30 July, 2007

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27 July, 2007

Church Focuses on Ephesians 4:26a

Mentone, AL - Since its founding almost a half a century ago St. Luke's Methodist Church in Mentone has been a church that by its own confession has "struggled to be happy." The members of the congregation of just over 100 people seem to consistently struggle with one another, arguing and holding grudges.

Over the years disputes have broken out over everything from building projects to who will run Vacation Bible School, to someone's casserole not being eaten at a church picnic.

"We have two ladies in this church that haven't spoken to one another in over twenty years" said deacon Charles Ainsworth. "I don't remember all of the details, but it had something to do with one of the ladies criticizing the flower arrangement that one of the other ladies had made. It's not that we don't love one another, we just don't seem to like one another. "We've all grown up together, and we just seem to get on each others nerves a lot."

The various pastors of the church over the years have tried to preach peace among the congregation, but to no avail. But the church's current pastor, Rev. Prentiss Carnes recently "discovered" a verse that may be the solution to all of the strife within the church.

"I was reading in Ephesians and came across 4:26a where it says 'Be angry and yet do not sin,'" said Carnes. "I started thinking and realized that there's a Biblical mandate here to be angry, that perhaps all these years we've been getting it all wrong. May God has called us to be an angry church. That seems to be where our gifts lie, in being angry."

And "angry" is just what they are fostering now at St. Luke's. The church has recently made Ephesians 4:26a its theme verse and has set out to make itself known as "the angriest church in America."

"It's a relief to know that we're okay" said Lillian Ainsworth, wife of Charles. "We stayed so blooming mad at one another all of the time I wasn't sure what our problem was, but I see now that we just have a different calling by God. The Lord calls some of us to be angry and that is our calling I suppose."

"I believe we can be angry at one another and not sin because we still love each other deep down" said Carnes. "But we need to foster this anger that we have and learn how to do it better. God commands it, and therefore we must do it."

23 July, 2007

Study Shows Average Age of Presbyterians Down to 83

Louisville, Ky - A recent study by the Barna Research Group published this past Friday was good news for the Presbyterian Church, USA. The denomination, which has found itself shrinking over the past decade, has also struggled to attract younger members. But the results of the Barna study revealed that the average age of members in the church is down from 91, in 1997 to 83 in 2006, showing that the church is almost 9% younger than they were ten years ago.

"This is tremendously encouraging news" stated Joan S. Gray, moderator of the 217 General Assembly of the PCUSA. "Our denomination has been striving for change over the past decade, opening new doors, welcoming in new people and promoting tolerance. We value and cherish our elderly, but at the same time the children are the future of our denomination, and new vibrant life is necessary if we are to continue to grow and develop."

But some state that the celebration might be premature. Further investigation into the statistics seems to reveal that the decrease may not be due to a substantial increase in younger members, but a decrease in older members.

"While it looks like progress on paper, what we have here is simply a reduction in the number of older members thus lowering our overall average" stated Rev. Jeff Coolidge, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Louisville. "If one examines the statistics, one will find that the reason that our average dropped is because almost 92% of members over the age of 85 have died in the past ten years."

A further examination of the statistics have also led some to believe that the decline in the number of older members may be theological.

"With the spiritual and theological decline of our denomination it's no wonder that so many of our older more traditional and conservative members have left" said Jack Miller of the PCUSA's Layman, a conservative voice within the denomination. "So many have just gotten fed up with the liberalism and left."

Still, many are hailing the new statistics as "progress" in the church.

"This is irrefutable evidence that we're headed in the right direction" said Gray. "We hope that by 2015 to bring that number down even further maybe even to 78 or 79."

18 July, 2007

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16 July, 2007

U.C.C. Congregation Frustrated to Simply Be "Old, Rich and White"

San Francisco, CA - The United Church of Christ has for many years now touted itself as being an "opening" and "accepting" church. The theologically liberal denomination whose motto is "God is still speaking" openly accepts into full church membership gays, lesbians and transgendered persons. The church is also one of only a few to officially sanction and perform same-sex unions, and prides itself in being a "church for everyone," including the poor, minorities, social outcasts, etc. But one U.C.C. congregation in the San Francisco area has been struggling to find its place among the denomination, and recently they have set about on a campaign for diversity.

"The problem is simple" said Rev. Dale Pendergrast, pastor of Bayside United Church of Christ. "We're just a bunch of old, rich, white people. We have no minorities in our congregation. We have no gays or lesbians. We have no poor people. The youngest person in our congregation is 55, and there isn't a person here who drives a car that costs less that $25,000. We are pure vanilla ice cream here."

Pendergrast's frustration has been exacerbated further by the fact that the nearby, conservative, Southern Baptist is more diverse than his own church.

"It's very frustrating" said Pendergrast. "We're supposed to be the church of acceptance and diversity, and here this Baptist church down the street has a sizable African American membership and even a Spanish service!"

