30 April, 2008

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21 April, 2008

Missionaries Help New Churches "Worship Properly" with Projectors

Since the beginning of modern missions Western missionaries have been helping newly converted indigenous peoples learn how to "worship properly." In the late 1800's through the early part of the 20th-century, missionaries took Western instruments and worship materials with them to the four corners of the earth. Since all of the primitive instruments of the pagans were base and vulgar, and too deeply tied to idolatry to be used in a godly way, missionaries often took pump-organs since they had never been used for any sinful purposes.

As time passed, missionaries learned to help the poor pagans "sing properly" teaching them that four-part hymns are the only proper mode of musical worship. Soon the evil practices of singing with drums, singing in odd meters, or using indigenous tonality were done away with as newly converted tribes-people were taught the finest translated works of Ira Sanky.

Eventually, some missionaries began to take pianos, the "holiest" of all instruments, because it had essentially no "evil baggage" at all, having never been used by ungodly people in ungodly ways to play ungodly music. Once on the field, they set about to teach the pagans that their flutes and drums and stringed instruments could not be used because of their "wicked connotations." But now, in this age of modern technology and travel, a new "essential instrument" has emerged on the scene helping converted pagans now "worship properly." That "instrument" is the projector.

Called by some simply as a "Power Point Projector" after Microsoft's popular Power Point presentation software, a projector can be hooked up to a computer, DVD player or even a television and then projected on a screen or wall to allow a large number of people to view something. The projector has become very popular over the last 15 years in many churches in America and the West for use during worship. The words to praise songs are projected up on the screen where everyone in a congregation can see them and sing.

"Ever time we come back to the States for a visit we buy more projectors" said Brent Howell, a missionary to rural parts of South America. "Many of these people we are trying to reach come from oral traditions, where they learn their songs by rote. Many who become believers keep on trying to do that, memorizing songs and teaching them to others. But it's important that these people really know how to worship properly, and that is done by having a projector hooked up to a computer so that everyone can see the words."

Others like Howell are taking the same position. Peter Leiken of New Awareness Missions spoke to TBNN about their latest efforts to raise money for projection screens in Asia.

"When we send out our missionaries now we always send them out with a new projector to take to the field," said Leiken. "Projectors have become so much smaller and more compact over the years that it's very easy to take even two or three. But what's most important here is helping these new church planting movements so that people can worship in right ways."

Also along with every projector NAM also supplies a solar cell so that the projector can be used in areas where electricity is not available.

"We are focusing over a million dollars on our projector ministry for 2008," said Leiken. "Our next focus is the projection screen itself. We're able to take it to some places already, but it's very difficult. That's our next most urgent need. Until then some our people will just have to keep projecting things onto walls, which isn't best, but it will have to do for now."

18 April, 2008

Eastboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas "Fred is a Wimp"

Topeka, Ks - Over the past decade the members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka under the leadership of the controversial and often inflammatory minister Fred Phelps have become notorious to say the least. Protesting the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers, citing numerous public figures and entire nations as "irreversibly damned," and publishing materials that state things like "Thank God for 9-11" are but a few of the churches activities that have made them infamous. But recently a lesser-known group has emerged on the scene that appears to be even more controversial than Westboro Baptist Church has ever been. The church is known as Eastboro Baptist Church.

On the surface Eastboro's theology seems almost identical to that of Westboro's. Both churches hold protests all over the country. Both focus heavily on God's hatred of sinners. Both rarely if ever mention Jesus Christ. And both believe they are the only church the world preaching the gospel. But there are some fundamental differences between the two churches as Eastboro's pastor, the Reverend Fred Whelps pointed out to TBNN.

"We're so fundamental we protest ourselves" said Whelps. "When we read the Bible we understand that God hates everyone and that no one is going to be saved at all since no one can perfectly obey God. Therefore everyone, including us, is going to hell and there's nothing anyone anywhere can do to stop it. This is the good news of the gospel."

Accordingly, Whelps has a very low view of the members of Westboro Baptist Church, citing some of the inconsistencies in their beliefs and practices.

"Fred is a pansy," stated Whelps. "He says that we are supposed to rejoice in everything God does. He holds up his signs that read 'Thank God for Dead Soldiers,' which we totally agree with, but then he gets on television and says of John Kennedy Jr. 'I hated to see the guy die.' What hypocrisy!"

Whelps believes that the only hope for people like Phelps and others is to realize that there is no hope and try to obey God as best they can.

"If people just try the best they can they'll still go to hell of course," said Whelps. "But perhaps in trying to do what's right they'll be spared from the deepest parts of hell which are the hottest."

17 April, 2008

On-Stage Now! Sunday School Musical

Destiny Church of Cincinnati, Ohio announces its latest on-stage production entitled Sunday School Musical. Come and watch as the various Sunday School classes of Destiny Church dance, sing and learn to live and love.

The production of Sunday School Musical has been in the works for over a year now since Children's Ministry Director Olivia Cowell joined the church staff last year. With a production budget of just over $96,000, the show promises to be of the highest quality.

"We've really worked hard on this," said Cowell. "We auditioned a lot of kids from our congregation and even some from other churches to make this work out. But in the end we only chose the most talented of children. We wanted to really show what the ideal Sunday School should be like in a church."

Tickets go on sale this Friday for Saturday night's opening show. Prices range from $20 to $150. Call the Destiny Church office for more details.

16 April, 2008

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14 April, 2008

Middle-Aged Church-Goers Miss the "Old Timey Praise Choruses"

St. Louis, Mo - It is Sunday morning at Calvary Baptist Church in St. Louis. Mark Treadwell and his wife Amy with their three kids are usually early for worship that begins at 10AM. For Mark and Amy, Calvary Baptist is special to them. Both were raised at the church, and they grew up together in Sunday School through youth group, young singles, and finally into the young married couples class. While the Treadwells have always felt at home at Calvary Baptist some things have recently changed that are making them and others in the church feel a little "uncomfortable" and "left out."

The issue centers mainly around the churches new praise band leader, Perry Kirkwood who began work at the church in January of 2008. Kirkwood replaced the former director, Aaron Milner who had served in the position since 1980. Under Milner's direction the church began to incorporate more contemporary music styles, adding in drums, percussion, more choruses and easy pop-like worship songs. Treadwell remembers it well.

"I was like 12 or 13 when brother Milner came. He caused a lot of stir in the church at first, but I really liked it. I remember the first Sunday we didn't use hymnbooks and were able to look up on the projection screen, which was a whole lot easier. After that church didn't seem so boring anymore, I actually kind of liked going."

But since Milner's departure and Kirkwood's taking the reigns many people around the Treadwells' age have been voicing their displeasure with some of the worship style changes and musical choices.

"We don't sing any of the old-timey praise choruses anymore," said Treadwell. "I remember when we'd sing Lord, I Lift Your Name on High, and As the Deer, but we're not doing any of those kind of songs anymore. And we haven't sung anything from Petra in months now. All we're doing now is these crazy new songs that sound like they were written by heavy metal bands."

Others at the church are expressing similar sentiments along with Treadwell. Eric Hinson, another middle-aged life-long church member commented to TBNN.

"I suppose maybe the young people like this stuff or something, but I want my old-fashioned praise songs back. I mean, there's some songs where we don't even use a synthesizer anymore, it's just electric guitar, bass and drums."

Many have become concerned that this latest trend in worship styles will lead to divisions within the church. Various committees have met to discuss the issue. Two possible solutions include having a "blended service" which will incorporate both old and new contemporary worship styles, or the possibility of having two services each Sunday with an early service being for more traditional contemporary worship and the later service for more contemporary contemporary worship. But it seems that every moment a solution is delayed tensions grow only deeper over the issue.

"I can't bear the thought of leaving Calvary but it's getting to where we just can't worship anymore," said Treadwell. "If something doesn't change soon we'll have to start looking at some more traditional churches that play good old-fashioned music like Amy Grant and Sandi Patti."

10 April, 2008

Zondervan Releases World's Smallest "Purpose Driven Life"

Grand Rapids, Mi - Zondervan publishing announced on Wednesday the release of the world's smallest edition of Rick Warren's popular book The Purpose Driven Life. The book will be less than an inch tall, about one-half inch wide and be under a quarter of an inch think. The text is complete and unabridged, although it is virtually unreadable without the aid of magnification. But Zondervan has noted that the main purpose of publishing the book so small is not necessarily for it to be read.

"This will allow someone to always have this little book with them wherever they go," said Kurt James, editor for the project. "It can be kept in a purse or in a front pocket next to someone's heart. It fits just about anywhere. So we're not so much worried about people reading it. We want people to be comforted just knowing that they have it with them wherever they go, to remind them that their life has purpose and meaning."

The "book" will be available in a number of styles which include a keychain, metal covered, necklace pendant and a double set as earrings. Also, a special micro-autographed edition will be made available to the first 1000 purchasers.

"If this goes well we can perhaps see more and more of these kinds of books being published," said James. "I know that there have been micro-bibles out there for years, but I can bet you there's never been a micro Zondervan Life Application NIV Bible!"

Zondervan plans to release the tiny Purpose Driven Life this summer about the time most people will be going on vacations and traveling a lot. The cost of the "book" varies depending on the style chosen, but the basic design will sell for $9.95.

07 April, 2008

iPod/Zune Disagreement Dividing Church

Wake Forrest, Id - The members of South Woods Baptist Church are deeply worried over the future of their church these days. Some members have already left the church while others are on the verge. The problem has gotten so bad that the church is close to splitting right down the middle.

The trouble all centers around two small electronic devices, the popular Apple iPod and Microsoft's competition device known as the "Zune." The problems began almost a year ago when the church's Assistant Pastor, Trey Waters, was preaching during the vacation of Senior Pastor Albert Weissen. Waters reportedly used his Zune to make an illustration during the sermon and while doing so he called it "the greatest little electronic device he'd ever seen." This apparently upset a number of people in the congregation who were devout iPod users.

