CULTURE DIGEST: Rick Warren, Reader’s Digest launch 'Purpose Driven Connection'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., has launched a quarterly magazine called "Purpose Driven Connection," along with a bundle of personal growth tools designed for small group implementation.

Warren, in a news release Jan. 27, noted that the timing of the launch coincides with the collapse of the U.S. economy, a time when Americans may most be searching for true hope.

"The hollow hope of materialism has left us disappointed, empty and worried, and the economic collapse has created a hunger for a deeper spiritual connection to God and to each other," Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life," said.

"We certainly didn't anticipate our national crisis when we began designing these tools, but we can now see how the Purpose Driven Connection is going to provide urgent and essential spiritual support and encouragement for millions of people in the difficult days ahead," he said. "God's timing is always perfect."

The 146-page magazine is being published by The Reader's Digest Association with an annual subscription rate of $29.99. Also included is a DVD of Warren teaching, along with discussion guides, access to a corresponding online social network, daily e-mail devotions and other tools.

The magazines can be found on newsstands, at bookstores and at national retail outlets including Wal-Mart. A group discount rate also is available for subscribers.

Warren said the idea for the magazine stemmed from a year-long series of conversations he held with groups of pastors across the nation. One of the most common requests was for him to develop a Purpose Driven network for "everyone else," in addition to the ongoing Pastors.com network for pastors.

"We've been providing video curriculum to thousands of small groups for seven years, so we've learned the hard way what works and what doesn't; by using the quarterly PDC magazine to deliver small group video teaching and workbooks, we are reinventing and revolutionizing how content is delivered to small groups and Sunday school classes," Warren said.

"Pastors love this idea because it saves them time, energy and money. All they need do is to have each small group or class get a subscription to Purpose Driven Connection and that class is provided an entire year's worth of group video content, delivered directly to the mailboxes of the small group leaders."

In the premier issue of the magazine, available now, Warren kicks off his newest study, "40 Days of Love," based on 1 Corinthians 13. Churches across the country will join a national 40 Days of Love campaign on Valentine's Day weekend.

For more information, visit www.purposedrivennews.com.

LOUISIANA PASSES ACADEMIC FREEDOM ACT -- In January, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to approve rules implementing the Louisiana Science Education Act, an academic freedom bill passed by the state's legislature last summer.

The law allows local school boards to approve supplemental materials to encourage critical thinking in the teaching of science, but the state board retains the right to ban locally approved materials.

A subcommittee of the board removed language prohibiting the mention of Intelligent Design in the classroom before passing the rules.

"This is another victory for Louisiana students and teachers to have a climate of academic freedom to learn about scientific controversies over evolution and other topics in the curriculum," Casey Luskin, an education policy analyst at the Discovery Institute, said Jan. 15.

The legislation encourages students to evaluate the merits of scientific topics such as evolution, human cloning and global warming, and it requires teachers in Louisiana public schools to use state-approved science textbooks in addition to any supplemental materials.

Joe Aguillard, president of the Baptist-affiliated Louisiana College, expressed gratitude for the new rules.

"This allows science teachers in our state to freely teach scientific information that is contrary to Darwinian evolution," Aguillard said, according to the Louisiana Baptist Message newsjournal. "Prior to this time, it was frowned upon or not allowed. This law is not an effort to promote religion, but it allows them to teach scientific facts that debunk the scientific theory of evolution."

Aguillard and four faculty members from the school testified last summer on behalf of the legislation, which they said would allow science teachers to present material that truthfully and scientifically addresses the weaknesses of the theory of evolution.

"It again is a great day for truth and academic freedom," Aguillard said after the approval. "Responsible academic freedom -- the informal term for the Science Education Act -- is not afraid of the truth and we are proud of the position taken by our faculty and our college in spreading truth."

GEORGE BEVERLY SHEA TURNS 100 -- George Beverly Shea, the legendary soloist who ministered alongside evangelist Billy Graham for decades, celebrated his 100th birthday Feb. 1 at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C.

Graham, music director Cliff Barrows and gospel music icons Bill and Gloria Gaither attended the private event in Shea's honor, giving testimony of his humility and his contribution to the largest evangelistic ministry in history, according to a news release.

"I'm deeply grateful to him," Graham said at the event. "I count him as one of my closest friends and confidantes."

After greeting friends, Shea reportedly sang "The Shadow of a Cross" and was presented with a Rodgers organ that eventually will be used at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association donated funds to build a chapel following a Franklin Graham Prison Festival in 2006. Burl Cain, Angola's warden, attended the birthday celebration, the news release said.

"I was overwhelmed that so many people were here tonight," Shea said after the event. "And I never dreamed I would get a gift like this."

Shea, a Grammy award winner and a member of the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, began singing with Graham on the Chicago radio hymn program "Songs in the Night" in 1943.

"All these years, Daddy always said that a crusade really began when Uncle Bev walked up to the mic and began to sing," Franklin Graham said.


Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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