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Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 1, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 1, 2007

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

  • Study Asks: What Do Leading Churches Have in Common?
  • Church Must Rediscover Personal Evangelism as Top Priority, Comfort Says
  • Turkish Church Vandalized, Pastor Threatened
  • Key Appointed New Fund for Theological Education VP

Study Asks: What Do Leading Churches Have in Common?

With baptisms on the decline, leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention and the broader evangelical world have sounded the alarm that churches are becoming less and less effective in evangelism. Therefore, Baptist Press reports that LifeWay Research investigated Southern Baptist churches that are effective in reaching people for Christ, defined by the following criteria: baptized at least 26 people per year for 10 consecutive years; had overall worship attendance growth during the same 10 years; and had a membership-to-baptism ratio of no more than 20-to-1. Out of more than 43,000 churches in the SBC, 22 met the criteria based on data they reported annually. 19 of the 22 agreed to have staff members and lay leaders participate in interviews to find out what these churches have in common. The most common element is a senior pastor who sets the tone for the church and regards evangelism with utmost importance. Nearly all of the churches describe their polity as pastor-led or staff-led. A common term used to describe the leadership style of the pastors is “shared leadership.” The average tenure of the pastors included in the study is 15 years. The interviews also affirmed that worship services are key to reaching people and that the members are highly motivated to invite others to attend.

Church Must Rediscover Personal Evangelism as Top Priority, Comfort Says

Evangelist Ray Comfort says it's no surprise that a majority of people who claim to know Christ as Savior do not regularly share their faith. But it's a skill that can be learned, and toward that end, Comfort believes firmly that the church in America must rediscover its number-one priority: personal evangelism. AgapePress reports that Comfort, founder of The Way of the Master ministries, co-hosts a weekly half-hour television show that teaches Christians how to witness using God's moral law: the Ten Commandments.  Christians will get excited about entertainment, conferences, and seminars, he says, but not about evangelism. He believes that many churches in America need to refocus their priorities. "You don't have to be an intellectual whiz to be an evangelistic Christian," he explains; "you just have to have a concern for the lost, realize that people are going to hell, and [understand that] we have a moral responsibility to do all we can to point them to the cross." Even fear of witnessing, he shares, can be a strength because it will cause the believer to pray and rely on God's power.

Turkish Church Vandalized, Pastor Threatened

Compass Direct News reports that assailants on Turkey’s Black Sea coast vandalized a Protestant church this weekend, days after nationalists from the region murdered a well-known Armenian journalist. Attackers shattered the Agape Protestant Church’s windows and spray-painted its street sign early Sunday morning (January 28) in the city of Samsun, Pastor Orhan Picaklar told Compass. Located in a region infamous for producing the nationalist killers of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink 11 days ago and an Italian Catholic priest last year, the congregation has suffered a dozen stoning attacks and weekly e-mail threats during the past two years. “I was shocked, because, though we’ve been stoned before, it was never this big of an attack,” Picaklar said.

Key Appointed New Fund for Theological Education VP

The Fund for Theological Education (FTE), a leading national advocate for excellence and diversity in Christian ministry and theological scholarship, has announced the appointment of Gary W. Key as its new vice president for Advancement, effective February 12. AgapePress reports that Key, who will be responsible for developing and implementing comprehensive fundraising programs for FTE, joins the organization from Morehouse School of Medicine, where he served as vice president for institutional development. Key has more than 25 years of fundraising experience in higher education and in hospital and medical education settings. Fund president Rev. Ann Svennungsen says Key "brings an impressive record of leadership and achievement to FTE," and is an "excellent choice" for VP of advancement. The position "aligns Gary's professional talents with his personal passion for the ministry of the church." Since 1954, the Atlanta-based FTE has awarded more than 5,800 fellowships.