Friday, December 31, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Six Megathemes Emerge from Barna Group Research in 2010 (PART 1 of 2)

1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.What used to be basic, universally-known truths about Christianity are now unknown mysteries to a large and growing share of Americans--especially young adults. For instance, Barna Group studies in 2010 showed that while most people regard Easter as a religious holiday, only a minority of adults associate Easter with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Other examples include the finding that few adults believe that their faith is meant to be the focal point of their life or to be integrated into every aspect of their existence. Further, a growing majority believe the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God's presence or power, but not a living entity. As the two younger generations (Busters and Mosaics) ascend to numerical and positional supremacy in churches across the nation, the data suggest that biblical literacy is likely to decline significantly. The theological free-for-all that is encroaching in Protestant churches nationwide suggests the coming decade will be a time of unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency.
2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.Despite technological advances that make communications instant and far-reaching, Christians are becoming more spiritually isolated from non-Christians than was true a decade ago. Examples of this tendency include the fact that less than one-third of born again Christians planned to invite anyone to join them at a church event during the Easter season; teenagers are less inclined to discuss Christianity with their friends than was true in the past; most of the people who become Christians these days do so in response to a personal crisis or the fear of death (particularly among older Americans); and most Americans are unimpressed with the contributions Christians and churches have made to society over the past few years. As young adults have children, the prospect of them seeking a Christian church is diminishing--especially given the absence of faith talk in their conversations with the people they most trust. With atheists becoming more strategic in championing their godless worldview, as well as the increased religious plurality driven by education and immigration, the increasing reticence of Christians to engage in faith-oriented conversations assumes heightened significance.
3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.When asked what matters most, teenagers prioritize education, career development, friendships, and travel. Faith is significant to them, but it takes a back seat to life accomplishments and is not necessarily perceived to affect their ability to achieve their dreams. Among adults the areas of growing importance are lifestyle comfort, success, and personal achievements. Those dimensions have risen at the expense of investment in both faith and family. The turbo-charged pace of society leaves people with little time for reflection. The deeper thinking that occurs typically relates to economic concerns or relational pressures. Spiritual practices like contemplation, solitude, silence, and simplicity are rare. (It is ironic that more than four out of five adults claim to live a simple life.) Practical to a fault, Americans consider survival in the present to be much more significant than eternal security and spiritual possibilities. Because we continue to separate our spirituality from other dimensions of life through compartmentalization, a relatively superficial approach to faith has become a central means of optimizing our life experience.
4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.Largely driven by the passion and energy of young adults, Christians are more open to and more involved in community service activities than has been true in the recent past. While we remain more self-indulgent than self-sacrificing, the expanded focus on justice and service has struck a chord with many. However, despite the increased emphasis, churches run the risk of watching congregants’ engagement wane unless they embrace a strong spiritual basis for such service. Simply doing good works because it's the socially esteemed choice of the moment will not produce much staying power.

To facilitate service as a long-term way of living and to provide people with the intrinsic joy of blessing others, churches have a window of opportunity to support such action with biblical perspective. And the more that churches and believers can be recognized as people doing good deeds out of genuine love and compassion, the more appealing the Christian life will be to those who are on the sidelines watching. Showing that community action as a viable alternative to government programs is another means of introducing the value of the Christian faith in society.
© Barna Group 2010.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fifty Thousand

Fifty thousand is a big number, a number not ever in our thoughts when the FSAOF blog was created just four years ago. In fact we didn't count or profile our visitors until into our 6th month of existence. We've also upgraded our counter several times and consequently lost ALL earlier statistics.

More than 50,000 of you have helped us reach this milestone with more than 5,000 pages read per month. As we celebrate we are mindful that the initiative was God's, recognizing the need for a support forum for His servants, and to those who have contributed through sharing articles and comments we say thank you.

God bless the FSAOF and all who visit the blog and support our fellowship.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Judge Rules That Yodeling Offends Muslims

 by Elad Benari

It seems as though in Austria, the popular yodel is an insult to Muslims.
An Austrian court has recently fined a citizen for yodeling while mowing his lawn, according to a report in The Kronen Zeitung newspaper.
The citizen, 63-year-old Helmut G., was told by the court that his yodeling offended his next-door Muslim neighbors, who accused him of trying to mock and imitate the call of the Muezzin.
In Muslim tradition, the Muezzin is the chosen person at a mosque who leads the call to prayer at Friday services and the five daily times for prayer from one of the mosque's minarets.
The yodel is a song which is sung with an extended note which rapidly and repeatedly changes in pitch and makes a high-low-high-low sound. Developed in the Central Alps as a method of communication between alpine mountaineers or between alpine villages, the yodel later became part of the region's traditional lore and musical expression. The technique is used in many cultures throughout the world and Austria is one of the countries where it is most popular.
Unfortunately for Helmut G., his neighbors were in the middle of a prayer when he started to yodel. The Kronen Zeitung reported that he was fined 800 Euros after judges ruled that he could have tried to offend his neighbors and ridicule their belief.
Helmut G. clarified that “It was not my intention to imitate or insult them. I simply started to yodel a few tunes because I was in such a good mood.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Others! Helping those from here and far, far away.

The Monument Square coffeeshop traces its singular and emphatic name to a telegraph sent by the founder of the Salvation Army to 
his officers during the holiday season.
As frugal as he was charitable, General William Booth kept the message
 short and to the point as telegraphs charged by the word.
“So what was the one word that motivated the Salvation Army to carry on for
 145 years to become best known charity 120 countries around world? Was it
 God? Love?” asked Brad McCurtain.
“It was ‘Others’. Life is not about me, it’s not about you, it’s about helping others,” 
said McCurtain, owner of Others! who has adopted Booth’s Christmas greeting
 as his guiding ethos in the coffee shop endeavour.
“Our mission is in our name. We try to leverage money that comes through
 here to help as many as we can through Fair Trade coffee and tea and try
 to have a direct relationship with the growers and farmers,” said McCurtain.
Fair Trade, a program begun by Westerners which grew in popularity during
 the 1990’s, aims to pays coffee growers a fair price for their product regardless
 of market fluctuations.
“Fair Trade means taking the commodity price out of coffee, and agreeing to 
pay a minimum price,” he said. “As the market price rise, prices rise, but they
 can’t fall below a certain level.”
McCurtain said the Fair Trade program in especially important when it comes 
to coffee and the typically improvised people who grow it. “Coffee and oil are 
the two most actively traded commodities in the world, but oil comes from the
 richest countries and coffee from the most impoverished ones,” McCurtain said.
“It’s a crop that provides assistance for the farmers, but it’s not enough to really
 feed their families,” McCurtain said, but it’s a fact that didn’t really hit home until
 he took his first trip to Guatemala in 2008.
“It changed my life to see people living in homes with dirt floors, I didn’t think
 people could still live that way in the 21st century,” he said.
So McCuratin teamed up with a Minnesota-based social services group and
 helped six farmers to form a coffee-growing co-operative out of Antigua, 
Guatemala. “We’re buying all their output, I now think there are about 30 
farmers in the co-op, we’ve grown as they’ve grown, it’s been a wonderful
 relationship,” he said.
With a successful co-op underway in South America, McCurtain traveled to Kenya
 in 2009 and 2010 to source more Fair Trade and organic coffee and tea, which
 was introduced to Kenya by British colonists.
“The biggest challenge in Kenya was getting farmers to come around to growing
 organically,” said McCurtain. “Coffee and cotton are the two most heavily pesticided
 crops in world.”
McCurtain said the pesticides used to treat coffee crops in Kenya are often unlabeled
 or difficult for workers to read, and present serious health risks, especially to women
 of child-bearing age. “They’ve been severely restricted or banned in U.S. but they are
 still used on most of the world’s coffee,” he said.
“We’re trying to build long-term relationships with farmers and show them that coffee
 can be grown organically,” said McCurtain, who is teaming up with the Salvation Army
 to create a Fair Trade coffee sourced from Kenya.
But Others! doesn't just focus on the cash crops coming out of some of the world’s
 poorest regions. The shop sells beaded necklaces, and bags made by women from
 both South America and Africa.
Enlisting the help of Nancy Lawrence from neighboring retail space Portmanteau,
 which specializes in making handbags from unusual materials, McCurtain filmed
 Lawrence turning an old coffee sack into a tote bag.
On a trip to Africa, McCurtain showed the video to a group of former prostitutes,
 who set to work reproducing Lawrence’s popular design and shipping the final
 products to the Portland coffeeshop to be sold.
In five-and-a-half years in business, McCurtain has always tried to consider how 
to spread the wealth to those who most need it.
“I try to see how far we can leverage a dollar in terms of helping people. Everyone
 who works here comes in unemployed, I try to hire special needs people, 
recovering alcoholics, single moms, and more recently, college students who couldn't
 find work in their field and have loans — we try to find people where we can make
 a difference,” he said.
“Every time you come in to buy something, you get a ballot to change the world,” 
said McCurtain.

Monday, December 13, 2010


The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.

Christianity has arguably added more value to American culture than any other religion, philosophy, ideology or community. Yet, contemporary Americans are hard pressed to identify any specific value added. Partly due to the nature of today’s media, they have no problem identifying the faults of the churches and Christian people.

In a period of history where image is reality, and life-changing decisions are made on the basis of such images, the Christian Church is in desperate need of a more positive and accessible image. The primary obstacle is not the substance of the principles on which Christianity is based, and therefore the solution is not solely providing an increase in preaching or public relations. The most influential aspect of Christianity in America is how believers do--or do not--implement their faith in public and private. American culture is driven by the snap judgments and decisions that people make amidst busy schedules and incomplete information. With little time or energy available for or devoted to research and reflection, it is people’s observations of the integration of a believer’s faith into how he/she responds to life’s opportunities and challenges that most substantially shape people’s impressions of and interest in Christianity. Jesus frequently spoke about the importance of the fruit that emerges from a Christian life; these days the pace of life and avalanche of competing ideas underscores the significance of visible spiritual fruit as a source of cultural influence.

