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Trends
… to 923,700. Marriages were up 4%. Interesting supplemental information though, from this article from Christian Today: Despite the drop in attendance at Church services, there is positive news in the growth of fresh expressions of church. The figures show that there are at least 1,000 fresh expressions and new forms of church linked to the Church of England. There are an estimated 1,000 fresh expressions within the Methodist Church. It is the first time that fresh expressions have been included in the Church of England’s annual report on attendance. Bishop Graham Cray, Archbishops’ Missioner and leader of the Fresh Expressions team, welcomed the rapid growth but cautioned that more needs to be done to reverse declining church attendance in Britain. He said: “It’s inspiring to think how much has happened in so short a time. Since the 2004 Mission-shaped Church report, we have seen the development of some 2,000 fresh expressions of church in the Church of England and Methodist Church. “The Holy Spirit has been at work in reaching thousands of people through these fresh expressions and we are all running to keep up. This is hugely encouraging and is a major contribution to the re-evangelisation of our land. “However it is just a beginning, this is not a quick fix and there is much more to do. Fresh expressions of church are one vital factor, but there is a long haul ahead of us.” Thoughts?
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Leadership
Here is what Lee Strobel is saying in a new interview from the Christian Post about the future of apologetics: Christianity in general and the Bible in particular are under widespread and vociferous attack by militant atheists, radical scholars, critical authors, skeptical professors, misguided documentaries, and a proliferation of online spiritual confusion. Books by the so-called New Atheists have received a lot of media attention, which has emboldened cynics to become even more outspoken. The Internet has helped atheists and agnostics coalesce as never before. Skeptics are becoming more determined to proselytize. In public high schools and colleges, the Secular Student Alliance, an umbrella for atheist organizations, has doubled in size in two years, with 250 chapters in the U.S. Not long ago, the American Humanist Association launched the largest national multi-media campaign ever by an atheist organization, preaching that the Bible advocates “fear, intolerance, hate, and ignorance.” And we’re seeing the country drift toward skepticism. Among 18-to-29-year-olds, nearly one in four now claims no religion, which has doubled since 1990. Recent books have said that young people are dropping out of church at five or six times the historic rate, many because of intellectual doubts. All of these trends have awakened a sleeping giant – Christian apologetics, or the defense of the faith. We’re seeing apologetics books on the New York Times bestsellers list. Schools like Biola University and its Talbot School of Theology, which are leaders in apologetics, are filled to capacity. Denver Seminary is launching a new degree in Christian Apologetics and Ethics this fall. One organization is seeking to place apologists on 500 college campuses in the next five years. A recent magazine featured this headline: “Apologetics Makes a Comeback Among Youth.” As David Kinnaman wrote in his book You Lost Me, which is based on interviews with thousands of young people: “This generation wants and needs truth, not spiritual soft-serve. This is a generation hungry for substantive answers to life’s biggest questions.” I agree! We were prodded to produce Student Editions of my books The Case for ChristThe Case for FaithThe Case for a Creator and The Case for the Real Jesus because so many young people were asking for them. There’s a genuine desire among young people to understand the rationality behind Christian beliefs – often because their peers are reading atheist writings and raising questions about whether Christianity really does make sense. Fortunately, I believe we’re on the cusp of a golden era of apologetics. We’re seeing such scholars as William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, William Dembski, Stephen Meyer, and others making fresh, cutting-edge arguments for Christianity. Academia is taking notice. Terrific websites, like apologetics315.com, are making apologetic material more widely available. Younger leaders like Sean McDowell are taking apologetics to a new generation. Apologetics conferences are springing up all around the nation. We did one for high school students in Colorado a few years ago and we maxed out our facility with 2,000 enthusiastic kids. We had a waiting list to get in! The National Apologetics Conference has drawn up to 4,300 participants. So I’m very optimistic about the future of Christian apologetics. Apologists are effectively refuting the recycled objections of the atheists while at the same time presenting a clear and compelling affirmative case for the truth of Christianity. Thoughts? More from the interview here…
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Current Events
Concordia Seminary in suburban St. Louis gets an eclectic mix of students in a program allowing them to train for the ministry online — electricians, farmers, entrepreneurs — and even a founder of one of the best-known thrash metal bands. David Ellefson plays bass for Megadeth. He also is an online student in the Specific Ministry Program at Concordia Seminary operated by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Ellefson’s studies illustrate why distance learning programs at seminaries have a growing popularity nationwide, allowing students to attend divinity schools without uprooting their lives. Even in a non-traditional learning setting, Ellefson is a non-traditional student given his band has recorded albums with titles such as “Killing Is My Business … And Business Is Good!” The curious mix of rock and religion has been part of Ellefson’s life since childhood. Growing up in Minnesota, his family drove from their farm to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church each Sunday. Ellefson, now 47, was confirmed there at age 16. A few years later, in the summer of 1983, Ellefson moved to Los Angeles and within a week of his arrival had formed Megadeth, named for the unit of measurement equal to the death of 1 million people by nuclear explosion. Soon, he was playing bass on stage with other metal bands such as Metallica and Slayer. The rock star lifestyle caught up with Ellefson by the time he was 25. He entered a 12-step recovery program and was reintroduced to his faith. And he embraced it. Ellefson moved to Arizona, married and had children. He joined Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church, a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregation in Scottsdale. “I came from a good family, not a broken home,” said Ellefson, 47. “That became a model for me, and I saw church at center of it.” Shepherd of the Desert pastor Jon Bjorgaard asked Ellefson to start a contemporary worship service. Ellefson began to write songs using lyrics from the Old Testament. “For a Christmas service, I remixed some classics, not quite in a Megadeth fashion, but in a pretty heavy rock fashion,” Ellefson said. He started a new music ministry at the church and called it MEGA Life. It became so popular that Shepherd of the Desert bought a new space for the ministry. Last year, Bjorgaard asked Ellefson and MEGA Life director Jeremy DaPena to enroll in Concordia’s Specific Ministry Program. “Most people want to become a rock star,” Bjorgaard said. “David’s a rock star who wants to become a pastor.” After two years at Concordia, Ellefson will be eligible for ordination. More here.
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Controversy
Presidential candidates who share their faith on the campaign trail may not be helping their bid for the nomination, according to a recent LifeWay Research survey of American adults. The online survey, conducted Sept. 23-26, asked: “When a candidate running for office regularly expresses religious conviction or activity, how does that impact your vote?” According to the survey, only one in six Americans (16 percent) are more likely to vote for a candidate who regularly shares his religious beliefs. While 30 percent indicate they would be less likely to vote for a candidate expressing religious activity, 28 percent say it would have no impact on their choice of candidate. Twenty-one percent of Americans say it would depend on the candidate’s religion. According to age distinctions, the survey revealed younger Americans ages 18-29 (24 percent) and ages 30-49 (24 percent) are more likely to select “depends on the religion” of the candidate. Those age 65 and over are the most likely (37 percent) to say a candidate’s expression of religious conviction or activity would have no impact on their choice of candidate. More here. What about you?  Is a candidate’s religious view important to you as a voter? Are you comfortable voting for an atheist, muslim, mormon, or jehovah witness for your next president or congressman?
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