1) More than 50,000 Millennials ascended on Atlanta, Georgia, for the Passion 2017 conference last week — a stunning event that included worship music, prayer and plenty more. With news reports claiming faith is on the decline, the historic event had a lot of people talking, especially after country singer Carrie Underwood made a surprise appearance.
Oh, and we have to mention: the young participants came together to sponsor more than 7,000 kids through Compassion International, a Christian humanitarian aid group. The sponsorships cleared waiting lists for all the kids in El Salvador, Rwanda, Tanzania and Indonesia. Just wow.
2) And by now, you’ve likely heard the story about the horrific beating of a teen with special needs in Chicago. While the story is certainly horrible, there’s a kind deed coming out of it, as the Internet is coming together to raise more than $100,000, for the victim — all in an effort to show him goodness exists beyond the evil he experienced.
3) One of the most remarkable songs in the history of Christian music is the inspiration for and basis of a new faith-based movie starring actors Dennis Quaid, Trace Adkins and Cloris Leachman, among other familiar names. “I Can Only Imagine,” the popular song by Christian band Mercy Me, will serve as the centerpiece for a feature film by the same name. One of the most fascinating details surrounding the song is the way in which it went from a benign Christian tune to a mainstream smash hit, becoming what Deadline called the “most played Christian radio single in history.” Check it out.
4) Pastors hold the power to help the masses foster a deeper connection with the Almighty, ushering in remarkable personal change in parishioners’ lives and, more broadly, helping nudge our collective society on a better path forward. But there’s a problem: Few Americans actually see preachers as being the people who are best able to “generate a healthy conversation on the challenges facing our society,” according to a newly released poll from LifeWay Research.
5) Oh, and a Staten Island man is being dubbed a hero after rescuing three people including two children from a burning apartment building earlier this week. It’s a remarkable story.
6) On a more tragic note, Christian persecution has been in the headlines of late. And for the first time ever, the U.S. has been listed by a watchdog group as one of the top 12 nations where Christians are targeted for their faith at a concerning level. While International Christian Concern didn’t equate what’s happening in the U.S. to the dire acts against Christians in places like the Middle East, the group did issue some warnings about the state of affairs in America.
And a well-known researcher recently told Vatican Radio something shocking: More than 90,000 Christians were reportedly killed around the globe last year because of their faith, meaning that about one Christian died every 6 minutes (there’s also a tragic report about a Chinese woman thrown in jail for three years over hosting an in-home Bible study).
7) There were also a number of stories about well-known celebrities expressing their faith. In one interview, actor Chris Pratt gave God the credit for his current success as an actor and explained how feeling comfortable in his own skin has allowed him to pursue his dreams. And fellow actor Mark Wahlberg also recently discussed how he dramatically changed his life after experiencing some troubles in his youth; he now fervently adheres to his Catholic faith.
8) On the political front, president-elect Donald Trump continues to dominate headlines. Consider that evangelist Franklin Graham believes God possibly allowed Trump to win the 2016 presidential election to help protect America. Obviously, not everyone agrees. There’s also been a major debate surrounding Trump supporter Paula White, pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, and her theology. Read what critics have said and how White is responding.
9) And while we’re discussing politics, there’s a fascinating report out from the Pew Research Center, which found that the recently elected members of the 115th Congress are overwhelmingly Christian. As it turns out, not much has changed over the past 50 years, as 95 percent of politicians called themselves Christian when the 87th Congress was in power in 1961-1962; that proportion still stands at 91 percent for the new 115th Congress. There are, however, some notable differences between Republicans and Democrats.
10) And last but not least, “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines broke their silence last week after remaining virtually silent about the controversy that emerged after BuzzFeed published a Nov. 29, article about the couple’s church and their pastor’s biblical views on homosexuality. More than a month after the original controversy raged, Chip Gaines published a pretty stunning blog entry that seems to more deeply address the furor that briefly surrounded the reality TV stars.
“Jo and I refuse to be baited into using our influence in a way that will further harm an already hurting world, this is our home,” he wrote. “A house divided cannot stand. If there is any hope for all of us to move forward, to heal and to grow – we have got to learn to engage people who are different from us with dignity and with love.” Check it all out here.
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