With the likelihood of an accelerating pace of life and increasingly incomplete cues being given to the population, Christian leaders would do well to revisit their criteria for "success" and the measures used to assess it. In a society in which choice is king, there are no absolutes, every individual is a free agent, we are taught to be self-reliant and independent, and Christianity is no longer the automatic, default faith of young adults, new ways of relating to Americans and exposing the heart and soul of the Christian faith are required.

George Barna

Monday, December 6, 2010

21 Things Pastors Need to Know About Porn

Eyes of IntegrityJust this morning, a book came across my desk,Eyes of Integrity: The Porn Pandemic and How It Affects You, and I devoured it in a matter of hours, not because it was an “easy read” but because it shares a compelling story that rarely gets talked about – what happens to people who consume or produce pornography, and how they can find hope and help.
It’s written by Craig Gross and Jason Harper, both a part of XXXChurch, a radical kind of rescue outreach into the porn industry and the porn problem as a whole. The book shares dozens of stories of real lives damaged by the power of pornography, as well as the divine rescues that often happen when people turn from porn to God for help.
You’ll read of young men and women trapped by an industry that treats them as merchandise and men and women hiding behind the immense shame of a secret addiction. The book should break your heart, for one reason or another. I found it eye-opening, and it inspired me to share some thoughts on what Pastors (and you, too) need to know about pornography.
  1. It’s sin. It’s lust. Lust is sin. It’s mental adultery.
  2. It’s everywhere. Half the men in your church are likely exposed to it every week, and some of the women too.
  3. It’s a ruthless slavedriver and traps people in shame and secrecy.
  4. NOT talking about it with your people does NOT help them.
  5. The porn industry is a dark and twisted place, filled with people with souls whom God deeply loves.
  6. People who act in pornographic films are people whom God loves.
  7. People who produce pornography are people whom God loves.
  8. It does NOT encourage more intimacy in marriage – on the contrary, it destroys it.
  9. It is NOT victimless. Broken marriages and shattered lives are all around us as evidence.
  10. The internet has exploded the number of porn addicts, offering the three deadly “A’s,” makingporn accessibleaffordable, and anonymous.
  11. Pornography is a drug. It triggers chemicals in the brain that create addictions. It offers a temporary high, followed by a crash into guilt and shame. And one kind of pornography is almost always a gateway into something worse.
  12. The younger you are when first exposed, the more susceptible you are to addiction as an adult.
  13. Pornography WILL cause you to treat people (especially women) like objects and not living souls.
  14. Pornography WILL harden your heart.
  15. There is hope.
  16. Consumers and producers of pornography can find forgiveness of sin in the blood of Jesus and be made righteous and pure by the saving power of God.
  17. Those trapped in pornography addictions can be forgiven of what they’ve entertained themselves with.
  18. Breaking the cycle is possible, but extremely difficult, as with any addiction.
  19. The cover-up is always worse than the crime.
  20. The cost of recovery is high, but the cost of not recovering is much higher.
Brandon A. Cox
Don’t be a story of tragedy – be a story of hope. If you have a problem with porn,nvolved in the industry in some way, turn to God and reach out for help. He knows where you are. He knows your pain. He knows your shame, and He longs to rescue you! Angels will cheer in heaven if you’ll just turn to Him by faith!
If you’ve failed again and feel God will not forgive you this time, you’re wrong. 1 John 1:9 is an irrevocable promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Try Him – He’ll prove Himself a forgiving and gracious God. But also, “flee youthful lusts” and “fight the good fight of faith.” “Take every thought captive” and “put on the whole armor of God.”

Friday, December 3, 2010

High Council Announced

FOR the first time in its 82-year history The Salvation Army’s High Council will have more female members than males.

The 17th High Council convenes on Friday 21 January 2011 at Sunbury Court, United Kingdom, to elect the 19th General of The Salvation Army in succession to General Shaw Clifton who will retire at midnight on 1 April 2011. This will also be the largest-ever High Council with 109 members – 59 women and 50 men.
The Chief of the Staff, Commissioner Barry C. Swanson, issued summonses on 1 December 2010 to those Salvation Army leaders who qualified for membership. All active commissioners, territorial commanders and territorial presidents for women’s ministries were summoned. There will be 83 commissioners and 26 colonels present.
Council members will also meet at Sunbury Court from Tuesday 18 January until Thursday 20 January for a plenary session of the General’s Consultative Council led by General Clifton.
A public welcome to the High Council takes place on Saturday 22 January at 4 pm in the Nine Kings Suite of the Lancaster London Hotel, Hyde Park. This gathering will incorporate a Retirement Salute to General Shaw Clifton and Commissioner Helen Clifton.