According to the Member and Statistical Records Division at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Church membership during 2006 increased by 7.5 percent in Africa and 3.5 percent in the next-fastest-growing country, Mexico.
“We are always enthused to recognize the continued expansion of the Church,” noted Clifford W. Higbee, director of the records division. “The membership in Mexico, for example, crossed over the one million mark in July 2004 and neared 1.1 million at the end of 2006.”
Since 28 February 1996, a landmark date, more than half of the members of the Church live outside the United States and Canada. Of the current 12,560,869 reported members worldwide, approximately 6.7 million live outside North America.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, in anticipating this 1996 milestone, commented: “A crossover of that line is a wonderfully significant thing. It represents the fruits of a terrific outreach. The God of Heaven, whose servants we are, never intended that this should be a narrow, parochial work.”
AIA & CRI affirm that the essential doctrines of Nee, Lee, the local churches, & LSM are fully within orthodoxy. AIA & CRI are fully aware that there are a number of secondary teachings & practices that distinguish them from many American evangelical Christian churches.
AIA & CRI will publish their analysis of local church teachings in the Christian Research Journal later this year. A lengthy doctrinal exposition published by LSM, A Statement Concerning the Teachings of the Local Churches & Living Stream Ministries in Response to Dialog with Fuller Seminary clearly shows the central doctrinal orthodoxy of the churches while also acknowledging & explaining those peripheral teachings that are the most troublesome to other Christians.
Recently I answered an email from a brother asking my opinion of Dr. John MacArthur’s Dispensationalism. Of course, we all respect and admire Dr. MacArthur and thank God for his ministry. He also represents a more moderate version of Dispensationalism. This is not intended, then, to “bash” a man we all respect, but to respond to a defense of Dispensationalism likely to command a hearing. Here is the brother’s question and my response. Any comments or additions? Dr. MacArthur’s original comments are linked.
Of all the issues of controversy among Christians, I find few more incendiary than whether or not we should, well, incinerate the bodies of our loved ones. I find that Christians become agitated, defensive, and personally insulted more quickly on the question of cremation than on almost any other contemporary question. And I find this odd.
A Christian burial seems, in this culture, more and more nonsensical: a waste of money, a waste of otherwise usable land, a waste, perhaps, even of emotion, as we try to “hold on to the past” and fail to “move through our grief and get on with life.” But if someone had asked any previous generation of Christians or of pagans if cremation were a Christian act, the answer would have seemed obvious to them, whether they were believers or infidels: Christians bury their dead.
Today, however, an anti-cremation stance is often ridiculed by Christians as, at best, Luddite and, at worst, carnal. When I counsel a family to reject the funeral director’s cremation option, I am often asked: “Can’t God raise a cremated Christian just as he can raise a decomposed buried Christian?” The question is more complicated than whether God can reconstitute ashes. Of course he can. The question is whether we should put him in a position of having to do so in the first place.
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Jumping from 1919 to 2007, with a Mormon candidate for the Republican presidential nomination thrusting the subject into the national consciousness, we again find strong animosity. The haters are still out there. For an entire generation and more they have peddled their books and pamphlets, showed trumped up documentaries, and disturbed the peace at Church meetings, temple dedications, and even weddings.
Will other voices also be heard? “Leave them alone.” “My sister is LDS, and I don't like anyone to put her down.” “Their religion is not for me, but they have their right to it.” “Those who show contempt for Mormonism are the same people who have no use for Christians in general. Why should I join forces with them?” “I didn't care where John F. Kennedy went to church, and I don't care where Romney goes to church. What matters is his position on the issues and how he would govern.” Will such statements be heard?
Will any who work alongside Mormons state that they are honorable and hard-working? Will any who have performed community service in company with Mormon participants in the same cause come to their defense? Will any recipients of Mormon kindness and humanitarian aid speak out? Will the better angels of our nature speak up or remain silent?
We can hope. Pittsburgh in 1919 was not America's proudest moment. It would be sad to see the dark spirit of bias and bigotry again pollute the atmosphere.
The Bible often divides people into two classes, antithetically related. There are the sons of Cain and of Seth (Gen. 4-6), Israel and the nations (Ex. 19:5-6), the righteous and the wicked (Ps. 1), the wise and the foolish (Prov. 1:7), the saved and the lost (Matt. 18:11), the children of Abraham and those of the devil (John 8:39-44), the elect and the nonelect (Rom. 9), believers and unbelievers (1 Cor. 6:6), practitioners of the wisdom of the world and of the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1-2), those who walk in light and those who walk in darkness (1 John 1:5-10), the church and the world (1 John 2:15-17).
These antitheses aren’t all equivalent. That is to say that they are not simply alternate names for the same two groups. The distinction between elect and nonelect, for example, is not the same as the distinction between believer and unbeliever. There are elect people among the current group of unbelievers, and that fact motivates missions and evangelism. So in Acts 18:10, the Lord assured Paul that “I have many in this city who are my people,” many elect who had not yet embraced the gospel.
