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Church News 2009

Mainline clergy OK with gay rights,

Southern Baptist Baptisms slip again in 2008

Most U.S. Christians Don't Believe Satan, Holy Spirit Exist

Dobson Admits to Struggling after Election

Dobson Resigns as Chairman of Focus on the Family

Saddleback Church Trains 2,400 New Members; Baptizes 800

Falwell's Megachurch Merges with Global Charity

Catholic Crucifixions in the Philippines

Billy Graham's Grandson to Replace D. James Kennedy as Pastor

Mega-churches Continue to Grow During Depression

Christians Speak Out on Newsweek's Gloomy Cover Story

Former Pastor's New Book: "10 Things I Hate About Christianity!"

Join Army of Two-Million Traditional Marriage Activists

Assemblies of God Africa Aims to Baptize 10 Million New Believers

Mega-church Weathers Recession; Stays on Mission

Thank You President George W. Bush (Christianity heats up in Iraq!)

May 25, 2009

Mainline clergy OK with gay rights, cautious on gay marriage TOP-TEN CHURCH NEWS NOTES & NUGGETS
(Updated continually, "PLEASE REFRESH" for latest stories!)

Mainline Protestant clergy are generally more likely than most Americans to endorse gay rights, but only one in three supports same-sex marriage, according to a new study.

About one-third of mainline clergy support civil unions and one-third oppose any legal recognition for gay couples, found Public Religion Research, a Washington-based consulting firm, which released part two of its "Clergy Voices Survey" on Wednesday (May 20).

According to a Washington Post/ABC poll released in April, 49 percent of Americans say they support gay marriage, and 47 percent are opposed.

Five states have legalized gay marriage with a sixth, New Hampshire, set to join their ranks once legal protections for religious groups are put in place. Such assurances that churches and congregations will not be required to perform gay marriages make mainline Protestant clergy much more willing to accept them, according to the report. Support for gay marriage jumped from 32 to 46 percent with the "religious liberty" assurance, according to the survey.

The "Clergy Voices" report details the response of senior mainline clergy from seven denominations to more than 60 questions about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. The researchers called it "the most in-depth study of mainline clergy attitudes on LGBT issues ever undertaken."

More than two-thirds of mainline clergy support hate crimes legislation and protections from workplace discrimination for gays and lesbians; more than half (55 percent) say gay couples should be allowed to adopt children.

But the survey found "significant and sometimes stark differences" between mainline Protestant denominations, with clergy in the United Church of Christ and Episcopal Church most supportive of LGBT rights. Clergy in the United Methodist Church and American Baptist Churches USA are least supportive.

The other denominations surveyed were the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Overall, mainline Protestant clergy have become more supportive of equal rights for gays and lesbians over the last decade, and 45 percent now favor the ordination of gays and lesbians with no special requirements, the survey found.

Still, a slight majority (51 percent) of mainline ministers said that disagreements in their church over homosexuality have become a crisis. Among that majority, 40 percent say the crisis is about how the Bible should be read, 27 percent say it concerns what the church is supposed to be and 23 percent say it's about core Christian doctrine, according to the survey.

Southern Baptist Baptisms slip again in 2008

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Southern Baptists see number of baptisms continue decline in 2008 to lowest level since 1987

Apr 24, 2009 11:57 EST

Southern Baptist churches baptized fewer people in 2008 for the fourth year in a row to reach the lowest level since 1987, and membership in the country's largest Protestant denomination fell slightly as well.

Baptisms dropped just over one percent to 342,198 last year, compared with 345,941 in 2007, according to an annual report released Thursday by LifeWay Christian Resources, the Southern Baptist Convention's publishing arm.

Total membership of Southern Baptist churches was 16,228,438 last year, down nearly 38,400 from 2007.

The continued decline in the number of followers reflects a trend in other mainline Protestant churchesNon-denominational churches are gaining and the ranks of those unaffiliated with a church are growing.

Baptism in the Southern Baptist church is a public act administered by the local church in which new members agree to follow Christ. They are a key measurement of the SBC's overall effectiveness in evangelism.

"The numbers simply tell us that Southern Baptists are not reaching as many people for Christ as they once did," said Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay.

"I pray that all of our churches and our entities will become totally focused on obeying Christ's commission so that our convention will truly experience a Great Commission resurgence."

The Rev. Johnny M. Hunt, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., was elected SBC president last year and promised to make building up membership and baptism numbers a priority for the Nashville-based denomination.

A member of the SBC's conservative establishment, Hunt said he would try to unite Baptists around common causes and use his experience with younger pastors to reach out to a younger generation. Hunt has been a mentor to the next generation through a pastors' school he founded in 1994.

In the past 50 years, the number of annual baptisms per church member — a key indicator of church growth — has dropped sharply. Southern Baptists baptized one person for every 19 church members in 1950, a ratio that dropped to 1 baptism for every 47 church members in 2008, according to the report.

The denomination's baptisms peaked in 1972 at 445,725, based on statistics Lifeway has collected from Southern Baptist churches since 1922.

While baptisms and membership were down in 2008, the number of Southern Baptist churches grew from 44,696 to 44,848 and worship attendance increased slightly to 6.18 million, according to the report.

The report also notes that despite the economic downturn and decline in baptisms and membership, Southern Baptists gave 2.3 percent more to missions last year, with total giving reaching $1.36 billion.

Through the denomination's Cooperative Program and special mission offerings, local churches voluntarily pool funds to support mission efforts in their states, throughout the nation and around the world. Cooperative Program funds also support six seminaries, the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and other SBC entities.

Source: NewtonStein News Network at

Most U.S. Christians Don't Believe Satan, Holy Spirit Exist

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The majority of American Christians do not believe that Satan is a real being or that the Holy Spirit is a living entity, the latest Barna survey found.

Nearly two-thirds of Christians either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement that Satan "is not a living being but is a symbol of evil," the survey found.

Forty percent strongly agreed with the statement while 19 percent of American Christians somewhat agreed.

In contrast, about 35 percent of American Christians believe Satan is real. Twenty-six percent strongly disagreed with the statement that Satan is merely symbolic and about one-tenth (9 percent) somewhat disagreed.

The remaining eight percent of American Christians responded they were unsure what to believe about the existence of Satan.

