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Religion Today Summaries - February 9, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - February 9, 2005

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

  • Do You Share Your Faith? If So, How? 

  • Newspaper Cartoonist, Pastor Makes Faith 'Culturally Relevant' for Flock

  • Vietnam Allows Protestant 'House Churches' In Central Highlands

  • Dancing For Christ

Do You Share Your Faith? If So, How?
Mary Rettig and Jody Brown, AgapePress

According to a new survey, the further west a Christian lives in the U.S., the more likely that person is to share his or her faith. The survey, conducted by The Barna Group, says 65 percent of born-again Christians in the West actively shared their faith with non-Christians in the past year.  This compares to 58 percent of Northeast Christians, and 59 percent of Southern Christians. Believers in the Midwest exhibited the lowest rate of evangelistic activity; just 41 percent said they had shared their faith. George Barna, the group's founder, says the findings are not surprising. He says the liberal environment of the West forces Christians to either be serious about their faith or give up on it. Sixty-one percent of Protestants had shared their faith, compared to only 37 percent of Catholics. Barna says he found the most common form of evangelism (78 percent) to be offering to pray with a non-Christian. Almost as common a form (74 percent) was that of "lifestyle evangelism," reports Barna. He describes that approach as "living in ways that would impress non-Christians and cause them to raise questions about that lifestyle." The least widely used methods were distributing evangelical literature (35 percent), sending evangelistic letters or e-mails to non-Christian acquaintances (21 percent), and preaching in public places (11 percent).

Newspaper Cartoonist, Pastor Makes Faith 'Culturally Relevant' for Flock
Charisma News Service

A nationally syndicated award-winning cartoonist, who isn't afraid to poke fun at lawmakers and world leaders on the editorial pages of nearly 400 newspapers nationwide, is credited for making Christianity relevant for members of his church in Virginia. According to The Washington Times, Dick Wright, 60, is the senior pastor of the interdenominational Community Christian Fellowship (CCF), "who preaches the word of God in ways his parishioners say they can relate to." Wright founded CCF in 1999. Wright, who has drawn cartoons for newspapers since 1974, did not attend a seminary and did not undergo any formal pastoral training. But that really didn't matter because one by one, the worshipers came. Members of his congregation say Wright makes Christianity easy to understand. "Wright believed there were no churches in the area that appealed to those worshipers who wanted less tradition and more vibrancy. He thought he could use his career experience to relate to people's real-life challenges and talk about Christianity in a "culturally relevant" way. One of the church's primary means of proselytizing is direct mailings that feature Wright's cartoons. "We really believe in spreading the gospel, and we do that through direct mail," he said. "We've already put our gospel message in 300,000 homes. This year, we're going to try to reach a million homes." (www.charismanow.com)

Vietnam Allows Protestant 'House Churches' In Central Highlands
Dan Wooding, Assist News Service

Vietnam's Prime Minister, Phan Van Khai, will allow outlawed Protestant "house churches" in the restive Central Highlands to operate if they will renounce connections to a former guerrilla group that Hanoi has accused of organizing massive anti-government protests, state-controlled media reported on Saturday. According to a story just released by the Associated Press (AP), under the decree issued Friday, the house churches, which had been banned by the government, will be allowed to operate if they revoke all ties to FULRO, the French acronym for the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races, a guerrilla group that fought alongside the Americans during the Vietnam War, said the Liberated Saigon newspaper. "The underground churches are operated by followers of Dega Protestantism, an unsanctioned form of evangelical Protestantism that Vietnam has condemned as being linked to a separatist movement," the AP story stated. "If the religious followers there have pure religious needs, commit to abiding by the law, do not work for the reactionary FULRO, and have no connection to Dega Protestantism, the local governments will create conditions for them to carry out normal religious activities at home or at suitable places in their villages, the newspaper quoted the decree as saying."

Dancing For Christ

One of the founders of a Christian ballet group says the ministry ha given her great freedom to worship. Kathy Thibodeaux founded Ballet Magnificat! in 1986 with her husband Keith. Kathy, a professional dancer, says she was told that she could not dance as part of a Christian ministry because dancing and Christianity "just don't go together."  But almost 20 years later, Kathy says she is still dancing for Christ.  "When I was dancing for Ballet Mississippi years ago, I always had to play a part.  I had to play [roles] like a swan or a toy or something like that.  Now with Ballet Magnificat! I get to really dance something that I believe [and to] dance for who I believe in."  Kathy says dance for her now is just an expression of her love for Christ and what He has done for her.