tue, Feb. 05, 2008 Posted: 15:20:15 PM EST

More than 2,100 Christian leaders from around the world descended upon Atlanta last week for a three-day conference to help empower church leaders to reach the next billion people for Christ.

The Second Billion Network’s semi-annual Synergize! Conference drew attendees from every state and almost 50 countries on Jan. 29-31. The Atlanta conference featured dozens of sessions led by top Christian and business leaders and highlighted a wide variety of methods and best practices used by pastors from around the world.

“Our 2,100 delegates not only heard from conference leaders about new and creative ways to engage their culture and grow and reproduce their churches, but they were also able to network with delegates from other cultures, countries and denominations and find out how some of those best practices worked,” said Dr. James Davis, founder and president of The Second Billion Network and co-host of the Synergize! Conference.

A highlight of the gathering was a talk by Pastor Sunday Adelaja, founder and pastor of the largest church in Europe, God’s Embassy Church in Kiev, Ukraine. The church has 30,000 members with a total membership, including all satellite locations in Ukraine, of 100,000.

Adelaja shared his insights into bringing the church into the seven spheres of influence – spiritual/social, government/politics, business/economy, education, media, culture/entertainment, and sports.

“If we infiltrate all these spheres of influence and their hundreds of subdivisions, we will have brought the kingdom lifestyle to a whole nation,” Adelaja said.

Another highlight was Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, who shared how he succeeded in the business world with his Christian values.

Other conference speakers included Orlando Magic’s senior vice president Pat Williams, Malaysia’s Pastor Prince Guneratnam, and India’s Pastor David Mohan.

“What’s amazing about this vision of reaching the next billion people is that it compels us all to work together,” said Leonard Sweet, a noted American Christian leader, theologian and author.

“Synergize: Bringing the Best to the Rest” conferences will be held around the world in the next 14 months, according to the Second Billion Network.

The Second Billion Network is an international church growth and church planting collaboration of pastors, leaders and denominations whose goal is to begin to double the size of the Church through five million new churches plants throughout the world and to bring to Christ the next billion people.

The network seeks out ministry partners, enlists leaders, shares resources, and provides leadership training to network churches and pastors to achieve the goal of a billion new Christians in the next 15 years.

Michelle A. Vu
Christian Post Reporter

Report: More than Half of Britons Have No Religion

More than half the British people admitted they have no religious adherence, revealed a new U.N. report published this week.

Sat, Feb. 23, 2008 Posted: 13:04:27 PM EST

More than half the British people admitted they have no religious adherence, revealed a new U.N. report published this week.

Unlike the 2001 National Census conducted by the United Kingdom – which said nearly 72 percent of the population is Christian – the 23-page U.N. report, published Thursday, showed that two-thirds of the population claims no religious affiliation, according to UK newspaper The Times.

The report by U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, called for the disestablishment of the Church of England because it no longer reflected “the religious demography of the country and the rising proportion of other Christian denominations.” Jahangir contends the role and privileges of the Church of England should be challenged given the new statistics on the state of religion in the United Kingdom.

The treatment of Muslims living in Britain and the government’s battle against terrorism was another topic of focus in the report.

According to the report, there is an “overall respect for human rights and their value,” but it cited research that shows 80 percent of Muslims in Britain feel they have been discriminated against. In particular, the report criticized a terrorism act that allows police in some areas to stop and search people without having to show reasonable suspicion, according to The Times.

From 2004 to 2006, there has been an 84 percent increase in searches of people with “Asian appearance” under this act, compared to an increase of 24 percent for white people, the report noted.

U.N. special rapporteur Jahangir, although a strong proponent in the belief that religion should not be given a lower priority than other rights, acknowledged in the report that some religious laws are “unacceptable.” She said the argument by some Muslim leaders that their religious tradition should override the rights of women is “unacceptable.”

Just a day before the report was published, the Archbishop of Canterbury also said some of the ways that Sharia laws were practiced were “appalling.”

“What I was trying to say the other day is that Sharia law is a very, very wide-ranging scheme of legal understanding within historic Islam,” the Archbishop said at a public lecture in Great St Mary’s Church after being criticized for saying that some parts of Sharia could be integrated into the British legal system.

“It is rooted in the sense of doing God’s will in the ordinary things of life,” Williams said. “[But] in some of the ways it has been codified and practiced across the world, it has been appalling.”