Interestingly, the majority of Christians believe a person can be under the influence of spiritual forces, such as demons or evil spirits, even though many of these same people believe Satan is merely a symbol of evil. Two out of three Christians agreed that such forces are real (39 percent agreed strongly, 25 percent agreed somewhat).

Likewise, most Christians in the United States do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living force. Fifty-eight percent strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement that the Holy Spirit is "a symbol of God's power or presence but is not a living entity."

Only one-third of Christians disagreed with the statement that the Holy Spirit is not just symbolic (9 percent disagreed somewhat, 25 percent disagreed strongly). Nine percent expressed they were unsure.

Interestingly, about half (49 percent) of those who agreed that the Holy Spirit is only a symbol but not a living entity, agreed that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches. The Bible states that the Holy Spirit is God's power or presence, not just symbolic.

"Most Americans, even those who say they are Christian, have doubts about the intrusion of the supernatural into the natural world," commented George Barna, founder of The Barna Group and author of books analyzing research concerning America's faith.

"Hollywood has made evil accessible and tame, making Satan and demons less worrisome than the Bible suggests they really are," he said. "It's hard for achievement-driven, self-reliant, independent people to believe that their lives can be impacted by unseen forces."

But a large majority of American Christians agree that a person must choose to side with either good or evil. More than six out of ten American Christians strongly agreed (61 percent) with the idea that a person must either side with God or with the devil - that there is no in-between position. Another 15 percent somewhat agreed.

Just one out of ten adults disagreed somewhat (10 percent) and a similar proportion (11 percent) strongly disagreed. Only a few adults (3 percent) did not have an opinion on the issue.

Barna explained that because of the "sheer force of repetition" many Americans "intellectually" accept the idea that you either side with God or Satan and there's no in-between, even though this idea does "not get translated into practice."

Other survey findings include a significant number of self-described Christians believing that Jesus sinned when he lived on earth, contrary to the core teaching of Christianity that teaches the divinity and perfection of Jesus.

More than one-fifth (22 percent) strongly agreed that Jesus Christ sinned when He lived on earth, with an additional 17 percent agreeing somewhat.

However, nearly half of American Christians (46 percent) strongly disagreed with the idea that Jesus sinned, and 9 percent disagreed somewhat. Six percent did not have an opinion on the statement.

The Barna report is based on telephone interviews for two surveys among people who described themselves as Christians. A total of 1,871 adults were randomly selected from across the 48 continental states, with the first 873 interviews conducted in January and February 2008, and the remaining 998 interviews conducted in 2009.

Source: NewtonStein News Network at

Dobson Admits to Struggling after Election

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Christian right leader Dr. James Dobson said he is currently in a grieving process over the presidential election result, which he said is a huge setback for the pro-life movement.

Related * James Dobson Accuses Obama of 'Distorting' Bible * Obama Becomes First Black President in Landslide * Obama Asks McCain for Help Leading Country * Christians Respond to Obama as President * Evangelicals Optimistic about Obama Presidency * Obama Win Brings Hope to Africa, Church Leaders Say

“I want to admit that I am in the midst of a grieving process at this time,” Dobson said on the Focus on the Family radio broadcast on Thursday. “I’m not grieving over Barack Obama’s victory, but over the loss of things that I’ve fought for, for 35 years.”

In particular, he pointed to Obama’s commitment to abortion rights and advancement of the homosexual agenda.

“[H]e’s going to appoint the most liberal justices to the Supreme Court, perhaps that we’ve ever had,” Dobson further predicted. “So, there are many reasons why I’m struggling today over the likely path that the nation has taken.”

However, the well-known Christian leader still congratulated the new president-elect on his “stunning victory,” which he called a historic accomplishment.

Likewise, Coral Ridge Ministries, founded by the late conservative Christian leader Dr. D. James Kennedy, also offered its congratulations to Obama, noting that the election demonstrates that America is increasingly a color-blind society.

But the ministry went on to contend that America has made a “grave error” in its choice for president because of the life issue.

“Still, we, as Americans and as Christians, will pray for God’s blessing, protection, and direction for our new President,” Coral Ridge Ministries pledged. “He will need our prayers – and our loyal opposition, as we call on him to recognize, honor, and follow the moral standards that have made our nation great.”

Despite differences in views, many Christian leaders in the United States have issued statements vowing to support and pray for Obama and his administration as they work to fix the grave problems facing the country.

Some of the church organizations that have congratulated the president-elect include the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Episcopal Church, the Assemblies of God, and the National Council of Churches USA.

“Our hope is in the Lord, and we cannot forget that,” Dobson reminded his listeners on Thursday. “He doesn’t make mistakes. He hasn’t lost control of things. He understands our fatigue and maybe our disappointment.”

Source: NewtonStein News Network at

Dobson Resigns as Chairman of Focus on the Family

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DENVER (AP) - Conservative evangelical leader James Dobson has resigned as chairman of Focus on the Family but will continue to play a prominent role at the organization he founded more than three decades ago, The Associated Press has learned.Enlarge this Image

Dobson notified the board of his decision Wednesday, and the 950 employees of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based ministry were informed Friday morning at a monthly worship service, said Jim Daly, the group's president and chief executive officer.

Dobson, 72, will continue to host Focus on the Family's flagship radio program, write a monthly newsletter and speak out on moral issues, Daly said.

Dobson's resignation as board chairman "lessens his administrative burden" and is the latest step in a succession plan, the group said. Dobson began relinquishing control six years ago by stepping down as president and CEO.

"One of the common errors of founder-presidents is to hold to the reins of leadership too long, thereby preventing the next generation from being prepared for executive authority," Dobson said in a statement. "... Though letting go is difficult after three decades of intensive labor, it is the wise thing to do."

While Focus on the Family emphasizes that it devotes most of its resources to offering parenting and marriage advice, it is best known for promoting conservative moral stands in politics.

Dobson, a child psychologist and author, has gotten more involved in politics in recent years. He endorsed Republican John McCain last year after initially saying he would not, and also sharply criticized Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

On political matters, Dobson "will continue to speak out as he always has - a private citizen and not a representative of the organization he founded," said Gary Schneeberger, a Focus on the Family spokesman. He said the nonprofit ministry and Focus on the Family Action - an affiliate set up under a different section of the tax code that permits more political activity - will continue to be active on public policy.

