Archives For Barna

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | The U.S. State Department released its International Religious Freedom Report on Monday, citing 2013 as a year when “the world witnessed the largest displacement of members of religious communities in recent memory.”

The report also listed nations where religious freedom is severely threatened and violated. Those “countries of particular concern” are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented the report, President Barack Obama announced his nominee for the country’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Rabbi David Saperstein would be the first non-Christian to hold the post, reports Christianity Today. He is director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, an attorney, and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Saperstein’s nomination requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

“Rabbi Saperstein is a respected thinker and leader who brings gravity to this important task,” said Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “He has my prayers and my pledge of full cooperation. The downgrade of religious freedom and the persecution of religious minorities around the world must end.”

Other news:

Texas church ministers with blankets, BIbles, coloring books at the border
De Dorman first felt a burden for families stranded at the U.S./Mexico border when she herself was stuck in an airport for three days in June. Dorman, a member of First Baptist Church in McAllen, Texas, went back home and organized a group of volunteers from her church to help out at an immigrant processing center in their town. Part of their ministry is giving out blankets to children who aren’t used to constant air conditioning, along with bilingual Bibles and Gospel-themed coloring books. “We tell them wherever you journey, the Lord wants to go with you,” Dorman told the Southern Baptist Texan. “We do our best, as God opens the doors, to speak to them and to set resources into their hands for that long bus ride.”

Pastor preaches forgiveness after hate crime
A church in Clarksville, Tenn., has forgiven whoever burned a cross outside their building, said Pastor Vernon Hooks of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. “Whoever did it, we forgive them,” Hooks said after the cross was discovered on the grounds of his mostly African American church early on July 22. “That’s the message, that we are a forgiving church and we’ll let the police do their job.” Police have classified the incident as a hate crime and are still investigating. Read the full story from the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle.

The Bible, re-designed?
A project aimed at making the Bible more readable for more people has earned more than $1.4 million in support on the fundraising site Kickstarter.com. “Bibliotheca,” an idea from book designer Adam Lewis Greene, organizes the Bible into four volumes designed like modern books. The text is in one column, and there are no verse or chapter notations. A video on Greene’s Kickstarter page explains  the inspiration behind the project.

Barna survey measures Americans’ dietary worries
Healthier eating habits may be on trend these days, but nearly half of all Americans are worried they eat too much. And 63% say they’re concerned about not eating enough fresh produce. The new research from Barna also found 55% of Americans experience some kind of “food guilt.” Read more at Barna.org.

 

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Ronnie Floyd, elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention last week in Baltimore, is calling on Baptists to rally in Columbus, Ohio, next summer to pray together for spiritual awakening.

“As I work with our Order of Business Committee as well as other leaders, I will respectfully request that we dedicate as much time as possible in next year’s convention to pray extraordinarily for the next Great Awakening,” Floyd wrote in a June 16 column for Baptist Press. “I want to call you to Columbus to what could be one of the most significant prayer gatherings in our history.

Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said in Baltimore that America’s greatest need is a great awakening. Prior to the convention, he organized two national gatherings for Baptist pastors to pray together.

“Our convention has bemoaned our decline in baptisms, membership, attendance and giving far too long,” Floyd wrote. “Now is the time for us to take aggressive action by calling out to God together in prayer.

“At the same time, we must take the needed strategic actions to change our trajectory as a convention of churches. While we face these critical times, we know God is doing some amazing things right now through Southern Baptists. As we celebrate those to the glory of God in Columbus, we will also call out to God in urgent desperation.”

Read Floyd’s column at BPNews.net, and click here to read more of the Illinois Baptist’s coverage from Baltimore.

Stanley explains tweets during SBC meeting
Georgia pastor Andy Stanley sparked a long online conversation when he tweeted during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, according to a Christian Post report. The Baltimore meeting focused heavily on revival and spiritual awakening. Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, was not at the meeting but tweeted on the topic several times, including, “Instead of praying for revival leaders of the SBC should go spend three weeks with @perrynoble Why pray for one when you can go watch one.”

Stanley was referring to Pastor Perry Noble of New Spring Church in South Carolina. He told The Christian Post that in the tweet and others during the meeting, he was referring to revival in the local church, rather than in a great awakening sense. “I can understand the confusion and I definitely contributed to it,” said Stanley, who still exhorted the local church to take actions that can lead to spiritual awakening.

“I love the local church. And I’ll admit I get a bit stirred up when I hear church leaders talk about the need to reach more people while refusing to make the changes necessary to actually get the job done.” Read more at ChristianPost.com.

