About 800 to 1,000 Southern Baptist congregations cease to exist annually, largely due to a stagnant vision among the leadership and lack of impact within their communities, says a church planting director. However, church leaders say the closures are often the symptom of a greater problem.
"Churches are closing in large part because they have either become disconnected from culture and, or disconnected from Scripture. When this happens, life leaves the church," Joshua Hedger, director of Center for Church Planting at Midwestern Seminary, told The Christian Post.
Although the Baptist convention opened 1,300 new churches last year, Hedger says they are not gaining enough new ground and will rely on church planters to create a movement that will hopefully put an end to dying congregations. The church revitalization process usually involves new leadership taking over a declining church, who then implements a strategy on how to grow the congregation again. more >>
Nearly 50 percent of Christians believe that prayer alone is powerful enough to treat mental illness, according to a recent study. But while psychologists of faith might agree that prayer certainly helps, one expert insists that spiritual disciplines are only one part of a holistic approach to treating mental illness.
The results of that noted survey, published in September by LifeWay Research, revealed that 48 percent of "self-identified born-again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christians" believe that Bible study and prayer alone can help overcome mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Furthermore, only 21 percent of survey respondents who attend worship services at least once a week said they believed they would be welcomed at most churches if they had a mental health issue.
How can Christians concerned that they or a loved one might be suffering from mental illness discern when it is time to rise from their knees and find a psychologist or psychiatrist? more >>
Central to a Christian worldview is the belief that humanity exists in a fallen world and that, as a result, everyone is born in sin and susceptible to conditions that affect them physically, mentally, emotionally and in other ways. Yet, Christians are at odds when it comes to mental illness, with some suggesting that such maladies are simply the result of personal sin, lack of faith or spiritual attacks.
While there have been recent efforts to help destigmatize mental illness, studies show that many American evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians view such health issues solely as a spiritual condition to be treated with Bible study and prayer. Prior studies also have shown that religious leaders are most often the ones sought out among those suffering from mental illness, who, in some cases, have their ailments dismissed.
Dr. Eric L. Johnson, author of Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal and professor of pastoral care at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, explains that "the whole body can be affected by human fallenness." more >>
Since Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church first began receiving extensive media coverage for its public and coarse denouncement of homosexuals, and picketing funerals and churches, members of the Southern Baptist denominaton have been quick to draw the line between themselves and the unaffiliated church.
With 15 million members, the Southern Baptist denomination is the second-largest faith group in the United States, behind Roman Catholicism.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, provided an example to The Associated Press in a recent interview to make the distinction between Phelps and the Southern Baptist denomination by comparing the group to the "Book of Mormon." more >>
While applauding young evangelicals who have taken up causes such as opposition to injustice regarding the poor, the orphaned, and the enslaved, and who have helped increased awareness of such issues as sex trafficking and world starvation, Pastor David Platt said he is concerned about the lack of enthusiasm among some Christians on other issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
"I'm concerned for lack of zeal, not exclusively, but particularly among young evangelicals on social issues that are just as, if not in some ways much more important like abortion and sexual immorality, and so-called same-sex marriage," Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., preached at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on Thursday. "On some of these issues, younger evangelical Christians [and] prominent church leaders are often strangely quiet."
Platt observed, "We live in a day that we can be passionate in our stand against poverty and slavery, injustice that we need to stay passionately against, but issues that don't bring us into conflict with the culture around us." more >>
A Texas pastor advises church leaders that aim to reach Hispanic families, to embrace Latino's relationship-driven culture and be willing to hire a diverse, bilingual staff within the congregation.
Transitioning a monocultural church into a multicultural congregation has its challenges and in order to bring on Hispanics in particular, church leaders should prepare for a process that entails positive and negative changes, advises teaching pastor Jason Paredes of Fielder Church in Arlington, Texas.
"There are so many complications that you don't even anticipate…cataclysmic change is going to come, there's no way to get around it smoothly...feelings are going to be hurt, mistakes are going to be made. There has to be some boldness if you're going to walk into that," Paredes said, in a video interview with the Leadership Network. more >>