Dobson has a devoted following. His radio broadcast reaches an estimated 1.5 million U.S. listeners daily. Yet critics say his influence is waning, pointing to evangelicals pushing to broaden the movement's agenda beyond abortion, gay marriage and other issues Dobson views as most vital.

"In the short term, in the near term, Dr. Dobson will stay committed to the issues close to his heart," Daly said in an interview. "He'll continue to speak out on those topics."

Daly said there is no timetable for Dobson to leave the radio program, and the group will "look for the next voice for the next generation" while Dobson remains on the air.

That will likely mean not one person behind the microphone but several speaking on their respective areas of expertise, Daly said. The organization, anticipating a post-Dobson era, for several years has tried out different voices on the broadcast and in giving media interviews on hot-button social issues.

At the same time, Focus officials have acknowledged difficulties in raising money from younger families critical to its future. The economy also has hurt. Last fall Focus on the Family eliminated more than 200 staff positions, its largest employee cutbacks ever.

Daly said the group is now "right on track" with a revised annual budget of $138 million.

Dobson's wife, Shirley, also resigned from the Focus board. The new board chairman is retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Patrick P. Caruana, a longtime board member and a former executive with defense contractor Northrup Grumman.

"I don't see any dramatic departure from what Focus stands for," Caruana said of Dobson's leaving the board. "There are obviously younger people the ministry would like to reach, and we're on track to do that."

Source: NewtonStein News Network at

Rick Warren & Saddleback Trains 2,400 New Members; Baptizes 800

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LOS ANGELES (CCN) - Saddleback Church in southern California, Rick Warren, Pastor, trained nearly 2,400 new church members on Saturday. It was the largest membership class in the megachurch’s 30-year history.

Of those who participated in the church’s introductory membership session, Class 101, about 800 were baptized afterwards. Founding pastor Rick Warren personally taught the program and then, with the help of other Saddleback pastors, spent more than three and a half hours baptizing the hundreds of new members.

Attendees were walked through three areas in their faith life: God’s plan and purpose for everything; the history, faith and future vision of the church; and the importance of membership.

During the session, Warren recognized that the class was taking place in the midst of economic hardships, but he said the church was created for these difficult times.

“When bad things happen in life, don’t ask why, ask how, and then discover what God wants to teach you,” Warren said. <

“The way God is going to teach you the good qualities in life is to put you in the exact opposite situation. How will God teach you joy? By putting you in the middle of sorrow. How will God teach you love? By putting you around difficult people. How will God teach you peace? By putting you in the middle of chaos. God never wastes a hurt.

God can bring good out of anything.”

Warren emphasized the importance of the five purposes for the church as well as individuals – knowing, relating, sharing, growing and serving. These purposes were discussed in depth in Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.

“The Bible says the church is the support and foundation of the truth,” Warren said. “We in California know the importance of support and foundation, because we have earthquakes. If you don’t have a good support and a good foundation when an earthquake comes around, your house will collapse.

“The same is true of every area of life. If you don’t have the correct foundation and support for finances, relationships and your marriage, it will all collapse. God never meant for you to go through life alone; you need relationship, you need a spiritual family.”

Everyone needs to find a church home and be connected and fulfill the five purposes, the well-known pastor said. “A Christian without a church home is an orphan,” he said. “We aren’t in competition with any church. We want every church to grow.”

Those who have completed Class 101 will be encouraged to take three additional training classes: Class 201 that focuses on growing in Christ, Class 301 that helps individuals discover their purpose, and Class 401 that centers on discovering mission in life.

Recently, these classes were updated and revised to incorporate Warren’s PEACE Plan, an initiative to mobilize Christians around the world to Promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation.

Warren will teach these advance courses in May, June and July, respectively.

Over three decades, more than 35,000 people have participated in Saddleback Church’s Class 101. The Orange County-based church is one of the five largest churches in America and draws an average weekly attendance of 22,000.

Courtesy Jennifer Riley Reporter

Source: NewtonStein News Network at

Falwell's Megachurch Merges with Global Charity

(Updated continually, "PLEASE REFRESH" for latest stories!)

by NewtonStein News Network at

"Gleaning for the World" – it's recognized as one of the top charities in the country by Forbes, yet hardly anyone has heard its name. . . but that's about to change.

This week, the Concord, Va.-based non-profit announced a merger with Thomas Road Baptist Church, one of the largest churches in the country with 22,000 members.

An international humanitarian aid organization joining hands with a congregation is viewed as unprecedented and historic.

"It is just very unique that a successful charity would approach a single church and both of us have the same desire; and we're only eight miles apart," the Rev. Ron Davidson, founder and president of GFTW, commented to The Christian Post.

Merging with a well-known and well-connected church that is also affiliated with Liberty University – one of the largest evangelical Christian universities in the nation – will help spread awareness about the aid organization, not to mention give the aid group access to tens of thousands of potential volunteers and staff as well as donations.

GFTW will also have the opportunity to be marketed to millions of people through Thomas Road's weekly television broadcast.

"We expect to double the organization and supplies we're placing in the field," said Davidson, who left his position as pastor of a 1,200-member church to start GFTW in 1998. "That's what this merger means to us. We're simply going to reach a lot more people."

Davidson approached Thomas Road senior pastor Jonathan Falwell with the merger proposal last fall. The charity, which Forbes ranked in 2008 as a top charity in both fundraising efficiency and charitable commitment for the second year in a row, was successful in its work – locating, managing and distributing millions of dollars worth of supplies to survivors of major disasters or poverty-stricken areas – but was struggling to raise funds.

"We are very good at what we do ... [but] we are not real good in fundraising and marketing who we are and what we do," the charity head said.

The timing was critical as non-profits around them were shutting down or cutting programs in the midst of an economic recession.Guide Star, a source for non-profit information, projected that contributions from foundations and individuals for humanitarian work would drop 60 percent in 2009-2010, according to Davidson.

Gleaning for the World's staff was reduced to seven after two employees left and the charity was never able to replace them.Now with the merger, GFTW expects to add at least another five full-time workers to its staff, including a volunteer coordinator who would work with the anticipated flood of volunteers.

