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Briefing

2018’s top Bible verse
According to the world’s most downloaded Bible app, YouVersion, the most popular Bible verse of 2018 is found in the Old Testament. Isaiah 41:10’s “Do not fear…” verse was shared, bookmarked, and highlighted more than any other passage by hundreds of millions of YouVersion users. 

Congress approves aid for religious minorities
Persecuted religious minorities victimized by Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria are now set to get some relief from the U.S. government. Congress unanimously passed a law designed to provide aid to Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims, and other religious minorities that underwent displacement and genocide at the hands of ISIS.

Evangelical church sees highest giving since 2014
Evangelical churches saw an increase in giving of almost 6% in 2017, the highest increase since 2014, according to a new report by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. ECFA President Dan Busby said in a statement that he was “so pleased to see this increased support for Christ-centered churches and ministries.”

Ill. town cancels trip to Ark after complaints
An Illinois town canceled a trip to KY’s Creation Museum and Ark Encounter after an atheist group filed a complaint. Charleston’s parks and recreation department cancelled the trip for its community after the atheist group argued that the trip violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

School district faces pressure over nativity display
A Michigan civil rights group is threatening to sue the Newaygo Public School District if they do not remove a Wise Men display from an elementary school building, citing it to be a violation of the US Constitution. Most citizens of the small Michigan town, however, support keeping the display, which has been part of Newaygo’s Christmas tradition since the 1940s.

Sources: Christianity Today, World, Christian Post (2), CBN News

Briefing

Study: Americans rank family (over faith) as top priority
A Pew Research Center survey released Nov. 20 discovered twice as many Americans say family is the most meaningful aspect of their lives (40%) compared to the second most popular choice: faith (20%). Among Christians, more than half say their faith provides a “great deal” of meaning, and 29 percent identified it as the most important source of meaning. Only two religious traditions ranked religion as their top source of meaning: evangelical Protestants and historically black Protestants.

Third of Brits uncertain about theology questions
According to a Ligonier Ministries’ survey, a third of people in the United Kingdom say they don’t know whether the Resurrection actually occurred, whether God counts a person righteous based on faith alone, or whether trust in Jesus alone leads to salvation. In Ligonier Ministries’ first-ever theology survey conducted in the UK, “I don’t know” was the top response to numerous questions about Jesus, sin, the Bible, and other rudimentary theological concepts.

Survey highlights Lifeway customer service
LifeWay Christian Resources is ranked as one of the top companies in the nation for customer service by Newsweek magazine. LifeWay also landed at No. 1 for brick and mortar bookstores on Newsweek’s list of America’s Best Customer Service 2019. Statista surveyed more than 20,000 U.S. customers who have either made purchases, used services or gathered information about products or services in the past three years.

‘World’s most isolated’ tribe kills US missionary
A 26-year-old American missionary was killed Nov. 17 on a remote island off the coast of India, where he attempted to share the gospel with the most isolated tribe in the world. The All Nations missionary traveled to North Sentinel Island to evangelize its small indigenous population, who remain almost entirely untouched by modern civilization. Indian police have not yet been able to retrieve the young missionary’s body.

China sentences US pastor to prison
Chinese authorities have convicted and sentenced Christian pastor and US permanent resident John Sanqiang Cao to seven years in prison as part of China’s aggressive crackdown on Christian pastors. Cao was reportedly transporting Bibles and other materials from China into Myanmar when security agents arrested him.

Sources: Christianity Today (3), CBN News, Christian Headlines

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Baptist church saved amidst CA fire
When the deadliest wildfire in California state history struck the town of Magalia, pastor Doug Crowder of Magalia Pines Baptist Church opened his church to those unable to evacuate the town to take shelter with church members and himself. Despite the engulfing flames, the people came out unscathed the next day. While everything around the church had been incinerated, the church’s property was untouched.

Final rules guard conscience from abortion mandate
The seven-year battle by objectors to the abortion/contraception mandate has come to a regulatory close with a victory for freedom of conscience. The Trump administration issued two final rules Nov. 7 that supply conscience protections to Americans with a religious or moral objection to the 2011 mandate instituted under President Obama.

