By Melissa Wuske
Views of Scripture Affect Church Growth
A study published by Review of Religious Research found that Protestant churches with more literal views about Scripture were more likely to also be growing. “If we are talking solely about what belief system is more likely to lead to numerical growth among Protestant churches, the evidence suggests conservative Protestant theology is the clear winner,” said David Haskell, the study’s lead researcher.
According to the survey, in growing churches 93 percent of ministers and 83 percent of worshippers believe “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb.” In declining churches 67 percent of congregants and 56 percent of clergy agree. Nearly all ministers and church members in growing churches agree that “God performs miracles in answer to prayers” (100 percent of ministers; 90 percent of members), but in declining churches 44 percent of clergy and 80 percent of worshippers agree.
“Conservative believers, relying on a fairly literal interpretation of Scripture, are ‘sure’ that those who are not converted to Christianity will miss their chance for eternal life,” said Haskell. “Because they are profoundly convinced of [the] lifesaving, life-altering benefits that only their faith can provide, they are motivated by emotions of compassion and concern to recruit family, friends, and acquaintances into their faith and into their church. This desire to reach others also makes conservative Protestants willing to implement innovative measures including changes to the style and content of their worship services.”
Christian Governor Charged with Blasphemy
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, the first Christian and ethnic Chinese governor of Jarkarta, Indonesia is facing blasphemy charges. The charges stem from the way he used a verse from the Koran in a public address last September. He later apologized for the misunderstanding, but thousands of people joined in violent protests and calls for charges against Ahok.
Last November, Nahdlatul Ulama, the nation’s largest Islamic organization, however, urged its members, 40 million in all, not to join the protests. “This could be dangerous,” said Ahmad Ishomuddin, a senior official of the group. “Ahok, whose tongue slipped, has apologized.”
Bakery with a Mission
Grace Yang was born in China and had polio as an infant. Due to the cost of caring for her, her parents gave her up to an orphanage. Like so many abandoned children with disabilities in China, she had very little hope of finding work as an adult. But now the 29-year-old works as a baker at Bread of Life, a bakery started by Americans Keith and Cheryl Wyse to employ adults with bone diseases who were abandoned as children.
“Before coming here, I was lost and confused. I didn’t know what to expect for the future,” said Yang. “In the bakery, I learned to be independent.”
Companions for Veterans
“Every day 22 veterans are choosing to take their own lives,” said Rory Diamond, Executive Director of K9s For Warriors. In order to provide help and comfort, K9s For Warriors provides service dogs to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other traumas as a result of injuries they have received during military service post-9/11.
Ron Ward is a military veteran who received a dog, Marco, specifically chosen and trained to match his needs and help him integrate back into society. “I want to take my daughters to places I have not been able to take them in years,” said Ward. “I believe that having Marco with me will enable me to do these things. After being a combat veteran for 25 years, I felt like I didn’t belong. I feel different now, and it is because of my service dog.”
Melissa Wuske is a freelance editor and writer. She and her husband, Shawn, live and minister in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Find her work online (melissaannewuske.com).