Ryan Bell, an ex-pastor who quit his faith in God for a year following his resignation from the Hollywood Adventist Church and a divorce from his wife of 17 years, is set to decide New Year's Day whether he will remain a believer or become an atheist. While he has distanced himself from zealous atheists, Bell expressed a desire to be "good" without submitting to boundaries.
Nearing the end of his yearlong embrace of non-theism, Bell told the LA Times that leaving the faith has allowed him to see "both sides of the coin." The former Fuller Seminary and Azusa Pacific University teacher has consorted with several atheist groups as a public speaker, sharing his experiences of walking away from church life. "Being with atheists, they can have the same sort of obnoxious certainty that some Christians have," he said of his experiences. "I don't want to be part of that. It feels like I'm stuck in the middle. I want to be for something good, but I don't want boundaries, and religion just feels like a very bounded thing."
As he nears a self-imposed January 1 deadline to decide between atheism and faith, Bell told the LA Times, "The question I am asking right now [is] why do I need religion to love?" more >>
South Carolina megachurch NewSpring gave away over $215,000 worth of shoes and gift cards to students and teachers in underprivileged schools earlier this month. NewSpring Public Relations Director Suzanne Swift said the donations are a no-strings-attached way to show the community they care.
"Our church believes you can't do life alone and as families are buying gifts for Christmas and other necessities, this is just a small way we can come alongside them, be generous and help these families in our community," Swift told The Christian Post.
More than 350 volunteers from Pastor Perry Noble's multi-site church traveled to 12 elementary schools, giving away 7,265 pairs of colorful New Balance shoes fresh out of the boxes to every single student. Teachers and staff also received $25 restaurant gift cards as well. more >>
A string of secret Santas in Massachusetts made their way to local Toys "R" Us stores last week and paid thousands of their own dollars to pay off all of the stores' layaway orders in efforts to help families in financial need put gifts under the Christmas tree for their children.
The pay it forward-type of Christmas initiative took prominence last Wednesday at a Toys "R" Us in Bellingham, Massachusetts where an unidentified woman, known only as the "Layaway Angel" paid nearly $20,000 of her own money to bless hard working parents by closing out all of the store's 154 layaway orders. Each balance varied from just a few bucks to over a few hundred dollars.
One parent, who along with her kids is a beneficiary of the "Layaway Angel's" Christmas generosity, told the Milford Daily News that she was surprised when she received a call from Toys "R" Us telling her to come pick up her layaway order because her balance had already been paid for. more >>
Some churches are countering the trend of Black Friday shopping and materialism by promoting "Bless Friday," an observance promoting charity work that seeks to bless the less fortunate.
Eva Kaminski, associate director of Communications at Memorial Drive Presbyterian in Houston, told The Christian Post that Bless Friday is "an encouragement for people to shift their focus from shopping to serving."
"Bless Friday is something that our congregation and staff have embraced. The beauty is in the soul-building that occurs when we focus on others instead of self, and serve in Christ's Name," she said. more >>
A historic number of America's youth – 2.5 million children – are homeless according to a report recently released by the National Center on Family Homelessness. These children, the report shows, are victims of a number of variables that contribute to homelessness including single motherhood, racial disparities and low household incomes.
The report, based on data compiled from the U.S. Department of Education and the Census Bureau, reveals that many of the nation's homeless children are on the verge of losing their housing, don't have a fixed residence, are living in places not designated for human beings, or are living in some kind of temporary housing. Many homeless children's circumstances are tied to problems plaguing their families.
According to the report, "Poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are Black or Hispanic." more >>
A September Lifeway Research survey reveals that nearly a quarter of Americans have received food from a church-run food pantry. Minorities and churchgoers commonly benefit from church pantries, according to the survey.
The Nashville-based Christian research firm polled 1,158 respondents about church food pantries and found that 22 percent said they have relied on a church program to feed their families. Of those who have received food from a church pantry, 26 percent were churchgoers. Over a third identified as evangelical.
More than one in three church pantry users (37 percent) were African Americans, 25 percent were Hispanic while 19 percent of the pantry users were Caucasian. more >>