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Religion Today Summaries - May 23, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 23, 2005

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

  • 'The Godfather' Filmmaker Releases Exclusive Never Before Seen Film of Pope John Paul II

  • Research Shows Friendship Factor is Key to Church Growth 

  • Christian Families Attacked in Maharashtra, India 

  • Ministry Seeks to Equip 1 Million Christian Leaders for Global Impact

'The Godfather' Filmmaker Releases Exclusive Never Before Seen Film of Pope John Paul II
Religion News Service

Legendary filmmaker, Robert Evans, best known for mega films, 'The Godfather' and 'Chinatown,' releases 'The Power of Faith', a dramatic behind the scenes look of the late Pope John Paul II, a motion picture that Robert Evans says is one of his greatest works. The film captures exclusive never before seen footage of the Vatican and rare family photos which includes emotionally heartfelt footage of Pope John Paul's private visit to the prison cell where he personally meets and forgives his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to murder the Pope in 1981. Mark W. Koch, President and CEO of Prelude Worldwide Ministries, known for producing the top grossing blockbuster film, 'Lost in Space' and for his successful assistance in helping Mel Gibson's company market, distribute and promote his $600 million dollar sleeping giant, 'The Passion of the Christ' to faith-based organizations has retained exclusive, worldwide marketing and distribution rights for 'The Power of Faith,' also to faith-based organizations. The movie, in VHS and DVD formats, will be available for sale at churches, ministries, faith-based retail stores, and on the Internet at www.ThePopeMovie.com. 'The Power of Faith' features television and motion picture star, Ricardo Montalban, original musical performance by Donna Summer and an original score by internationally renowned music sensation, Yanni.

Research Shows Friendship Factor is Key to Church Growth
Allie Martin, Agape Press

New national poll data indicates that friendships play a major role in church growth. A recent Gallup survey among U.S. congregation members revealed that church friendliness correlated with both church attendance and volunteerism. The Gallup poll also found that friendships with other church members is a key reason why many individuals joined a specific church. And members who have best friends at church tend to be more satisfied and more involved with their churches. Michael Lindsey is a research specialist with the Gallup organization. He says church members want to worship in a church where they feel welcomed, and friendships are "the silver bullet that churches have been looking for." “The silver bullet is creating an environment where friendships can flourish," he adds. The Gallup researcher says there are several practical ways in which this kind of relationship building can happen. "One is by having a system where people in the church can get to know one another," he notes. Another way to foster friendships in a church is by focusing on those people who are new to the congregation. While these principles for church growth were affirmed by the Gallup survey, Lindsey points out that they are entirely biblical concepts.

Christian Families Attacked in Maharashtra, India
Vijayesh Lal, Compass Direct

Hindu extremists physically attacked 11 Christian families from Jamanya village in Jalgaon district, Maharashtra state, India, on May 15 and 16. Village officials had summoned the families to a panchayat (community court) on May 15 and asked them to renounce their faith. When the families refused, the men were beaten with heavy sticks and chased from the village. On the following day, the mob attacked the women and children; some children fainted after being beaten. Witnesses said the mob also tried to disrobe the women. Police are investigating the case, and local Christians say they will push for a resolution to the three years of hostility in the village.

Ministry Seeks to Equip 1 Million Christian Leaders for Global Impact
Allie Martin, Agape Press

One ministry has a goal of equipping a million leaders from different cultures and political backgrounds to make an impact on their countries for Christ. EQUIP, the Georgia-based non-profit global mission ministry founded by Dr. John Maxwell, has announced its 2005 global initiative called "Million Leaders Mandate." Throughout this spring, U.S. leaders will help teach training workshops for 35 European countries taking part in the global outreach effort. EQUIP president John Hull says the three-year program involves a live training session every six months. The goal of the Million Leaders Mandate, Hull says, is to provide a million people of faith from various parts of the world with training that will increase their effectiveness for ministry and their spiritual impact in their own countries. What EQUIP is trying to do is "to respond to the cry of leaders in churches around the world who are saying, 'You know, we are having a great harvest of souls, and we're seeing house churches started all around the world. But in order for those house churches to be healthy and for those local churches to grow, we've got to have leaders,'" the ministry president says. More than 100 U.S. leaders will be investing their personal time in the Million Leader Mandate's three-year training program, which will present seminars every six months.