For nearly 11 years, GFTW has been "gleaning" surplus medical and essential supplies to provide to humanitarian projects worldwide. Gleaning requires contacting industries in the country to locate and collect supplies that aren't sold but are still of top quality and then working with humanitarian organizations to sort and ship the supplies to people working in the field.

Last year alone, the non-profit handled supplies totaling $42 million.

A marketing director at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the charity's work the most complicated business plan he'd ever seen, according to Davidson.

At the same time, he called GFTW the best kept secret, Davidson said.

The church and charity will operate as separate "501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, but the charity will have the resource of some 40,000 people.

"We've added an army of people to help us do what we do," Davidson commented.

Pastor Falwell, meanwhile, believes the merger will get his church more involved in humanitarian work.

"I am excited about the opportunity for our church to get involved in providing assistance to many hurting people as well as having new opportunities for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them," Falwell said in a statement.

While the two non-profits see nothing but gain in the future, Davidson said he is uncertain the merger will be replicated by other non-profits.

Courtesy - Lillian Kwon Reporter

by NewtonStein News Network at

Catholic Crucifixions in the Philippines:

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ANGELES, PHILIPPINES (CCN) - Scores of thousands of tourists come from all over the world to watch these extreme expressions of faith on Good Friday, as dozens are crucified in acts of devotion in villages throughout the Philippines, from an 18-year-old-girl to a 48-year old man who has done this 22 times: he gives a bit of his story which began when he. . .

Catholic Crucifixions in the Philippines: Good Friday Worship

Source: NewtonStein News Network at

Billy Graham's Grandson to Replace D. James Kennedy as Pastor

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Aside from celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the famed megachurch on Sunday will witness the installation of the its second senior pastor - nearly 20 months after the retirement of its founding pastor, the D. James Kennedy, who died less than two weeks after stepping down.

Billy Graham, preached the dedication sermon for the then-new sanctuary of Coral Ridge on Feb. 3, 1974. Living nearby by and attending the Church as a youth was a young man named Tullian Tchividjian - who strayed from the path at the age of 16 and returning again at the age of 21.

On Resurrection Sunday, April 12, 2009, he will become the Senior Pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

Coral Ridge will also be finalizing its merger with the church Tchividjian had founded when members of the two congregations worship as one this Sunday.

"No more us and them; them and us, but rather, two becoming one," Tchividjian told his congregation - New City Presbyterian Church in Margate - after 91 percent of Coral Ridge's congregation voted last month to elect him as their new senior minister.

Sunday's events will be the culmination of nearly two months of talks between the two churches that began when Coral Ridge's Pulpit Nominating Committee (PNC) extended an invitation to Tchividjian to become the megachurch's new senior pastor following months of combing for a pastoral candidate to recommend to the Coral Ridge congregation.

Because of Tchividjian's "unwavering commitment" to remain the pastor of the church he founded in 2003, leaders from the two churches met for weeks, discussing and hammering out matters pertaining to the merger, including legal, financial, ministerial, structural and philosophical, among others.

The meetings eventually culminated "unanimously and enthusiastically" with a vote supporting and approving the merger, paving the way for Tchividjian's acceptance of their invitation to Pastor Coral Ridge.

With all lights now green, Tchividjian is expected to preach at all three of Coral Ridge's morning services Sunday. Once installed, Tchividjian will be Coral Ridge's second senior minister in five decades.

"I consider it a great and high honor to follow such a giant in the faith," he said, referring to the late D. James Kennedy.

Dubbed by some evangelicals as one of the Church's "truly significant figures," Kennedy had built a Christian media empire with his radio and television ministry, which reaches more than 3 million people. He also wrote more than 65 books, created Evangelism Explosion, and was a founding board member of the Moral Majority.

On the morning of Sept. 5, 2007, the influential conservative leader died "peacefully in his sleep" at home, putting an end to the complications he had been experiencing since his heart attack in December 2006. He was 76.

Courtesy of Eric Young Reporter

Source: by NewtonStein at

Mega-churches Continue to Grow During Depression

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USA (CCN) - Attendance numbers at America's megachurches continue to grow, and at very fast rates, according to the latest research on the country's largest churches.

The findings come from a study entitled "Changes in American Megachurches: Tracing Eight Years of Growth and Innovation in the Nation's largest-Attendance Congregations," which was released Friday.

Protestant congregations that already have at least 2,000 people in a typical weekend had an average rate of growth for five years of around 50 percent.

And over 20 percent of megachurches experienced an increase of 100 percent. Slightly more than 10 percent of the churches showed stagnation or decline.

The continuous growth in the size of megachurches comes as no surprise as they have shown increasing numbers over the last 10 years.

But despite the bigger congregations, megachurches have not expanded their sanctuaries to accommodate the larger flocks.

Megachurches are "getting bigger without getting bigger," commented Warren Bird, co-author of the study.

The average weekend megachurch attendance in 2008 was 4,142.

The average main sanctuary seating, meanwhile, was 1,794.

More churches are opting for different strategies when accommodating larger crowds. Some have turned to "overflow rooms" where attendants would typically watch the service on a video screen in a different area of the church. Many are holding multiple services.

The average megachurch today conducts five weekend services, up from 2005.

But perhaps the newest growth method adopted by megachurches is satellite campuses.

Over the last five years, over 30 percent of megachurches adopted the multi-site model compared to only 8 percent 6-10 years ago and 3 percent 11-15 years ago.

"There is no doubt that this phenomenon is an increasing reality judging by the percentage of megachurches that said they began a satellite in each of the past 5 year time periods," according to the report.

In 2008, 37 percent of megachurches reported holding satellite services and 22 percent were thinking about it. In 2000, only 22 percent were multi-site and no other churches were thinking about pursuing it then.

On average, churches had two satellite locations and offered 4 services at these each weekend. Five percent of megachurches, including New Life Community Church in Chicago, Ill., Seacoast Church in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., and in Edmond, Okla., had 6 or more campuses and offered between 12 and 24 services.

While some critics of multi-site churches believe such a growth strategy detracts from the church planting effort, the new study found that megachurches with satellite campuses were the most likely group to plant other churches.

Fact: 84 percent of churches with multiple campuses have planted a church compared to 74 percent of churches without satellite locations.

Over the last five years, nearly 60 percent of multi-site churches have planted churches while 50 percent of churches without satellites did the same.

