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Religion Today Summaries - April 18, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 18, 2005

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:

  • Barna Sees Challenges Ahead for Church to Remain Significant in People's Lives 

  • Billy Graham Bible Doesn't Sidestep Hot-Button Topics 

  • Marine Regiment Experiences Power of Prayer in the Iraq War

  • Villagers In India Beat Christians, Burn Down Prayer Hall

Barna Sees Challenges Ahead for Church to Remain Significant in People's Lives
Allie Martin, Agape Press

An annual survey from the Barna Group finds little change in faith-related beliefs, behaviors, and perspectives among Americans over the last 15 years.  Lead researcher George Barna says these most recent results, however, indicate there are many challenges facing pastors and church leaders. "The State of the Church: 2005" survey examined nearly four dozen religious measures including church attendance, the percentage of unchurched people, prayer, donating to churches, and core beliefs.  Among the findings, says the report, were a small increase in Bible reading, while the percentage of evangelical Christians in America remains at just seven percent of the population.  That number has not changed since the Barna Group began measuring the size of the Evangelical public more than a decade ago. In addition, the survey indicates decreases in church attendance, Sunday school involvement, and the number of people who have a biblical view of God's character.  Overall, the survey discovered that more than nine out of ten American adults take part in some sort of faith-related practice during a typical week. The survey also found increases in the number of born-again Christians who share their faith with non-Christians.  Data reported in the summary was based on phone interviews with a nationwide, random sample of more than 1,000 adults.

Billy Graham Bible Doesn't Sidestep Hot-Button Topics
Michael Foust, Baptist Press

The Billy Graham Training Center Bible doesn't run from hot-button issues. Abortion. Cohabitation. Homosexuality. They're all covered, along with more than 100 other topics covering less controversial issues like depression, love and loneliness. It is the first Bible project undertaken by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The dust jacket bills the Bible, released in November, as providing "time-tested answers to your toughest questions." Throughout the biblical text, topic notes explain and interpret various passages. Readers then are guided to other parts of Scripture where the same issue is tackled. The New King James Version translation is used. "It runs a pretty good spectrum -- from abortion and homosexuality on one end to fear and bitterness on the other end. I think it's balanced," BGEA spokesperson Mark DeMoss told Baptist Press. "It was not an attempt to be a news-making Bible. But of 100 or so topics, there are a number that would be considered controversial or delicate, and they're included." The Training Center Bible targets both believers and non-believers. And while Billy Graham himself didn't write it, his sermons and articles throughout the years provided the foundation. "Theologically, it would mirror the theology of Mr. Graham and the Graham organization, which is certainly a conservative evangelical bent," DeMoss said.

Marine Regiment Experiences Power of Prayer in the Iraq War
Charisma News Service

Reports from soldiers in the 8th Marine Regiment, or 2/8 for short, prove that prayer has made a huge difference in the Iraq war. Operation Iraqi Freedom began on March 19, 2003, and 2/8 was scheduled to launch into Iraq the next morning. Shortly before launch, Capt. Seth MacCutcheon, a Christian and commander of the Combined Anti-Armor Tank platoon (or CAAT platoon), which consisted of 16 Humvees loaded with rockets, grenade launchers and heavy machine guns, asked Chaplain Don Rogers to pray over his vehicles. The job of the CAAT platoon was to find and destroy enemy armor before the enemy could attack the battalion. Rogers understood the seriousness of MacCutcheon's request. "When Seth asked me to pray, I laid hands on every vehicle in 2/8 -- more than 70 Humvees and trucks -- praying that the vehicles would not be hit and for safety of the men who would ride in them," Rogers said, Charisma magazine reported. According to Glenn Thomas, author of "God Saw Them Through", an account of the 2nd Marine Battalion's experiences in Iraq, more than 50 churches and 2,000 believers prayed for these soldiers regularly. Thomas noted more than 40 specific answers to prayer and 35 miracles of protection. The Marines of 2/8 readily credit God with sparing lives. In each case Marines would normally have died. Amazingly, not one 2/8 Marine died during the offensive, despite the fact that they saw some of the heaviest fighting of the war. (www.charismanews.com)

Villagers In India Beat Christians, Burn Down Prayer Hall
Vishal Arora, Compass Direct

Hindu and Muslim villagers burned down a prayer hall that was built three years ago and attacked three church members in a village in Kerala, India, on April 1. The attack came after 26 people were baptized in a discreet early morning ceremony. Two days later when Paul Ciniraj Mohammed, pastor of the church in Panamvilla village, spoke to some of the villagers about the assault, he and his assistant Shivanandan were also beaten severely. Dr. John Dayal, a respected Christian leader, confirmed a trend of growing violence against Christians in Kerala, saying, "If the people do not summarily reject this culture of hatred and violence ... it will do irreparable damage." Incidents of violence against Christians are increasingly common in Kerala. As recently as February 22, five pastors from the Church of God were beaten in Karunagapally, near Kerala's Kollam district, while they were holding a convention. According to 2001 census figures, 19 percent of the total population of Kerala is Christian. Muslims account for 23 percent and Hindus for 57 percent.