Williams specifically criticized the way the system applied to women in countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Jahangir, 55, was twice the chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and was released from house arrest in Lahore in November. She has faced punishment under her own government for her outspoken human rights advocacy and for criticizing the government’s human rights violations. Jahangir has been attacked by Islamic radicals for what they consider her liberal stance on religion.

Ethan Cole
Christian Post Reporter

Preach the Word - in season and out of season - and during the Olympics season!

China Won't Ban Bibles at Olympics, Assures Evangelist

Christian evangelist Luis Palau is encouraging Christians to bring their Bibles to the Summer Olympics in China, claiming that the Chinese government is 'wide open' and will not stop visitors from bringing Scripture into the officially atheistic country.

Fri, Feb. 22, 2008 Posted: 13:00:32 PM EST

NEW YORK – Christian evangelist Luis Palau is encouraging Christians to bring their Bibles to the Summer Olympics in China, claiming that the Chinese government is "wide open" and will not stop visitors from bringing Scripture into the officially atheistic country.

"I have asked officially from people here and over there. Any person can go in there and take Bibles, as long as they're not selling them," Palau told The Christian Post in an interview on Thursday.

"If they're giving them away, they can take all the Bibles they want. And I think that's going to happen. And I think that's very valuable."

Palau's comments come after China persecution watchdogs criticized the Chinese government last November for listing the Bible as one of the banned items in the Olympic Village.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao, however, clarified that China's law "will guarantee religious freedom during the Olympics," but not allow Bibles to be brought in for "distribution or propaganda," reported Agence France-Presse. According to the official, athletes, journalists, and tourists will be allowed to bring worship items, including the Bible, for personal use.

Palau, who was in New York City this week to promote his new book, A Friendly Dialogue Between An Atheist and A Christian, said he doesn't think Christians will face much opposition from the People's Republic of China during their stay there.

"I'm encouraging people to book their flights because it's going to be jammed. And to get a hotel and bed and breakfast because it's going to be jammed with people," he said.

"But they're going to be free, they're not going to be stopped to express the Gospel, to preach," he assured.

He added, "They were afraid that the athletes would start. Athletes are there to play and win, you know. But they may witness for Christ like some Chinese athletes do."

The Chinese government is known for its repressive religious policies, which prohibit worship outside state-approved venues and forbid proselytizing. It is not unusual to hear reports about Christians being detained and harassed by police for defying the regulations.

Palau, however, is more optimistic. He said that his Gospel message in China has never been censored, although many persecution watchdog groups note that his addresses have been in government-sanctioned churches.

Despite being very open about his future plans in China, one obstacle Palau said he did encounter was permission to hold an open-door evangelistic rally in China.

While he looks forward to such a rally in China by the time the Summer Olympics arrive in Beijing in July, Palau said that for now he will just have to wait for approval by Chinese officials.

"I believe you ask for permission, from my perspective as a foreigner coming to a foreign country," he explained.

"They have said to me, 'Be patient. Keep coming back. In China, we'd like to befriend a person, get to know them, trust them'... So, we're looking forward to it any day now."

The Argentina-born evangelist even joked that he has personal reasons for wanting to hold the rally in China soon.

"I said to one of the ministers ... 'You know, I can't wait forever. I'm getting old, you know? You’ve got to give me my chance.'"

If the rally is permitted in China, Palau said he plans to hold it in one of the major cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, or Hangzhou.

In the meantime, Palau will be promoting his book, which released this month in the United States, and preparing for his next festival to be held March 14-15 in Buenos Aires, Argentina .

Palau's book was first released in China in August 2006 under the title, Riverside Talks: A Friendly Dialogue Between An Atheist and A Christian. In the book, Palau and Zhao Qizheng, an atheist and former spokesman for Communist China's Cabinet, share their unique perspectives on the Bible, philosophy of religion, history and politics. It became a national best-seller in China and is the first-ever book between a Chinese diplomat and a Christian evangelist.

Katherine T. Phan
Christian Post Reporter

Is Evangelical Christianity growing?

Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons fastest-growing 'churches' in US

by Lillian Kwon, US Correspondent
Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2008, 13:08 (GMT)

The two fastest-growing church bodies in the United States and Canada, according to a newly published report, are ones whose beliefs are known to conflict with traditional Christian teaching.

Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, regarded by many Christians as cults, reported the largest membership increases in a year, according to the National Council of Churches' 2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.

Although Jehovah's Witnesses currently rank 25th in size with over 1.06 million members, they reported a 2.25 per cent increase in membership since the publication of the 2007 Yearbook. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – also known as the Mormon church – grew 1.56 per cent and is listed by the NCC as the fourth largest 'church'.