Overall, church planting has grown among megachurches from 68 percent in 2000, to 70 percent in 2005, to 77 percent in 2008.

Rise of the mini-denomination

Megachurches may be becoming de facto replacements for the more traditional denominations, researchers suggested.

Scott Thumma and Bird call it the rise of the "mini-denominations," although they are not necessarily fond of the term.

"Megachurches are creating around them structures and especially functions that once were done by the denominations," said Thumma, author of Beyond Megachurch Myths and a professor at Hartford Seminary in Some of these structures include operating large networks of pastors and churches, providing clergy resources and music material, mobilizing for community service and social justice efforts, and planting churches.

"They are creating alternative ways for churches and for religious people to get resources to do ministry, to do missions, to connect with other churches," noted Thumma.

"All the things that were typically done by a denominational before are being done at a local church level – if you can call a megachurch a local church," he added, noting the scale has shifted from the national hierarchical organization to an informal, local church network.

Megachurches, however, are not the biggest threat to the life of denominations, Thumma indicated.

"There's a lot of other things that will kill the denominations," he said.

Other developing patterns among megachurches

In other findings, more megachurches are identifying themselves as "evangelical."

In 2000, less than half (48 percent) chose the label "evangelical".

In 2008, 65 percent now taking on the label.

Fewer megachurches are choosing to identify themselves as "charismatic" or "pentecostal." Only 7 percent chose the charismatic label in 2008 compared to 14 percent in 2000, and only 4 percent labeled themselves pentecostal compared to 11 percent in 2000.

"The vast majority of megachurches, 95%, hold a conservative theological position, and this hasn’t changed. But what has changed is a turn away from distinctive theological segments within conservative Protestantism toward a 'generic evangelicalism,'" the study's authors stated.

A shift was also seen in political views.

The study stated that the majority of megachurch attendees are Republicans but "they are not the arch-conservatives many people portray them as."

In 2008 only 33 percent described the majority of their church's attendees as predominantly conservative. In 2005, 51 percent had that label.

In 2008, 44 percent said their congregants are "somewhat on the conservative side", compared to 33 percent in 2005.

In 2008 17 percent labeled their congregants as "right in the middle", while 11 percent said the same three years ago.

Here is what's wrong with Christianity!

Interestingly, the study also found that megachurches are not overtly political even during this year's election.

"The majority really want to stay out of politics as much as possible," said Thumma. While keeping out of politics, megachurches are putting more emphasis on social justice and community service.

In 2000, only 34 percent affirmed their congregation was "working for social justice." In 2008, 51 percent of churches affirmed this.

Also in 2008, 73 percent of the megachurches stated that community service activities were given a lot of programmatic emphasis in the past year or were a specialty of the church.

The megachurch study is based on a national study of America's roughly 1,200 megachurches.

Courtesy, from the studies of Byrd & Thumma

Source: NewtonStein News Network at

Christians Speak Out on Newsweek's Gloomy Cover Story

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ANY-CHURCH USA (CCN) - Certainly, there is always a degree of sadness in the air for Christians as they are about to observe Good Friday, the day Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross and died.

But the cross is just half the story: on the third day, he rose again. Indeed, the combination of the Cross and Resurrection evoke an indescribable emotion.

In that sense, Newsweek's April 13 cover story, with the title "The Decline and Fall of Christian America" in the shape of a cross, may have presented more gloom than Christians would have liked, especially during the holiest of weeks.

"Most regular church-goers have heard their less scrupulously observant fellows called 'Christmas and Easter Christians.' Well, they also have their counterparts in the mainstream media: "Christmas and Easter Anti-Christians," said Colleen Raezler, a research assistant at the conservative Culture and Media Institute, in a commentary on NewsBusters.

"How else to explain the spate of skeptical, negative stories that inevitably accompany the two most important Christian holy days?"

When readers pick up the latest Newsweek issue, they begin with a cover with a red-lettered title on a black background. It looks gloomy and almost like a horror film, says Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Inside, the subtitle reads: "The End of Christian America."

Written by Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, the story is based on last month's highly reported American Religious Identification Survey which revealed that the percentage of Americans claiming no religion rose to 15 percent while that of Christians declined to 76 percent.

It also found that the non-religious population, or "Nones," has shifted away from the Pacific Northwest to Northern New England.

Meacham, a liberal but devout Episcopalian, writes that the declining influence of Christianity is "a good thing," both for America's political culture and for Christianity, arguing that Christians are "rediscovering the virtues of a separation of church and state."

Much of the story also quotes preeminent evangelical Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and what the magazine described as Mohler's gloomy outlook on the future of Christianity in America.

"'A remarkable culture-shift has taken place around us,' Mohler wrote. 'The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture,'" Meacham writes of Mohler

"When Mohler and I spoke in the days after he wrote this, he had grown even gloomier. 'Clearly, there is a new narrative, a post-Christian narrative, that is animating large portions of this society.'"

In response, Mohler, who expressed appreciation for the article, said it was not his intent to reflect much gloom in his analysis of the survey.

"Our proper Christian response to this new challenge is not gloom, but concern," Mohler stated in his online commentary. "And our first concern must be to see that the Gospel is preached as Good News to the perishing."

HOWEVER . . .And in the eyes of many Christians, the Gospel is being preached and many are being saved.

To them, what they read on the Newsweek cover does not reflect what they are seeing in churches today.

Pastor Kimball of Vintage Faith Church believes that while there may be a decline of "a certain shape and subculture(s) of 'Christian America,'" there is "a rising and surging of missional church leaders, church planters, and Christians who have already recognized that we are in a 'post-Christian' America."

And that recognition has only "fueled creativity, prayer and passion for mission," Kimball, whose church draws many twenty-somethings, stated in his blog, while noting that many are "rethinking" what it means to be the church.

"Churches may die out in geographic places, but the Spirit is alive and powerful and changing lives, even though certain local churches may close their doors or types of churches lose their effectiveness," he added. "So it is ironically quite an exciting time period in the midst of this gloomy title and cover."

Meacham notes in one paragraph that rumors of the death of Christianity are "greatly exaggerated" and mentions that the ARIS authors note a movement toward more conservative beliefs (the percentage of those who identify themselves as "Christian," "Evangelical/Born Again," or "non-denominational Christian," rose to 11.8 percent).

But the small mention is overpowered within a four-page story with bold titles.

"I'm trying to think where he's coming from," Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston – the largest church in the country – told CNN's Larry King on Tuesday, regarding the story.

"I see faith in America at an all time high," he added. "We're having church every Sunday in a former basketball arena, with 40,000 or 50,000 people coming out."

"Now, sometimes I think people don't call themselves religious anymore, but they do have a relationship with Christ," Osteen noted. "I think part of that headline is America is more diverse than it was 50 years ago. Just with more different faiths ... And I don't know that that means we as Christians are any less."

The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, released on March 9, is part of a series of surveys by the Program on Public Values at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. The recent findings were based on interviews with over 54,000 adults in the 48 contiguous states.

Source: NewtonStein News Network at

Former Pastor's New Book: "10 Things I Hate About Christianity!"

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MIAMI (CCN) - So you're frustrated with Christianity? So is a former pastor and founder of a Christian rock band who wrote his first book, "10 Things I Hate About Christianity!" to help himself and others resolve the issues they have with the Christian faith.

“This book is filled with my angst-ridden frustrations,” writes Jason T. Berggren, founder of the Christian hard rock band Strongarm and former associate pastor at Calvary Fellowship Church in Miami. “This book is me sitting on the counseling couch having it out with God. Telling Him how I feel and trying to find my way.”

But contrary to what the title suggests, the book is meant to channel the anger and frustration non-believers and believers have with Christianity and use it to build a stronger relationship with God.

In raw, sometimes uncomfortably honest writing, Berggren tackles the top ten frustrations he struggles with in his Christian faith. They include > faith,

> prayer,

> the Bible,

> sin,

> rules,

> love,

> hell,

> church,

> Christians, and

> various discrepancies between the reality in the world and what the Bible says.

“I thought that since I was tapping into truth I would have all my questions answered, all my insecurities would go away, and I would get everything I wanted,” said Berggren to The Christian Post in an interview Wednesday.

Christians had “planted” that misconception into Berggren’s mind early on in his faith life when they said if he had enough faith then everything would come true.

“That didn’t happen,” he stated.

“My faith did bring me clarity and peace more than I had before, but it didn’t fix every problem in my life,” said the author who grew up in a broken home where his stepmother said she didn’t love him and his mother was never around.

Sometimes it even seemed like believing in Jesus added to his inner struggles. “Over and over, I’ve had to face certain aspects of my faith that don’t seem to line up,” he writes.

The first frustration Berggren tackles in his book is the problem of faith when it seems like God “didn’t come through.” The author shares that he is sometimes mad at God when prayers aren’t answered, and hates the “fantasy element” such as God’s invisibility and not being able to prove God’s existence with facts and figures.

But what Berggren came to realize about the value of his faith is that it is “the reason good times are better and it makes hard times livable.”

“I think that’s essentially the promise God does make to humanity as we place our faith in Him – he’s still with us regardless of how we feel,” he writes, after telling a true-story about his college friend, also named Jason, who abruptly took his own life after facing hardship.

“My faith is still a mystery in many ways, which drives me insane, but I also know it’s the one thing that’s true,” Berggren states.

The former rocker, whose band disbanded and who is now a Christian writer/local handyman, is also frustrated when it seems like the Bible is being inconsistent.

“I hate that I can’t figure it all out,” Berggren declares.

For example, he notes, in the Ten Commandments God says do not murder, but then God tells King Saul to kill the Amalekites. Another problem he sees is God’s chosen kings had multiple wives when the Bible teaches Christians to have only one wife.

For the problem of murder, Berggren resolves it by noting that murder is always killing, but killing is not always murder. The Amalekites had “waged unprovoked attacks” on Israel many times, he noted citing the Bible, and God allowing King Saul to kill the Amalekites was in defense to protect their families.

In regards to polygamy, the author finds that at the end of King David's and King Solomon’s lives they regretted their many bad decisions.

“God loves humanity and wants to establish a relationship with us, no matter what,” Berggren writes. “He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. That’s what I learned from this apparent inconsistency. He wasn’t approving their bad behavior. Instead, he was accepting them, telling them they needed to change, and still loving them.”

The frustrated Christian also argues against the claim that the Bible was manipulated to spread propaganda. He pointed out that this is unlikely since the Bible includes so many “ugly” details about people who were followers of God.

Biblical heroes like King David who plotted the death of one of his military leaders so he could marry his wife and the famed Apostle Peter who denied knowing Jesus three times while he was being interrogated “would seem to reflect poorly on God.”

“If I were trying to persuade people through propaganda, I’d leave out details that tarnish my reputation. Wouldn’t you?” Berggren poses.

The one theme he sees running through the multi-author, multi-book Bible is “God’s loving humanity and wanting to rebuild a relationship that was lost.”

“I’ve come to see that this book’s not broken and doesn’t need fixing; it’s a story about fixing things that have been broken, especially the bond between God and humanity.”

Berggren, who has three tattoos, also talks about how he hates the concept of sin that judges his morality, all the rules that Christians set up that makes it seem like you can’t be a Christian and have fun, . . .

. . . having to love people that he'd rather hate, and people who call themselves Christians but are “crazy, annoying, judgmental, and hypocritical.”

“I want readers to know that it’s OK to be imperfect, to have your doubts, to have questions,” said the author to The Christian Post. “I just don’t want them to give up and know how much God loves them, that Jesus is real, and God just wants to pursue and have a real, raw relationship with you."

“God accepts you how you are and I just want people to not give up on their relationship with God,” he said.

Source: NewtonStein News Network at

Join Army of Two-Million Traditional Marriage Activists

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USA (CCN) - The National Organization for Marriage, which helped the campaign to pass Proposition 8, on Thursday announced an initiative to recruit two million traditional marriage activists across the country.Enlarge this Image

The goal of the campaign is to "form an online army of marriage activists willing to stand up for marriage on a moment's notice, sending emails and making phone calls to legislators whenever marriage is threatened," NOM stated in a e-mail to supporters.

Over the next two years, the group is aiming to rally two million marriage activists representing every state but is hopeful that "word-of-mouth" recommendations will help achieve that figure by the end of 2010.

