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"Lord, I Thank Thee That I am not Like Those Evangelical Trump Supporters"

By Ed Stetzer Extending grace should not depend on the voting booth. In the 18th chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells a story about two men who go up to the temple to pray. One is a Pharisee, known for his strict piety: he fasts twice a week, tithes faithfully, and doesn’t cheat on his wife. The other, a tax collector, is a train wreck who has sold out his people by collaborating with their Roman overlords. He’s the worst person in their world. “God,” the Pharisee prays, “I thank You that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, even like this tax collector.” This parable came to mind recently, inspired in part by some of the response to the surprising popularity of Donald Trump among evangelical Christians. In recent decades, white evangelicals—and yes, that’s a statistically identifiable voting bloc and I’m using it as such in this article—have been among the most consistent supporters of the Republican Party. Most of the time, they’ve been so-called “values voters” who demanded that their leaders be people of faith, committed to traditional moral principles, and who stand up for the 10 Commandments. Trump Evangelicals Yet they’ve turned out in droves to vote for Trump, who has certainly broken a few of those commandments. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Fearfully and Autistically Made

By Valerie Dunham, guest writer Acceptance means seeing autism as part of who my son is. It took seven months on a waiting list before my son could be evaluated for autism. That time was a curse in many ways. Things got worse. He gave himself black eyes and gashes on his forehead because his body craved more input. He slept without clothes because he became too overwhelmed by changing them in the morning. He went on unaware of how to commune with other people, oscillating between entirely ignoring his peers and tackling or laying on them. But those seven months were a gift, too, because that turned out to be the amount of time I needed to make peace with autism. Despite the fact that Declan could have benefitted from an earlier evaluation—despite the fact that close friends and family encouraged us to seek one—my own fears inhibited me. While we waited, I began to reconcile a disorder I understood little about with the child I’d rocked to sleep for three years. That reconciliation resulted in a drastically different understanding of autism spectrum disorder, one that enabled not just awareness of ASD, but also acceptance of it. The word autism is derived from the Greek “autos,” …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A Meditation on the Orlando Shooting

By Mark Galli This latest attack is part of a pattern, and the pretext for a remarkable prayer. We at Christianity Today are deeply grieved by the shooting in Orlando that killed 50 people. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to friends and family of the victims. In this case, the attack was targeted at one group, and so our prayers go up for gays, lesbians, and other sexual minorities who now live with a heightened sense of fear. We are glad to hear of so many Christians, from many theological persuasions, reaching out to comfort them in their grief. This weekend’s murders unfortunately remind us of the LGBT community’s place among the many groups who have been singled out for mass killing by hateful people. Just five examples since 2000: African Americans: The most recent attack we are remembering just this week: On June 17, 2015, nine people were murdered at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Sikhs: On August, 5, 2012, six people were killed and three injured at a Wisconsin Sikh temple. Christians: On December 9, 2007, two people were killed at a Youth With A Mission training center in Arvada, Colorado, and another two at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Jews: …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Died: Robertson McQuilkin, College President Praised for Alzheimer’s Resignation

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra He left Columbia Bible College short of retirement to care for his ailing wife. Robertson McQuilkin, who stepped down from the presidency of Columbia Bible College and Seminary (now Columbia International University) in 1990 to care fulltime for his ailing wife, Muriel, has died. He was 88. McQuilkin, whose father was Columbia’s first president, met Muriel when they were both students there. During their 55-year marriage, they raised 6 children and served for 12 years as missionaries in Japan. Both eventually worked at Columbia—Muriel taught and McQuilkin became the president in 1968. Their love story went national when Muriel developed Alzheimer’s disease and was eventually terrified to be without McQuilkin. Some of his friends advised him to put her into an institution. But he chose instead to leave Columbia eight years short of retirement in order to care for her. McQuilkin explained his decision to CT: When the time came, the decision was firm. It took no great calculation. It was a matter of integrity. Had I not promised, 42 years before, “in sickness and in health . . . till death do us part”? This was no grim duty to which I stoically resigned, however. It was …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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New Emoji Bible Recalls Age-Old Translation Debate