TBNN spoke with Elbert Raulston the pastor of the the Baptist Church in question, Trinity Baptist Church.

"We're very diverse here" said Raulston. "Anyone is welcome through our doors, no matter who they are or where they've come from. But we are honest with people though about sin and salvation. We welcome homosexuals to our services, but we tell them that they need to repent of that lifestyle and be saved. And we have some people in our congregation who have come out of that lifestyle. So we model Jesus in that we turn no one away, but we model him also in telling people to 'go and sin no more.'"

But Raulston's theological position only further causes Pendergrast to wonder why his church is not growing more.

"It just doesn't make sense" said Pendergrast. "If homosexuals go to that church they'll be told they have to repent, change, believe everything the Bible says and all that nonsense. If they come here, they can stay just the way they are and keep living however they want. It just doesn't make sense. We're the accepting church. We're the open-minded denomination. We should have more diversity, not some Baptist church."

In an effort to hopefully remedy the church's lack of diversity, Bayside has begun a number of campaigns to hopefully change the makeup of their congregation.

"We're excited about these new campaigns" said Ellen Turner, campaign coordinator. "Each month we have one Sunday we call Bring Someone Gay to the Bay, where we encourage our members to bring someone they know or suspect is homosexual to our service. We've also put up some posters around town inviting people to come, and assuring them that they'll be loved and accepted here. But the one I'm most excited about is our Hip Hop and Don't Stop service that we're holding monthly to attract younger crowds. The whole service is rapped, and Reverend Pendergrast can really break it down for the kids."

"The campaigns, thus far, have failed to yield the diversity that we hoped for" said Pendergrast. "But, to be fair, we've only been trying for two months now. We got really excited just last week because we were pretty sure this one guy who visited our service was gay. But unfortunately he just turned out to be really well dressed. The last I heard he visited Trinity Baptist."

11 July, 2007

Christians Now Buy and Sell on "Eway"

Portland, OR - Old family Bibles, Veggie Tales VHS tapes, a spoon once used by Billy Sunday; these are all items that Christian bargain hunters and collectors can now find on a new website launched this past weekend known as Eway. Eway (pronounced "e-way") was founded by Mark Knickerbacher to be a "safe haven for Christians who want to buy and sell." Now, after a quick sign-up process, Christians can either be bidding on Christian items, or selling them to others.

"It was time that Christians had a safe place where they can do business on the internet" said Knickerbacher. "I've used Ebay for years to do my work, but just recently became convicted that it was wrong for me to do business on a website where other people are engaged in illicit deeds."
Some of the "illicit deeds" that concerned Knickerbacher were the sales of what he calls "questionable items" by others.

"Just recently I bought a some Thomas Kinkade prints from another seller, and I started looking at some of the other items he had for sale" he said. "It turned out that this guy was selling a set of beer glasses too! I was totally offended, so I canceled our transaction and never sent in payment. He got really upset with me and left me negative feedback, which I thought was uncalled for. So I left him negative feedback too warning people, 'Hey, watch out for this guy. Don't let the Thomas Kinkade stuff fool you!"

Eway automatically prohibits the buying or selling of any item deemed "inappropriate." But already Knickerbacher has received a number of complaints from people asking him why certain items are banned.
"We had to ban the iPhone" said Knickerbacher. "I know people really like them, and that they're cool gadgets, but I think that Apple's TV commercials are really smug and unchristian. So we won't be selling any Apple products at Eway including the iPhone."

In addition, the site also prohibits the sale of anything associated with Calvinism and Reformed theology.

"There was some guy selling a book of the collected sermons of George Whitfield" said Knickerbacher. "We're just not going to have that. Eway is going to be safe place. Calvinism is not Christianity, and nothin
g unchristian can be sold on the site."

Some other "unchristian" items include any and all Disney products, anything containing the words "Paris" or "Hilton," anything made in, sold from or produced in Canada, and anything remotely having to do with the Smurfs.

A quick survey of the Eway site by the TBNN staff revealed the following items currently being auctioned at the site,

* A set of ceramic doves from The Hour of Power - $0.99
* A complete set of Joyce Meyer books - $1.29
* An autographed Petra poster with record- $1.10
* 100 Lincoln cents blessed by Oral Roberts - $0.89
* An empty toothpaste tube once used by Joel Osteen - $39.00

While Eway has a long way to go before it reaches the same status of its secular likeness, the site appears to be doing well already having over 200 enrolled users.

"We're excited about the response so far" said Knickerbacher. "We hope things will pick up though. I've got plenty of stuff myself to sell, so I'll be heavily involved in the site too."

09 July, 2007

Cable Company Goes TBN 24/7 for Delinquent Customers

Knoxville, TN- Cable Pro of Knoxville has for years had to put man hours and money into the problem of cable company clients who were delinquent in their payments. The practice has traditionally been that cable customers who persisted in not paying their bills would, after three notices, have their cable service cut off until their account was settled. While this practice has been successful in rooting out non-paying customers, it still costs the company an estimated $60,000 per year in lost time, and man hours.