To jumpstart the "2 Million for Marriage" (2M4M) initiative, NOM on Thursday also launched a nationwide TV ad campaign "highlighting the threat that same-sex marriage poses to the core civil rights of all Americans who believe in marriage as the union of a husband and wife."

The TV ad, "Gathering Storm," argues that issue of same-sex marriage will, contrary to what gay rights advocates have claimed, affect the lives of everyday people.

"Some who advocate for same-sex marriage have taken the issue have taken it far beyond same-sex couples," says an actor in the ad, standing amid a stormy backdrop. Other actors representing everyday people chime in, saying, "They want to bring the issue into my freedom will be taken away."

Although the ad only features actors, some make statements in the ad that are based on real stories of people affected by gay marriage.

"I'm a California doctor who must choose between my faith and my job ..."

"I'm part of a New Jersey church group punished by the government because we can't support same-sex marriage..."

"I am a Massachusetts parent helplessly watching public schools teach my son that gay marriage is OK."

"But some who advocate for same-sex marriage have not been content with same-sex couples living as they wish . . . They want to change the way I live," the ad states. The clip ends with the message: "Join us."

The one-minute ad will initially be shown in New Jersey and Rhode Island outlets and then eventually will receive $1.5 million in airtime nationwide.

NOM president Maggie Gallagher discussed the ad's message in an appearance Wednesday on MSNBC's "Hardball."

"Marriage isn't a private act - It's a public status. And when your government tells you that same-sex unions are marriages, it's going to affect a lot of people besides the couple who wants to do it," said Gallagher.

"So public schools, when they teach about marriage, they are going to teach your children and grandchildren that your views are discarded relics of age and bigotry. And professionals from faith traditions that just don't recognize same-sex unions as marriages and organizations are finding their liberties curtailed," she argued.

Joe Solmonese, president of the pro-gay rights Human Rights Council, who appeared opposite of Gallagher on the show, rejected her claims as "lies."

"What they are essentially implying this campaign is that somehow other people are becoming the victims," he said. "The fact of the matter is that not one thing that they say in this ad is true."

Gallagher pressed Solmonese on whether religious liberties will be protected in the wake of gay marriage decisions. She asked whether Catholic charities that run adoption agencies would have the right to deny adoptions to same-sex couples or whether a Methodist camp group would receive its tax exemption back after it declined to allow its pavilion be used for a civil union ceremony.

"When religious organizations step into the public sphere, it should not be surprising to people that they are bound to adhere to the laws in the states they are operating in," replied Solmonese.

After overlapping talking from both sides, show host Chris Matthews asked Gallagher to explain why the ads from NOM would tell him that his marriage is being threatened because of what same-sex couples do.

"The reality is that the meaning of marriage will change for everyone," said Gallagher.

"Marriage is the only institution we have that is about bringing together the great halves of humanity, male and female, so that children can know and be known by, and love and be loved by their own mother and father," she explained. "If the government moves to same-sex marriage and if the law teaches the next generation that there isn't anything unique about unions of husbands and wives, a lot of things are going to change for a lot of children."

NOM said it will use old and new approaches to promote the new initiative. In addition to hiring Schubert Flint Public Affair, which ran the Yes on 8 campaign last year, NOM plans to take a cue from President Obama's Election campaign and tap into internet technology and social networking tools like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to recruit activists for its 2M4M initiative.

Last month, NOM ran radio spots opposing same-sex marriage legislation in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Courtesy of Katherine T. Phan Reporter

Source: NewtonStein News Network at

Assemblies of God Africa Aims to Baptize 10 Million New Believers

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AFRICA (CCN) - The Africa Assemblies of God Alliance (AAGA) has set out to baptize 10 million believers within a ten year period, the denomination’s news agency reported this past week.

AG African leaders committed themselves to the “Decade of Pentecost” at an AAGA meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, earlier this month that occurs once every four years.

Spearheading initiatives for the Decade of Pentecost will be Acts in Africa, a ministry aimed at encouraging Pentecostal revival in the Assemblies of God in Africa.

During the Decade of Pentecost, which will begin in 2010 and continue through 2020, national Assemblies of God churches will mobilize for global missions with the vision of reaching “yet-to-be-reached” peoples in Africa and the world with the Gospel, according to AG News.

AAGA’s strategies for achieving its goal include an annual Pentecost Day when about 48,000 AG pastors will be challenged to preach on the “baptism in the Holy Spirit and the mission of God,” and pray with believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

There are about 16 million AG members meeting in more than 50,000 churches in 50 countries in sub-Sahara Africa and the Indian Ocean Basin, according to the denomination. In 1990, there were only 2.1 million constituents and 12,000 churches.

The Assemblies of God is the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination with somewhere between 57 to 60 million adherents.

Three decades ago, the combined total of Pentecostals and Charismatics was less than 5 percent, now they make up some 17 percent of Africa’s population, or about 147 million people, according to a 2006 Pew Forum study that highlighted the dramatic growth of the movement within half a century.

"Pentecostalism's dramatic expansion has left almost no part of sub-Saharan Africa unaffected," stated the Pew Forum. "If Pentecostal churches continue to grow in numbers and activism, the long-range political impact of Africa's vibrant Pentecostal community will become increasingly difficult to ignore.”

The Pew Forum report on Pentecostalism in Africa was one of three parts that also examined the movement’s growth in Asia and Latin America.

Source: NewtonStein News Network at

Megachurch Weathers Recession; Has Layoff, Stays on Mission

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INDIANA (CCN) - "I know my responsibility. I hate it, but I know it. Yesterday I did one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I eliminated the jobs of several friends," lamented Pastor Mark Beeson. "I cried. I hated every minute of it."

The recession at Granger Community Church in Indiana began in early 2007. As the local community was hit hard by one of the highest unemployment rates, the megachurch had to reluctantly record its first unemployed numbers.

Eight of about 60 staff members were laid off from Granger late January. It was the only time in the church's 22-year history that people were let go, according to Tim Stevens, executive pastor at Granger Community Church.

"In the past couple years, we have cut the budget in every area. No area has gone untouched," Stevens explained to The Christian Post.

"I've lost friends. My own personal assistant who is a dear friend is no longer on staff with me. He may have to move out of the area in order to find employment. That is hard," he said. "Our family has also had to find places to cut expenses as all the salaries at GCC have been frozen for more than two years."

