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Here’s one of the weirdest church-related stories you’ll hear this week.

Last summer, six men were arrested after they began to heckle Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen during a sermon, calling him a “liar.” Each had theological issues with Osteen’s message. Their disruption reportedly frightened many in attendance, and Osteen told the court he “could sense hostility in their tone.”

All of them were removed from the service by security.

This week at a criminal trial in Texas, charges of trespassing were dismissed for four of the men and they were found not guilty of "disrupting a meeting or procession." (Charges against the other two are still pending).

The case is an interesting one, because the six sermon-interrupters aren’t just trouble-makers—they were raising theological concerns. But, the hecklers themselves are members of an extremely controversial Texas church.

Though one of the hecklers called Osteen a “false prophet,” many say they are the ones who are leaders of a dangerous cult.

Each of the men are from a small, extremely controversial congregation known as the Church of Wells, which many say is a fundamentalist cult. In addition to regularly engaging in intentionally confrontational street preaching, they’ve also been accused of brainwashing young women into cutting ties with their families to join their one “true” church.

Discuss

Pope Francis thinks culture has a marriage problem. Responding to a question from an audience member at a conference, the pope addressed what was called a “crisis of marriage.” The leader of the Catholic church said that people today—particularly young people—don’t understand real biblical commitment.

We live in a culture of the provisional … It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know …

It’s a social issue, and how do we change this? I don’t know.

Though commenting on culture’s broad idea of commitment isn’t all that controversial, suggesting that the majority of Catholic marriages are invalid, has raised some eyebrows and caused a significant blowback among some leaders. Ross Douthat, a well-known Catholic writer for The New York Times called his statements “extraordinary, irresponsible and ridiculous.” The editor of the Catholic magazine First Things, Matthew Schmitz, said the pope was flatly "wrong and irresponsible” to call marriages “null.”

In a written transcript of the audio, the Vatican also reportedly changed the words “the great majority” to “some.” Discuss

Hillsong New York pastor Carl Lentz will appear in an upcoming episode of Oprah Winfrey’s spiritually focused talk show Super Soul Sunday. The series—which runs on the OWN channel—features extended, sit-down interviews by Winfrey with a variety of spiritual leaders from different backgrounds and outlooks. Former guests include Deepak Chopra, T.D. Jakes, Brené Brown, Maya Angelou, Anne Lamott, Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, Eckhart Tolle, Joel Osteen, Malala Yousafzai and dozens of other well-known activists, writers and leaders.

Lentz posted an image of himself with Oprah to Instagram, announcing that he was filming the special. He wrote about the experience, saying,

What struck me most about her, was her ease and kindness. She told me her key was "waking up each day and thanking Jesus for loving me and thanking Him for all he has done." That practice, in that order, is one to be copied.

...

I'm grateful that she opened up her platform to talk about Jesus unapologetically and without borders. It's literally impossible to "say all the right things" in interviews like this. I don't even remotely try to. My goal is to always say the one thing that matters eternally, and by Gods grace, we are able to at least do that!

It’s not the first time that the pastor of New York’s Hillsong Church has received high-profile mainstream exposure. He’s been profiled in publications including GQ and The New York Times, posts photos of himself hanging out with pop stars and athletes and has been a guest on talk shows including Katie Couric and The Nightly Show.

In a recent Instagram photo of himself with Justin Bieber and Lil’ Wayne, Lentz explained his philosophy of reaching everyone—including influencers—with the gospel:

We desperately want to classify people in our minds. The picture above, demonstrates this well. Because these individuals are "well known", immediately it will elicit reactions..mostly harsh, because it's easier/lazy to classify that which you can't fully understand, than to pursue depth and reasoning. Projecting insecurity and bad motives is a full time job for too many people..If they were not "well known"? Much more palatable for people! Why? Because we classify that as well and are not threatened by things that fit neatly into our ready made classification prism. My point? We can't dispense grace or love how WE WANT. We must as GOD SAYS!

I for one, am grateful for that. Don't deserve an ounce of the ocean of grace God has given me...Somebody once told me "humility is the great mediator. It will always be the shortest distance between you and another human being." Should make it really easy for all of us who claim to follow Jesus, to show grace and love exactly how we were given it: freely and quickly, regardless of our SHARED, INHERENT "class". Sinners... grace?? It changes the story

What should happen if a pastor has an extramarital affair? That’s the question the group LifeWayResearch asked 1,000 Protestant pastors across denominations as part of a new study.

Overall, just 24 percent “support a permanent withdrawal from public ministry” if a pastor has an affair, though 31 percent said they should step down for a period of 90 days to a year. The vast majority—86 percent—believed that congregations should be informed if one of their pastors receive church discipline for misconduct, though very few (13 percent) said that initial allegations should be told to the congregants.

In the study, LifeWay Research executive director Ed Stetzer said,

The Scripture says pastors must be above reproach. So it’s not surprising that some want to see fallen pastors banned from ministry. Still, pastors are also people who talk about forgiveness regularly and, by and large, they want to see those who fall have a chance at restoration.

Activist and U2 frontman Bono recently recorded a video message for the congregation of Willow Creek Church, encouraging them in their projects caring and advocating for refugees. He used the Gospel to show why it is so important. Quoting the book of Matthew, Bono said,

Exile was close to heart of who Jesus was … ‘Foxes have holes, birds have nests, the son of man has no where to lay his head.’ Not just no room at the inn; Jesus was a displaced person. His family, fleeing to Egypt for fear of the life of their first-born child. Yup, Jesus was a refugee.

The church recently took part in a “Celebration of Hope”, a church- and community-wide initiative focused on human rights campaigns and projects around the world. About 4,000 runners recently took part in the church’s "Run For Refugees” 5K, which raised money for refugee families throughout the globe. Discuss

America is now less religious than it’s ever been. A recent study published in the journal Sage Open led by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge found that in 2014, belief in God was at an “all-time low” in America. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the amount of people who say that they pray has plummeted: It’s five times less than the number of individuals who prayed 35 years ago. The biggest drop in both categories was in the 18-29 demographic.

These types of findings are becoming increasingly common, so the numbers aren’t really overly surprising; but, there was one revelation in the data that seems to reveal something critical about millennials. Despite belief in God and prayer hitting statistical lows, the amount of individuals who believe in some sort of afterlife actually increased.

It’s hard to quantify exactly why more people now believe in life after death despite not believing in God, but the study’s author has a theory. "It might be part of a growing entitlement mentality—thinking you can get something for nothing,” she wrote.

Maybe she’s right, and Americans—particularly millennials—are developing stronger senses of entitlement, but the idea that “you can get something for nothing” becoming more prevalent, isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to faith. Obviously, for Christians, salvation requires a commitment to Christ, but the idea of grace is that salvation can’t be earned—it can only be received. Maybe that’s part of the message we should be more focused on. Discuss