Saturday, April 22, 2006

Boom in African Christianity Spills over to America: The Redeemed Christian Church of God was founded in Lagos, Nigeria by men and women who were once the target of missionary work themselves, according to an Associated Press report. Now, Redeemed Church has become one of the most aggressive evangelizers to emerge from the advance of Christianity across Africa. Jacob Olupona, a professor at the University of California-Davis, has found hundreds of examples in cities large and small. "Anyone who writes about Christianity in America in the 21st century," Olupona said, "will have to write about African churches." Over the last century, Christians in Nigeria have swelled from a tiny minority to nearly half the population, and Nigerian pastors have shown an exceptional talent for winning believers abroad. In the U.S., the Redeemed Church has opened more than 200 parishes in just over a decade, and is training pastors of all ethnicities to reach beyond the church's base in the African immigrant community. One of its largest congregations, Victory Temple in Bowie, Md., claims 2,000 members. Fifty miles north of Dallas, the church is building a multimillion-dollar national headquarters and conference complex on more than 600 acres of farm land. The Redeemed Church is Pentecostal and, through evangelism, has become the fastest-growing wing of Christianity worldwide.
Survey Reveals Significant Growth in Born Again Population: In The Barna Group's latest study, in which 1003 lower-48 American adults were interviewed, the proportion of adults who can be classified as "born again Christians" based upon their beliefs was the highest ever measured in the quarter century that Barna has been tracking that measure. The new research found that 45% of all adults meet the criteria that The Barna Group uses to classify people as "born again." That number is up from 31% in 1983. The increase is largely attributable to a 16-point rise among Baby Boomers since the beginning of the 1990s. With 53% of Boomers currently meeting the born again criteria used by The Barna Group, that generation has now surpassed the percentage of born again adults within the preceding pair of generations. Slightly more than one-third of the younger generations - the Baby Busters and Mosaics - fit the criteria. Other demographic comparisons: women are 16% more likely than men to be born again; African-Americans are the ethnic group most likely to be born again (59%); Hispanics the least likely (32%). The South is 57% born again, while the West (33%) and Northeast (37%) have fewer born again Christians.
Study Suggests Weekly Worship May Add 2-3 Years to Life: Could weekly religious attendance extend your life as much as regular exercise? The Washington Post reports that's one way to view new research by University of Pittsburgh physician Daniel Hall, who also happens to be an Episcopal priest. The study compares numbers from life expectancy tables and mortality studies to suggest that weekly worship may add 2-3 years to life, versus 3-5 years for regular exercise and 2.5-3.5 years for cholesterol-lowering drugs. Hall even compares the costs/benefits of tithing, gym membership and cholesterol medications. The study is not without its critics. Tom Denberg of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center said the study does not account for other behaviors - such as religious people being less likely to be smokers - that may explain churchgoers' relative longevity. Denberg went on to label the study "part of a larger, troubling movement in American society to enhance the scientific credibility of [religious] concepts."
Open Doors Urges Participation In North Korea Freedom Week: During North Korea Freedom Week April 22-30, Open Doors USA is partnering with North Korea Freedom Coalition members to focus on atrocities and raise up prayers. For Soon Ok Lee, a Christian survivor of political prison camps and author of "Eyes of the Tailless Animals," North Korea is the world's No. 1 "Evil Empire." Lee still bears physical scars from her prison camp experience where: "According to North Korean law... a criminal's seed must be scorched up to its third generation, [so] they abort the baby. If somehow the baby survives and is born, they strangle the baby by stepping on them in front of its own mother. I also witnessed many human experiments. They said it was pointless to test weapons and chemicals on animals because they were created to target their enemies - other human beings. I also saw many Christians in the camp... they were stepped on until death. If they didn't deny God, they were often times burned to death from boiling hot liquid metal. And these weren't rare sights for me. Because I went through many physical tortures... the right side of my face is still a little distorted, the left half of my mouth is crooked and the whole left half of my teeth were crushed. I live with a lot of physical pain on my body and it's difficult to get through each day. But there are still many people going through tortures and human experiments even at this very moment." Lee says we as Christians need to speak out about these abuses. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) adds: "In North Korea, we hear reports of religious believers being tortured, imprisoned and even executed for their beliefs."

April 2-9 is the Week of Prayer and Action for Darfur, reports Family News in Focus. Gloria White-Hammond is with the Save Darfur Coalition. "The history of genocide reveals that for the most part, genocides were not stopped, they petered-out and it's not been the case that people have stood up and intervened to actually stop that action. We're inviting communities of all faiths to participate and certainly looking for people to come together in whatever venue; in their prayer meetings, their phone prayers, but to pray that God's will would be done in Darfur." As part in the Million Voices for Darfur campaign, Richard Cizik with the National Association of Evangelicals is hoping President Bush will get one-million post cards asking him to make peace in Darfur a priority. You can send a postcard to President Bush through The postcards will be delivered to Washington D.C. during the "Save Darfur Rally to Stop Genocide" on April 30th.