Notably, however, both Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormon church are not accepted within many Christian circles as part of the larger Body of Christ over a number of controversial beliefs that the two religions hold.

The identification of Jehovah's Witnesses as Christian is debated largely due to their rejection of the Trinity, which most Christians regard as a fundamental doctrine. Latter-day Saints, meanwhile, are often criticised for their belief in “divine” books of scripture, aside from the Bible, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

Mormonism was formally listed under “cults and sects” by the Southern Baptist Convention – the largest Protestant denomination in the nation – but was more recently categorised among “newly developed religions” on the North American Mission Board apologetics page.

Other bodies in the newly published top 25 largest churches list that reported membership increases include the Catholic Church with a 0.87 per cent increase; the Southern Baptist Convention with a 0.22 per cent increase; the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church with a 0.21 per cent rise; and the Assemblies of God with a 0.19 per cent growth.

The greatest losses in membership were reported by the Episcopal Church, which dropped 4.15 per cent in members, and the Presbyterian Church (USA), which decreased by 2.36 per cent. Both denominations are currently wracked by theological differences and the issue of homosexuality.

American Baptist Churches in the USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also experienced large losses in membership, dropping 1.82 per cent and 1.58 per cent, respectively.

"Some will wish to argue that the slowing growth rate is evidence of an increasing secularisation of American postmodern society," said the Rev Dr Eileen W Lindner, editor of the Yearbook. "While such an explanation will satisfy some, caution in drawing such a conclusion is warranted."

Lindner also observed that churches are feeling the impact of the lifestyles of Millenials – people in their 20s and 30s – who attend church but resist becoming members.

The United Methodist Church saw a 0.99 per cent decrease but the mainline group remains the third largest church body with nearly 8 million members.

Only three of the top 10 largest churches are mainline Protestant churches; three of the top 25 are Pentecostal churches; and six of the top 15 are historic African American churches.

Largest 25 Churches (ranked by membership)

1. The Catholic Church – 67,515,016
2. Southern Baptist Convention – 16,306,246
3. The United Methodist Church – 7,995,456
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – 5,779,316
5. The Church of God in Christ – 5,499,875
6. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. – 5,000,000
7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – 4,774,203
8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. – 3,500,000
9. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – 3,025,740
10. Assemblies of God – 2,836,174
11. African Methodist Episcopal Church – 2,500,000
12. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America – 2,500,000
13. Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. – 2,500,000
14. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) – 2,417,997
15. Episcopal Church – 2,154,572
16. Churches of Christ – 1,639,495
17. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America – 1,500,000
18. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc. – 1,500,000
19. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church – 1,443,405
20. American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. – 1,371,278
21. United Church of Christ – 1,218,541
22. Baptist Bible Fellowship International – 1,200,000
23. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ – 1,071,616
24. The Orthodox Church in America – 1,064,000
25. Jehovah’s Witnesses – 1,069,530

Crimes against humanity! Lord, may YOU intervene

New report exposes abuse of Burmese refugees in Malaysia

by Michelle A Vu
Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2008, 21:02 (GMT)

Burmese refugees in Malaysia live in “severe and desperate poverty and deprivation” and face exploitation, abuse and other mistreatment, stated a new report by a Christian human rights group Monday.

The report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) documents the group’s fact-finding mission to Malaysia and the Thailand-Burma border from 4 to 17 February. CSW representatives heard first-hand testimonies of forced labour, rape, torture, land confiscation and religious persecution from Burmese refugees in Malaysia.

“This report documents yet more evidence of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the military regime in Burma against its own people,” CSW Advocacy Officer for South Asia Benedict Rogers said in a statement.

“It also draws much-needed attention to the long-forgotten desperate plight of Burmese refugees who have fled to Malaysia in search of sanctuary and freedom, and have found yet more abuse, poverty and misery.”

In addition to testimonies from refugees, CSW also interviewed civil society groups and Burmese Buddhist monks.

Tens of thousands of Burmese have fled their homeland to take refuge in refugee camps in neighbouring Thailand and, to a lesser degree, in Malaysia.

The notorious Burma junta has led a campaign of persecution against ethnic minorities, wiping out entire villages. Armed military often attack villages of the Karen, Karenni, and Chin people – who are mostly Christians – and systematically rape the women.

The US State Department has labelled Burma a “country of particular concern” – the worst religious freedom violation label.

