Monday, January 6, 2014

All Around the Web - January 6, 2014



HT: Card Chronicle


Christianity Today - Four States Still Don't Have Megachurches
Megachurches may seem ubiquitous today, with more than 5 million people now worshiping at one of America's 1,650 megachurches on an average week. But research by Leadership Network's Warren Bird, who has tracked the megachurch phenomenon closely, indicates that four U.S. states still don't have a Protestant congregation with more than 2,000 weekly attenders.
In a year-end status update, Warren recently revealed that Delaware, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont still don't have a megachurch. Other stats of note:
  • Even though megachurches only account for 0.5 percent of the 320,000 Protestant churches in America, nearly 10 percent of Protestant churchgoers attend one.
  • Only 21 percent of megachurches were founded in the last 20 years (the median founding year: 1977), and only 22 percent were founded by their current lead pastor.
  • The average (median) age of megachurch lead pastors is 55, while nearly 1 in 5 are under 45. Only five percent are under 40. (CT recently noted how one of America's youngest megachurch pastors drew scrutiny for how his building a "big house" was connected to his bestselling book.)
  • Worldwide, at least 48 countries have a megachurch, according to Bird's research.

Desiring God - Is It Sin to Experience Same-Sex Attraction?
First, note briefly three biblical observations:

1. The Bible explicitly says that impenitent homosexual acts, not homosexual desires, keep a person from inheriting the kingdom of God. “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10).

2. The Bible does not seem to explicitly mention same-sex attraction. It is possible that the “dishonorable passions” in Romans 1:26 could be dealing with SSA, but it’s unclear whether this is a reference to simply experiencing an attraction, or following the attraction into active lusting.

3. Our passions may be disordered by the fall of this creation, and yet be distinct from active sinning. Paul said, “the creation was subjected to futility . . . [and will one day] be set free from its bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:20–21). Even Spirit-filled believers groan under this “futility” and “corruption,” including “dishonorable passions.” “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

Given the above three realities, it seems right to say that while homosexual practice is active sinning, the experience of same-sex attraction need not involve active sinning. John Piper says it like this:
It would be right to say that same-sex desires are sinful in the sense that they are disordered by sin and exist contrary to God’s revealed will. But to be caused by sin and rooted in sin does not make a sinful desire equal to sinning. Sinning is what happens when rebellion against God expresses itself through our disorders (“Let Marriage Be Held In Honor,” emphasis added)
In other words, although SSA is a disordered desire, owing to the fall and thus rooted in sin and broken by sin, nevertheless experiencing SSA is not in itself an act of sinning.

I mean at least two things when I say that experiencing SSA is not in itself an act of sinning.

Christianity Today - How I Escaped the Mormon Temple
On a Friday in January 2006, at home in Alpine, Utah, I received a phone call from my third son, Micah, that changed my life.

My family and I loved living in "Zion," the result of a decision that my husband, Michael, and I had made as young adults to join the Mormon Church. For eight years, I had been a professor at Brigham Young University (BYU), the flagship school of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Michael was a high priest, a bishopric member and high counselor, temple worker, seminary teacher, and Sunday school president. Our first son, Josh, and second son, Matt, had served the church's obligatory two-year evangelizing missions. Our daughter Katie pleased church leaders as well with her faith in Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith.

I looked down on Christians who followed the Bible. They had part of the gospel, but I had the fullness of it. I kept the laws and ordinances of Mormonism. When I took the sacrament of leavened bread and water each week at our Sunday meeting house, I was letting the sin janitor sweep away all iniquity. I believed the Mormon Church secured my eternal life.

The Guardian - The people who challenged my atheism most were drug addicts and prostitutes
They prayed whenever they could find 15 minutes. "Preacher Man", as we called him, would read from the Bible with his tiny round glasses. It was the only book he had ever read. A dozen or so others would listen, silently praying while stroking rosaries, sitting on bare mattresses, crammed into a half-painted dorm room.

I was the outsider, a 16-year-old working on a summer custodial crew for a local college, saving money to pay for my escape from my hometown. The other employees, close to three dozen, were working to feed themselves, to feed their kids, to pay child support, to pay for the basics of life. I was the only white, everyone else was African-American.

Preacher Man tried to get me to join the prayer meetings, asking me almost daily. I declined, preferring to spend those small work breaks with some of the other guys on the crew. We would use the time to snatch a quick drink or maybe smoke a joint.

Preacher Man would question me, "What do you believe in?" I would decline to engage, out of politeness. He pressed me. Finally I broke,

The Telegraph - Young users see Facebook as 'dead and buried'
A study of how older teenagers use social media has found that Facebook is “not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried” and is being replaced by simpler social networks such as Twitter and Snapchat.
Young people now see the site as “uncool” and keep their profiles live purely to stay in touch with older relatives, among whom it remains popular.
Professor Daniel Miller of University College London, an anthropologist who worked on the research, wrote in an article for academic news website The Conversation: “Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it.
“This year marked the start of what looks likely to be a sustained decline of what had been the most pervasive of all social networking sites. Young people are turning away in their droves and adopting other social networks instead, while the worst people of all, their parents, continue to use the service.
 
I have finally started watching The West Wing and found this gem from the first season quite comical.

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