01: The rapidly growing independent Pentecostal congregation in South Dallas, Texas, Potter’s House. is now attracting considerable national and scholarly attention.
Led by Pastor T.D. Jakes, whom the New York Times in 1999 included as one of five preachers likely to succeed Billy Graham, the multi-program congregation has over 23,000 members. At the age of 42, Jakes is considered a major force for demonstrating how his “new paradigm” ministry may well suit the needs of other inner city congregations across the country. Ministering directly to the Black community, Jakes’ programs has also bridged ethnic differences.
Analysts speculate that the huge success of Potter’s House stems from its many outreach ministries Jakes himself launched and currently directs. These include his bestseller books, and his popular program, “Woman, Thou Art Loosed”, which is aimed at restoring self esteem among women.
Beyond that, he sponsors national conferences on personal renewal which attract large audiences (such as 84,000 last year in the Georgia Dome). Specialists attribute his new paradigm model success to his ability to tap into the recovery movement enhanced by Pentecostal fervor. Some observers such as the evangelical countercultist Christian Research Journal have vigorously criticized several doctrinal teachings of Jakes. The Dallas leader has shown little interest in entering into doctrinal discussion, continuing to emphasize his message of ”inner healing and empowerment.” [Jakes is also from a “oneness” Pentecostal background that teaches baptism in Jesus’ name rather than in the name of the Trinity.]
Spouse Serita Jakes has developed the many-sided women’s movement into another force of the Potter’s House ministry. She has a program aimed at teenagers intended to enhance their pride in their femininity and role as “young ladies” equipped with advice on keeping their chastity and studying their gifts of the Bible.
Aware also that critics have sharply denounced his spectacular wardrobe, a Mercedes-Benz, and a $1.7 million house, Jakes calls on listeners to take pride in their appearance and to use their financial resources to further kingdom work in the larger community. Along side these are expanding prison ministries and what the reporter calls “the crown” of his social ministry, the City of Refuge program.
Recently started, the long-range plans are to provide food, shelter, and economic opportunities for the poor and marginalized, with a minimum amount of attention given to evangelizing for conversions. Plans are underway for recreation facilities, a home for senior retirees, a youth ministry center, and a fine arts program.
(Source: Christianity Today, Feb. 7)
— By Erling Jorstad
02: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is becoming a leading figure in presenting Jewish teachings and traditions to the gentile world.
Boteach was originally a Lubavich Hasidic Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn sent to Oxford, England to recruit nominal Jews to the faith in 1988. But Boteach ended up drawing more gentiles than Jews to his program; today he believes that non-Jews are going to save Judaism. Boteach’s L’Chaim Society at Oxford — which was cut off from the Hasidic movement because of his work with non-Jews — became the second most popular club at the university drawing many gentiles to its soft-sell approach to Judaism.
After writing Kosher Sex, a 1999 bestseller extolling the virtues of the Jewish approach to monogamy, the rabbi is now back in the U.S., trying to bring his outreach program into the mainstream of American life. Boteach doesn’t so much invite gentiles to become Jewish as much as he tries to extend Jewish teachings and sensibilities to the non-Jewish world.
For instance, he teaches that Jewish concepts about wealth make more sense in this age of prosperity than Christian views, as they allow people to enjoy material success as long as they give to charity. With his connections to the celebrity world (he advises Michael Jackson), Boteach is convinced that “Judaism is going to be to American culture what Buddhism was in the eighties,” meaning a belief system that nonbelievers borrow bits and pieces of philosophy and customs to meet their own needs.
(Source: New York magazine, Feb. 28)
03: The King’s College in New York City is breaking new ground in providing an evangelical liberal arts college for urban minorities.
Originally based in suburban Westchester County, The Kings College closed its doors due to financial troubles in 1994, only to reopen six years later in the Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan. Many of the city’s minorities and new immigrants have enrolled, groups that have “felt excluded” from Christian colleges in the past, says college president Friedheim Radandt.
Another unique aspect of The Kings College is that it is part of Campus Crusade for Christ. In what is said to be a “paradigm shift in Christian education,” Campus Crusade is planning to open similar colleges in large cities in the U.S. and around the world.
(Source: ReligionToday.com, Feb. 4)
04: An online journal known as TASTE, or the Archive of Scientists’ Transcendent Experiences, documents spiritual and mystical experience that may not find favor in the scientific community.
The journal, edited by philosopher and scientist Charles Tart, has become known as a “safe place” for scientists to report their findings on mystical and spiritual experiences that may be susceptible to academic ridicule. The experiences reported are of a vague yet mystical variety. One post, for example, reads, “Without warning, I suddenly had a felling of complete peace and of complete unity with the universe.” Tart is curious about how many scientists who may have once experienced spiritual wonder, perhaps when they were children, turned to technical work where they now distrust their more intuitive sides.
The web site (at: www.issc-taste.org/index.html), which displays about 30 accounts of transcendent experiences at a time, stresses hard data and strict documentation of facts. But Tart hopes the journal will rekindle spiritual impulses among scientists.
(Source: Spirituality & Health, Spring)