Similarly under the Old Covenant, there were Gentiles like Melchizedek, Rahab and Ruth, who entered the people of God; and, as Paul says in Rom. 9:6, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” Some Gentiles, then, belong to God’s people, and some Jews, in their hearts, do not. So the distinction between elect and nonelect is different from the distinction between Jew and Gentile, between Israel and the Nations.
Further, the antithesis between wise and foolish, for example, is a division within the body of professing believers. Nevertheless, wisdom and not foolishness is the mentality proper to believers in the Lord. Foolishness really belongs outside God’s people. In a believer, foolishness contradicts his belief in God. In the consummation glory, all believers will be wise, not foolish. The antithesis of belief/unbelief and elect/nonelect, is also a distinction destined for dissolution. In the end, all elect will be believers, just as, even now, all nonelect are unbelievers.
In that way, given these nuances and qualifications, the antitheses actually coalesce. There is a great big ugly ditch, to abuse the metaphor of Lessing, that runs through the human community. Some are on one side, some on the other. Although the location of that ditch is not always plain today, God will make it plain in his final judgment. Eventually the inconsistencies of believers and of unbelievers will be erased, everyone will show their true colors, and the antithesis will be fully manifest.
I have a question to offer you. It is contained in three words, DO YOU PRAY?
The question is one that none but you can answer. Whether you attend public worship or not, your minister knows. Whether you have family prayers in your house or not, your relations know. But whether you pray in private or not, is a matter between yourself and God.
I beseech you in all affection to attend to the subject I bring before you. Do not say that my question is too close. If your heart is right in the sight of God, there is nothing in it to make you afraid. Do not turn off my question by replying that you say your prayers. It is one thing to say your prayers and another to pray. Do not tell me that my question is unnecessary. Listen to me for a few minutes, and I will show you good reason for asking it.
I ask whether you pray, because a habit of prayer is one of the surest marks of a true Christian.
The new romantic comedy Music & Lyrics, starring Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant, is getting luke-warm reviews, but there's one piece of it that every 80s fan will covet: The full-length video of "Pop Goes My Heart" by the fictional 80s group Pop!
Enjoy the most perfect satire of a 80s music video ... ever. (And I challenge you to get the little tune out of your head afterward.) The end of the movie shows the video again, this time with "Pop-Up Video" effects that serve as the movie's epilogue.
Now you can just skip the movie. Because I just showed you the best part.
I don't know about skipping the movie, but you definitely want to watch the video:
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One of the difficulties of serving as a missionary is battling the oppressive feeling that you are laboring alone, buried in obscurity and forgotten. The struggle is harder when you are serving in a country where the general population doesn't even want you to be there. It grows heavier when friends from home forget to write. The devil tempts you to believe that they have also forgotten to pray and that you are making no difference.
I never thought I’d meet President Jimmy Carter when I went to Uganda, but there he was. Of course, the Jimmy Carter I met was not the former United States President. No, he was a native Ugandan named after this well-known American leader. In any case, Jimmy Carter was an example of the success of cults in Uganda. How so? Because Brother Jimmy is a Mormon. As a matter of fact, he’s the stake president of the LDS church headquartered in Kampala, making him "President Jimmy Carter." Ironic, don’t you think? Especially in light of the fact that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter does believe Mormons are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
As a former Mormon myself, I strongly disagree with Carter’s conclusion. At the same time, many Christians in Uganda also hold this belief. During the time Paul Carden and I spent in Uganda this fact became clear — as did many other challenges. One vivid example was in a discussion we had with an Anglican bishop. His office had a large personal library filling several bookcases. Yet he confessed that when a young woman asked him for advice about Mormonism, he had nothing to give her. I could hardly believe it! Here was a man at the center of ecclesiastical power, with numerous biblical commentaries, theological works, and other materials within arm’s reach, but he didn’t have a tract he could hand someone who needed to know the truth about Mormonism. Now imagine the average Ugandan pastor, with far less education, support, and resources! It was just one example of how severely underinformed and underequipped local pastors are for discernment and defending their flocks.
Paul and I also saw how quickly the cults are growing. Right after we arrived in Uganda, we unpacked and went straight to Jehovah’s Witness headquarters. They gave us an extensive tour, and our guide proudly explained that they’re now working in eight local languages besides English. (Paul remembered that they mentioned working in seven languages when he toured the same facilities in September, meaning that they’ve added a new language in under six months!) The Watchtower cult is working very aggressively in the region, and the increasing number of JW "publishers" going door-to-door shows their success.
