All posts filed under: Religious

Fortified bridge of the town of Besalu, Spain Credit: Mariluz Rodriguez/Flickr/Creative Commons

Evangelical church growing in Spain and France

Reading reports out of Europe, you get the impression that the Christian church is not doing well. And though it’s true the Roman Catholic and liberal churches are in decline pretty much like they are around the world, the Evangelical church is doing fine. A recent report by the Spanish Government says the Evangelical church is on the upswing in Spain. According to the Religious Plurality report released by the country’s Justice ministry, as of December 31, 2016 there are 3,910 Evangelical churches in Spain, up from 3,769 in 2015, an increase of 141. In other words, last year a new Evangelical church opened in that country every two and a half days. These numbers only included registered churches and do not include unregistered house churches or Bible study/prayer groups. The report added that the Evangelical church is also the fastest growing religion in Spain. Religion analyst Maximo Alvarez who described the increase as a “great upturn,” said the growth has been most pronounced since 2000. With 46 million people, there is still a need …

Crosses overlooking Matera, Italy. Credit: Hugh Bell/Flickr/Creative Commons

Religion Doesn’t Work Anymore

In 2015, Muslim pilgrims in Mecca were caught in a human stampede and thousands were killed. The Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, is a requirement for all Muslims. A devout Muslim should do the Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once. Now, squeezing millions into a small place in the desert, for a few days, and keeping things traditional, is becoming impossible. When things go wrong with the Hajj, thousands die in the stampedes and governments almost go to war. Now the lunar cycle for setting the date has come to the hot desert summer, and it will stay on the summer for a decade. Management of the Hajj has become a crisis. Believers must go, but it’s so hard. I remember when I was in High School, my church told me to “win my friends for Christ.” I looked at my school friends and I didn’t see any way to make that happen. At church we had music with a piano and organ, and a strict Sunday schedule, and so much more. We had a …

The Bell tower of the Sand covered church sticking out of the ground near Skagen, Denmark Credit: Myrna Petersen

The Buried Church

On a recent trip to my ancestor’s homeland, a visitation to an old church buried in the sand gave some insight as to the way we build our faith, will have a lasting impression in how future generations view the church. The Sand-Covered Church (Danish: Den Tilsandede Kirke, also translated as The Buried Church) is the name of a late 14th-century Danish church dedicated to Saint Lawrence of Rome. Built between 1355 and 1387, the red brick church was 45 meters long and the tower was 22 meters tall. Between 1600 and 1800, desertification or sanding-over of land occurred in the North Jutland coastal areas near the now artistic tourist town of Skagen, Denmark. Desertification destroyed the fields and buried a village near Skagen. By the close of the 18th century the drafting sands had reached the Saint Lawrence of Rome Church. Each time before a service was held, the parishioners had to dig out the entrance. The struggle to keep the church free of sand lasted until 1795, when it was abandoned and front …

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Credit: Wikipedia/Michael-David Bradford

Coincidence or is this the reason why membership in the Southern Baptist church shrunk?

On May 13, 2016, the missionary arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) announced that it will now allow its missionaries to speak in tongues privately. This ended a policy initiated in November 2005, when the board said it would no longer accept missionaries who spoke in tongues. Originally the board allowed missionaries to speak in tongues in their personal prayer life, but forbid any public expression. On its application form one of the first questions asked was if the person spoke in tongues. The question will remain but will not impact a person’s ability to work as a missionary with SBC. The Southern Baptist church, the largest protestant denomination in North America, believes the gift of tongues, also called glossolalia, ended with the age of the apostles and is no longer valid today. Then the very next year, 2006, in a nearly unanimous vote (36-1) trustees of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary announced they will no longer allow anyone to promote speaking in tongues on campus and will not hire any person who knowingly …

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey Credit: Pedro Szekely/Flickr/Creative Commons

Major improvement in Google translation of nine languages

I have received a number of comments on an article published on opentheword.org two days ago in a strange language. Some wondered if opentheword had been hacked. Others asked what language it was. A couple wanted an English translation of the article. All that happened is I took a story on the website and translated it into Turkish using Google translator: English: Former Muslim imam says the Qur’an is the reason he converted to Christianity Turkish translation: Eski Müslüman imam, Hıristiyanlığa dönüşmesinin sebebi Kuran olduğunu söylüyor Here is the back story: A couple of days ago, I received an article in French that I needed to read in English. So I threw it in to Google translator to see what it was about. I have used the service in the past and it provided a basic, but rough rendering of the article. But this time when it spit out the English translation, I was stunned by how well it read. The English was clear and readable. The grammar was correct and I had no trouble …

Abandoned Coptic Church in Suez, Egypt Credit: Nathaniel Page/Flickr/Creative Commons

The horrific persecution of the Egyptian Coptic Church

Many consider the Coptic church as the oldest church in the world. It traces its beginnings back to the work of the gospel writer Mark who they believe came to Alexandria, Egypt in 42 AD during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero. For those who believe Jesus died for their sins and rose from the dead, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Copts   have been undergoing horrific persecution in the Middle East, most recently with the bombing of St. Mark’s Coptic Church in Cairo on December 11, 2016.  According to Egyptian authorities a suicide bomber was carrying 12 kilograms of TNT when he set it off in the Sunday morning service killing 24. The Copts make up 10% of Egypt’s population of 91 million. Though authorities were quick to condemn the slaughter, there has been a significant increase in Muslim persecution of Christians in Egypt, since the military overthrow of Egyptian president Mohammaed Morsi in 2013, The Muslim brotherhood who backed Morsi, blames the Coptics, who supported the overthrow, for the …

The Singing Contractors: Facebook

‘The Singing Contractors’ unexpected climb to fame

Two general contractors working in and around Indianapolis, Indiana have taken social media by storm, not by displaying teaching videos on contracting techniques, but by singing. Aaron Gray, 39 and Josh Arnett, 40, have been friends since childhood. Today, they work as contractors — pounding a hammer. Living about an hour apart outside Indianapolis, they often work together on projects. Initially they started out singing together while they worked, but at one point they decided to record the songs on their phones. All their songs are ‘a cappella’ but often have a cathedral type sound as they sing in empty homes. Both Arnett and Gray come from Christian homes, but neither of them had sang professionally. The turning point came last year when pastor Paul Biggar joined them in singing “How Great Thou Art.” They sang it in three-part harmony in the basement of a home they were working on. They shared it on Facebook and within a few weeks the video was viewed 19 million times. Because of their almost instantaneous climb to fame, …

Antioch Church pastor Jimmy Seibert with Chip and Joanna Gaines. Credit: Antioch Church

BuzzFeed article on Chip and Joanna Gaines called a ‘hit piece’ on Christians

Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of the popular reality program Fixer Upper on HGTV, have come under fire because they attend a church that does not agree with same-sex marriage and considers homosexuality a sin. On the show that’s in its fifth season, the Gaines work with clients to find and remodel homes. Joanna provides the design and Chip heads the construction. The Gaines attend Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas. In an article on BuzzFeed, Kate Arthur recently reported on a sermon by the church’s pastor, Jimmy Seibert. Though he called homosexuality a sin, Seibert stated that Christians must show compassion for those in the gay lifestyle. He adds that contrary to popular opinion gays can change, as Seibert has helped many who struggle with same-sex attraction. As soon as that article came out, a handful of Fixer Upper viewers and other secular media such as Cosmopolitan demanded to know where the Gaines stood on same-sex marriage. To this point, the Gaines have not responded. Though the Gaines have been very outspoken on …

Church in Iceland Credit: washingtonnydc/Flickr/Creative Commons

Survey shows believing the Bible the key to church growth

According to survey by researchers in Ontario, Canada, churches with Conservative, Bible-based theology are the fastest growing of Christian churches. In fact, the membership numbers for churches that have rejected a literal interpretation of the Bible are in a free fall. According to the English newspaper, The Guardian, attendance at liberal mainline churches in Canada has dropped by 50% since the 1960s and in England Sunday attendance at the largely liberal Church of England has fallen by a similar percentage since the 1980s. The research team led by David Haskell described those with a “conservative Protestant theology” as the “clear winner.” In their report entitled “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Churches” the group surveyed 2,225 people attending churches in Ontario and conducted more in-depth interviews with 195 church attendees and 29 clergy. According to The Guardian, while studies in the past concluded that theology had no impact on church growth, this survey showed it clearly did. Haskell noted that growing churches “held more firmly to the traditional beliefs of Christianity and …

Chinese security guards (Baoan) hamming it up for a photographer. Credit: Ding Zhou/Fickr/Creative Commons

China’s insidious attack on the underground Church

The Chinese government has recently instituted an insidious attack on Christians in that country after distributing a survey to all teachers and parents. The communist party who has ruled China for decades is trying to crack down on the rapidly growing Christian population. The changes are being instituted by President Xi Jinping. Described as a fanatical Maoist, he is trying to consolidate the communist party’s control of China. In an interview with the Christian Post, Bob Fu who heads Christian Aid believes the real concern is that there are now more Christians in China than members of the communist party. There are two types of Christian churches in China. One group is controlled by the state through its State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). These legal churches are required to register with one of three organizations such  as the Three-self Patriotic Movement. There are about 57,000 government-sanctioned churches (both Catholic and Protestant). The second group is the larger unregistered house church movement. It is difficult to nail down how many Christians China has due largely …

The Muslim Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem's Temple Mount Credit: James Kirpatrick/Flickr/Creative Commons

When national leaders choose to believe a lie

The Nation of Israel and Jews have been part of the Middle East for thousands of years. One of the earliest non-Biblical references to Israel is found on the Merneptah Stele in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt. The stele, a 10 foot high (3 meters) granite stone monument, was discovered in 1896 during archaeological work on the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes Also called the Israel Stele, it is dated to the reign of the Egyptian king Merneptah (1213 BC – 1203 BC). It outlines his various military victories. The last three lines list his defeat of Canaan including Israel: “Israel is laid waste and his seed is not;” Yet despite this find and thousands of other archaeological discoveries, in a recent UN vote Egypt along with 23 other nations passed a motion that effectively denies any Israeli connection to Jerusalem’s temple mount and Western Wall (the Jewish Wailing Wall). This  motion declaring the Temple Mount a purely Muslim site was passed in a 24-6 vote by the United Nations Educational and Scientific and …

Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Credit: Youtube capture

Birthed in suffering: The enchanting music of the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

A friend recently attended a performance by the Christian group Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus that is currently touring Canada. She described it was one of the most incredible events she has ever attended, Christian or secular. Oddly this group from the Ukraine, now working under Music Mission Kyiv, was not always Christian. A year after the fall of Soviet Union in December 1991, an Episcopalian church in Kiev, Ukraine invited American Christian choral director Roger McMurrin to present Handel’s Messiah. The atheistic communist government had forbid sacred music and Handel’s Messiah had not been played in the Ukraine for an estimated 70 years. After his arrival in 1992, McMurrin who had served as choral director for several churches in the US, hired a local symphony and 37 singers to put on the Christian classic. The performance had a profound impact on the people, the media and the choral group. McMurrin described the presentation as an “explosion of light.” On his flight home to America, God asked McMurrin to move back to the Ukraine, to …

Noah's ark in Biblical Theme park in Kentucky. Credit: Adam Lederer/Flickr/Creative Commons

Former Buddhist to build full-sized Noah’s ark in Moose Jaw, Canada

A Chinese business man who converted to Christianity from Buddhism in 2009 has announced plans to build a Biblical-theme park in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. It is a small city of around 36,000 residents. I have actually been surprised by the amount of attention this announcement received from Christian and secular media around the world. Sun Wenqing will be working with the owner of a Moose Jaw cemetery, Marc L’Hoir, to build the park that will include a full-sized replica of Noah’s ark. Sill in the planning stages, the ark will be three stories high and 133 meters long and 23 meters wide. Though some may question if this park will ever come to fruition, according to China Christian Daily, Wenqing has already built a similar park in Shenyang, China. With 6.3 million citizens, it is the capital of Liaoning Province in Northeast China. According to Wikipedia, Liaoning Province has one of the lowest rates of Christian persecution in China and features a number of Christian organizations including a seminary. Moose Jaw city council has …

People lining up down the street and around the corner to attend a service at Hillsong NY. Photo: Carl Lentz/Instagram

And the darkness could not overcome the light

Carl Lentz is the pastor of a Hillsong church in New York City. This past week he shared a powerful photo on Instagram of people waiting to enter their church. On Sunday evening, people lined up to attend the first service, but when it filled to capacity, they stayed in a line that stretched around the street corner for two and a half hours waiting for the next service to start. Writing on Instagram to his 336,000 followers, Lentz states: “Last night, hundreds of people couldn’t get into our first service. So they waited two hours to be part of the “second” one… who know, perhaps someday soon we will have our own building. But I will never forget these days. Every meeting we have ever had, we have to rent a venue. Pay for it. And it’s never big enough! So waiting in a line, to get into an overcrowded room where you just might have to stand the whole time, becomes a normal thing. It’s literally a choice to be inconvenienced. The photo …

Fear not, for I am with you.... Credit: Eric Wagner/Flickr/Creative Commons

Don’t ‘fear’ the coming darkness

An article in the Daily Mail on changes taking place at Canterbury Cathedral in London, England speaks of a significant culture shock coming for western Christians. For years, we have lived in a bubble where we could go through our day not worrying we would be attacked for our faith. But that bubble is bursting or at the very least there is a noticeable leak. Police in England have just announced they will be stationing armed guards at Canterbury Cathedral in England. Built in 597AD, it is one of Britain’s oldest churches.  This is not the church hiring its own security staff, but rather police sending in protection. And in a country where police typically patrol without guns, these guards are armed.  The article added that protection will be given to other unnamed churches and public venus. The police made this decision in response to recent attacks on churches in Europe by Muslim extremists. In July, an 84-year-old Catholic priest in Normandy, France had his throat slit by Islamic extremists in front of his congregation during …

Palmdale, California Photo: Jamesb01/Wikipedia

California school backs down in a battle for religious freedom with a seven-year old

A young student who is referred to as ‘C’ is a grade one student at Desert Rose Elementary School in Palmdale, California. Last school term, the school that is part of the Palmdale School District called in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office because C, who is only seven-years old, was distributing Bible verses and stories written out on paper with his classmates. The problems surfaced last spring, when C’s mother, Christine Zavala routinely included Bible verses and encouraging notes while packing her son’s lunch. C who enjoyed the notes began to share them with his fellow classmates. Afters some of the students requested notes of their own, Christine included verses and even some Bible stories for the other children. The Santa Monica Observer (SMO) wrote that the problems surfaced when in April one of the students told the class teacher about the stories stating “this is the most beautiful story I’ve ever seen.” Now aware of what was going on, the teacher stepped in and told C he was not allowed to share these …

Market Church in Wiesbaden, Germany. Photo: Kay Gaensler/Flickr/Creative Commons

Muslim refugees in Germany threaten ‘impure’ Christians

According to an article on Breitbart, Christians in Germany’s migrant housing are being forced to hide their faith due to intimidation and death threats by Muslims. At a recent Frankfurt news conference, Mahin Mousapour said that Christians purposefully hide their crosses and Bibles to avoid hate attacks by Muslims. Mousapour is from Iran. A former Muslim, she became a Christian over 25 years ago  and now pastors Persian Father House, an Evangelical Free church in Frankfurt. Fearing reprisal, refugees tell people in their complex that they are only visiting friends when attending her church. Ms Mousapour was joined at the news conference by politician Erika Steinbach who serves as a member of the Bundestag. It is a German equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives or Canada and England’s House of Commons. Mousapour said Muslims tell Christians that they are “impure as a dog” adding: “Toys of Christian children are being destroyed. Christian asylum seekers are told to not only wash their dishes after eating, but also they must clean the entire kitchen as it would otherwise be ‘unclean’.” …

Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio De Janerio Photo: Artyominc/Wikipedia

Bad Idea: Keep the Jews off the Bus

A story has recently come from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Lebanese participants blocked Israeli Jews from getting on a bus. Lebanese athletes were already on the bus and they refused to share. The Lebanese team in these Olympic games will always be remembered as the people who kept the Jews off the bus, and that will overshadow anything else they do. It’s all about a brief conversation at the door of a bus. This is one of those issues that will never go away. In our times, stories are recorded and published, and the interesting ones stay with us forever. Nothing can be done in a corner anymore because informal news comes from cameras in cell phones, and it travels quickly to the whole world, through venues like Twitter and You Tube. For official journalism, this incident happened at the Olympics, while the whole world was watching. The popular saying is ”all eyes are on Brazil.” The Olympics always attract large numbers of news reporters who desperately need something to write about. …

The Muslim Qur'an written several centuries after the Bible states that Jesus never died on the cross. Photo: Katrine Kaarsemaker/Flickr/Creative Commons

Is Jesus the slave of Allah?

