Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 22, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 22, 2006

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

  • Barna Lists the 12 Most Significant Religious Findings from 2006 Surveys
  • 3 Plead Guilty in Alabama Church Arsons
  • The Amazing Rescue of a Pakistani Teenager
  • Faith-Based Volunteering on the Rise, New Report Finds

Barna Lists the 12 Most Significant Religious Findings from 2006 Surveys

The Barna Group has released George Barna's list of the twelve most noteworthy results of 2006, and described a few themes that ran through this year’s surveys. Among the noteworthy outcomes: Only 15% of those who regularly attend a Christian church ranked their relationship with God as the top priority in their life; 75% of teenagers have engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity; 21% of adults consider themselves to be holy, but by their own admission large numbers have no idea what “holiness” means; "Christian Revolutionaries" distinguish themselves even further from born again Christians; house church involvement rapidly increasing; young people raised in church are disengaging in their 20s; most high-profile Christian leaders are relative unknowns to most of the population; one out of every six people believes that spiritual maturity is meant to be developed within the context of a local church or within the context of a community of faith.

3 Plead Guilty in Alabama Church Arsons

The Christian Post reports that three former college students pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal arson charges for burning nine churches in a series of blazes that alarmed rural congregations across Alabama in February 2006. Matthew Cloyd, Benjamin Nathan Moseley and Russell Lee DeBusk entered the guilty pleas to federal arson and conspiracy charges. They now all face minimum seven-year sentences. Cloyd, 21, and Moseley, 20, had plea agreements. DeBusk, 20, did not have an agreement on a sentence with his plea but decided to plead guilty "to help those congregations and others hurt by his behavior continue to heal," defense attorney Brett Bloomston said. The Rev. James Posey, who suffered a stroke and had to step down as pastor after Morning Star Baptist Church was destroyed, was pleased to hear of the pleas. "It sends a message out that you are not going to run amok and not desecrate and destroy property, especially God's church," he said.

The Amazing Rescue of a Pakistani Teenager

Christians in Pakistan continue to be persecuted for their faith, according to Voice of the Martyrs. Many have been forced to work in brick kilns practically serving as slave labor. The story of Azra Bibi, a young Christian girl in Pakistan, is both tragic and inspiring. Azra was forced to work in the brick kilns at 7. She had to help her mother just so the family could eat. They also faced the danger of being the only Christians in a Muslim community. One tragic day a Muslim woman began the verbal attacks. Before long others women joined in and Azra’s mom was badly beaten. They were both taken to the brick kiln owner where Azra’s mom was murdered in the most horrific way. The brick kiln owner had plans to force Azra to convert to Islam with the intention of marrying her off. But God had other plans. With the help of a courageous local pastor and support from Christians in the US, Azra was miraculously rescued with her debts paid. Plans are now underway to provide training and a small house for this courageous young Christian girl who stood firm in her faith through such difficult trials.

Faith-Based Volunteering on the Rise, New Report Finds

According to a Religion News Service release, volunteering with faith-based programs has seen an increase in the last year, according to a new report by Catholic Network of Volunteer Service (CNVS). The 2005-2006 Membership Report finds that over 10,000 volunteers served in more than 200 CNVS member programs. Among the findings: 68.8% of long-term volunteers (defined as nine months or longer) were between the ages of 21-25. This is an increase of 13.7% from last year. The number of married couples serving in CNVS programs was nearly 33% higher than last year. Last year there was a 22% increase. Nearly 50% of short-term volunteers (defined less than 9 months) served in social service fields while 40% of long-term volunteers served in education fields. 80.7% of volunteers were Catholic.