Largest Christian Pentecost Sunday Celebration In Israel Scheduled

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A group is rushing to finish an 11,600 seat arena in Jerusalem to host what could be the biggest Christian Pentecost Sunday celebration in the history of Israel.

The workers said they know the event could be huge and that “the Christians are coming.”

Empowered21 Global Congress is organizing the event that is scheduled to run through the 25th. Spirit-led leaders from around the world are coming to the Holy City such as Teen Mania founder Ron Luce and Samuel Rodriguez, Jr. of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

William M. Wilson of Oral Roberts University, co-chair of Empowered21, called the event a “landmark.”

“This is a pivotal moment in history for the global Spirit–empowered movement,” said Wilson in a statement. “The Impartation service, which will pass the mantel of the global Spirit–empowered movement on to the next generation, is of particular significance. Our prayer is that this service will be a catalyst, igniting the hearts and minds of young people from around the globe with the fire of God’s love and power.”

“The Global Congress will be a powerful time of worship and ministry for Spirit–empowered Christians from every continent,” noted Empowered21 global co–chair George O. Wood. “We anticipate many changed lives as thousands of Spirit–empowered Christians gather together to seek God and bless the Holy Land.”

The group is moving into the event after a weekend event in Amman, Jordan which drew 1,000 Christians from 15 different nations.

Study Showing Less Christians Could Be “Good News” For Church Says Moore

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The President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention says that the Pew report showing a raise in people who claim no religious affiliation could be “good news” for the church.

Russell Moore focused on the “increasing strangeness” of Christianity.

“Christianity isn’t normal anymore. It never should have been. The increasing strangeness of Christianity might be bad news for America, but it’s good news for the church. The major newspapers are telling us today that Christianity is dying, according to this new study, but what is clear from this study is exactly the opposite: while mainline traditions plummet, evangelical churches are remaining remarkably steady,” Moore said in a statement.

Moore said that people are rejecting the forms of Christianity that throw away the truth of the Scriptures to fit in with the whims of the secular society.

“The churches that are thriving are the vibrant, countercultural congregations that aren’t afraid to not be seen as normal to the surrounding culture. This report actually leaves me hopeful. The Bible Belt may fall. So be it,” he continued.

“Christianity emerged from a Roman Empire hostile to the core to the idea of a crucified and resurrected Messiah. We’ve been on the wrong side of history since Rome, and it was enough to turn the world upside down.”

Moore said in a posting on his personal blog that he sees many people refusing to call themselves Christians because of society.

“In the Bible Belt of, say, the 1940s, there were people who didn’t, for example, divorce, even though they wanted out of their marriages. In many of these cases, the motive wasn’t obedience to Jesus’ command on marriage but instead because they knew that a divorce would marginalize them from their communities. In that sense, their ‘traditional family values’ were motivated by the same thing that motivated the religious leaders who rejected Jesus—fear of being ‘put out of the synagogue,'” Moore offered.

“Secularization in America means that we have fewer incognito atheists. Those who don’t believe can say so—and still find spouses, get jobs, volunteer with the PTA, and even run for office. This is good news because the kind of ‘Christianity’ that is a means to an end—even if that end is ‘traditional family values’—is what J. Gresham Machen rightly called ‘liberalism,’ and it is an entirely different religion from the apostolic faith handed down by Jesus Christ.”

Fewer Americans Claim To Be Christians

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A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows a decline in the number of Americans who identify themselves as Christians.

The survey showed the percentage of Americans who identify as Christians fell almost 8 percent, from 78.4% to 70.6%.

The survey showed that the decrease is because of millennials leaving the church. Since 2007, the number of millennials who say they are unaffiliated with any faith has increased 10 percentage points. More than one-third of millennials say that they have no faith.

However, the number of those who say they have no faith does not mean there has been an increase in atheism; the poll showed only a ride from 1.5% to 3%. A Pew researcher noted that many who said they have no faith were just choosing to not identify as religious.

“It’s not as if young people today are being raised in a way completely different from Christianity,” said Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of religion research and the lead researcher on the new study. “But as adults they are simply dropping that part of their identity.”

Gregory Jones, senior strategist for leadership education at Duke University, cited a different survey that showed 70% of youth pastors have no theological education and said perhaps the problem is that students are not being engaged intellectually by leaders on issues that matter to them. Jones said it leaves the youth bored with church.

“If it is the case that millennials are less ‘atheists’ than they are ‘bored,’ then serious engagements with Christian social innovation, and with deep intellectual reflection (and these two things are connected), would offer promising signs of hope,” Jones said.

Homeless Donor Inspires North Carolina Church

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A homeless man who left an 18 cent donation to a North Carolina church along with a message that melted the hearts of all who read it is asking to remain anonymous despite a media campaign to identify him.

The note read: “Please don’t be mad. I don’t have much. I’m Homeless. God Bless.”

One of the organizers of the Muffin Ministry of First United Methodist Church of Charllotte said that the man told her he wants to stay behind the scenes.

“He’s a very humble person he doesn’t want to be noticed or recognized,” Ann Huskey said in an exclusive interview with People.

The pastor said that he met with the man and said that many church members made offers of support.

“I said, ‘There are people that are willing to help you financially. They are concerned about you,’ ” Pastor Patrick Hamrick said.

The man rejected the offers, saying the gift was between him and God. The pastor hopes that the man will accept the invitation for a job interview offered by a local businessman.

Church Able To Mention Jesus Again At Housing Development Where They Were Once Thrown Out

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A Pennsylvania church has been able to return to a housing project where they had seen God move in great ways after intervention from a civil rights group helped them regain access.

Living Waters Church in Meadville, PA had been reaching out to families at Gill Village housing project after the children’s ministry director saw kids eating pancake mix out of the box. Rachael Groll then began visiting several times a week with free food and clothing provided by the church. Eventually, the church offered transportation to community events and Sunday morning services.

Then last September the church received a call from the government housing agency telling them that they were no longer welcome to set foot on the property because they were a religious entity.

“I’ve never been up against anything like this, and when I got the call, honestly, I just wept,” Groll told Christian News. “I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I’ve built relationships with these kids and their families.”

The church was eventually allowed to return because officials admitted the church had made a difference…but the church was not allowed to mention anything having to do with their faith.

“The gospel is the source of the hope and life-change they saw in the community,” Groll said. “Basically they told us, ‘You can pour into the community as long as you want; just don’t tell them why you’re doing it.’”

The church then contacted the Alliance Defending Freedom who informed the housing authority the church had the right under the First Amendment to tell the residents why they were helping them.

“Religious speech receives full and robust protection under the First Amendment and cannot lawfully be excluded from government property simply because of its religious nature and viewpoint,” the ADF told the housing authority. “Government censorship of religious speech is the most invidious form of speech discrimination known to First Amendment jurisprudence, and is presumptively unconstitutional.”

The housing authority has now removed all restrictions from the church.

71 Egyptians Get Life Sentence For Burning Christian Church

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Seventy-one Egyptians will be spending the rest of their lives in prison in connection with the torching of a Christian church in the Giza province town of Kafr Hakim.

The Virgin Mary Church had been looted by a Muslim mob and then burned to the ground while the crowd chanted for Egypt to become an Islamic state. The church was one of 42 churches and Christian businesses that were targeted in August 2013 by the Islamists.

Two minors were given sentences of 10 years in prison and $1,300 in fines.

Most of the defendants were convicted in absentia. Of the 73 convicted, 21 were already in prison on other charges and will now be sent to a prison for their life sentences.

The mob was believed at the time to be connected to the Muslim Brotherhood that backed the deposed President Mohammed Morsi. Morsi was imprisoned for 20 years in connection with this leadership on acts of violence by the Brotherhood during his time in office.

Defense lawyers claim no evidence presented proved those convicted were seen in the area of the church. They attacked the judge claiming he was overseeing an unfair trial. The same judge had previously sentenced 183 Muslim Brotherhood members to death for their part in the killing of 13 police officers on the same day as the church attack.

Baltimore Community Provides Lunches for Children

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After the mayor of Baltimore closed the schools in the wake of the Monday night riots, community groups rallied to find ways to feed children who would not have had a meal because of the school’s closure.

Pleasant Hope Baptist Church worked with other faith groups to provide not only meals but activities for the youth.

“There are several safe harbors,” Pleasant Hope spokeswoman Jessica Ross told FRSN. “If you go onto Facebook and you just look for Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, you can see an entire list of safe harbors of multiple churches throughout the city. Also, I believe all recreation centers are open between 11am and 7 p.m. I believe that Callowhill Aquatic Center is open tonight and serving dinner until 5 p.m. So there are definitely plenty of safe places for youth to go to today. It’s not perfect but there are a lot of people out there who are trying to have safe harbors for our kids.”

