Thursday, January 27, 2011

States Ranking Based on Pro-Life Laws

Oklahoma is at the top of the list for protecting life in the law, according to the sixth annual "Life List" from Americans United for Life. The AUL ranks states based on the way each deals with a comprehensive list of life issues from physician-assisted suicide to abortion. Rounding out the top five are Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Texas. At the bottom of the list are New Jersey, Vermont, Hawaii, California and Washington State. To view the entire list, click here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Vermont Allows a John 3:16 Plate

Shawn Byrne has been in legal dispute for many years with the state of Vermont, fighting for the right to display a reference to one of the Bible's most famous passages on a vanity license plate, John 3:16. The state won't ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court decision that said Byrne must be given the license plate "JN36TN." In the settlement, the state also agreed to pay Byrne's $150,000 legal fees and allow other Vermonters to have religious-themed license plates. []

Ten most searched for verses of Scripture

In descending order below are the 10 most commonly searched for verses of Scripture according to Bible Gateway.

10.) Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
9.) Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
8.) Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
7.) Proverbs 3:6: “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
6.) Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
5.) Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
4.) Philippians 4:13: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
3.) Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
2.) Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
1.) John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Most Admired Men and Women of 2010

A recent USA Today/Gallup poll asked 1,019 adults, "What man that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most? And who is your second choice?" They were then asked about their most admired woman. The top 10 most admired men were:
  1. Barack Obama (22%)
  2. George W. Bush (5%)
  3. Bill Clinton (4%)
  4. Nelson Mandela (2%)
  5. Bill Gates (2%)
  6. (tie) Rev. Billy Graham (2%)
  7. (tie) Pope Benedict XVI (2%)
  8. (tie) Jimmy Carter (2%)
  9. (tie) Glenn Beck (2%)
  10. The Dalai Lama (1%)
The most admired women were:
  1. Hillary Clinton (17%)
  2. Sarah Palin (12%)
  3. Oprah Winfrey (11%)
  4. Michelle Obama (5%)
  5. Condoleezza Rice (2%)
  6. Queen Elizabeth (2%)
  7. Angelina Jolie (1%)
  8. Margaret Thatcher (1%)
  9. (tie) Aung San Suu Kyi (1%)
  10. (tie) Laura Bush (1%)
  11. (tie) Barbara Bush (1%)
This year marks Billy Graham's 54th appearance in the top 10, nearly double the number of appearances of Ronald Reagan, who has the second-most top 10s, at 31. For the complete report go to

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Religious Makeup of Congress

While the 2010 midterm elections did give the Republicans control of the U.S. House of Representatives, it had little effect on the religious composition of Congress, which continues to be similar to the previous Congress and to the general population as well. 

An analysis by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life® shows that the current Congress, and also the nation, is over 50 percent Protestant, and about 25 percent Catholic. For example, of the 535 members of Congress, 56.8 percent (304) are Protestant, and 51.3 percent of all American adults are Protestant. The 156 members who are Catholic represent 29.2 percent of Congress, while 23.9 percent of the general population are Catholic. Of the 304 members who are protestant, 231 fall within just five general groupings, those being Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican/Episcopal and Lutheran.
The report also pointed out that in a few cases, the religious composition of Congress did not match the makeup of the general population. For example:
  • Only 1.5 percent of Americans are Anglican/Episcopal while 7.7 percent of the members of Congress are part of that faith.
  • There are no members of Congress who are Pentecostal while 4.4 percent of the population are part of the Pentecostal tradition.
  • Jewish members of Congress count for 7.3 percent of the members while only 1.7 percent of Americans are Jewish.
  • While there are no members of Congress who describe their religion as unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic or "nothing in particular"), about one-sixth of U.S. adults (16%) report they are not affiliated with any particular faith.
For the complete report go to The Pew Forum.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Breaking the 100 Barrier - by Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan shared the following (below) on his blog the other day.  I think the statements he makes about barriers to churches trying to break 100 are pretty reliable.  What do you think?

Breaking the 100 Barrier - By Tony Morgan

I’ve had an intriguing email exchange today with a pastor of a small church here in the Southeast. He’s been in his position for less than two years, and he’s leading his church through a transition. They’re just beginning to break the 100 barrier. Here are a handful of take aways from his experiences:

* It’s impossible to grow a church beyond 100 people if there’s one person who makes all the decisions and calls all the shots.
* When one person controls the ministry, it denies God’s plan to equip God’s people to do his work. Healthy growth doesn’t happen outside of God’s design. See Ephesians 4:11-13.
* Many times people have to leave before the church can become healthy and experience growth.
* Many times the people who leave make little if any financial impact with their departure. In other words, your most vocal antagonists in many cases are giving very little to the church.
* It’s difficult to build momentum with regular transitions in leadership.
* Growth in churches is more about relationships than anything else. This church doesn’t even have a website at this point.

