NEW YORK — An American pastor of a diverse congregation in Israel known to be targeted by anti-Christian vandals, reminded those in attendance at a recent Mideast prayer service that, according to the Bible, the Jewish people were chosen by God in special service to the world, and never designated as "the teacher's pet." He also called for Christians to be careful in jumping to judgement and picking sides in the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Rev. Charles M. Kopp, pastor of the Baptist Narkis Street Congregation, a 100-member Christian church in West Jerusalem, made the remarks last Thursday evening at a World Evangelical Alliance prayer meeting at the Salvation Army International Social Justice Commission in New York City.
The occasion of the prayer meeting was "A Call to Prayer for the Middle East," with additional remarks made by the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President of National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Dr. Munir Kakish, Chairman of the Council of Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land (representing Evangelicals in Palestinian Territories); and the Rev. Harry Tees, WEA Ambassador to the Holy Land. During the prayer meeting, opened by WEA United Nations Permanent Representative Deborah Fikes, mention was made of conflicts raging in Syria and Iraq, as well as in other countries in the Middle East. more >>
Australian megachurch Hillsong has influenced Christian worship far and wide, with its songs like "Mighty to Save" and "Awesome God" routinely belted out in churches around the world. The Pentecostal church's music ministry has proven so pivotal to modern Christian worship that its United brand is the subject of a new documentary and, along with Hillsong's other mainstays (UNITED and Young & Free), has racked up this year 10 GMA Dove Award nominations.
But what is behind 31-year-old Hillsong Church's singing success?
According to Autumn Hardman, whose role is Worship Oversight for Hillsong Church's Australian campuses, the secret of Hillsong's success is simple — keeping Jesus front and center. more >>
Christian rapper Thi'sl, a St. Louis, Missouri, native, knows firsthand about the racial tensions that have plagued his city for decades. It is that same dark cloud of racial unrest that overshadows the recent police killing of an 18-year-old black man in nearby Ferguson. Calling for justice while trumpeting a peaceful response, Thi'sl also says it is time for the church to step up and face the fact that U.S. Christianity has its own festering racial wounds that have long needed healing.
After the fatal shooting of an unarmed Michael Brown by a police officer on Saturday, Aug. 9, Ferguson's African-American community immediately erupted in furor over what many viewed as another callous killing of an unarmed black man by law enforcement. While police officials say Brown physically assaulted the officer, identified as Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the force, eyewitnesses claim the 18-year-old had his hands in the air when he was shot several times. Officials also revealed on Friday, that Brown allegedly was involved in a theft at a nearby convenience store, just minutes before the deadly encounter with Wilson.
In addition to daily vigils and protests — briefly disrupted by looting and an ensuing militarized police response, some frustrated citizens have launched petitions calling for federal reform of police tactics, staged protests in cities across the nation, and voiced their sadness and confusion over the case online. Thi'sl also organized a town hall-styled event at a local church to provide Ferguson youth the space to air their grievances. more >>
Franklin Graham will bring together thousands of people in Pittsburgh this weekend for a three-day evangelistic festival that will gather over 500 churches from 50 denominations to partake in a worship experience that will feature a lineup of well-known Christian artists and Graham's message of hope.
The event is part of Graham's annual seven-city festival tour and it will be the first time Pittsburg reportedly hosts a Christian gathering of its magnitude since Graham's father Billy Graham hosted a crusade in the city in 1993.
"We have a great opportunity to reach this city with the gospel of Jesus Christ … the world is in trouble, there's a great spiritual need and the world seems to be coming apart at the seams, who can save us? I've got the answer so I hope you'll join us," said Graham in an online video invitation. more >>
Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old from Ferguson, Missouri, was fatally shot by a police officer after what local authorities have described as a physical confrontation. Witnesses at the apartment complex where Ferguson was killed claim the man was shot several times while holding his hands in the air.
Since Brown's Saturday, Aug. 9 killing, Ferguson has been rocked by protests and at least one night of looting, with police officers turning out in force with assault rifles, dogs, and tear gas and dressed in riot gear. Christians have been expressing shock, hurt and words of prayer and encouragement amid the days and nights of tumult that have been unfolding in startling images and videos before the nation.
Here are some examples of what Christians have been expressing on Twitter: more >>
For many reasons, religious beliefs have greatly influenced American public policy and political elections. Because of its demographics and history, the United States has numerically more Christians (and more Protestants) than any other country in the world. There are nearly 313 million people in America, making the United States the third most populous country in the world.
According to the 2012 U.S. Census, three quarters of Americans claimed adherence to the Christian faith. (Whether or not they understand Christianity is another matter.) These Christians have various affiliations: 140 million are nondenominational, 62 million are Catholic, 40 million are Evangelical Protestants, and 26 million are Mainline Protestants. The states with the greatest number of religious congregations are Texas, California, and Pennsylvania.
The next largest group categorized by the Census is comprised of those who identify as having no religion. Following this group are those who identify as Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu. more >>