Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- India: Family Attacked for Playing Christian Music
- Survey Shows Economy Continuing to Impact Churches
- Laos: Detained Christians Released After Six Weeks in Prison Without Charge
- Mars Hill Church Names Rob Bell's Successor
India: Family Attacked for Playing Christian Music
A pastor and his family were attacked recently in Nalgonda district, Andhra Pradesh, after showing kindness to a stranger. Voice of the Martyrs reports that pastor P. Anjenayulu of the Prayer Power Church and his family were traveling between villages when a stranger asked them for a ride, which Anjenayulu readily offered. The pastor and his family were playing Christian songs and testimonies in the car, which angered their passenger. He made several phone calls to religious extremists in the village they were approaching, and when they arrived, a mob of at least 350 people attacked their van. The mob broke the car's windows and windshield and demanded the family hand over the audio containing the Christian songs and testimonies.
Survey Shows Economy Continuing to Impact Churches
According to a survey by LifeWay Research, pastors say the economy continues to have a negative impact on their churches despite stabilized giving, Baptist Press reports. The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors asked respondents, "How is the economy impacting your church?" Sixty-four percent responded "negatively," with 56 percent indicating "somewhat negatively" and 8 percent "very negatively." One-fourth of the pastors said the economy had had no impact on their church, and 9 percent indicated a positive impact. "Pastor views on the economy are similar to many economic outlook surveys," said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. "We weren't surprised the current perspective of economic impact on churches is predominantly negative." However, while the sluggish economic recovery has translated into flat or reduced giving for many churches, the survey found fewer churches reporting declines in giving and fewer churches failing to meet budget expectations.
Laos: Detained Christians Released After Six Weeks in Prison Without Charge
Four Christians arrested in Luang Namtha province in Laos in June have now been released, Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports. The Christians, two of whom were of Thai nationality, were arrested and had their personal belongings confiscated after being caught explaining the Bible to a Lao man in the home of a local Christian. They were detained for six weeks but no formal charges were brought against them. After the police finished their investigation, the Christians were required to pay a small fine and were subsequently released. "CSW welcomes the release of these four men; however, we are concerned that their arrest is part of a pattern of religious repression that continues to occur in many parts of the country," said Mervyn Thomas, CSW's chief executive. "In Luang Namtha province alone, Christians in at least 15 villages have reported similar cases of harassment by the Lao authorities. We urge the Lao authorities to adhere to international standards on religious freedom both at the national and provincial level."
Mars Hill Church Names Rob Bell's Successor
Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., has appointed a new teaching pastor, months after founding pastor and well-known author Rob Bell departed for California, the Religion News Service reports. Bell, who sparked controversy last year with his book Love Wins -- which discounted the existence of hell and asserted that "a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering" -- left in January to pursue independent ministry plans near Los Angeles. On August 22, Mars Hill leaders announced Kent Dobson had accepted the lead position. Dobson, who served as a worship director in the church's early days and has preached as a guest speaker since Bell left, also served as a religion teacher and spiritual life director at Grand Rapids Christian Schools and has been featured on biblical programs for the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. He resigned from a teaching position at NorthPointe Christian School in 2008 amid fallout from appearing on a Discovery Channel program that questioned Jesus' birthplace and whether there were truths in the Gnostic gospels, a collection of noncanonical texts. "Some think asking questions is a sign of a lack of faith," Dobson said in a later interview. "I can't imagine any kind of mature faith without questions."
Publication date: August 27, 2012