During what is described as the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, congregants were losing jobs and offering plates were coming back less full at Granger Community Church. Revenue decreased from $6.5 million in 2007 to $6.2 million in 2008. In 2006, the church had generated $6.7 million.

Lead Pastor Mark Beeson and his staff had tried everything possible to avoid letting people go. After all, they were all "family" and none of them were failing in their performance.

But the impact of the recession left the Granger leadership team with no choice.

"I’ve heard it suggested (from others and from the voice of temptation in my head) that we should reduce outreach efforts, stop launching new ministries, reign in multi-site evangelism work and stifle innovation," Beeson noted in his blog at that time.

"Some of those tempters have proposed we stop helping other churches and focus on ourselves. These voices call for an inversion of orthodoxy; they recommend we turn our concerns top-side-down, making it our highest priority to keep every paid person on staff, even if it means we have to abandon our mission.

"Not a single person of GCC’s staff would ever want that!"

The church cut $512,000 of staff positions, staff hours and benefits from its budget.

Although a painful decision, Stevens said they had to "face the harsh reality that [they] would be putting the good name of the church at jeopardy if [they] didn’t make some tough changes."

"That meant letting people go out into a climate where jobs are hard to come by," he explained. "We made it as 'comfortable' as possible through great severances and paying extra money for a career transition coach to come along side each person. But it was still very painful. Some of us lost the daily interaction with best friends … some who have been beside us for more than 10 years on staff. I don’t know how to minimize the pain of that – but I do know without a doubt it was the exact right decision."

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going...

Despite the economic challenges, Granger is now stretching its arm farther out to the community – a community in dire need of a helping hand – rather than withdrawing it

Granger's Community Center in downtown South Bend – in the heart of an under-resourced neighborhood – is fully functioning and "has become a difference-making outpost that the entire city is talking about," Stevens commented.

The Monroe Circle Community Center helps at-risk children with tutoring, Bible lessons, games, sports and other activities, and also serves as a pantry and cafe.

"Granger is having a significantly higher impact in our local community than ever before," said Stevens.

And in the midst of a recession, the megachurch just recently went multi-site with the launch of a separate campus in Elkhart in October.

"We could find no better time to offer services in Elkhart than when they are in the greatest need," Stevens noted. "It’s been said that people are most receptive to spiritual input when they are in crisis or transition. A growing percentage of the residents of Elkhart are in both crisis and transition. So we are finding a great community growing at that site."

The campus is a movie theater and offers people a casual environment to get to know Jesus. With hundreds of volunteers, the costs for launching a new location were minimal, according to Stevens.

The now multi-site church hasn't cut back on its creativity either. This weekend Granger is launching a "Sex for Sale: Are You Buying It?" sermon series. The series is being advertised in mailers to 80,000 homes, on billboards and in 186 radio spots to draw people from the community and show them the love of Jesus ("Sex for Sale" is one of only two sermon series Granger is spending advertising dollars on this year as part of its budget cuts).

Granger had made headlines three years ago when it first tackled the issue of sex and ran "" billboards.

"There are a few issues (parenting, marriage, money and sex) which bear tackling over and over again," said Stevens, who is a sought-after speaker on innovation. "Those are the issues people are dealing with day after day, and so it is in those areas where people are most open to spiritual issues. We help people with those issues because, in doing so, they also experience the love of Christ."

Although the decreasing revenue and smaller budgets may seem like a setback for Granger, Stevens believes the recession can provide the church an opportunity for greater growth and impact.

"The greatest innovation, creativity and idea-generation comes when resources are limited and times are tough," he said. "Christians throughout history have been in dire circumstances and terrible persecution and made huge strides for the kingdom in their cultures.

We could throw away the building and stop paying all salaries tomorrow, and there would still be thousands of Christ-followers in Granger who would continue to love people, meet needs and introduce our community to Jesus."

Source: NewtonStein News Network at

Thank You President George W. Bush (Christianity heats up in Iraq!)

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IRAQ (CCN) - A new survey found that about 5.3 million Iraqis, or about 20 percent of the population, watch the Christian satellite programs on SAT-7 regularly, the ministry reported Friday.

It is safe to say that most of SAT-7’s viewers are Muslims. According to the CIA World Factbook, 97 percent of Iraq’s population is Muslim (Shia 60-65 percent, Sunni 32-37 percent).

Iraq’s Christian community, however is growing, is approaching 1,000,000, about 4%.

Data collected in the recent nationwide study conducted by Intermedia, an independent audience research firm, found that 97 percent of Iraqis have access to satellite television, and 18.8 percent watch SAT-7. The study also found that 2.6 million are watching on a regular daily basis.

SAT-7 is a Christian television ministry created by and for the people of the Middle East and North Africa. Its mission is to make Christ’s message of hope available to every home in the Middle East.

Each week, between nine and ten million people tune into the network, whose programs are broadcasted in three languages – Arabic, Farsi and Turkish.

The study by Intermedia found that SAT-7 is only 1.7 percentage points behind BBC Arabic in the number of people aware of the channel.

“It’s quite amazing when you consider that BBC Arabic has an annual budget of 25 million British pounds,” says SAT-7 CEO Terence Ascott. “A year ago when the BBC channel launched, that amount was worth about 50 million dollars. SAT-7’s total budget, split among three channels in 2008, was only 13 million dollars. Talk about value for your money!”

In addition to effective use of funds, SAT-7 says it is also glad that it can provide desperately needed support to the struggling Christian community in Iraq.

“Iraqi Christians have really suffered in recent years and many have fled the country,” says David Harder, SAT-7’s communications manager. “Iraqis often call and text us asking for prayer. Fortunately, through our programs, SAT-7’s Arabic producers and hosts can show God’s love and offer encouragement.”

Though SAT-7 has for years been aware of its impact in Iraq from the responses they receive, the recent study has confirmed to the ministry just how far they are reaching.

“Now we know that literally millions of Iraqis, Christian and non-Christian, are watching the broadcasts,” Harder said.

Established in November 1995, SAT-7 aired its first broadcast in May 1996. Aside from strengthening believers, the satellite TV ministry has been working to present a more accurate image of Christianity in the Arab world, where people often associate Christians with negative images from the Western world.

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