More than 70,000 students in the city receive free or reduced cost lunches.

“Once that call went out, people started bringing things down almost immediately. And then we were getting a lot of phone calls asking what to do, whether if people who had stuff could bring it down and we just said ‘yes.’ If we didn’t use it all, we know people to give it to,” Red Emma’s Bookstore and Cafe owner Cullen Nawalkowsky said.

Northside Baptist Church provided food and activities for the youth. Outreach Coordinator Betty Smith said that the local media didn’t focus attention on those who were making a difference and feeding the kids.

“The TV stations show all of the negative stuff and nobody showed up here today to show any of the positive stuff,” Smith said.

California Church Mobilizes $2 Million “Weekend of Service”

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A California church mobilized members for a weekend of service that provided the community with over $2 million in billable labor hours and materials.

North Coast Church said their outreach benefitted over 100 locations in six cities in North San Diego County.

Pastor Larry Osborne told the Christian Post ahead of the event what kinds of things the church would be doing for the community.

“We’ll be making improvements at 50+ public schools, ranging from elementary to high school … We’re serving a wide cross section of organizations both secular and faith-based,” said Osborne. “The other roughly 60 locations include everything from resource centers to homeless shelters, community centers, a hospital, city parks, veteran and senior housing, and other non-profits that serve the community.”

Osborne said the church focuses on small groups which allows them to serve multiple parts of the community at the same time.

“The Bible says that faith without works is dead. This is one way we can put our faith to work and show our community the love of Jesus with no strings attached,” said Osborne. “We’re always trying to help our congregation understand that church is not something we simply go to. It’s what we are. There’s no better way to do that than to have a ‘Weekend of Service.’”

Alabama Megachurch Evacuated After Threats of Violence

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An Alabama megachurch that holds “Secret Church” events involving extended prayer, worship and hard-core Christian teaching had to be evacuated Friday after receiving threats of violent acts against the gathering.

The service, which was to be lead by International Mission Board president and pastor David Platt, was held in the night at an undisclosed location as police investigated.

“Due to security concerns, the elders and leadership at the church have decided to close the church for the simulcast. The simulcast will take place, but not at Brook Hills. If you are a ticket holder, information has been sent to you via email,” said the website of the Radical ministry, which is headed by former Brook Hills pastor Platt.

The staff of the church along with the pre-school’s teachers and students were evacuated from the building.

“We want to ensure the safety of our staff and members, and all those who are going to participate,” Chris Kinsley, the Church’s communications director, told Yellowhammer. “We live in a world where our fellow Christians around the world face threats on a daily basis. We’re lucky enough to live in a country where that is unusual, but when it does happen we want to take it seriously but also not allow it to cause us to shrink back from the message we have to share.”

The Secret Church events can last upwards of six hours or more and focus on Jesus Christ. The teachings for this session sent via simulcast around the world focused on slavery and sexuality based on Leviticus 25:35-43 and 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.

“Secret Church is a time where we join together to study God’s Word and to identify with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted in countless places around the world,” according to the ministry’s website.

“When we think of ‘church’ in America, we think of going to meet at a building, singing, praying and hearing a message from a Pastor or teacher. But in many places around the world, ‘church’ meets in a home, an apartment, even in secret. These small groups of Christ-followers often meet for many hours in study, prayer and fellowship, as it is dangerous to travel to ‘church’ and they want to make the most of their time together.”

Ex-Boxing Champion’s Mansion To Become Church

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At one point, it was a spectacle of boxing trophies, lavish parties and even a few tigers roaming around the ground.

Now, the former mansion of legendary boxer Mike Tyson is being turned into a church after the landowner who bought the mansion at auction donated it to a local church.

The building in Southington, Ohio was built with gold-plated furnishings and even a jacuzzi room with mirrored ceilings. The mansion still has many of the extravagant touches but has been abandoned since the boxer went bankrupt and was forced to sell almost all of his possessions.

The mansion was given to Living Word Sanctuary that plans to have the building converted to a ministry center by the end of the year. They’ve even invited Mike Tyson to come and attend the first service in the building when it’s ready to go.

“How we stumbled upon the place was really God’s grace because we had no intentions of looking…,”said Pastor Nick Dejacimo of Living Word. The church plans to have Vacation Bible Schools and nature events at the grounds along with weekly worship services and Bible studies.

The church is currently meeting inside a YMCA in Warren, Ohio.