This week's edition of "The 3" features 2 famous Christian speakers, who have shown up this week in parts of the world where you would not expect such a speaker to have a broad audience - but they drew sizable in-person crowds and more via television or Internet. Also, the body of Christ was responsive - again - in the midst of a major tragedy, and Christian organizations were quick and effective. And, the top story involves the Boy Scouts of America, whose national council voted to remove the prohibition on openly gay members, which provides quite a quandary for the tens of thousands of churches that host Scout troops.
3 - Major international crusades in unlikely places - Michael Youssef, Nick Vujicic
Two high-profile Christian speakers have been leading special meetings in two improbable nations of the world, with significant results. Michael Youssef, Pastor of Atlanta's Church of the Apostles and speaker on the "Leading the Way" broadcast, recently concluded a 3-day meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, a nation that has the largest Muslim population in the world, but where thousands of people gathered each night to hear a message of hope and truth through Jesus Christ. According to the Leading the Way website, the meetings were held in a 15,000-seat arena and broadcast to millions via broadcast and online media—impacting untold numbers with the hope of the Gospel.
The first night's message was on the value of a soul, and after the message, hundreds came forward to accept Christ. The second day, Dr. Youssef and his son Jonathan ministered at a local church for Iranian refugees. Each of them has come to Indonesia as a half-way point on their journey to free countries like Australia or the United States. They wait as the government of Indonesia and the United Nations process their paperwork. Most have been in Indonesia for up to two years, and they have at least another year to wait. In the meantime, it is illegal for them to work in Indonesia, so they wait in very difficult circumstances.
On the second night, Dr. Youssef brought a message on God's passionate, pursuing, and sacrificial love - again, hundreds responded to the invitation. On night #3, he preached about Jesus Christ, the Pearl of great price, and how salvation in Christ surpasses the value of any earthly treasure.
The meetings drew crowds into the Istora stadium arena, and the event was broadcast to Indonesia on IndoVision's LIFE channel and around the world on THE KINGDOM SAT.
In addition, Dr. Youssef had been working with local pastors and ministry leaders to train them to take this message to all of Indonesia because he believes a three-day evangelistic campaign is not enough in the face of mounting challenges to the Christian faith in Indonesia.
Meanwhile, another well-known Christian speaker has ministered recently in Vietnam, a country that is governed by a communist regime that is considered to be quite restrictive on religion - Nick Vujicic, according to the Christian Post, spoke to a significant crowd in a soccer stadium this past Thursday.
Nguyen Dat An, who helped organize Vujicic's visit, said he was surprised the state broadcaster didn't cut off the speech altogether after Vujicic's comments about his faith.
"This was a miracle in Vietnam," An told the Associated Press. "God is the general director of this event."
Approximately 25,000 people, including the nation's vice president, flooded My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi to hear Vujicic speak, and millions watched the event at home. His speech was primarily motivational, addressing topics like respect for family, the need for forgiveness, and his stance against drinking and bullying.
However, the Australian-born speaker who was born without arms or legs did talk about his relationship with God.
"Do you know why I love God?" Vujicic asked a girl on stage who was also born without arms and legs, according to AP. "Because heaven is real. And one day, when we get to heaven, we are going to have arms and legs. And we are going to run, and we are going play, and we are going to race."
Nick is quoted as saying, "We are a unique ministry. We can go on national TV where other Christians cannot...Of course, in Vietnam there are limitations in how you can and can't talk about your faith, but with wisdom we come in. Some places we go we have to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves."
2 - Ministry organizations respond quickly to devastating storm in Oklahoma
On Monday afternoon, a massive, powerful, EF-5 tornado rumbled through Moore, Oklahoma and surrounding areas, killing two dozen and leaving a path of destruction in it wake. 7 of the victims were at the Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was essentially leveled by the storm.
As NBC's Brian Williams is quoted as saying, the "faith-based FEMA" moved in almost immediately - you see, in times of crisis, Christians ask the right questions about how they can help, and ministry organizations move rapidly into adversely affected areas. As WORLD Magazine's website reports, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma immediately deployed more than 100 volunteers to the disaster site to assess damage and begin setting up relief centers. The relief efforts include mobile kitchens and teams to help with debris removal and clean up work. The group began to work with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army to distribute supplies and direct homeless victims to emergency shelters. Locations for emergency housing included a number of local churches and Oklahoma Baptist University.
Samaritan’s Purse was already in the region, responding to tornado damage recently in Texas. The group deployed two more teams to Oklahoma on Tuesday morning, and said it would accept applications for volunteers to help with debris clean-up, chainsaw work, and roof tarping. They worked in tandem with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team in order to offer physical and spiritual support in the aftermath.
A variety of local churches became involved, and a national ministry based in Oklahoma City, Feed the Children, was actively working to provide relief. The ministry of Convoy of Hope also had a strong presence in the region. Numerous ministries were able to provide an outlet for people to get involved financially in helping the victims of the storms.
1 - Boy Scouts national council votes to allow openly gay members, mass exodus predicted
As the result of a vote by the national council of the Boy Scouts of America, the youth organization will be changing its policy and begin allowing openly gay members as of January 1, 2014. It will continue to maintain its policy prohibiting openly gay adult leaders.
More than 60 percent of BSA national council members passed a resolution that states: No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” The 1,400-member council voted in Grapevine, Texas.
According to a report on the CitizenLink website, John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor,Net, said, “It is with great sadness and deep disappointment that we recognize on this day that the most influential youth program in America has turned a tragic corner...(Allowing) open and avowed homosexuality into Scouting will completely transform it into an unprincipled and risky proposition for parents. It is truly a sad day for Scouting.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) created a petition in March asking people to urge the BSA to “uphold the values that have defined the organization for over 100 years.”. ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman is quoted as saying, “Sadly, the Boy Scouts Executive National Council’s decision disregards not only the nearly 19,000 Americans who signed the petition…but also the millions of Americans who have supported the program...Those promoting the agenda to change what the Boy Scouts have always been won’t rest until there is complete acceptance of any sexual preference for both leaders and members.”
Faith-based organizations host more than 70,000 of the 116,000 local units. According to WORLD's Warren Smith, before the vote, the Boy Scouts estimated that as many as 400,000 Scouts and Scouters would leave the organization if the resolution passed. The BSA membership is now made up of more than 2.6 million, with more than 1 million adult leaders and volunteers.
And the groundwork could be laid for what is anticipated to be a mass exodus at a meeting next month. Stemberger said, “I am pleased to announce that OnMyHonor.Net along with other likeminded organizations, parents and BSA members, are announcing a coalition meeting that will take place next month in Louisville, Kentucky...There we will discuss the creation of a new character development organization for boys.”
Though the meeting will be private, Stemberger is encouraging people to email him with ideas or comments at Contact@OnMyHonor.Net.
“Your voice is very important to us and will be represented there,” he explained. “We will host and facilitate a national coalition meeting of former BSA parents and other youth leaders who wish to return to truly timeless values that once made the BSA great.”
Could it be that a new alternative organization will arise that will mirror the timeless values of the Boy Scouts? Or could existing youth programs, such as Royal Ambassdors, Awana, or other programs oriented toward youth or children add to their ranks and fulfill the role that Scouting has assumed for over 100 years?
This new direction of Scouting can only serve to encourage behavior that many find objectionable. Boys and their parents who are uncomfortable with this direction will be looking for a character- and friendship-based organization that is consistent with their values.