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[Start rant now] Really? A revival reunion? Remember the Brownsville Revival? Well… I was intrigued when I saw a headline that read “Holy Spirit Moves at Brownsville Revival Reunion”. Huh? You mean the same revival that put the host church into $11.5 million in debt? Yep… the same one, evidently. Don’t worry if you missed it though… you can purchase a DVD for just $12. Do I sound a tad bit cynical? Here’s more from an article earlier this year: A decade removed from the largest Pentecostal outpouring in U.S. history, the church is facing financial ruin. It incurred an $11.5 million debt after the out-of-town crowds and its former pastor moved on. “Every Monday I find out what the (Sunday) offering was and we decide what we can pay this week,” the Rev. Evon Horton, Brownsville’s current pastor, told AP. “The good news is last week we paid our mortgage. The bad news is it drained our bank accounts.” The church has been making cuts wherever it can. It has slashed millions off its debt by selling property and trimming expenses, and it’s in the midst of raising funds to pay off the remaining $6.5 million. The paid staff of 50 is now down to six, and the weekly newsletter is printed monthly instead. Between 800 to 1,000 worshippers total attend two Sunday services, leaving most of the 2,200 seats in the sanctuary empty. Another sanctuary, which seats 2,600 and was built just for the revival, is now used for a gym, community classes and storage. Horton told AP it’s a blessing from God that the church has survived this long. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with in 30 years of ministry,” he said. // The cynical side of me asks why the Holy Spirit showed up at the revival revival and not for the last 10 years at the church that put it all on the line and got caught with the bill. [End of rant.  As you were.] Am I wrong? Todd

Can you imagine that some Christians didn’t used to celebrate Christmas? And can you imagine that SOUTHERN BAPTISTS didn’t always embrace Christmas as a church observance? Check this out from the Christian Post It is probable that while most Baptists in the South before the Civil War largely downplayed the observance of Christmas in their churches, they participated in Christmas activities with their families and in their communities. These Baptists exercised their Christian liberty about special days that Paul cited in Romans 14:5-6 and found festive but temperate activities and customs to celebrate the birth of Christ. After the Civil War, Southern Baptists began a slow process of incorporating Christmas themes and activities into their church programs and services. One reason for this was the growing popularity of Christmas during the Victorian Era. Churches sang carols, implemented Christmas-themed nativity plays and holiday events staged for and by children, and created a series of sermons based on the Matthew and Luke accounts of the birth and early childhood of Jesus as valid means for proclaiming the Gospel and teaching the doctrine of the incarnation to all ages of Believers. For instance, in 1867 Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Basil Manly Jr. wrote a letter to his children relating how his church’s Sunday School program celebrated the holiday with a decorated tree and the exchange of inexpensive gifts. Manly specifically stated that this custom had only taken place in his church after the Civil War, and the letter itself bore evidence of the growing tolerance for Christmas activities in church programs. A second reason for the embrace of Christmas in Southern Baptist culture was the influence of missionary Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon. In 1887 she wrote a letter to the Foreign Mission Journal suggesting that Southern Baptist women set aside a season of prayer and giving to international missions. She pleaded that the “week before Christmas” be chosen. “Is not the festive season when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of the Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches … to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?” In Moon’s famous letter she noted in passing that Christmas celebrations in Baptist life still largely unfolded among “families and friends,” but that would soon change. In 1888 the newly founded Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) took up the challenge and began collecting a Christmastide offering through women in Southern Baptist churches. By 1889 the Annual Report of the convention reported that “Christmas envelopes” were distributed in the churches. The Foreign Mission Board in the Annual Report of 1890 acknowledged that it had published “Christmas literature.” In 1897 the convention thanked the WMU “for the sum of all these Christmas offerings.” Over time the Southern Baptist embrace of a Christmastide offering to support missions made it respectable to incorporate additional Christmas themes in Southern Baptist churches. via Baptist Press – Southern Baptists have not always embraced Christmas – News with a Christian Perspective.

According to CNN, two weeks ago, Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Pike County, Kentucky, voted 9-6 to ban couples in interracial marriages from attending or participating in the church. But on Sunday, the small church reversed its course. Pastor Stacy Stepp told CNN affiliate WLEX on Sunday that the church voted unanimously to “accept all people regardless of race, creed, or color and to accept everyone into the fellowship of Christ.” “I tried everything in my power to try to resolve the matter before it got to where it did,” Stepp told WLEX. The problem began in June when Stella Harville, who grew up going to the church, brought her fiance, Ticha Chikuni, who is black, to the small church, where on average about 40 people meet for Sunday worship. Harville, who goes by the nickname Susie, played the piano, and Chikuni sang a song during the service. Her father, Dean Harville, a decades-long member of the church, told CNN affiliate WSAZ he was counting the offering when the pastor at the time, Melvin Thompson, came up to him and said, “Susie and her boyfriend are not allowed to sing in this church anymore.” “He said, ‘Furthermore, Susie can take her fella back where she found him from,'” Harville said. via Church reverses ban on interracial marriages – CNN Belief Blog – Blogs. Hmmm… thoughts?

The cause of demonstrators involved in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement would have been supported by John Calvin, the 16th century church reformer who helped shape modern-day Protestantism, says the General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). “I am sure he would have been in the streets of New York or London with a placard,” says Setri Nyomi of the French lawyer and theologian who wrote extensively about social and economic justice. “Calvin expressed opposition to all forms of social oppression resulting from money”, Nyomi says. “Today, it is the global economic systems and practices that have more sophisticated forms of effects.” Nyomi believes Calvin’s words resonate with life today. “The church of the 21st century needs to align itself with voices of justice … even if it means being out there in the streets,” he writes. via John Calvin would have been in the Occupy Wall Street movement   Wait, huh? And Jesus would turn water into Bud Light. Paul would wear Nikes. And John the Baptist would be a popular TV evangelist. Don’t get me wrong… I didn’t know John Calvin personally, but I’m not sure that he would Occupy Wall Street. Are you? Todd