Tuesday, April 22, 2008

God at Work - Canada, Korea

One of the exciting aspects of The Meeting House radio program is to trace the hand of God at work around the world. I recently had the chance to sit down with two church leaders from two totally different parts of the world, as they shared the evidence of God's presence in their respective ministries.

Rick Lamothe serves as Lead Pastor of Sequoia Community Church in Ottawa, Canada, and has a vision for an Eastern Canada Ministry Centre that is designed to reach what is regarded as the largest unreached people group in North America, a corridor in Eastern Canada, to which Ottawa, Canada's capital city, is a key gateway. In a recent Meeting House conversation, he described the mindset of Canadian culture:


To learn more about being involved in this vital ministry, you can go to www.sequoiachurch.org or contact Montgomery's First Baptist Church at www.montgomeryfbc.org.

Dr. John Hong serves at Seoul Theological University, and was part of a group of some 2 dozen South Korean church leaders and their spouses, who are currently touring a number of churches across America. Their stop included Montgomery's Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church, and Dr. Hong, along with OMS International's President Emeritus Dr. J.B. Crouse, sat down with me for a conversation. I asked Dr. Hong to describe the work of the university there.


Stops on their American tour include Perimeter Church in Atlanta, Saddleback Church in California, Briarwood Presbyterian and Frazer Methodist in Alabama, Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, plus Willow Creek Community Church and Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. To learn more about the work of OMS, go to www.omsinternational.org.

Pastor Rick Lamothe has a bright future, as he is determined to share passionate Christianity in an innovative way. Dr. John Hong can celebrate a rich history of God at work in his nation, as this group of pastors gains information and inspiration to move forward in faith. We can be motivated in our service to Christ as we hear stories of how He is moving!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Screens of Society (River Region's Journey ~ April 2008)

One of the things that I try to do with The Meeting House radio program and with my column in "River Region's Journey" magazine is to try to apply a Christian worldview perspective to cultural instances and trends. I was challenged by the recent Oscar awards to think about the nihilism that permeates society and potentially can negatively impact our minds. This was my submission for April's edition of the mag:

The images that penetrate our brains on a systematic basis can provide the building blocks for our worldview. I imagine that is why the movie theater has been described as the sanctuary for today’s culture. And the moviemakers are the ones who have the story to tell – with the endgame apparently being one of hopelessness and despair. Such was the case in the recent Academy Awards ceremony, as the Best Picture award went to the movie “No Country for Old Men”, which could be characterized as vile and violent, with little or no redemptive message. But, according to Dallas Jenkins, a filmmaker whose father is novelist Jerry Jenkins, this is generally the mindset of Hollywood – and he cites films such as his most recent, “Midnight Clear”, as a movie that shows real people in real situations, but also offers a theme of hope and redemption. In a recent interview on The Meeting House on Faith Radio, accessible at www.meetinghouseonline.info/download, he said that basically all the Best Picture nominees, with the exception of “Juno”, had a dark premise and a lack of a positive message. “Juno”, interestingly enough, was the best box office performer of all the nominees, featuring a look at some of the real consequences of teen pregnancy, not glorifying births outside of marriage, but dealing with some hard truths, but apparently, things turn out alright in the end.

The allure of the big screen…

And isn’t that why we used to go to movies, not only to be absorbed in the characters, but also to be uplifted in our lives? A trip to the theater can affect us in so many ways, and while life is not always full of happy endings, it does the soul good to not feel like taking an emotional shower when you leave the theater. But, as Dallas pointed out, the people voting on the Oscars are part of the Hollywood subculture, and become disconnected from the real consumers…this explains why some of the big box-office draws (such as, “Ratatouille”) didn’t come home with the awards. Furthermore, the big screen of the cineplex can reflect to the small screen of our heart, and that can have some dire implications on our culture as a whole.

…and the argument about a smaller screen…

Now on to a screen of a different size – a smaller screen, but highly significant. The second highest rated television program of all time was shown in homes and sports bars recently – but not many churches. Churches have seized an outreach opportunity by using a Super Bowl party to attract people to come into their buildings and perhaps hear the gospel. Resources have typically been made available as a tool to effectively share the gospel at an opportune moment before or during halftime of the game. Last year, it came to light that the National Football League had a policy that churches who hosted or sponsored viewings of the Super Bowl broadcasts on large-screen televisions infringed on the league’s copyright of the broadcast. NFL attorneys had reportedly warned officials at Falls Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis against hosting a “Super Bowl Bash” to which church members and guests were invited to watch the game on a wall projector at the church.

According to media reports, NFL officials sent the church’s pastor John Newland a letter demanding that the party be cancelled. They objected to the church’s plan to charge partygoers a fee to attend, the use of the words “Super Bowl” in its promotions, the church’s plan to use a projector to show the game on a 12-foot-wide screen, and the church’s plan to show a video in conjunction with the game highlighting the Christian testimonies of coaches Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith. According to the legal organization The Rutherford Institute, which spoke out strongly against the NFL’s policy, a league spokesman defended the league’s actions, pointing to its longstanding policy against “mass out-of-home viewings” of the Super Bowl, even if they don’t charge admission, and requirement that hosts of parties only use one TV no bigger than 55 inches.

Well, the good news is that the NFL has revised its policy. In a Feb. 19 letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated that the league will not object to live showings of the Super Bowl by religious organizations, regardless of screen size, as long as the viewings are free and are on premises that the church uses on a routine and customary basis. The NFL intends to implement the policy starting with next year’s Super Bowl. It’s good to know that there are organizations that speak out for our religious liberties, and in this instance, the voice of the people of faith was heard and heeded.

It’s important that Christians are strong and courageous, and allowing God’s word to show on the screen of our hearts so that we can be resolute in being an influence in the culture.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Idol" Gives A Lot to Think About - UPDATED

I have to admit, to me, the finish to "Idol Gives Back" last night was absolutely incredible.

Yes, it stung that the name of Jesus was edited out of the first line of "Shout to the Lord", but I don't think that changes the meaning of the song to embrace some sort of Oprah-type generic religion. And (in the words of Randy Jackson), CHECK IT OUT - the final 3 songs: a rather thought-provoking song by Daughtry (Christian radio artist), then Mariah Carey's song where Jesus did show up - I read the lyrics online last night...that could be a song used as a special in many churches in America. (Don't make too much out of Mariah doing a gospel song - "Fly Like a Bird" appears on the album, "The Emancipation of Mimi", which also includes "Stay the Night", which definitely does not present the same worldview, to say the least.). And, finally, "Shout to the Lord"!! Sure beats some generic, so-called inspirational song like "We are the World".

With regard to the choice of "Shout to the Lord" and the editing of the name of Jesus to "shepherd", I think we have to realize that the job description of the world is not to evangelize - that's our job...and we as Christians have been given a great opportunity to talk about the "Idol" show and perhaps get someone thinking about spiritual things and a relationship with Christ.

Now, the Ben Stiller piece at the very end did take some of the shine off...quite inappropriate. And, as the father of a BIG Miley Cyrus fan, I thought her second performance was a bit edgy, to the point of being suggestive in places. Miley has a tremendous platform, and needs our prayers.

Bob Kauflin, who serves as Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries appeared recently on The Meeting House program on Faith Radio and shared some of his thoughts...


That complete interview on worship can be downloaded at www.meetinghouseonline.info/download. Bob has written a book called, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God. You can also read his blog at www.worshipmatters.com.

Want to see the "Shout to the Lord" finale?

How about Jason Castro singing at his home church in Rockwall, Texas?

That's all for now...I think it's Carly or Syesha getting the sendoff tonight.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Greatest Story Ever Told...Keeps Getting Told

One of the exciting aspects of hosting The Meeting House radio program on Faith Broadcasting each weekday afternoon is to trace the hand of God at work around the world. One of my consistently intriguing guests brought back a first-hand report of observing the growth of the church in the nation of Iraq, plus on the blog site of a ministry he founded, he showed how people are coming to Christ in phenomenal numbers across the Middle East.

Joel Rosenberg is an author of nail-biting, page-turning fiction that it set in the future and revolves around Biblical prophecy. His titles include, The Last Jihad, The Ezekiel Option, and his latest, Dead Heat. He is the Founder and President of The Joshua Fund, which is designed to minister in Israel and the Middle East. You can go the the blog site at joshuafund.blogspot.com and read the March 23 (Easter Sunday) entry and prepared to be inspired. Here are some of staggering and inspiring statistics, according to the Joshua Fund blog:

Afghanistan. In that nation, there were only 17 known evangelical Christians in the country before al-Qaeda attacked the United States. Today, there are well over 10,000 Afghan followers of Christ and the number is growing steadily. Church leaders say Afghan Muslims are open to hearing the gospel message like never

Uzbekistan. There were no known Muslim converts to Christ there in 1990. Now there are more than 30,000.

Iraq. There were only a handful of Muslim converts to Christianity back in 1979 when Saddam Hussein took full control of that country. Yet today, there are more than 70,000 Iraqi Muslim background believers in Jesus (MBBs), approximately 50,000 who came to Christ as refugees in Jordan after the first Gulf War in 1990-91, and another 20,000 who have come to Christ since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Kazakhstan. In Kazakhstan, there were only three known evangelical Christian believers before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Today there are more than 15,000 Kazakh Christians, and more than 100,000 Christians of all ethnicities.

Egypt. More than 1 million Egyptians have trusted Christ over the past decade or so, report Egyptian church leaders. The Egyptian Bible Society report that they used to sell about 3,000 copies of the Jesus film a year in the early 1990s. But in 2005 they sold 600,000 copies, plus 750,000 copies of the Bible on tape (in Arabic) and about a half million copies of the Arabic New Testament.

Iran. In 1979 when the Ayatollah Khomeini led the Islamic Revolution, there were only about 500 known Muslim converts to Christianity. Today, interviews with two dozen Iranian pastors and church leaders reveals that there are well over 1 million Shia Muslim converts to Christianity.

Sudan. According to church leaders, more than 1 million Sudanese have made decisions to follow Jesus Christ just since 2001. Since the early 1990s, more than 5 million Sudanese have become followers of Jesus.
Joel Rosenberg's website is http://www.joelrosenberg.com/ and the Joshua Fund site is http://www.joshuafund.net/.