Millenials tell Barna: Top 5 things to do before 30
Barna’s recent study of Millenials – “20 and Something” – delves into what the generation believes about life and work. Including the five things they most want to accomplish before they turn 30: gain financial independence (59%), finish their education (52%), start a career (51%), find out who they really are (40%), and follow their dreams (31%). Read more at Barna.org.

Be fruitful, says Pope
After celebrating Mass with 15 married couples at the Vatican, Pope Francis warned against childlessness. “It might be better – more comfortable – to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog,” he said, according to a report by Religion News Service. “Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”

The pope’s remarks came on the heels of a report that Italy’s birth rate fell to a record low in 2013. The U.S. birth rate hit a record low in 2012, but about 4,700 more babies were born in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

List locates world’s most persecuted countries
Christians face the worst persecution in North Korea and Somalia, according to the 2014 World Watch List. For 12 years, North Korea has topped the list released by non-profit organization Open Doors. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen also are in this year’s top 10, along with the Maldives, a chain of islands off the coast of India.

Noah_movie_posterTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Director Darren Aranofsky’s controversial “Noah” movie (rated PG-13) grabbed the top spot at the box office over the weekend, grossing $44 million in the U.S. and Canada and almost $100 million worldwide. Many Christians voiced objections to the movie’s content prior to its release, and the debate continued over social media as people went to the theater to see what all the fuss was about. The verdict: Christians are still divided on the film’s value.

“This is not a ‘buy up a block of tickets’ moment for churches…,” National Religious Broadcasters President Jerry Johnson blogged at ChristianityToday.com before the film’s release. “Noah, the film, may be inspired by the biblical character and events – but it is not a straightforward retelling of that story. Churches who are looking for that kind of movie will not find it here.

“However, many people will go to this film and enjoy it. The main events from the Noah story are depicted in a powerful way on the big screen by name brand actors and quality production. Christians should be ready to engage moviegoers in conversation about biblical and cultural themes that are portrayed in this movie.”

Your turn: Have you seen “Noah”? What did you think? Leave us a comment below.

Other news:

Saddleback, Warrens host conference on the church and mental health
Nearly a year after their son, Matthew, committed suicide, Rick and Kay Warren invited experts in the field of mental health to a one-day conference at Saddleback Church. More than 3,300 people attended the meeting March 28, which featured workshops for people and families struggling through mental illness, as well as church leaders who want to be better equipped to handle mental health issues in their churches and communities. “We do this in honor and memory of our son and others lost to mental illness, realizing there is hope for others dealing with this condition,” Kay Warren said, according to a report by The Christian Post.

Judge makes Michigan latest state to take up same-sex marriage issue
Judge Bernard Friedman overturned Michigan’s ban on gay marriage last week, and about 300 couples were married after his decision. The ruling was stayed, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has said the state will not recognize those marriages as of now. But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the government will offer federal benefits to the married couples, mirroring the action it took in Utah earlier this year. Click here to read about action in other states and to view the updated marriage map.

Barna researches why 64% of Americans aren’t regular church attenders
Author Donald Miller sparked controversy recently with a blog about why he doesn’t attend church (he feels more connected to God through his work than through a worship service). Research from Barna indicates many people feel the same way. Of the 64% of Americans who don’t attend church regularly, 40% say they find God elsewhere, and 35% say church is not relevant to them personally. Read more, including details about church attendance for the millenial generation, at Barna.org.

Faith, family more important than mirror ball trophy for former ‘Full House’ star
Candace Cameron Bure, who came to fame as DJ Tanner on 90’s TV series “Full House,” is also a contestant on this season of “Dancing with the Stars.” During a recent episode, she explained the modest choices she made when planning her rumba with professional partner Mark Ballas: “My life revolves around my relationship with Jesus Christ so with the overall tone of the dance or the costumes, it’s not going to take a backseat.”

Bure told host Erin Andrews after the dance: “I want to reserve some things for my husband so I think we did the best that we could with the rumba that I still felt comfortable doing.” Read more at ChristianPost.com.

 

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Christian leaders are engaged in debate over an Arizona bill that would allow businesses to deny services to same-sex couples for religious reasons.

As the bill awaits signature by Gov. Jan Brewer, writers Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt have written an article for The Daily Beast taking issue with the bill and with Christians who say they should be allowed to refuse services – such as wedding photography or cake baking – because they adhere to a biblical definition of marriage.

Powers and Merritt said the logic behind the Arizona bill only works if Christian photographers or bakers or florists examine every wedding they provide services for to make sure that it meets biblical qualifications. They also called into question advice given by Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, to a Christian photographer who didn’t want to affirm a same-sex wedding by agreeing to film the ceremony.

In a post on his website, Moore responded to Powers and Merritt: “…The question at hand was one of pastoral counsel. How should a Christian think about his own decision about whether to use his creative gifts in a way that might, he believes, celebrate something he believes will result in eternal harm to others.

“…It’s of no harm to anyone else if Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt (both of whom I love) think me to be a hypocrite. It’s fine for the Daily Beast to ridicule the sexual ethic of the historic Christian church, represented confessionally across the divide of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy. It’s quite another thing for the state to coerce persons through fines and penalties and licenses to use their creative gifts to support weddings they believe to be sinful.”

Read Moore’s full response at RussellMoore.com.

Other news:

Shoring up hope in the Philippines
A team of six Illinois volunteers spent a week on Gibitngil Island in the Philippines this month, helping repair a school damaged during Typhoon Haiyan. Read about their trip here.

Parents jailed for son’s death
A Philadelphia couple was sentenced to at least three years in prison after their son died from a treatable condition, Christianity Today online reports. Herbert and Catherine Schaible, who believe in faith healing, had already lost their son, Kent, to bacterial pneumonia in 2009. His younger brother, Brandon, died last year with the same ailment. “You’ve killed two of your children,” Judge Benjamin Lerner told the Schaibles. “…Not God. Not your church. Not religious devotion. You.” Read the full story at ChristianityToday.com.

Barna: Americans link violent behavior with violent entertainment
Recent research says 57% of all adults (and 69% of practicing Christians) believe violent action is connected to playing violent videogames, according to Barna. The percentages are slightly lower for movies (51% and 67%) and song lyrics (47% and 61%). Read more at Barna.org.

Worship and hockey: ‘Only in Canada’
The Olympic gold medal hockey game was broadcast on a Sunday morning in Canada. But that didn’t stop one church in Nova Scotia from cheering on the home team, The Christian Post reported. Bedford United Church streamed the game, a 3-0 victory for Canada, in its sanctuary, causing one Twitter user to post: “That’s an ‘only in Canada’ moment!” Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Lily Eddington and Three Rivers Disaster Relief leader Ken Cummins picked up a new chainsaw after Lily wrote a story that raised more than $2,000 in donations.

Lily Eddington and Three Rivers Disaster Relief leader Ken Cummins picked up a new chainsaw after Lily wrote a story that raised more than $2,000 in donations.

The newest piece of equipment in Three Rivers Association’s disaster relief trailer came from an unlikely source: 10-year-old Lily Eddington.

The Shorewood fifth grader wanted to help the association purchase a new, bigger chainsaw for the team to use after disasters like the November tornadoes that affected many communities across Illinois. She wrote a story that has garnered just over $2,000 in donations, enough to purchase the new chainsaw, another smaller saw, and other needed safety equipment.

Lily has the inside track to knowing about such a specific need – her grandfather is Dan Eddington, Three Rivers’ director of missions. “She knew through my father that they needed help raising money for that,” said Lily’s dad, Matt. “And she came up with the idea of writing a story, and he took the idea and kind of ran with it. And it worked out really well.”

Her grandfather helped Lily publish the story in booklet form, with her own illustrations. The story centers on a family trapped in their home after a tornado. Sisters Megan and Brianna take shelter in the basement with their parents (plus their cat and hamster), but a large tree keeps them trapped inside after the storm passes.

“Then they heard a truck pull up,” Lily wrote. “On the side of the trailer they saw the words, ‘Three Rivers Baptist Association Disaster Relief.’

“Suddenly they heard, ‘Come on guys, we need to get this tree off the house.’”

Read the full story at IBSA.org.

Illinois workers join typhoon response
A team of Illinois volunteers is hard at work in the Philippines this week, helping rebuild a school damaged during Typhoon Haiyan last fall. The Disaster Relief leaders also are repairing rain water collection sites on Gibitngil Island, where there is no natural water source. The team starts each day with a boat ride from Cebu Island, where they’re staying, to Gibitngil. “People in small shack houses greet us all along the way and some have even posted signs on their homes thanking our team for helping to rebuild their school,” said Rex Alexander, state director of Disaster Relief for the Illinois Baptist State Association. Go to IBSA’s Facebook page for updates on the team’s work.

Barna: Majority of Christians unclear on calling
Less than half (40%) of practicing Christians have a clear sense of God’s calling on their lives, according to the Barna Group. And 48% of Christian Millenials (generally thought of as those born in the 80s and 90s) say they believe God is calling them to different work. That lack of clarity is the foundation for Barna’s three vocational trends for 2014.

Blog post puts church attendance under the microscope
Author Donald Miller blogged recently that he doesn’t attend church often. “…I don’t learn much about God hearing a sermon and I don’t connect with him by singing songs to him,” wrote Miller, who has chronicled his faith journey in “Blue Like Jazz” and several other books. “So, like most men, a traditional church service can be somewhat long and difficult to get through.” Miller added that he experiences intimacy with God through his work.

Southern Baptist professor and blogger Denny Burk was one of many who responded to Miller’s post, calling his decision “a recipe for spiritual suicide.” Miller responded, and Burk has posted the exchange on his blog.

Christianity Today lists 8 Olympians to watch
Check out CT’s list of Christian athletes competing in Sochi. “We don’t root for them because they’re on ‘Team Jesus,'” writes Laura Leonard, “but all the same it’s nice to see people at the peak of their field, on the world’s biggest athletic stage, turn the credit back to the One who gave us bodies to run and jump and spin on ice and imaginations to push the limits of those bodies to run faster, jump higher, and spin faster than we ever thought possible.”

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The North American Mission Board has coordinated a clean-up effort in the Northeast for almost one full year, since the super storm swept through New Jersey and New York. Watch the video below for how Southern Baptist volunteers have helped in the region, and click here for more information about how to help, including Christmas and Spring Break opportunities for college students.

Mohler bridges divide at BYU
Christians and Mormons “inhabit separate and irreconcilable theological worlds,” Al Mohler told an audience at Brigham Young University. But the Southern Seminary president added the two groups should work together to address threats to religious liberty, Baptist Press reports.

“I do not mean to exaggerate, but we are living in the shadow of a great moral revolution that we commonly believe will have grave and devastating human consequences,” Mohler said in his lecture, part of the Mormon university’s “Faith, Family and Society” series. Christians and Mormons must together “push back against this age as hard as it is pressing against us,” Mohler said. “We had better press hard, for this age is pressing ever harder against us.” Read the full story at BPNews.net.

Life is complicated, most say
Two-thirds of all adults say life is getting more complicated, and 71% of evangelicals agree. The findings by Barna may indicate evangelicals and Catholics – 71% of whom also agreed – are recognizing “a growing disparity between the rhythms and values of their faith and the demands of a rapidly changing culture,” the researchers analyzed. Read more about Barna’s “three trends redefining the information age” here.

Conference examines C.S. Lewis’ popularity in America
Author C.S. Lewis was more celebrated here than in his own country, say the organizers of a one-day conference at Wheaton College. To mark the 50th anniversary of Lewis’ death, the college is hosting “C.S. Lewis and American Culture,” a one-day seminar featuring speakers on a variety of Lewis-related topics. For more information about the conference, click here. And ChristianityToday.com recently published a really interesting profile of Lewis’ wife marriage to Joy Davidman. Read it here.

pull quote_flynnIn the struggle to keep young people in church – or bring them back – are we simply choosing one trend over another?

COMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

Blogger Rachel Held Evans sparked numerous online conversations this summer with her posts about young people and church. Evans, 32, is a lightning rod in the evangelical community, having already tackled evolution and gender roles in her books. Her columns this summer on CNN’s Belief blog about why millenials are leaving the church are probably less polarizing, but likely more important too.

The disconnect between young people and the church is a real, documented problem. And the news is bleak: Barna found 59% of young Christians will leave the church permanently or for an extended period of time at some point after they turn 15.

Evans posits that young Christians can see straight through the church’s attempts to keep them. She writes, “Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being ‘cool,’ and we find that refreshingly authentic.”

Young Christians, Evans says, don’t want a change in style; they want a change in substance.

Indeed, candles are cool again. And robes and vespers services and responsive readings. In fact, some churches have gotten so cool that those of us millenials who have grown accustomed to stopping by the coffee station before heading into the service are no longer cool enough. We’ve aged out of our own demographic.

That’s what happens when you emphasize style over substance. Style is divisive. So is substance, but we’re promised it will be if the church is focused on the Gospel.

Evans claims substance trumps style, but she’s still advocating for a change in the latter. The instruments of the ancient church have much deeper roots in church history than online giving and electric guitars, but they’re still accessories we use to “decorate” the corporate worship experience and draw people to participate.

None of those things are inherently right or wrong. But they are part of the overall style of a church, and hopefully not its substance.

I know the authentic, unpretentious church Evans writes about in her blog post. I grew up there, except mine was a Southern Baptist church that didn’t follow the contemporary wave of the early 1980s and 90s, but instead waved real palm branches on Palm Sunday. We dressed to the nines, sang along with a pipe organ, and recited the same prayer of contemplation every week. And in my small youth group, kids still struggled with their faith. Some even left the church.

Style may attract people to a church, but it won’t keep them in. No matter how old the style, or how young the people. The church needs something substantial, and fortunately, we have it.

Blogger and LifeWay editor Trevin Wax wrote that he mostly agrees with Evans’ style vs. substance thesis, but would tweak it this way: “What millennials really want from the church is substance. Not a change in substance, necessarily, just substance will do.”

And that never goes out of style.