Religion Today Summaries - July 14, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - July 14, 2010

Daily briefs of the top Christian news and persecution stories impacting believers around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Pastors: Oil Spill Opens Doors for Ministry
  • Small Groups, Inspiring Pastors Impact Church Vitality, Study Finds
  • Two Pakistan Churches Come under Attack from Islamists
  • Trafficked Women Struggle Outside of Brothels, Ministry Says

Pastors: Oil Spill Opens Doors for Ministry

Baptist Press reports that pastors in all five states that border the Gulf of Mexico are feeling the heat. "I'm sensing a lot of anger," said Eddie Painter, a commercial fisherman and pastor of Barataria Baptist Church in the Lafitte, La., area, about 30 miles southeast of New Orleans. "I just talked early this morning with one of our local business owners, a charter boat captain who'd had a thriving business for 12 years," Painter said. "People like this boat captain are beginning to realize they may be out of business, even when this is over." Painter said he saw an oil sheen in the bayou for the first time on Wednesday. Barataria Baptist Church is able to provide meals for those in the community without sustenance, because BP gives them meals unused by work crews, which the church distributes. "This is giving us an opportunity to minister with the resources BP has given us," the pastor said.

Small Groups, Inspiring Pastors Impact Church Vitality

A new study shows churches with connected congregations are more likely have "high vitality," according to The Christian Post. Churches that have a high number of small groups, effective lay leadership and both contemporary and traditional services are generally healthy and lively. These churches are also likely to include topical, inspirational preaching. "We've taken a data-driven approach to identify what works for thriving congregations large and small, both rural and urban, all over the U.S.," said Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, chair of the denomination's Call to Action committee. "While there's no silver bullet, we believe these findings can lead to vitality for many more congregations." Overall, 60 percent of churches with over five small groups have high vitality compared to only 19 percent of churches with three or fewer groups.

Two Pakistan Churches Come under Attack from Islamists

Compass Direct News reports that Christian communities in two areas in Punjab Province came under attack earlier this month. In Sargodha, an unidentified motorcyclist on July 1 tossed a grenade in front of the gates of St. Filian's Church of Pakistan, next to a small Christian-owned amusement park where children were playing. The grenade did not explode. Police cordoned off the area and disarmed the grenade. In a small village near Sheikhupura, a church building and Christian homes came under threat of demolition on July 5. Islamic extremists issued threats as, accompanied by local police, they intended to demolish the Apostolic Church Pakistan structure with a bulldozer. "They said that if we ever tried to rebuild the walls or renovate the frail Apostolic Church building, they would create a scene here like Gojra," area Christian Zulfiqar Gill said, referring to Aug. 1, 2009 attacks that left at least seven Christians dead.

Trafficked Women Not Free outside of Brothels, Ministry Says

Mission News Network reports that women trafficked in several Asian countries continue to struggle even if they are able to leave the sex trade. "The huge driving factor of the sex industry in East Asia is poverty," said Ella Grere, a missionary in an East Asian country with Pioneers. Many women are lured into the trade by acquaintances and family who offer them a job. Countries such as Burma have such a poor population that women can't afford to turn down a job opportunity. Grere says women endure so much abuse and forced addictions that they have trouble leaving the brothels. "We've had our business going for two years now, and really only three women have come out of the brothel to work for us full-time," she said. Tamarisk Tree, the ministry Grere works with, deliberately offers slightly lower wages than the brothels in order to ensure the women who come genuinely want to begin a new life.