Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Survey Looks at Key Reasons for Congregational Growth
- Convoy of Hope Sends Assessment Teams to Aid Florida Tornado Victims
- Blasphemy Site 'Playing Texas Hold 'Em With Eternity'
- Fla. Storm Victims Attend Wrecked Church
Survey Looks at Key Reasons for Congregational Growth
Contemporary worship, geographic location, a website and the absence of conflict are key factors in why some congregations in America are growing, according to a recent national survey of U.S. faith communities, AgapePress reports. The survey, the findings of which are available in a newly released report called "FACTs on Growth," was sponsored by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership (CCSP). The CCSP study found that the congregations that grow are those that plan for growth; that is, those congregations "that developed a plan to recruit members in the last year were much more likely to grow than congregations that had not." The survey's data tests the wisdom of "long 'taken for granted' principles of growth," such as location and conservative theology.
Convoy of Hope Sends Assessment Teams to Aid Florida Tornado Victims
On the heels of one of the worst ice storms to ever hit the Midwest, Convoy of Hope (COH) is already assessing damage in several central Florida communities, where a thousand homes were severely damaged and at least 19 people are confirmed dead following Thursday night’s tornadoes, ASSIST News Service reports. "Convoy of Hope is sending staff from our world headquarters (in Springfield, Missouri), to central Florida to assist our partners in that area," says COH's Hal Donaldson. "The assessment teams will determine how Convoy of Hope can best help the area. Once the initial assessment is complete, trucks of relief items will begin rolling into central Florida," said Donaldson. "In terms of damage and lives lost," says Donaldson, "the devastation is being compared with that of Hurricane Charley. During the deadly Florida hurricanes of 2004, Convoy of Hope established partnerships with many churches throughout the state of Florida. Several of those churches are requesting Convoy of Hope’s presence so that they can better help serve the families in their local area."
Blasphemy Site 'Playing Texas Hold 'Em With Eternity'
More than a month after atheists launched a campaign encouraging young people to blaspheme God in an online video clip, more than 800 people have done so, and a conservative analyst said the "boneheads" behind the initiative could only be pitied, CNSNews.com reports. Atheist filmmaker Brian Flemming created the blasphemychallenge.com website, asking teens to commit "the ultimate sin" in return for a copy of his movie, "The God Who Wasn't There." The "ultimate sin," in his view, is denying the Holy Spirit, based on Mark 3:29. The site asks people to videotape themselves saying "I deny the Holy Spirit" and to post the videos on YouTube. As of Friday, more than 875 submissions had been recorded. "Kids apparently think this is some kind of cute stunt," Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues at Concerned Women for America, said. "But to me, it's akin to dousing yourself with gasoline and running around screaming 'there is no God' while waving a sparkler. They're playing Texas Hold 'Em with eternity and are holding a lousy hand." In a recent interview with Fox News, Flemming said "if parents are going to terrorize their children with religious indoctrination, I think it's important to reach those kids and let them know that there is nothing to be afraid of."
Fla. Storm Victims Attend Wrecked Church
The Christian Post reports that parishioners of a Florida church obliterated by a tornado gathered around the rubble to remember the dead and pray for the strength to rebuild Sunday. The Lady Lake Church of God's splintered wreckage has become a rallying point. "We grieve with you and there will be days that life will wear you down," the Rev. Larry Lynn told more than 100 people from a wooden platform. "But life does go on and we're here to help you pull it together. Don't let bitterness set in." Gov. Charlie Crist, handling his first natural disaster since taking office last month, also attended Sunday's service, cancelling plans to attend the Super Bowl in Miami. Crist later told reporters that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had kept its promise to help quickly, unlike its tardy response as New Orleans slid into chaos after Hurricane Katrina.