ISIS puts out quarterly Arabic magazine called Dabiq. Also available in English, in its  latest issue ISIS reveals the stark contrast that Muslims have in their concept of God with Christians. In its publication entitled “Break the Cross,” ISIS tells the world that Jesus is “the slave of Allah.” It was part of the overall theme of the magazine attacking Christianity and particularly our concept of Jesus. The Muslim Qur’an speaks a lot about Jesus and even Jesus’ mother Mary has more verses dedicated to her than the prophet Muhammad. According to the Qur’an, Jesus is considered a prophet of Allah (Surah 2:136) and one who performed miracles including raising the dead and healing the sick (Surah 3:49). Many Muslims look upon Jesus as the healing prophet. Muslims do not believe Jesus is God or even the Son of God (Surah 19:88-92) because in their thinking the latter meant God had sex with Mary. Of course, the Bible does not say that. The Holy Spirit conceived Jesus supernaturally and even Mary was shocked by her …

Another media report of Muslims turning to Christ in significant numbers, this time in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Photo: Stoke-on-Trent, Futurilla/Flickr/Creative Commons

Media reports Muslims turning to Christianity in England

I have written several articles on Muslims converting to Christianity in unprecedented numbers. Stories tell of Muslims turning to Christ after Jesus appeared to them in dreams, a fulfillment of Joel 2:28. In Iran, thousands are becoming Christians despite the fear of persecution when they make that decision. And now with the recent influx of hundreds of thousands of Muslims into Europe, several secular media report that thousands of Muslims — many fed up with the violence of the extremists — are becoming Christians across Europe. Now we can add England to this list. A prominent English newspaper, The Guardian wrote a curious article on what is happening at Church of St. Mark in Stoke-on-Trent, England. The story stated that one recent Saturday morning, 15 Muslim refugees were baptized in the church. Rev Sally Smith who serves as the church’s vicar, says that three to four Muslims turn to Christianity weekly. According to the article, part of the reason for the growth is that the church is supplying the refugees assistance in the form of …

The Kremlin and St. Basil Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. Photo: Mariano Mantel/Flickr/Creative Commons

Russian government makes it illegal for believers to share their faith privately

The Russian government just passed a bill severely curtailing religious expression in that country. According to reports, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already signed off on the bill and it will come into effect on July 20, 2o16 The legislation was part of a package of bills intended to counter terrorism. However, many are concerned due to its broad reach, the law could be used by local authorities to persecute the Christian church. Among the many features of the bill, evangelism would be limited to regular church services and would only be allowed by people licensed with an organization registered with the government. Essentially, this would stop church members from sharing their faith privately. This can include something as innocent as reading a Bible in the presence of non-believing friends. It also forbids using the internet to share one’s faith which means that people and churches could run foul of the law by simply inviting someone to church via an email. The law that was first drafted in April also prevents believers from holding church …

Eric Metaxas addressing the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/Creative Commons

Eric Metaxas on ‘authentic’ faith

Eric Metaxas recently gave an interesting speech to a three-day conference called The Bridge. Its theme was the persecuted church. Metaxas is a popular author, speaker and radio host. He has written several books and has appeared as a cultural commentator on Foxnews, CNN and MSNBC. Since the death of Chuck Colsen of Prison Fellowship he has become one of the main voices for the organization’s program Breakpoint. Samuel Smith a writer for Christian Post reported on Metaxas’s hour-long speech in which he said the faith of the North American church has become diluted because of our success. Metaxas said in other parts of the world where Christians regularly face persecution, they have been forced to ask themselves “Do I actually believe this or don’t I?” Until recently, Christians in America have never been faced with this question. Metaxas cited the life of German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) who the Nazi Gestapo arrested in April 1943 because of his vocal opposition to Adolph Hitler. Metaxas wrote a book on Bonhoeffer —Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. …

This image was developed after terrorists attacked the office of the magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015 killing 12 people. Image: Christian R. Hamacher/Flickr/Creative Commons

Another Holy Spirit outpouring — this time France

Christian Broadcasting Network is reporting on a move of God in France at the Grande Conference held in Nates, July 1-3, 2016. According to a report by Chris Gore, a pastor from California who spoke at the event, during one of the early services nearly 70% of the people in attendance, numbering over 1,000, gave their life to the Lord. In later services there was an outpouring of miracles with hundreds claiming healings. On his Facebook page, Gore wrote: Europe is alive for Jesus! What an incredible night in France. We saw tonight around 2,000 miracles and exactly 100 reports of deaf ears opening. The convention also featured Canadian speakers John and Carol Arnott who led the infamous Toronto revival. Similar events are scheduled for Austria and Germany later this fall. In the midst of the terrorism and violence that has hit Europe, God is beginning to stir. In the Book of Revelation, an apocalyptic vision of the end times given to the Apostle John, he writes on an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that …

Inside Egypt's cave church where 70,000 meet in services on a weekly basis. The church can seat 20,000 inside and thousands more outside. Photo: vagabondblogger/Flickr/Creative Commons

Egyptian cave church has 70,000 people attending services every week

I was surprised to find out one of the largest churches in the world is found in Egypt. With the increased activity of Muslim militants, Christians are increasingly under threat in the Middle East and many are leaving. But in the midst of this turmoil, a church thrives in Mokattam mountain located southeast of Cairo, Egypt. Over 70,000 people attend the weekly services held at the Coptic church built into the mountain, that is part of the ancient Monastery of Saint Simon. The church itself holds about 20,000 people including those who sit inside and out. There are also several other chapels built in caves inside the mountain that connect with the main sanctuary. Though a Coptic church, it has a definite Charismatic flavor as you can see in a video of a service below as the congregation sings “Emmanuel”: So who attends this church? Most of them are Zabbaleens, literally “garbage people.” They etch out a living pouring through Cairo’s (population 6.8 million) massive garbage dumps. The Zabbaleens were originally farmers who came to …

The cost of freedom. Photo: Mark Sardella/Flickr/Creative Commons

Sometimes you just have to pay the bribe

I was reading a story that brought back some old memories. Rev. Canon Andrew White, otherwise known as the Vicar of Baghdad, was at one point the only Anglican Priest willing to live in Baghdad, Iraq. Because of his prominence, there were fears he would be assassinated by Islamic terrorist and last year the Anglican church transferred him to a church in Jordan. Reports are circulating that he was recently suspended by an organization he works for — the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRM). FRRM has launched an inquiry over allegations the Vicar used the organization’s funds to free Christian women being sold in a sex slave market by the Islamic terrorist organization — ISIS. White has since denied using FRRM funds for this. But the incident reminded me of something my wife and I went through over 20 years ago. We were unable to have children and this led us to adopt overseas. We adopted our daughter from Peru. As we entered the adoption process, we had to pay …

The Glory of God is falling on West Virginia. Photo: small church in West Virginia's coal country on a mountain near Snowshoe, West Virginia. Robert Du Bois/Flickr/Creative Commons

Revival hits West Virginia coal country

Reports are coming in of a massive revival building in small towns through out West Virginia’s coal country hard hit by the economic crisis and America’s harsh environmental policies putting thousands out of work. An estimated 4,000 people have accepted Christ in this largely rural area where communities range in size from 500 to a few thousand people. The first inkling of what was to come appeared in late March, 2016, when a student at Logan High, Skyler Miller — a leukemia survivor, spontaneously started preaching in the school hallways. Logan, West Virginia has a population of 1,779 according to the 2010 census. Rather than reacting negatively to the message, many students stood and watched. The Holy Spirit showed up and some even responded while other students were looking on. But the revival that tepidly stirred among the youth spread into a Church of God in nearby Delbarton, West Virginia — population 579 . Pastor Mitchell Bias of Regional Church of God believed God wanted him to bring in a young 31-year old evangelist, Matt …

Photo: Leonard J Matthews/Flickr/Creative Commons

How Christianity is dying …. or is it?

There is a huge debate about Christianity these days. Many people thinks it’s an antique ideology, disappearing rapidly. I don’t want to argue, but my recent experience might help. My home city used to be the Bible belt of Canada. Our provincial premier, similar to a state governor, was also a Baptist radio preacher. My brother once went to a children’s meeting at the Fundamentalist Baptist Church, and a dignified older man said hello. That was him. We also had a mention in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” for Holy Row, or Church Street, a small area with the highest concentration of churches in the world. That Ripley’s thing might be an urban legend but we all believed it. Today, that inner city street is crowded with old churches and my personal favourite is the Danish Lutheran building. Some of those churches are still open, but Holy Row not so holy now. A few years ago my church moved to some place north of the city, into cow and chicken country, and I moved south; …

The University of Toronto is changing its position on providing only gender-neutral facilities. Photo: Roman Boldyrev/Flickr/Creative Commons

The surprising reason why this ACLU director resigned

The director of the Georgia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, Maya Dillard Smith, announced she will be stepping down as its interim leader because of a conflict with the ACLU’s stand on transgender bathroom rights. The ACLU has taken on the cause to allow transgender men and women to use the bathroom and change facilities of their choice. This would allow biological males to use female facilities. However, there are concerns that such laws would also give sexual predators easy access to women and girls. In her resignation, she cited a personal experience with her own elementary-aged daughters that caused her to question the ACLU’s position on this controversial issue. Her daughters were using a public facility, when according to Smith: “Three Transgender young adults over six feet with deep voices entered. My children were visibly frightened, concerned about their safety and left asking lots of questions for which I, like many parents, was ill-prepared to answer.” She adds: “I understood it to be ACLU’s goal to delicately balance competing rights to ensure …

Hamburg, Germany Photo: Arne Bornheim/Flickr/Creative Commons

Did the Bible predict thousands of Muslims converting to Christ in Europe?

Several media outlets are reporting that churches across Europe are seeing thousands of Middle Eastern refugees, most of them Muslims, turning to Christ. Recently the Pastor of a Persian Church in Hamburg, Germany baptized 600 Muslims in one service, largely Afghans and Pakistanis. And it was done for all to see as a local TV station — ARD TV — showed up with its cameras in tow to film the momentous event.. In the same city, Pentecostal Pastor Albert Babjan just baptized 80 former Muslims who had converted to Christ. So far this year, Babjan has baptized 196 Muslims and expects the number could reach 500 by December. In an interview with the German newspaper Stern, Babjan said that many of the converts are turning to Christianity because of their disappointment in Islam. They are tired of the Islamic extremists’ fear and intimidation tactics in the countries from which they fled. Stern interviewed one of the recently baptized Christian converts that Babjan had just baptized and described the difference between Christianity and Islam this way: …

Nurses on a hospital ward at Christmas during the 1930s. Photo: theirhistory/Flickr/Creative Commons

Medical study: Want to live longer, go to church

A study of 75,534 middle-aged nurses published in JAMA Internal Medicine discovered that church attendance played a key role in nurses living longer. The study surveyed the lifestyles of this group of nurses between 1992 and 2012. During the ten-year period, 13,537 of the nurses died including 4,479 due to cancer and 2,721 due to cardiovascular problems. After accounting for lifestyle choices that could lead to early death such as smoking (which can lead to increased cancer risk and heart problems), the researchers discovered if a nurse attended church over once per week they were 33% less likely to die than their non church attending counterparts. They also discovered that even if nurses attended church less often, they were less likely to die than those who didn’t. Weekly church attendance resulted in a 26% reduction in death and irregular attendance (less than once a week) resulted in a 13% reduction. The study only analyzed the impact of protestant and Catholic church attendance and did not study any benefits associated with attending services at non-Christian religions. …

Kendall Jenner Photo: Disney | ABC Television/Flickr/Creative Commons

Super model and reality star Kendall Jenner identifies herself as Christian

Kendall Jenner, 19, model and reality show star, recently came out as Christian on her website (subscription required). Kendall is the daughter of Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender activist formerly known as Bruce Jenner and Kris Kardashian. She is part of a blended Kardashian/Jenner family that includes sister Kylie and eight half-siblings. Kendall stars on the popular reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The show, which started in 2007, is produced by E!’s cable network and is the longest running reality show in America. The program focuses primarily on the three Kardashian sisters Kim, Kourtney and Khloé  and their half sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner. There have also been spinoffs including Kourteny and Kloe Take the Hamptons. In a recent post on her website, Kendall says though she wasn’t raised in a Christian home, she was “definitely taught — even by my sisters — to believe in God.” She says that the family’s actual church attendance was limited to Easter and Christmas. Referring to her faith as more spiritual than religious, Kendall says “I pray …