Those are some learnings from this pastor’s experiences. What are yours? As the pastor of a smaller church, what were some of the keys to breaking through those growth barriers?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mission Shift pt. 1 - Stetzer and Hesselgrave

A while back Ed Stetzer invited a group of us to read and review a book he helped co-edit called Missionshift (David J. Hesselgrave was the other editor).  If you aren't familiar with Ed, he works for Lifeway Research and he is one of the leading experts on missiology.  Ed is crazy smart, hates germs, and loves Jesus very deeply.

Having never heard of Missionshift, but knowing Ed, I said I was willing to join in and see where the book may take me.  I was given a free copy of the book, but am not paid or influenced in any way.

The book is based in 3 main essays with responses from some of the "big hitter" thinkers in evangelical missions.  The first essay was written by Charles Van Engen, and he was tasked with defining and describing "mission".  I found his history and thoughts about how the definition of "mission" to be helpful.  I'm one of those guys who is supportive of missions without having put a lot of thought into what that means.  Probably the ideal reader for the chapter.  It challenged me to evaluate what my thinking on "missions" really is, and caused me to wonder (and see) where some of the underlying assumptions I have, but haven't thought about, came from, and where they are leading me today.

Along with Van Engen's essay, we were given a separate set of thoughts on Van Engen's essay written by David J. Hesselgrave.  Hesselgrave's thoughts are available to view on Ed Stezter's blog if you'd like to reference them at any time.  Suffice it to say that I agree with Hesselgrave and his assessment of Van Engen's essay.  Because of that, I'll interact more with Van Engren's essay below.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Christians in New York City Pull Together

Christians in New York City are rallying against a proposed bill which discriminates against Pregnancy Resource Centers that will be considered next month at a city council meeting.

The NYC health department recently revealed that in 2009, 41 percent of pregnancies in the city ended in abortion. Statistics also show that among all the ethnic groups in the city, blacks have the highest abortion rate (60%), Hispanics have the second highest (41.3%), Asians (22.7) and Whites at 20.4 percent.

Christian pastors and black pro-life leaders held a rally on Monday night protesting the bill. The event drew pastors and Christians from NYC and New Jersey. Pro-life activist Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke against the bill at the rally and highlighted the targeting of the black community for abortion.

The legislation — Bill 371 — would require PRC's to post notices on their doors, websites and advertisements, stating that they do not provide abortions or contraception, and to disclose when a medical provider is not available at the center. Abortion clinics are not require to disclose any of the side effects of abortion. []

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Senate Investigation Report on "Prosperity Preachers"

A report prepared for the U.S. Senate Finance Committee released last week, wraps up a three-year inquiry into the operations of six ministries that many say preach what is called a "prosperity gospel" message.

In 2007, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote to six televangelist ministries requesting information about their operations. Of the six ministries, only two, Joyce Meyer Ministries and Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church, provided answers to all the questions. Three ministries, Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church; Bishop Eddie Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church/Eddie L. Long Ministries; and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, provided incomplete information. World Changers Church, which is led by Rev. Creflo Dollar and Taffi Dollar, was called the "least cooperative." To date, the review said, the committee staff has been unable to determine the names of the ministry's board members or any information regarding compensation.

"We didn't evaluate each ministry for findings of wrongdoing, as we're not an enforcement agency," said Jill Gerber, Grassley's press secretary. "Instead, we found the basis for a serious stakeholder discussion of tax policy issues that would affect ministries and churches, such as whether the parsonage tax allowance should be limited for those who have multiple mansions and lake houses, tax-free."

In response to the Grassley report, The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, an independent accrediting group for churches and religious nonprofits, plans to create a national commission to lead a review of financial operations and accountability within churches and nonprofits. Grassley's staff also recommended that the IRS sponsor an advisory committee comprised of representatives of churches and religious organizations to facilitate an ongoing dialogue with the IRS. []

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Abortion and Race

Whatever the intent of the abortion industry may be, by functional standards, abortion is a racist institution. In the United States, black children are aborted at 5 times the rate as white children and Hispanic children don't fare much better.

