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Religion Today Summaries - November 16, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - November 16, 2004

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

  • Pastors Across U.S. Disagree on Top Threats to Families 

  • God's Call To Ministry Explored In Free Booklet 

  • Company Helps Churches Stay Abreast of Cultural Shifts 

  • Iranian Pastor Moved to Military Prison

Pastors Across U.S. Disagree on Top Threats to Families
Allie Martin and Jenni Parker, AgapePress

A new study shows that Protestant clergy in America name divorce as the top threat to families in their communities, followed by a wide range of problems from materialism to marital infidelity to negative influences in the media. Ellison Research conducted the study using a representative sample of 695 pastors from across the nation. The researchers asked pastors to identify the three strongest threats to families in their own communities. In their responses, reported in the November/December 2004 issue of Facts &Trends magazine, 43 percent of the pastors surveyed named divorce as the number-one threat. Meanwhile, 38 percent named negative influences from the media, and 36 percent cited materialism. After the top three threats cited, absentee fathers (24 percent) and families that lack a stay-at-home parent (22 percent) were among the top threats to the family most frequently named by pastors. Other serious threats to the family that were mentioned included co-habitation before marriage (18 percent), pornography (17 percent), and morality not being taught in schools (14 percent). Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, says the new study revealed that the level of threat each of these issues represented differed from region to region and from one demographic to the next. Facts & Trends retains Ellison Research to supply current data on issues and challenges facing Christian pastors and the contemporary Church.

God's Call To Ministry Explored In Free Booklet
Cory Miller, Baptist Press

Is God calling you to vocational Christian service? In a newly published booklet from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Don Whitney, associate professor of spiritual formation, helps Christians answer that question by offering a biblical look at God's call to Christian ministry. In the 42-page booklet, "Answering the Call: Examining God's Call to Christian Vocational Service," Whitney explains the "twin features" of God's call. "When God calls a man to the Gospel ministry He calls him both internally and externally," writes Whitney. In the featured chapter of the booklet, Whitney also explains that God's call to Christian vocational ministry is also a call to prepare. "Develop your spiritual disciplines, especially those of the Word and prayer. Devote yourself to your local church. Find a place to teach there. Study the Bible and theology as much as you can. Seriously consider enrolling in a solid seminary." Also included in the booklet are chapters by other Midwestern professors devoted to helping God-called men and women pursue seminary training. The free booklet is available by contacting Midwestern Seminary at 1-800-944- MBTS or online at http://www.mbst.edu/called.

Company Helps Churches Stay Abreast of Cultural Shifts
Mary Rettig, AgapePress

The head of a business that specializes in church demographic studies says some interesting trends are changing the way churches do ministry. Anthony Healy is president of an Atlanta-based company called Visions-Decisions. He says many churches and groups are missing some of the demographic trends taking place within the U.S. population, and what his business tries to do is help them identify niches and needs in their communities.  Healy notes, one demographic trend that is creating a niche in America is the aging of the population. Another change, the head of Visions-Decisions points out, is that more young adults today are taking more time for education and career options and putting off getting married and starting a family. Such demographic trends, he notes, have an effect on what people look for in a church, and so a church needs to know the trends in order to respond to people's needs. Where perhaps most people once chose a church based on location, Healy asserts that people now go to a certain church not because it is close, but because it has programs suited to their needs. He says churches today are becoming more regionalized and increasingly made up of members with similar lifestyles.

Iranian Pastor Moved to Military Prison
Barbara G. Baker, Compass Direct

Iranian authorities moved Christian prisoner Hamid Pourmand to a military prison last week, deepening fears throughout the evangelical community for the safety of the Protestant pastor jailed nine weeks ago. Local sources have confirmed that Pourmand was told in late October that he would be released within just a few days. But he remained under detention at an unknown location until a few days ago, when he was transferred to a military jail. No known charges have been filed against Pourmand, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity nearly 25 years ago. Married with two children, he is a colonel in the Iranian army. Pourmand, 47, has been incarcerated since September 9, when he was arrested with 85 other pastors and leaders of the Assemblies of God Church during their annual general conference in Karaj, near Tehran. Most of the detainees were released by the end of the day, although Pourmand and nine other pastors were held for four days of interrogation before the others were set free. In recent months, prominent government officials have repeatedly denounced "foreign religions," which they accuse of threatening Iran 's national security. In Iran 's Islamic courts, a Muslim convicted of apostasy is subject to the death penalty. Since the 1976 Islamic revolution, a number of ex-Muslims who converted to Christianity have been covertly assassinated or executed by court order, under the guise of spying for foreign countries.