But recently Cable Pro president, Larry Maezell experimented with a new idea that has so far been very successful. Now, instead of canceling a person's service, or sending him or her repeated notices of delinquency, Cable Pro simply changes a customer's subscription preferences resulting in his or her service becoming 24 hours of the Trinity Broadcasting Network on every channel.

"It's worked beautifully" said Maezell. "In the past we'd have to try and try to get in touch with the people who weren't paying, try and get our man out there to cut off their service. It was just a big hassle. Now, they call us!"

Cable Pro customer Chris Kjos was one of the first to experience Cable Pro's new policy.

"All I wanted to do was watch a little golf on Sunday afternoon" said Kjos. "I turned on my set and all I saw was this lady with big poofy hair singing. I just thought the cable company had switched up all the channels again. So I changed the channel, and it was the same thing on every channel. When I called the cable company they said I hadn't paid up my bill in over a month."

Now, "like clockwork" customers who are behind on their payments for cable services usually call the company within 24 hours wondering what is wrong with their cable service, only to told that they must pay up if they wish to have any channels other that TBN.

"This is the greatest idea we've had in a long time" said Maezell. "We've literally saved thousands of dollars. And last week when TBN ran the non-stop Benny Hinn marathon people were calling in so fast we couldn't keep up."

While a number of cable customers have complained that Cable Pro's practice amounts to "cruel and unusual" measures, Maezell has no plans to change.

"The rule stands" he said. "Either pay your bill or all you'll be watching is TBN, twenty-four-seven."

06 July, 2007

Big Churches Install "Moving Aisles"


Pastor Timothy Adams of New Hope Fellowship in Concord had an epiphany the last time he flew.

"I was at the Memphis airport making a connecting flight down to Houston for a conference" said Adams. "I was standing on one of those moving sidewalks and I suddenly realized that this is exactly what we needed at our church."

Adams' realization is rooted in a common problem being faced by a number of large evangelical protestant churches in America. Congregations, in some cases, have become so numerous, and church buildings so large that some people are not able to make it to the front of the church during the altar call immediately following the sermon.

"The altar call is very important" said Adams. "If someone doesn't make it down the aisle one week, they've got to wait a whole other week before they can get saved. Our building is very large, and on average we have about 6,000 people in Sunday morning worship. A walk from the very back of the church can take up to seven or eight minutes. We're usually long done with the invitational hymn by then."

So when Adams stood on the moving sidewalk at the Memphis airport he found the solution to his church's problems - moving aisles.

"What we plan to do is put these moving sidewalks right in our aisles at church" he stated. "At the end of the service the ushers will turn them on, that way people at the very back of the church can make it down to the front in time before the music ends, that is, if they walk on the moving sidewalk while it's running. It basically moves a person at running speed he or she having to actually run."

The project, though, is not cheap. The church estimates that the cost of the moving aisles will be around $1.1 million dollars.

"We know this is going to be a huge investment for us" stated Adams. "But we're talking about people's souls here. You can't put a price on someone's soul. We've already started a campaign to raise money for these aisles, and so far the response has been very good. But each Sunday we delay we risk another poor soul who just can't make it down in time."

04 July, 2007

Church Nixes Fourth of July Celebration to Avoid Offending People Who Hate America


The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Clayton is taking a new approach to celebrating the fourth of July this year...they are not. The church decided over the course of the last year that, because of the number of people in the world that hate the United States, that they would forgo celebrating her independence for fear of offending anyone.

"We know that so many people in the world hate this country" said the Rev. Linda Thorton-Mitchell. "We don't want to offend people who hate America by celebrating Independence Day. When you think of all that this country has historically stood for, freedom, Christian principals, liberty, etc. it is obvious to see how many people could be offended if we took the time to rejoice in what we have here as a nation."

The first Unitarian Universalist Church is joined also by the first United Church of Christ in Clayton, under pastor Clark LaGrange.

"If we celebrate freedom, we will undoubtedly offend those around the world who hate freedom" said LaGrange. "If we celebrate liberty, then dictatorships will be offended. And let's not forget the British! Think of how many British died because of the Revolutionary War. If we celebrate American independence then we are basically saying to our British friends 'I'm glad you're dead.' We just can't bring ourselves to do that."

The two churches have traditionally had church cookouts and fireworks displays to celebrate Independence Day, but this year the congregations will combine for a new cause they call "Freedom From Intolerance Day."

"There's a new revolution out there today that must be fought" said
Thorton-Mitchell. "We must gain our freedom from close minds and intolerance. We must overcome the oppression of unenlightened thinking. Give me homosexual marriage rights or give me death!"

The celebration will include a vegetarian cookout, complete with all organic foods, a dunk Al Mohler booth, and a pin the mouth gag on the fundamentalist game. Instead of a fireworks display to end the evening's festivities revelers will be invited to walk through a meditative labyrinth.