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Religion Today Summaries, June 1, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, June 1, 2004

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

  • Christians Called To Emphasize World Evangelism This Sunday
  • 'Coffeehouse Ministry' Thrives Outside Traditional Settings 
  • ACLU Demands Removal of LA County's Tiny Cross 
  • Christian Aid Workers Rush to Caribbean as Death Toll Rises

Christians Called To Emphasize World Evangelism This Sunday
Allie Martin, Agape Press

Southern Baptists are encouraging tens of thousands of churches to join in prayer and fasting this Sunday in observance of an annual event that emphasizes evangelism of those peoples around the world that have not yet been reached for Christ. The International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention spearheads the "Day of Prayer and Fasting for World Evangelization 2004." Every year on Pentecost Sunday, members of the denomination devote the day to prayer for a people group that has not yet heard the gospel of Jesus. Dr. Clyde Meador of the IMB says this year's initiative focuses on the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula, where there is a great need for missionaries. "As we look around the world and look at those who have least access to the gospel, this certainly is a group of people who have very little access," he says. Meador says there are some 50 million people living in the seven countries of the Arabian Peninsula, which include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. "A couple of those countries just absolutely do not allow any expression of Christianity at all. Christian churches are banned," he says. The four-year emphasis of the Day of Prayer and Fasting is "That all peoples may know Him," and the theme selected for 2004 is "Go in God's Power."

'Coffeehouse Ministry' Thrives Outside Traditional Settings
Charisma News Service

Neil Cole traded his pulpit for a patio table at a trendy California coffee shop -- and started the first of his unusual churches. In 1999, Cole jettisoned his traditional pastoral ministry in Alta Loma to launch Awakening Chapel -- founding it in the smoking section of The Coffee Tavern (TCT) in Long Beach. In a little more than four years, the crew he gleaned on the patio at TCT has ballooned into a movement of 400 churches in 16 states and 12 countries. Almost four new congregations started up each week in 2003 under Church Multiplication Associates -- the umbrella organization Cole leads and started simultaneously with Awakening Chapel. The initial brainstorm of Cole, 42, was to birth a coffee shop in a storefront he had rented. "But instead of trying to convert them from the coffeehouse they really love to our coffeehouse so that we could then convert them to Christ, we just went and hung out at the coffeehouse where they were already at," Cole said. This taking-church-to-where-life-happens approach has been a cornerstone of the movement since a group of about a dozen people started meeting at the coffee shop, to worship, read the Bible, pray and fellowship. "The church is not a building, whether it has a steeple or a chimney. It is the people," he says. "The goal is to always see leaders come from the harvest," Cole said.

ACLU Demands Removal of LA County's Tiny Cross
Agape Press

The American Civil Liberties Union wants to take religion out of the Los Angeles County Seal.  The seal, designed by late supervisor Kenneth Hahn, contains a tiny cross -- symbolic of the Catholic missions that are so much a part of the county's history.  According to the Los Angeles Times, ACLU executive director Ramona Ripstion has written a letter to the county supervisors, telling them the cross is unconstitutional and that they have two weeks to do something about it -- or they will be sued.  Last February, city officials in Redlands, California, capitulated to a similar demand and removed a cross from its city seal after also being threatened by the ACLU with a lawsuit.

Christian Aid Workers Rush to Caribbean as Death Toll Rises
Stefan Bos, ASSIST News Service

Christian aid workers are reportedly rushing to the Dominican Republic where the official confirmed death toll and in neighboring Haiti climbed Saturday, May, 29, to close to 1,000 because of huge flash floods following a devastating tropical storm that has been lashing the Caribbean for the past 10 days. Mission Network News (MNN) reported a Food For The Hungry team had arrived in the Dominican town of Jimani where thousands of people are homeless amid fears of a possible outbreak of diseases. "There were 13-thousand individuals and families that were homeless. They were looking for shelter, " official Tamera Dutch of Food For The Hungry told MNN. "We are going to distribute food clothing and bedding items," she said. Threats of parasites from standing water dead bodies and a lack of shelter for residents is adding to international concern that an increasing number of mosquitoes will spread diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. In nearby southeastern Haiti, the UN's World Food Program managed to bring in three tons of emergency food. Yet between death and devastation, Dutch suggested that her aid workers were able to share the compassion of Christ. "In the midst of doing all that, they witness our actions; because of the emergency and devastations, many of these people have lost all hope. That, in fact, is one of the best times to start preaching the Word," she said.