Sunday, December 08, 2013

The 3 - December 8, 2013

It's time for another edition of my weekly listing of top stories impacting the Christian community, including information, links, and commentary.  I call it "The 3", including 3 stories of relevance.   This week, one item involves action before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding health care - the justices decided not to hear an appeal in a case involving Liberty University and the employer mandate in the health care law, along with other issues.   Another story involves two high-profile pastors and their large-scale book releases this week. And, the top story spotlights opportunities for charities, including ministry organizations, to shine and to raise funding.

3 - Supreme Court rejects Liberty University challenge to Affordable Care Act

The day that President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law - March 23, 2010 - a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Liberty University and two private individuals. They are represented by Liberty Counsel, which stated that the case challenged (1) the entire employer mandate, (2) the forced funding of abortion drugs and devices under the law and as implemented by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and (3) the forced funding of abortion by individuals under the individual mandate.

The Liberty University case first reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011, and the issue raised by the case, the Anti-Injunction Act, became the subject of the first day of the three-day oral argument in 2012.  In November 2012, the High Court ordered the federal court of appeals to rehear the remaining unresolved issues, including the employer mandate. After the three-judge panel (two of whom were appointed by President Obama) upheld the law, the case again went back to the Supreme Court.  This week, the high court decided not to hear Liberty's appeal in the case.

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, said, “The High Court has decided to take up the HHS contraception and abortion drug mandate, but it is not ready yet to tackle the entire employer mandate. That challenge will wait for another day...The Liberty University case would make strong arguments that the employer mandate could not be upheld as a tax because the penalties are exorbitantly high and punitive. Deciding the case would have highlighted the absurdity of the Supreme Court’s convoluted decision upholding the individual mandate as a tax. Apparently the Court was not willing right now to venture back into that morass.”

2 - Major pastors Jeremiah, Warren announce new releases

This past week marked the release of 2 major works by 2 of America's highest-profile pastors. The Christian Post reports that in New York City's Madison Square Garden, an crowd packed the 5,500-seat venue to celebrate the release of Dr. David Jeremiah's new Jeremiah Study Bible.

The 72-year-old pastor told his family, friends and ministry supporters, "Tonight, we are celebrating the completion and publication of the Jeremiah Study Bible. This is the culmination of a lifetime of teaching and studying the Word of God...Over these many years I have watched this book and the savior it presents permanently change the lives of people. And it is my prayer that the study Bible introduced on this night, will encourage you to make the study of God's Word a priority in your life." [sic]

The Jeremiah Study Bible: What It Says. What It Means. What It Means for You is in the New King James Version and includes over 8,000 study notes, hundreds of sidebars and more than 60 articles on "Essentials of the Christian Faith."  Dr. Jeremiah is speaker on Turning Point radio and television and Senior Pastor of the Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, had a number of musical guests on hand to mark the release of the Bible: Marshall Hall, Gordon Mote, The Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers, Kari Jobe, and MercyMe.

Also, this week, the Senior Pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, California, Rick Warren, took to the airwaves to discuss his new book, The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life, co-written with Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Mark Hymen.  Media appearances included Piers Morgan Live and CBS This Morning.

According to a story on The Christian Post website, Pastor Warren and members of the church have undergone life-changing weight-loss experiences after collectively realizing three years ago that many of them needed to lose weight. About half of the church reportedly participated in the challenge, resulting in a collective weight loss of more than 250,000 pounds after the first year. Now, Warren aims to go beyond his own congregation and spread the word about living healthy with his new book.

Warren, in an interview with Parade Magazine, said that, "There's a verse in the Bible that says Jesus went into every village preaching, teaching, and healing. I say that preaching is evangelism; teaching is education; and healing is health care."  He added, "Jesus didn't only care about getting people into heaven. He cared about spirit, mind, and body. To me, health care isn't simply helping the sick get well, but helping the well not get sick."

Warren stated that, "People say they want to work on their marriages, their careers, or get their finances in shape. If you can get your energy level up by living healthier, then you can say, 'now I can start working on my marriage, then I can work on my finances or my career or my parenting.' We're really starting at a base level."  He says the Daniel Plan is about spiritual motivation.  There are 5 components: faith, food, fitness, focus, and friends.

1 - Churches, charities use Giving Tuesday to motivate

This past Tuesday marked the second annual Giving Tuesday event, involving thousands of non-profit organizations, including a variety of ministry-related groups.  The Nonprofit Quarterly website reports that according to online donation company Blackbaud, they processed donations worth $19.2 million, an increase of 90 percent over last year. (On Giving Tuesday 2012, the company processed $10.1 million in donations.)

This year there was a dramatic increase both in promotion of the event and in the numbers of nonprofits taking part. Not only were there more social media and email campaigns, there was also much more coverage in print and television.

According to Crain’s New York Business, 10,000 nonprofits participated this year, as compared to 2,500 in 2012.

There was much more infrastructure this year. On the #GivingTuesday webpage, there is a playbook for kickstarting a Giving Tuesday campaign and an article on measuring success.

A new word/hashtag combination was coined: “#unselfies.” An unselfie is a picture of someone marking the act of giving back.

A Christian denomination became involved in the #GivingTuesday concept this year.  According to a report on the Newsday website, the United Methodist church General Board of Global Ministries announced that the first-ever UMC #GivingTuesday generated a record $6.5 million online on December 3.  Nearly 11,000 donors in 34 countries gave more than 16,300 gifts through The Advance to mission and ministries they believe in. Global Ministries matched the first $500,000 received.

The Advance is The United Methodist Church’s giving channel which ensures that 100 percent of each gift supports the project designated by the donor; it is a link that connects the church in mission. The Advance encompasses more than 850 Methodist-related projects and more than 300 missionaries, all of them reviewed and monitored by Global Ministries staff.

In the wake of #Giving Tuesday, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability released some financial giving statistics.  Christianity Today reports that the ECFA revealed that charitable giving to more than 1,600 of its accredited organizations increased 6.4 percent last year. Donations reached $11 billion in 2012, compared to $10.3 billion in 2011.

The organization reports that giving to evangelical churches and ministries outpaced giving to secular charities in 2012. The Chronicle of Philanthropy's recently released giving data for the largest 400 charities in America reflected a giving increase of 4 percent for 2012, compared with 2011. This data most closely correlates with giving to ECFA members with $25 million or more in revenue, which showed a 7.5 percent increase.

No comments: