But first, note this reminder of our position on the national
election in 2008. Several months ago we took the position that
we would not comment on the upcoming presidential election
until the year 2008. There is still more than one year until that
election day, and at this point in time no one can really be sure
exactly who the candidates will be. So we will hold to our policy
of refraining from any comments until early in 2008.

Now for today’s discussion, TIME Magazine, the oldest and
largest of the nation’s 3 leading weekly news magazines, each
week selects "Ten Most Popular Stories of the Week." From week
to week the lists run the full range among stories of the antics of
show business personalities ... national politics ... the war in Iraq
... the activities of terrorists ...governmental affairs ... human
tragedies ... natural disasters, etc. The list reflects the diverse
interests of the American people as perceived by TIME editors.

The current list, released on October 4, is, as usual, made up of a
wide ranging assortment of subjects. Those subjects include – for
example – the controversial military plane, the V-22 Osprey, now
going to be deployed in Iraq; the matter of Britney Spears losing
custody of her children; riots in Islamabad and killings in Burma;
and mixed in among all of them are two items of particular interest
to evangelical Christians – one as to whether "mega preachers" are
scandal prone, and the other about the problem of the developing
negative image of Christianity.

If those are of top interest to Americans, generally, what are
the top items of interest among Evangelical Christians? In September
the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) conducted a survey to
determine "the top issues of concern to American evangelicals today."
The results of that survey were not released in the form of a list of
the "ten top" items. The concerns expressed through the survey
were presented in groupings. For example, cultural concerns in -
cluding consumerism, materialism, family finances and the pre -
servation of traditional families were reported as the top items of
concern among the 30 million members of the NAE. Highest among
those cultural concerns were reduction of abortions and defense of
the sanctity of human life. There was little concern expressed about
national politics or the war in Iraq.

The next highest level of concern was "helping the hurting," which
included HIV/AIDS, poverty reduction and immigration reform.
The third high response area was evangelism, including the clarity
of the Christian message, freedom of religion in other countries,
the credibility and integrity of Christians, and an increased passion
for evangelism in our churches.

Other issues of concern included health care, emphasis on Christian
doctrine, the issue of homosexuality, the increasing influence of
Islam, and racial reconciliation. NAE President, Leith Anderson said,
"The answers were so diverse that they were difficult to categorize.
Maybe that’s the whole point – that evangelical leaders have a
long list of concerns."

This point is very clear – the interests and concerns of the
American public differ widely from the interests and concerns of
American Evangelicals. This should not be unexpected because
it is doubtless due to the over-riding importance of the Great
Commission of Jesus Christ, to go into all the world and preach
the gospel to everyone – and the Christian way of life arising out
of belief in that gospel which includes the various cultural concerns
expressed in the NAE survey.

It is of extreme importance that this wide difference between
the interests and concerns of Evangelical Christians and the
interests and concerns of the American public be maintained,
and that as Christians we do not allow our rightful concerns
to be come diluted and de-emphasized in the growing concept
of "diversity" and "political correctness," which the Liberals
speak of as "progress."

The importance of being a Christian: "Christianity, if false,
is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only
thing it cannot be is moderately important." – C. S. Lewis

Afterthoughts . . .

Borrowing from computerese, some new terminology.
With the number of so-called "mega-churches" growing at such
a rapid rate, the largest of those churches have now been given
a new label: "giga-churches." According to the annual list of
the 100 largest American churches as reported in Outreach
Magazine, the largest church is Lakewood Church in Houston
with an average weekly attendance of 47,000. The list discloses
that 36 of the top 100 have weekly attendances of at least 10,000,
earning for them the "giga-church" label . . . the remaining 64
have a weekly attendance of 6,000 or more. The churches in
the "mega-church" category have a weekly attendance of at least
2,000. An estimated 1,300 churches are in that size range in
America, but that number is growing rapidly – and at a time
when 70% to 80% of US churches are either have a fixed level
of membership or are in a decline.

And to follow-up on that thought, is the statement by Eric
Ramsey of the Southern Baptist Convention North American
Missionary Board, "North America is the only continent
in the world where the church is not growing." Southern
Baptist is the largest Protestant denomination in America, but a
recent study discloses that 29,900 of their 42,000 churches in
the US are not growing – only 30% are showing growth. But
the study disclosed a more alarming fact – among the "growing"
churches, 1,409 reported no baptisms in an entire year,
indicating that they are really "shuffling Baptists from one
church to another church." A surprising fact emerges from
such studies – that the Christian church is growing faster in
China, under persecution, than in almost any other place on
earth. It should be a wake-up call for American Christians to
realize that we are the only place in the world where Christianity
is not growing.

In case you wondered about Atheists, yes, they are still
around, and still active. The Atheist Alliance International
just sponsored a conference in Crystal City, Virginia, where one
of the conclusions reached was that science must ultimately destroy
organized religion. Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins, a familiar
name, denounced the "preposterous nonsense of religious customs,"
and compared religion to racism. He had this to say about moderate
Christians, stating that "so-called moderate Christianity is simply
an evasion," and seemed to be saying that as an Atheist or Christian
a person should be solidly for whatever they believe. The conference
did not seem to have the aggressive tones of earlier years, when
Madelyn Murray O’Hair was influencing the US Supreme Court.

Christians in the Sudan are still being killed while the US,
the UN and the rest of the world sits back and watches. Just two
weeks ago, on September 27, a suicide bomber attacked a Baptist
church in the Southern Sudan town of Khorfullus killing six
children and injuring the pastor and three others. The bomber
was reported to be in full army uniform. It is Southern Sudan,
mostly Christian and ethnically African, which is the victim of the
ethnic cleansing by the mainly Muslim North, largely Arab. In the
past several years an estimated two million have been killed and
more than four million forcefully displaced. And no relief is in sight.

The importance of church membership. Dr. Philip Graham
Ryken, the pastor of the 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia,
in his book "Communion of the Saints" draws this important
conclusion, "Martyn Lloyd-Jones went so far as to describe
church membership as ‘the biggest honour which can come a
man’s way in this world.’ There is no union with Christ apart
from the communion of the saints. Nor can the saints have true
communion without belonging to one another by belonging to
Christ in His church. The communion of the saints is for members

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