“The situation in Burma remains deplorable. The regime has rejected calls from its own people and the international community to begin a genuine dialogue with the opposition and ethnic minority groups,” said US President George W Bush, in a statement Monday.

“Severe human rights abuses by the Burmese Army, including burning down homes and killing civilians, continue in ethnic minority areas in eastern Burma,” he acknowledged.

The CSW report, meanwhile, calls on the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit Burma “as a matter of urgency”, and echoed calls made by nine Nobel Peace Prize Recipients last week for a universal arms embargo on Burma.

Specifically addressing the situation in Malaysia, the human rights group called on the Malaysian Government to improve the situation for Burmese refugees within their borders by stopping authorities from detaining and deporting Burmese asylum-seekers and refugees, and disbanding RELA – the officially-sponsored vigilante force often used to raid refugees’ camps, homes and workplaces.

It also urged the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to register all Burmese asylum-seekers in Malaysia, in order to provide better protection for them, and further called on more countries to offer opportunities for resettlement for Burmese refugees in Malaysia.

“The international community cannot continue to allow the terrible suffering of Burmese people to go on,” Rogers said. “How many more cries for help do we need before the world unites in meaningful action to end the reign of terror in Burma?”

Creative Evangelism?

Sex workers need help from Christians – group

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2008, 11:51 (GMT)

A Christian outreach for sex workers has told of its struggle to support women on the streets of London in a bid to raise awareness among the Christian community of the plight of sex workers in the capital.

Working in partnership with local organisations, Door of Hope offers refreshments, contraception and a listening ear to sex workers in the hope of building relationships with the women they encounter on the streets.

Debbie Shearing from Door of Hope told Premier's Woman to Woman show, "We are committed to long-term involvement in the lives of individuals caught up in prostitution and their families.

"We build relationships with the women we meet, getting to know them as a whole person. It is often through these encounters that they gain the confidence to access daytime services and make positive changes in their lives."

Door of Hope outreach teams are situated in areas between the City and the East End known for prostitution. The areas tend to be blighted by high unemployment, with many people living on low incomes or below the poverty, Shearing said.

“Poor education, poverty and domestic violence impact on families so severely as to cause both personal and family dysfunction,” she said. “All too often, those involved in street sex work become trapped in cycles of drug and alcohol abuse.

"Consequently, they are marginalised, isolated and discriminated against by their communities and families - they are robbed of traditional support networks, and their choices are limited even further," Shearing told Woman to Woman.

While Door of Hope regularly supports sex workers through their outreach programme, they also liaise with healthcare clinics, often accompanying sex workers to appointments, assist in re-housing women, referring them to employment training and supporting those suffering from domestic violence.

"It is tempting to regard street sex work as a faceless, insurmountable problem,” said Shearing. “Door of Hope challenges these common perceptions: each sex worker is an individual with needs, desires and aspirations.

“Each person has been shaped by their past and deserves the opportunity to make decisions about their future."


15th Feb 2008

Dear Prayer Partners,

1. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever! (Ps 118:29) Thank you for your intercessions! As mentioned in the last prayer letter,, I was in Johor Bahru (JB) during the Chinese New Year (CNY) holidays.

2. I was preaching for a series of open revival meetings in a hotel there. The JB church decided to change from the normal church camp to revival meetings. They wanted to bless the other Malay-language churches and decided to sponsor this revival meeting.

3. It was a privilege to be the guest speaker, and I shared on being true worshippers of Christ. The Lord was gracious and through His Spirit touched many lives. Many of the tribals would usually have wonderful experiences and encounters with the Lord. Many were re-committing their lives to God.

Below are some excerpts from the Pastor’s praise report which I received after writing this mail. The Pastor said:

We thank God that many children responded to the altar call on the first night. Many for the first time experienced a personal encounter with the Lord & felt a tremendous wave of love over them. The next night, many of these children stood up and joined in the worship! Praise the Lord!

There was one salvation. Our church has been praying for this lady for over a year, and she finally responded to the Lord. Praise the Lord!

One Chinese young man, who is an unbeliever, came forward to be prayed for, but he was testing the Lord. He said he was strong enough to resist being slain in the Spirit. The Lord won! Praise the Lord.

A Filipino man said he was too proud to step forward and be prayed for. When he finally did come, he couldn’t stand up. He had to kneel, and he was sobbing. He felt the love of God. Praise the Lord.