IMB taps Paul Chitwood as presidential candidate
The International Mission Board trustees’ presidential search committee announced Nov. 6 that the committee will recommend Paul Chitwood, 48, to be elected as the 173-year-old entity’s 13th president. The vote to elect Chitwood is scheduled for the Nov. 15 plenary session during their IMB board meeting in Richmond.

IBSA churches meet mission field with ‘Pioneering Spirit’
Illinois set the foundation for IBSA’s Annual Meeting Nov. 7-8 at First Baptist Church in Maryville. The state’s bicentennial highlighted the 112th annual gathering of Southern Baptists in Illinois. The meeting also focused on four “Pioneering Spirit” challenges churches have embraced over the past year so that the gospel is advanced in a state where more than 8 million people do not know Christ.

Man files lawsuit to change age
A Dutch entrepreneur has filed a lawsuit to legally change his age to 49 – that’s 20 years younger than his chronological age. Emile Ratelband wants to change his birth date, stating that if one can change genders, he is justified to change his age. of A local court in the Netherlands will rule on the case in December.

Sources: Baptist Press (3), Illinois Baptist, CBN

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J.D. Greear launches podcast
SBC President J.D. Greear has launched a podcast allowing him to engage listener-submitted questions about biblical, ethical, theological, political and practical issues. “Ask Me Anything: Honest Answers, Quick Questions” debuted Oct. 22 with three episodes. Greear is the first SBC president to launch a podcast during his presidential term, LifeWay Christian Resources said.

What voters value: evangelicals choose issues over candidates
The Billy Graham Center Institute and LifeWay Research released a study on how evangelicals voted in 2016. Among the findings, 53% of evangelicals characterized their vote as being for a candidate, while smaller percentages said they cast their vote against Hillary Clinton (18%) or Donald Trump (15%). That only half of evangelical voters said they voted for their candidate in 2016 led researchers to conclude that evangelicals are “more issue-oriented than candidate-focused,” Christianity Today reported.

 Greear: ‘Lie of the enemy’ led to synagogue murder
A shooter opened fire during a baby naming ceremony at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, leaving 11 people dead. The suspect shouted, “All Jews must die,” before opening fire. SBC president J.D. Greear described the crime as “a despicable lie of the enemy which we unequivocally reject.” He also tweeted: “We grieve with the city of Pittsburgh, the Jewish community, and especially the families of the victims.”

AL. Supreme Court calls for end of Roe v. Wade
Alabama’s highest court released a decision recognizing the personhood of unborn babies and includes a concurrent opinion calling for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Justice Tom Parker denounced Roeas a “legal anomaly and logical fallacy” after the Alabama Supreme Court upheld a murder conviction for a man who killed his pregnant wife and their unborn child. Justice Parker then urged the United States Supreme Court to “overrule this increasingly isolated exception to the rights of unborn children.”

New ‘Christian Pixar’ film company to be launched
“I Can Only Imagine” film producers, Andy and Jon Erwin, are creating their own Christian film company similar to Pixar or Marvel. They said the new production company and a series of films is backed by Hollywood. Named “Kingdom,” the company is an Erwin brothers collaboration set to spread the gospel message and “serve the church,” Jon said. 

Sources: Baptist Press (2), Illinois Baptist, Christian Post (2)

The Briefing

Imprisoned pastor freed
After two years of detention in Turkey, Andrew Brunson touched down on U.S. soil Oct. 13. Brunson was released after a 2- year incarceration stemming from disputed charges that could have led to life imprisonment. Although Turkey did not proclaim the North Carolina native innocent, a court in Aliaga released Brunson Oct. 12.

On his way home to North Carolina, Brunson stopped in Washington, D.C., where he met with President Donald Trump and prayed for him, The Christian Post reported.

Hurricane Michael hits churches ‘like a bomb’
Hurricane Michael damaged at least 50 Southern Baptist church buildings in Florida and Georgia, according to initial estimates. Despite the carnage, churches in Panama City and beyond held Sunday morning services just four days after Michael made landfall. In addition, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) teams from nearby states set up a kitchen and began serving meals to the community over the weekend in partnership with American Red Cross.

Message author enters hospice care
Eugene Peterson, the theologian and author best known for The Message translation of the Bible, is receiving hospice care, his family shared over the weekend. Many Christian leaders responded to the announcement by remembering Peterson’s influence and asking for prayer on his behalf. “Let’s everyone of us who have benefited much from this great man’s writing all stop and pray for him right now,” Ethics and Religious Liberty President Russell Moore said on Twitter. “And then let’s thank God for the model of a long obedience in the right direction.”