Abortion, by the numbers, is a racist institution. That's not to say that all or even most of those who support abortion are racists. Nor does it imply that there are no racists among those who oppose abortion. This statement has nothing to do with agendas or intent. It has everything to do with the simple, undeniable reality that in the United States, abortion kills minority children at more than 3 times the rate of non-Hispanic, white children. The rate is even worse for black children. The Reverend Clenard H. Childress calls this phenomenon "black genocide", and has built a national ministry around the exposure of what he calls "the greatest deception [to] plague the black church since Lucifer himself". Alveda C. King, daughter of slain civil-rights leader A.D. King and niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., quotes her uncle often when outlining her opposition of abortion. She writes:
[Martin Luther King, Jr.] once said, “The Negro cannot win as long as he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for comfort and safety.” How can the “Dream” survive if we murder the children? Every aborted baby is like a slave in the womb of his or her mother. The mother decides his or her fate.1
Lest you feel these claims are an exaggeration, consider the numbers. According to the most recent census data available for race (2000), black women make up 12.3% of the female population in America2, but accounted for 36.4% of all U.S. abortions in 20063 – that according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The Guttmacher Institute (AGI) puts the percentage of black abortions at 30% of the U.S. total4. Their most recent numbers are from 2008. Similarly, AGI tells us that Hispanic women5 accounted for 25% of all U.S. abortions in 20086, though they made up just 12.5% of the female population in 20007. The CDC lists the percentage of Hispanic abortions in 2006 at 20.1%8. Compare those numbers to non-Hispanic, white women, who make up 69% of America's female population9, but account for only 36% of all U.S. abortions10 (36.1% according to the CDC11).

Continue reading here.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

First Congregational Church of Waseca - Online Presence in 2010

I created the following report for my church summarizing our online footprint in 2010.  Considering that 3 years ago when I arrived at the church that we didn't even have a web page, I think we've come a long, long ways!

Online Presence in 2010

Many weeks Pastor Chris reminds the church that you can visit to view, read, listen to and download sermons, as well as keep up to date with the ongoing events in our church. This is one of the newest ministries of our church, and is the fastest growing one in 2010. Some statistic below then a brief summary of what they mean. web site in 2010:
9,782 visits – 26.8 visits per day
24,597 page views – 2.51 page views per visit
7,667 unique visitors from 136 different countries (USA 78% of visits)
69% of visitors from search engines (5 out of 6 search engine visitors from
16% of visitors from referring site (Pastor’s blog, Facebook & Twitter are the primary sources)
15% of visitors from direct traffic (People who have it bookmarked in their browser)
151 visits via mobile devices (Primarily smart phones, but iPods/iPads too)
(The above does not factor in other RSS traffic) web site from May-December 2010:
3684 visits
5,397 page views
Registration page viewed 96 times.
(Unfortunately a good sized chunk of the visits were people looking to learn about Baobab Trees.)

Sermon Videos were viewed online 1,073 times.
Sermon Audio was listened to online 1080 times.

What does this all mean?
First, it means there are a lot of people checking us out online. It also means there are a lot of people keeping up online when they miss a week. More than 40 times on average in a given week someone listens to or views our sermon online. While it is difficult to determine what kind of Kingdom impact that is creating, it is clear that people are interested in using this resource and that the use of it is steadily increasing. Considering that we only started making our sermon Audio/Video available in November of 2009, that is a pretty remarkable rate of growth for a small church in a small town. It tells us our influence as a church is growing, and is not limited by the seats in our sanctuary. We must pray and continue to work so that some of those online visits become real life visits to join us in worshipping on a Sunday morning.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

AP's Top 10 News Stories of 2010

Last weekend, The Associated Press revealed the top ten news stories of 2010, as voted by editors and news directors of the nation's news organizations. The list is:
  1. Gulf oil disaster — Eleven workers were killed and 170 million gallons of oil spilled.
  2. Health care overhaul — $1 trillion health care overhaul intended to expand coverage to more Americans.
  3. Midterm elections — Republicans took control of the House and added seats in the Senate.
  4. U.S. economy — Economists say the recession is over, the stock market bounced back, unemployment remains above 9 percent.
  5. Haiti earthquake — The Jan. 12 quake left 230,000 dead and millions homeless.
  6. Tea Party movement — Had a profound impact on the elections.
  7. Chile mine rescue — A collapsed mine on August 5 kept 33 miners underground for 69 days.
  8. Iraq — After seven years, U.S. forces formally ended their combat role and looked ahead to planned withdrawal.
  9. WikiLeaks — Classified U.S. military and State Department documents leaked to public.
  10. Afghanistan — Troop surge to turn the tide of the nearly 10-year war.
A separate list by WORLD Magazine's editors did not include The Tea Party or the Chile mine rescue, but did include Iceland's volcano and Technology. Both lists rated the stories differently. [, The Associated Press]