One young Iban lady lay on the floor and saw an angel, and couldn’t stop praising the Lord. Neither could we. Praise the Lord.

The Word that was preached to us brought new understanding to many of us. We were challenged and encouraged to become true worshippers of God who choose to serve Jesus only. Our lead guitarist senses the Lord’s calling in his life. Praise the Lord.

4. Thank you for participating with me through your prayers, giving, and encouragements (by emails and sms). It is a great source of strength and inspiration when the Body of Christ functions together.

5. Though I am in the front preaching, I am acutely aware and humbled that many of you have taken the time to pray and give your finances to enable me to be there. Indeed it is the grace of God, and do continue to pray that I will function in accordance with the measure of grace that God has given to me (Rom 12:3).

6. And also thank you for praying, I finally finished my Doctor in Ministry (DMin) 2nd module assignments. I am super-humbled by the amount of knowledge that I still do not know. There is so much more to learn. I am looking forward to the 3rd module in June and 4th in Nov.

7. Thank you for your continued financial support that enables me to be further equipped to serve the Body of Christ. Pray that the Lord will rise up more regular supporters so that I can wisely manage the budget and plan for ministry. Without more monthly givers, it is quite difficult to plan ahead.

All the glory to God! May we continue to shine for Him wherever we are. Only He is worthy of all worship.

In my opinion, the great single need of the moment is that light-hearted superficial religionists be struck down with a vision of God high and lifted up, with His train filling the temple. The holy art of worship seems to have passed away like the Shekinah glory from the tabernacle. As a result, we are left to our own devices and forced to make up the lack of spontaneous worship by bringing in countless cheap and tawdry activities to hold the attention of the church people. A.W. Tozer.

Election vs Marriage

Election fever is more powerful than the covenant we have made before God?

Man divorces wife for nagging him

27 February, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Blessed CNY 2008!

5 Feb 2008

Dear Prayer Partners,

Blessed Chinese New Year!!!

May you discover the real prosperity

that the eternal God has promised each of us!

J~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ C

E~~~~This is the ~~~~~h

S~~~~YEar of grace, ~~R

U~~~NOT rat race! ~~~~I

S~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ T

1. In the midst of all your last minute shopping, just want to quickly wish those of you who are celebrating the Lunar New Year, “A Spiritually-Prosperous and A Spirit-Empowered Chinese New Year.”

2. Please pray for me during this season as I will be preaching in Johor Bahru (JB), Malaysia. While you are munching away on the CNY goodies and drinking the F&N orange, I would be sharing God’s Word and ministering to the East Malaysians working in JB.

3. For those of you who have been on my prayer list for some time, would know that this is an annual affair. For the past 4 or 5 years, I would be invited by the same church in JB to preach for their church camp which is normally held over the CNY holidays.

4. These are tribal folks who do not celebrate the Chinese New Year. They celebrate their own new years which are called the Gawai (for Sarawak) and Kaamatan (Sabah) festivals. It is normally held during the May-June period.

5. Pray that the Lord would minister to them and set them free to worship Him, the incomparable Sovereign God of the universe. I am just a willing vessel who requires His anointing and empowerment.

6. Pray that the Lord will send revival among them and transform them, so that they can influence their communities. They usually have a lot of problems with heavy drinking, immorality, smoking, money-management, juvenile delinquents, lying, job hopping, occultic practices, and other works of the flesh. I think you get the picture.

7. They need J*sus! And though they have verbally and mentally believed in Him, they have yet to allow Him to control their lives. Pray also for the pastor and wife who have been faithfully laboring among them.

8. If you have been thinking of giving and blessing our ministry, then this is a good time to do it. I don’t have to keep their offering, if you give your offering. Then I can use their love offering to bless them, so that they can have some angpows for the New Year. This is my little part to bless the faithful pastors who have labored long and hard in obscurity.

9. As I have always jokingly mentioned, I will “rob” the tithes and offerings from the richer Chinese Christians to bless the poorer tribals! I know it sounds like the bumiputra policy, but its’ actually kingdom principle (2 Cor 11:6-10).

Thanks for praying! May this Lunar New Year be a time for reflection about our spiritual walk, and consider ways we can glorify Him more.

A true worshipper will not only worship the correct God, Jesus Christ, but he will also worship Him in the correct way (acceptable worship). True worship must be directed towards the correct object, Christ and done in the correct manner, the way which He has prescribed in the Scriptures. We must worship Christ in spirit and in truth.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Foundation Builder

1st February 2008

Dear Prayer Partners,

1. Thank you for covering us with your prayers! As mentioned in the previous prayer letter, I had a series of preaching and ministry session in Klang Valley (KV).