"He had no business saying that," said Erica Pinkerton, a member of the church. "The iPod was out long before Bill Gates and his crew decided to jump in with that flimsily Zune thing. And what kind of stupid name is 'Zune' anyway?"

Upon returning from his vacation word got around to Weissen, a devout iPod user, about what Waters had said. Weissen immediately confronted Waters about the issue informing him that he had offended a number of members in the congregation over his comments and needed to retract them. Waters refused stating that he could "not take back the truth." This apparently did not sit well with Weissen, and so during his first sermon back Weissen decided to do an illustration of his own. The title of Weissen's sermon was "Be not deceived!" during which he held up his iPod and proceeded to show how one could be easily deceived by a "counterfeit" product that claims to be as good but really is "a piece of flashy trash."

While Weissen seemed content with his sermon afterwards it too produced some unexpected consequences. As it turns out a number of people in the congregation had taken Waters' advice and purchased a Zune during the week. Having been pleased with their purchases they too were "deeply offended" by the illustration. As a result the church is now divided almost 50-50 between iPod users who want to follow Weissen and Zune users who want to follow Waters.

"We've got ourselves in quite a mess now," said deacon Martin Thompson, one of the few members who hasn't take any side in the controversy. "We've got to get something worked out here before our church is totally ripped apart."

Upon the completion of this story TBNN has also learned that a small faction of Sony MP3 player users have begun following the youth pastor which brings yet another complicated dimension to the story.

04 April, 2008

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03 April, 2008

Satire From the Future: Pastor Preaches Gospel

April 3, 2047 - New York, Ny - Many of the members of Southpoint Follower of Jesus Assembly are still in a state of shock and confusion over Sunday's sermon by pastor Richie Hermon. Many are wondering if Hermon, who has been the pastor of SJFA for almost 20 years now, has lost his touch with reality. According to worship participants the service was going fine until Hermon got up to "preach."

"Everything was going along just fine, like it usually does" said member Patrica Kline. "The multimedia worship was wonderful and uplifting. Michael the youth pastor flew in to the service and impressed us with a holographic display. Someone sang a wonderful solo of Your Best Life Now and one of our ladies offered an interpretive dance to the story of the rich man and Lazarus. That was all well and good, but then Richie stood up to 'preach' and everything just went nuts."

As it turns out Hermon decided to stand up when he preached rather than reclining on a couch. This immediately made many people feel imposed upon and uncomfortable. The next thing Hermon did that was so shocking was that he actually had a copy of a Bible with him, opening it and reading from it which people also found dogmatic, close-minded and judgmental. After than he then proceeded to read passages from the Bible, commenting on sections of scripture and making application.

"It was the most bizarre spectacle I've ever seen" said Martin Roberts, a member of SFJA. "We all just sat in our seats shocked and dismayed at what was going on. Richie was up there reading from this book and telling people how to live. He was saying things like 'Only in Christ can we be saved' and 'Our words and deeds reflect what's in our hearts.' We just all felt so judged and looked down upon. I even spilled my beer!"

After the service many threatened to leave. Hermon was unavailable for comment.

02 April, 2008

"Prayer" Dropped from Men's Prayer Breakfast

Memphis, Tn - It is the highlight of the week for many of the men at Riverwood Bible Church in Memphis. Every Friday morning for the past 10 years at 6AM men from the congregation and friends from the community have gathered together in Riverwood's fellowship hall for the weekly Men's Prayer Breakfast. Behind the stove is 70-year-old Henry "Biscuit" Patterson, who prepares a breakfast feast for the men each week.

"I don't do no shoddy breakfast," said Patterson. "We've got eggs, biscuits, bacon, ham, french toast, sausage and of course grits. If there's one thing I don't want anyone saying is that they left hungry."

When the breakfast first began it was meant to be a time of fellowship and prayer with the breakfast time set to go from 6:00-6:30 and the prayer time from 6:30-7:00. But over the years as Patterson's menu expanded attendance increased and the breakfast time started running longer and longer.

"Over the past few months we've been starting the prayer time around 6:50 or thereabouts," said long-time prayer breakfast attendee Pat Horton. "I can't remember the last time we started it before 6:45."

Realizing that something needed to change the deacons of Riverwood met recently to decide what needed to happen concerning the breakfast. During the meeting several proposals were made including changing the schedule back to its original time of thirty minutes for breakfast and thirty minutes for prayer. But a number of deacons objected stating that such a move would be impractical as people were now "used to" the current schedule. The idea was also presented to simply lengthen the overall duration of the fellowship and have prayer from 7:00-7:30, but that idea was rejected as "people have to get to work." In the end the deacons decided that the best course of action was to simply drop the "prayer" part of the fellowship altogether and simply call it a Men's Breakfast.

"Sometimes you've just got to deal with what is rather than what should be" said deacon Prentiss Hall. "So from now it will just be a time of Christian fellowship without having to force a bunch of prayer on people."

Since removing the "prayer" element of the breakfast the church has reported that attendance at the "Men's Breakfast" has skyrocketed.