Canada considers euthanizing children
Doctors from a Toronto children’s hospital recently published policies on physician-assisted suicide for children. The policy, written at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, outlines the hospital’s decisions on which children would be euthanized under Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) law. The policy also reveals that in some cases, parents won’t be notified until after the child has died.

Seven traits of a healthy church leader
Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, lists embracing change as one seven traits exhibited by healthy church leaders.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, Christianity Today

 

The Briefing

China to rewrite Bible, force churches to sing Communist anthems
The Chinese government is supervising a 5-year plan to make Christianity more compatible with socialism. These plans include a “rewrite” of the Bible, singing Communist songs before worship in churches, and including pictures of Communist leaders inside church buildings. China’s crackdown on religion has seen many house churches demolished and represents the highest degree of persecution for independent faith groups the country has seen in decades, The Christian Post reports.

Bible translators complete 1,000th translation
Wycliffe Bible Translators completed its 1,000th full translation of the Bible in South Sudan. The major milestone was achieved in August, though accounts for only 10% of the world’s languages. Some of the remaining 90% have incomplete translated Bibles at various stages, but an ambitious project hopes to have Bible translation efforts underway in every language of the world by 2025.

IMB transitions from Platt to Meador
International Mission Board trustees heard a final address from outgoing president David Platt and approved Clyde Meador as interim president during their Sept. 26-27 meeting near Richmond, Va. Trustees also appointed 66 new fully funded personnel to take the gospel to unreached people and places.

Black men reverse gender split on religion
A study by the Pew Research Center released Sept. 26 found that while black men are less religious than black women, they are more religious than white women and white men. Hispanic women are equally as likely as African-American men to be what Pew considers “highly religious,” followed by white women, then Hispanic men. White men trail in last place with less than half being “highly religious.”

New Jersey schools usurp parents on guidelines for transgender students
New Jersey’s Department of Education has instructed schools to use the preferred names and pronouns of transgender students without the need for parental consent. In keeping with a state policy signed into law last year, schools must also give students access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers that match their gender identity, not their sex. 

Sources: Christian Post (3), Baptist Press, Religion News

 

The Briefing

Disaster Relief ramps up as Florence floodwater rises
As Hurricane Florence crashed ashore in North Carolina, rising floodwaters have cut off the supply chains of some Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts. Still, Southern Baptists have begun relief ministries and the Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief itself has 1,700 volunteers on standby who are specially trained to provide relief during times like these. As of Sept. 17, the storm dumped more than 30 inches of rain in some regions, resulting it at least 23 deaths and is moving northeast into Virginia.

Platt to step down from IMB; Meador named interim
IMB president, Dr. David Platt’s resignation is to be effective at the Sept. 27, 2018, trustee meeting. As such, the Executive Committee of the board of trustees of the International Mission Board voted in a special meeting Sept. 13 to approve Dr. Clyde Meador as interim president starting Sept. 27, subject to full board approval. Platt has served as president of the IMB since Aug. 27, 2014.

China: Bibles burning, churches closing
China’s government is ratcheting up a crackdown on Christian congregations in Beijing. In several provinces crosses have been destroyed, Bibles burned, churches shut down and followers ordered to sign papers renouncing their faith. The campaign corresponds with a drive to “Sinicize” religion by demanding loyalty to the officially atheist Communist Party and eliminating any challenge to its power over people’s lives. 

NYC to issue 3rd gender on birth certificates
New York City is the most recent city to allow a third gender option on birth certificates for persons who do not identify as male or female. The third gender marker on birth certificates will become effective Jan. 1, 2019 and will be classified as gender X. The new policy will no longer require persons who identify as such to provide a note from a doctor or a health care provider’s affidavit in order to make such a change. 

CO schools end sex ed program exposing porn
A Colorado school district has agreed to discontinue using products in their sex education program from a company parents say exposed their children to porn images. For two years, the Thomas More Society has assisted concerned parents in an effort to stop the Cherry Creek School District from using these products which were used by children in 55,000 elementary schools, middle schools and high schools across the United States.

Sources: Baptist Press, Illinois Baptist, News Channel 20, Religion News, Christian Post (2)