2. I really sensed the Lord’s wonderful presence due to your prayers. I was not very prepared or spiritual as I was caught up with my assignments and other responsibilities. But the Lord was merciful to me on account of your intercessions.

3. I had preached in upmarket office fellowships, small Chinese-speaking and Malay-speaking churches located in the outskirts of town, cell groups, and with campus undergraduates.

4. Pray for me as I ponder on making more regular trips to KV as the Lord has opened many doors for ministries. Pray for guidance and divine appointments as I do not want to go just for the sake of going. There must be a strategic divine purpose to spend that much time, effort, and finance to be there – and especially to be away from Anastasia during her formative years.

5. Further, I do not want to be distracted from the vision of making disciples of ALL ethnic groups of people. If I can, I would like to mentor and rise up spiritual leaders who are passionate to fulfill the Great Commission of J*sus, in their generation and in their context.

6. Pray for me that I would be sensitive to the leading of the HS and keep in step with Him (Gal 5:25). I do not want to be ahead of Him or like most of the time, lagging behind Him. I really need to be in tune with Him as the harvest is ripening and many souls are being saved.

7. In the last few trips, I keep listening to powerful testimonies of how individuals came to Christ through visions and dreams. God is just marvelously saving many people and they in turn are sharing contagiously with their friends. Its’ amazing! Even Unreached People Group are coming to worship J*sus.

8. But since they are new babes in Christ, they need a lot Biblical teachings. Some are already confused about their eternal salvation in Christ. I found myself teaching foundational matters that I had taught in the mid-1980s. That’s how I know it’s a whole new generation of people.

9. Pray that I may have the wisdom to minister to them. Just like 26 years ago when I first innocently ministered to the rural-tribal East Malaysians and now many of them are serving in various leadership capacity, I pray too that I might have a harvest among these group of people (Rom 1:13).

10. And in case you are going for a long holiday, I wish those who are celebrating “Blessed Chinese New Year! May you find your prosperity in Jesus and in the kingdom of God!” Pray for me during that season as I will be away in Johor Bahru, Malaysia preaching among the Malay-speaking tribal East Malaysians.

11. And in case in this season, you want to give some angpows, do remember us.

The nature of discipleship is such that it allows no divided loyalties. If one chooses to follow Jesus, the commitment and service entailed are absolute. It is impossible to be a partially committed or part-time disciple; it is impossible to serve two masters, whether one of them be wealth or anything else, when the other master is meant to be God.

Expensive to be trained? Well, it just got more expensive!

Government to impose higher fees for theological degrees

Under current Government plans, trainee priests may be charged nearly four times the present tuition fees for their theological degrees.

by Daniel Blake

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 7:36 (GMT)

Controversial plans to reform university funding have indicated that people training to be priests may face a massive rise in tuition fees, according to senior clerics.

The Church of England is warning that new Government plans to remove £100 million worth of funding for students wishing to take a second degree could have a catastrophic effect on the quality of training for clergy, and have a knock-on effect in church finances.

A report in The Times newspaper has said that a massive 75 per cent of the 1,500 students currently training to become Church of England clergy are studying a second university degree, as a majority had not decided to enter the priesthood until later in life.

Current Government funding means students taking a second degree pay tuition fees of £3,000 a year. However, the new plans could see fees rise to the same level as international students are paying - up to £11,000 a year.

The Government said it needs to impose the £100 million cut from ELQ degrees to add to funds for students taking their first degrees.

The new plans, however, have allowed for exemptions for strategically important and socially desirable subjects. Under the exemption, trainee nurses, teachers and scientists have all avoided the controversial reduction in funds. Theology, on the other hand, has been resisted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England despite repeated lobbying from the Church.

The Church has been told by Government officials that if possible it should pay the tuition costs for its theology students, or that it should even plan a revamp of the theology degree by converting them into cheaper two-year vocational courses.

If either of these options is pursued, the Church could find itself faced with a £1.5 million increase in the training budget, or a downgrading of the quality of training for ordained priests.

A number of leading theological leaders have spoken out against the proposals, warning that they could potentially be catastrophic for the Church’s future, and that a number of leading theological institutions could be closed down under the new pressures.

A final decision on the funding issue will be taken within two months, The Times reports, during which time the Church will attempt to turn over the situation.

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