But the growth of the Jehovah’s Witnesses seems small compared to the amazing number of indigenous cults and aberrant teachings. For example, we visited the Synagogue Church of All Nations, led by Samuel Kakande. A prophet who claims the ability to heal (think of an African Benny Hinn), he devotes weekly meetings to delivering people from their physical ailments. His church is built over a spring of holy water that’s said to possess miraculous powers. To our surprise, one of the sect’s leaders invited us to actually meet Prophet Kakande in his private quarters. While trying to impress us with his devotion to God, Kakande — who is alleged to worship a python spirit — evaded our questions about his relationship to controversial Ghanaian wonder-worker John Obiri Yeboah.
Did our trip leave us depressed and hopeless? Not at all! For God is truly at work Uganda. He graciously opened the way to give my testimony at a thriving downtown church, and my words were well received. We met with a wide range of missionaries and Christian leaders who wholeheartedly support our concerns, and they asked us for materials and training to help the church in Uganda to resist the advance of the cults. One great surprise came when we met with the principal and faculty of a respected evangelical seminary. I truly believe that we found kindred spirits there. Just one year ago this school accepted a special mandate from Christian leaders to address the challenge of cults in Uganda, and they were excited about the prospect of working together. By the end of our trip, our discussions went so well that CFAR even took the first steps toward a formal partnership with them. I see enormous potential in this arrangement! And this is but a small part of what I could tell you about what the Lord did in ten short days.
What can I say? God is great! Now my wife and I have an important decision to make. Is God calling us to move our family to Uganda and serve Him there? Our answer could permanently affect the lives of our entire family, especially our children. Moreover, many challenges would need to be overcome, including the need to raise the support to move my family of six (by then) half-way around the world! Over the next few weeks my wife and I will be prayerfully considering our future. Please continue to pray with us as we seek God about becoming missionaries to East Africa.
As we pray, let’s remember the confident words that the Apostle Paul gave to the Ephesian church: "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)
The often strained relationship between science and religion has become particularly combative lately. In one corner we have scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker who view religion as a relic of our superstitious, prescientific past that humanity should abandon. In the other corner are religious believers who charge that science is morally nihilistic and inadequate for understanding the wonders of existence. Into this breach steps Francis Collins, who offers himself as proof that science and religion can be reconciled. As leader of the Human Genome Project, Collins is among the world's most important scientists, the head of a multibillion-dollar research program aimed at understanding human nature and healing our innate disorders. And yet in his best selling book, The Language of God, he recounts how he accepted Christ as his savior in 1978 and has been a devout Christian ever since. "The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome," he writes. "He can be worshiped in the cathedral or in the laboratory." Recently Collins discussed his faith with science writer John Horgan, who has explored the boundaries between science and spirituality in his own books The End of Science and Rational Mysticism. Horgan, who has described himself as "an agnostic increasingly disturbed by religion's influence on human affairs," directs the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.
While I find several of Collins answers problematic, this interview still reveals the contemporary debate in science today over religious faith.
I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don't use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.
PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, "I hate Macs", and then I think, "Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?" Losing that second mouse button feels like losing a limb. If the ads were really honest, Webb would be standing there with one arm, struggling to open a packet of peanuts while Mitchell effortlessly tore his apart with both hands. But then, if the ads were really honest, Webb would be dressed in unbelievably po-faced avant-garde clothing with a gigantic glowing apple on his back. And instead of conducting a proper conversation, he would be repeatedly congratulating himself for looking so cool, and banging on about how he was going to use his new laptop to write a novel, without ever getting round to doing it, like a mediocre idiot.
Cue 10 years of nasal bleating from Mac-likers who profess to like Macs not because they are fashionable, but because "they are just better". Mac owners often sneer that kind of defence back at you when you mock their silly, posturing contraptions, because in doing so, you have inadvertently put your finger on the dark fear haunting their feeble, quivering soul - that in some sense, they are a superficial semi-person assembled from packaging; an infinitely sad, second-rate replicant who doesn't really know what they are doing here, but feels vaguely significant and creative each time they gaze at their sleek designer machine. And the more deftly constructed and wittily argued their defence, the more terrified and wounded they secretly are.
(HT: Denny Burk)
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The purpose of this paper is threefold: (1) introduce participants to the Contextualization Spectrum (C1—C6), a helpful missiological tool for describing Christ-centered communities in the Muslim world; (2) modify this tool so as to render it useful in assessing the emerging church phenomenon; and (3) apply this modified contextualization spectrum to assess some representative samples of actual emerging churches. At the heart of my proposal is the conviction that the emerging church phenomenon is, in part, a contemporary attempt at contextualizing the gospel and the church of Jesus Christ in a changing (postmodern) world.1 If this is the case, then the emerging church phenomenon (1) bears some similarities with contextualization efforts carried out in the past, and (2) manifests a spectrum of embodiments that are contextualized from a lesser to a greater degree.