Religion Today Summaries - February 14, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - February 14, 2005

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

  • Preacher Presents 'What Hollywood Believes' for Pop Star's Court Case
  • FOTF Expert: As Men's Ministry Flourishes, So Does the Church
  • Though Nixed From 'American Idol,' Worship Leader Sees 'Perfect Plan' 
  • DOJ Files Brief Supporting Christian Student's Religious Liberty Lawsuit

Preacher Presents 'What Hollywood Believes' for Pop Star's Court Case
Charisma News Service

California evangelist Ray Comfort is looking to get the word out about God's love on Valentine's Day at the site of Michael Jackson's court case. More than 1,000 journalists from countries as far away as Australia and Switzerland are expected to report on Jackson's trial on child sex-abuse charges in Santa Maria, Calif., the Associated Press reported. Jury selection in the case was delayed last week and prospective jurors were rescheduled for questioning on Monday. On the same day, Comfort and a team of volunteers plan to distribute 1,000 hardback copies of his book "What Hollywood Believes: an Intimate Look at the Faith of the Famous" to the media. The book mentions Jackson by name on the cover, along with a news release about the pop star's spirituality. "My aim is for secular stations and papers to do a story on Jackson's spirituality and mention the book. The book is written specifically for unsaved people," Comfort told CharismaNow. Comfort expects to receive a positive reception for his outreach surrounding Jackson's court case "because there's been a renewed interest in spirituality." The New Zealand native noted that in the last year, "The Passion of the Christ" made spirituality acceptable. "There's a renewed acceptability to spirituality," Comfort said. For more information on Comfort's Jackson outreach, visit his Web site at (

FOTF Expert: As Men's Ministry Flourishes, So Does the Church
Allie Martin, AgapePress

The head of pastoral ministries at Focus on the Family says ministers need to make it a priority to get men involved in leadership roles in the Church. Focus on the Family recently hosted a conference for pastors and their spouses. The complimentary event was aimed at encouraging and equipping pastors to balance their professional ministries and personal lives better. H.B. London, Vice President of Pastoral Ministries at Focus on the Family, says many churches are struggling because a new generation of men are not getting involved in church leadership. A recent Barna Group survey found that women are by far more inclined than men to say they are absolutely committed to the Christian faith. And many Christian congregations are able to supply anecdotal evidence of the dearth of male leadership and involvement in church activities. London pointed out that he hears pastors say all the time how incredibly busy they are in their ministries, yet they often feel unsure about whether they are actually making an impact or effecting genuine change in people's lives. The speaker also remarked that a lack of pastoral direction is often one of the main reasons churches have failed to do effective outreach and Christian discipleship development among men. London hopes more Christian pastors will be encouraged to put special emphasis on building dynamic men's ministries.

Though Nixed From 'American Idol,' Worship Leader Sees 'Perfect Plan'
Leann Callaway, Baptist Press

Although worship leader Jeff Johnson didn't make the next round for this season's "American Idol" competition, he believes God has a reason for the outcome.  "When I didn't make the cut, at first I thought, 'Why did I go through all of this? But when the show aired, it promoted my ministry to 30 million people. I had never thought of that. God was working the whole time," Johnson said. Johnson is a member of 121 Community Church, a Southern Baptist-related congregation in Grapevine, Texas, and a fulltime worship leader in various church and retreat settings. During the show's Jan. 25 episode, Johnson was shown praying with a group of contestants and, in a voice-over, he told of his ministry as a worship leader. One of the celebrity judges, Gene Simmons from the secular rock group Kiss, subsequently suggested that Johnson sing country music instead of pop music -- so the lyrics would not conflict with his beliefs. Even though Simmons voted against Johnson, the other judges advanced him to the next round. Two months later, Johnson was among 200 contestants auditioning in Hollywood. Since appearing on the show, Johnson has had numerous opportunities to share his faith in Christ while being interviewed on radio and television stations.

DOJ Files Brief Supporting Christian Student's Religious Liberty Lawsuit
Jim Brown, AgapePress

The United States Department of Justice is weighing in on a case of anti-Christian censorship at a Michigan public school. Last June the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) sued the Saginaw School District on behalf of Joel Curry, a student at Handley School. School officials had barred Curry from attaching a religious message to the candy cane Christmas ornaments he had created for distribution to classmates as part of a classroom project. ADF contends the district impinged upon the child's First Amendment freedoms by prohibiting his religious expression. Attached to Curry's homemade ornaments was a message explaining a popular account of the religious origin of the candy cane. Officials at the school made him remove the messages from the Christmas ornaments before he was allowed to distribute them. The ADF attorneys argue that this censorship of the student's message clearly violated his constitutional rights. Now the U.S. Justice Department has written a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Curry. ADF attorney Josh Carden says the move is noteworthy because the federal agency rarely gets involved in a private or constitutional lawsuit. ADF senior legal counsel Jeff Shafer insists that there is no violation of the so-called separation of church and state in the case of Curry v. Saginaw School District. He says his legal team looks forward to reading the DOJ brief in support of Joel Curry's religious liberties.