Despite persecution, Christianity continues to grow in India, particularly among the lowest Caste. Photo: Ville Miettinen/Flickr/Creative Commons

Despite persecution, Christianity continues to surge in India

Despite the rising tide of persecution against Christians around the world, reports continue to flow in on how God is continuing to move. The latest is India where on April 17, 2016, two Hindu extremists posing as Christians approached pastor Deenbandhu Sameli seeking prayer. The pastor who was in his church in Karanji Village at the time, let the two in. The two men turned on the pastor, beat him and forced Sameli to say “jai sri ram” a reference to the Hindu god Veshnu. The two men then poured gas over the pastor and his wife to force them to convert. However, the two were able to escape before the extremists set them on fire. Yet despite this persecution, Christian Aid Mission (CAM) reports that God is moving in one of the most heavily persecuted provinces in India — Kandhamal Province. Just eight years ago over 100 Christians were killed in this district by riots sparked by Hindu extremists who blamed the August 23, 2008 murder of a popular Hindu monk Laxshmananda Saraswati and …

Mobile Chapel. Photo: Sandy McIntosh

The church that should not be

I am a Christian, but on some Sundays I don’t go to church. A few times a year I go to a truck stop where a group “Transport for Christ” has worship services. If this truck stop chapel is a church, it has some flaws. I remember taking a course called “Church Growth” where we planned to start prosperous and stable suburban churches. We looked for communities with young families and affordable real estate, and planned for the long-term. The truck stop is surrounded by industry, with no houses for miles. The local community is truck drivers who stop for a few hours. The church is a modified semi trailer, with stacking chairs inside. This is not a pretty suburban temple with expensive windows and a pipe organ. There is a window on the door, but not even a guitar for music. That pattern was part of the plan, a chapel for industrial workers, but things have gone wrong. The parking lots have been sold to other businesses and now there is only a fuel …

Temple of Baal in Palmra, Syria. Photo: oriana.italy/Flickr/Creative Commons

Is a Temple of Baal coming to a city near you?

According to an article in the New York Post, next month the Institute of Digital Archaeology (IDA) will unveil a full-sized replica of the Temple of Baal in New York City and London, England with plans to build 1,000 more in other cities. The IDA is a project sponsored by the University of Oxford, Harvard University and Dubai’s Museum of the Future. According to the Post, the temple in New York will be installed as part of an UNESCO’s World Heritage event in April. Standing 48′ tall, these Baal arches are being built in China using 3-D printers. The altars will be set up in prominent locations — Times Square in New York and Trafalgar Square in London. They will replicate the arches of a 2,000-year-old Baal Temple located in Syria destroyed by ISIS in August, 2015. Baal was a Canaanite god that Israel encountered several times after they entered the Promised Land. This god was supposedly in charge of the weather and fertility. The Baal gods went by different names which at times represented …

Northridge megachurch in Plymouth, Michigan. Photo: Dwight Burdette/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Study reveals weaknesses in mega churches

A study just released by Duke University revealed a concerning weakness in big churches. The larger a church becomes the more sporadic its members are when it comes to church attendance and less likely they are to volunteer. The study was conducted by David Eagle, who teaches at Duke’s Center for Health Policy and Inequalities. Eagle formerly pastored a church in Canada and it was this experience that led to his interest in conducting the study. In an interview with the Christian Post, he said while in Canada there was a major push by his denomination on church growth. He was told larger churches would result in more non-Christians attending. Eagle said: “I was skeptical of this approach, and began to think that an emphasis on growth could lead to unintended consequences — things like creating a less involved membership.” For his study he analyzed data from the National Congregations Study and the General Social Survey in the US. He compared church attendance among four major church groups — Conservative Churches, Roman Catholic, Black Protestant …