Religion Today Summaries, July 1, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, July 1, 2004

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

  • Conservative Baptist Univ. Thrives in Former Communist Block Nation
  • Colombia: Agronomist Freed After Three-Month Captivity
  • Christian Booksellers Change to Keep Afloat
  • Christian 'American Idol'-style Talent Show Coming to TBN

Conservative Baptist Univ. Thrives in Former Communist Block Nation
Allie Martin, Agape Press

The president of the Romanian Baptist Convention says there are unlimited opportunities for mission work in the former Eastern Bloc communist countries as well as in Western Europe. Dr. Paul Negrut became a Christian while he was studying clinical psychology in the late 1970s, when Romania was a communist nation.  When communism collapsed nearly 15 years ago, Negrut says there was a huge void in training for pastors and missionaries.  Now he is president of Emanuel University in Oradea, the only conservative Baptist university in Europe. Negrut explains the mission of the school.  "We award degrees in theology, literature, languages, social work, education, music, business, and management," he says.  "So we train pastors, evangelists, missionaries -- but we train missionaries for the marketplace as well.  Those people will be there Monday through Friday [as] salt and light to take the gospel." Negrut once served time in a concentration camp for his belief in Christ when Romania was under communist rule.  He now describes the European continent as a mass of humanity ready for the planting of the gospel of Christ -- and an ultimate harvest.

Colombia: Agronomist Freed After Three-Month Captivity
Compass Direct

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) freed evangelical government worker Luis Carlos Herrera on June 23, more than three months after they snatched him from a community center near the town of Caicedo. Armed men captured Herrera on March 17 along with a second evangelical government employee, Ahimer Velásquez. Both agronomists by profession, Herrera and Velásquez were helping organize a sustainable development project for peasant farmers near the embattled town in the department (state) of Antioquia. Velásquez regained his freedom on April 29. Herrera wants Christians to continue praying for those still in captivity. According to Colombia's Ministry of Defense figures, about 2,200 people were kidnapped in 2003. Colombia watchers say that figure is likely only a fraction of those being held hostage because often the crime goes unreported.

Christian Booksellers Change to Keep Afloat
Agape Press

Attendees at this week's Christian Booksellers Association Convention are looking for new ways to attract and keep customers. Books like The Purpose Driven Life (Zondervan) and The Makers Diet (Siloam, 2004) have become best sellers and crossed over into the mainstream market. But booksellers are seeing the downside to this wide appeal: retailers are offering big discounts on these books that the Christian stores cannot match. To counter this trend, Christian booksellers are changing, with some now open on Sunday afternoons so customers can shop after church. Others are even branching into equipping churches with communion plates and other supplies.

Christian 'American Idol'-style Talent Show Coming to TBN
Charisma News Service

Best known for its televangelists, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) has announced plans for a Christian version of the popular "American Idol" TV show. "Gifted" is scheduled to debut in October on the world's largest religious TV network. The Wright Entertainment Group, is part of a joint venture with Matt Crouch, son of TBN's founders, to search for a singer with a divine voice. "God gives us so many gifts, but we reach for the one with the prettiest wrapping. In a world where MTV dictates trends and pop stars become idols, Christianity seems to be wrapped in conditions and judgments. It is our goal to wrap God's message -- His love -- in acceptance, and in a way that blends seamlessly into 'pop' culture while still upholding the values we, as Christians, value most," Wright Generation's mission statement reads. Crouch said that "quality programming is what Christian broadcasting has been waiting for desperately." The new show will be "the first time ever that a Christian show would rival the quality of network broadcast production," he said. A summer bus tour to 11 TBN stations is planned, where auditions will be held for solo singers, ages 18-24. Contestants will perform gospel or contemporary spiritual songs.