Religion Today Summaries - November 11, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - November 11, 2004

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

  • LifeWay survey explores 'Top 10 Issues Facing Today's Church'

  • Believers Asked to Pray for Children in Global Christmas Outreach

  • China: Steps towards Increased Religious Freedom

  • Persecution Update: Indonesia

LifeWay survey explores 'Top 10 Issues Facing Today's Church'
Baptist Press

The Top 10 Issues Facing Today's Church" is the focus of a two-month online research project launched Nov. 8 by the e-business department of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Thousands of evangelical pastors, staff members, organizational directors and seminary leaders of various denominations across the United States and around the world are being queried by e-mail to cite the most important issues affecting their ministries. Ministry leaders can submit their responses via an online survey form at From the initial list of responses, the 20 most frequently cited issues will be sent back to the ministry leaders who offered input. During December, the leaders will use the same Internet survey tool to rank their top 10 from among the 20 issues. After the list has been compiled, the LifeWay website at will begin a weekly series unveiling the "Top 10 Issues Facing Today's Church," beginning with No. 10 in early February. A new topic will be explored each Monday until the No. 1 issue is presented in April. At the conclusion of the project, LifeWay will compile a special report on the Top 10 issues with associated Scripture, information, resources and other materials to help ministries address the various concerns.

Believers Asked to Pray for Children in Global Christmas Outreach
Allie Martin, AgapePress

Churches across the United States are taking part in the world's largest international Christmas project. Millions of shoe boxes filled with gift items will be collected this month at drop-off locations across the nation as part of "Operation Christmas Child." The gift-filled shoe boxes collected in the Operation Christmas Child project are distributed to needy children worldwide. Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse -- the ministry that oversees this annual holiday outreach -- is making a specific request of the families who participate in the project this year. "Pray for the child that's going to get this box.  I want each of these children to come to know that there's a God in heaven who loves them, cares for them, and who's provided a way for them to be with Him one day," Graham says. The Samaritan's Purse spokesman points out that each shoe box, although small, can make a big difference in the life of a child. In addition to small gifts for children, each of the boxes will also carry a small tract, describing God's plan of salvation. The Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes will be collected the week of November 15-22 at more than 1,800 drop-off sites in all 50 states. Samaritan's Purse projects that more than seven million shoe box gifts will be delivered this year.

China: Steps towards Increased Religious Freedom
Christian Aid

Signs are emerging from China that the federal government may be seeking to take action towards inhibiting wanton persecution of Christians by local police. These signs come on the heels of multiple reports of arrests in certain provinces, part of an apparent crackdown on Christian house churches this year. Hundreds of Christian leaders were arrested this summer, many after police officers raided their meetings. Reports from Beijing indicate that federal government officials are considering making significant changes to religious policy. Though the country officially claims to grant religious freedom to all, leaders cannot squelch reports of arrests of Christian leaders without warrants and interrogations meant to force them to reject the Christian faith. According to the director of China's Religious Affairs Bureau, proposed changes to the policy include a discontinuation of the requirement that all religious groups register with the government and submit to its demands. The national government would also inhibit provincial authorities from abusing their power and persecuting Christian groups. Whether the government will carry out these propositions remains to be seen. Pray that, whatever the government's policies may become, Christian churches in China continue to grow and flourish.

Persecution Update: Indonesia
Charisma News Service

Authorities recently ordered 12 churches in Rancaekek to close their doors. The order came after Muslim leaders in the Bandung region protested that the churches were meeting illegally, Compass Direct reported. The congregations had applied as early as 1993 for permits for church buildings, but were refused because officials said the land was reserved for a housing development, not for places of worship. Christians have since been meeting in private homes, but a local Muslim group complained that this was illegal. Despite negotiations, the Christians were ordered to stop meetings in early September. Muslim groups have also forced many other unlicensed churches in West Java to close. Local officials rarely grant permission for a church building to be erected and they don't allow congregations to meet in private venues. Many Christians feel they have no option but to meet illegally, Compass reported. (