By Kate Shellnutt Popular Christian symbols rank among the most confusing. Have you heard the Good News? 🙂 Sites from The New York Times to Forbes are reacting to a new emoji-studded Bible translation—the latest effort to make the Holy Book appeal to young readers. “Bible Emoji: Scripture 4 Millenials (sic)”—now available for $2.99 on Apple’s iBooks—comes from the Twitter account @BibleEmoji, which replaces select words in Bible verses with corresponding smiley faces or other small icons used in text messages and on social media. This version follows other lighthearted 21st-century translations such as the LOLCat Bible and the Lego Brick Bible. But for all the hype over this particular digital-era adaptation, the emoji Bible actually doesn’t contain that many emojis. It’s a King James Version (KJV) with 10 to 15 percent of the text swapped for emojis; about one or two symbols appear in each verse. (The KJV is the most-read version of the Bible by far, and despite the popularity of the NIV for new purchases of the Bible, remains the most-searched version online. It’s also in the public domain in the United States, so changes can be made without seeking permission or paying a fee.) This distinctly 21st-century twist on …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Saturday is for Seminars—Disaster Relief Conference

By Ed Stetzer Disaster Relief and Amplify Let me share two conferences coming up on the Wheaton College campus this summer! Caring for the Vulnerable, June 7-10, 2016—Wheaton, IL Click this link to register for Caring for the Vulnerable Disaster Ministry Conference. Amplify Conference, June 28-30, 2016—Wheaton, Illinois Click here to register for the Amplify Conference. Coming Soon June 13, 2016Southern Baptist Convention Pastor’s Conference St. Louis, MO June 28-30, 2016Amplify Conference Wheaton, IL July 18, 2016Church of God General Assembly Nashville, TN August 12-13, 2016Gideons Global Impact Conference Toronto, Ontario, CA September 9, 2016Capacity Conference Atlanta, GA September 16, 2016American Association of Christian Counselors National Meeting Dallas, TX September 30, 2016MissioNexus Louisville, KY … …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Shutting Down: America’s Largest Distributor of Christian Products

By Kate Shellnutt Send the Light Distribution was finally felled by Amazon Prime and Family Christian bankruptcy. The largest distributor of Christian products in the United States has announced plans to shutter operations due to competition from online retailers and the financial hit after the bankruptcy of Family Christian Stores, a major client. Send the Light Distribution (STL)—which shipped to more than 10,000 Christian retailers, mostly US bookstores—will wind down its 42-year-old business this summer. The Tennessee-based company used to ship more than 25,000 Bibles a day. But these days, it’s a lot easier—and often, cheaper—to get a Bible on Amazon. “When companies get creative and find new and better ways to do things, like Amazon Prime … at the end of the day, that kind of thing also destroys the current or past way that business had been done,” Send the Light president Glenn Bailey told CT. “That’s our basic problem.” While Amazon was one of Send the Light’s biggest customers, the majority of its business was conducted with independent Christian retailers. “They’re being put out of business left and right,” he said. “Many of our best customers are no longer what they once were.” Christian bookstores have been shutting down by the dozens in recent years, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Ministries of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism

By Ed Stetzer More info about the important work of the BGCE For the past year I have been serving as Senior Fellow at the Center and have been really impressed by the amount of ministry that happens through such a relatively small group of people. Over the past nine months, we have Equipped nearly 70,000 people for evangelism both in person and online Organized and hosted two major conferences to engage Christians in the global refugee crisis Started four new senior pastor cohorts in the Evangelizing Churches Initiative Launched the largest-of-its-kind research project to study the unchurched and churches reaching them Launched ReKindle, a YouTube channel designed to equip Christians for better gospel witness Launched the EMQ podcast designed to equip the Church to more effectively minister to the unreached Expanded the Evangelism Initiative conversation to 40 Christian colleges and universities Now let me share in more detail. Training. A number of our staff speak both nationally and internationally in churches, at conferences, and in college settings on missions and evangelism. We have invested deeply in mentoring communities and are committed to walking alongside the next generation of Christ-followers through discipleship. We also have several online training resources to engage Christians …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Trends in Church Staffing: Executive and Campus Pastors

By Ed Stetzer Administrative tasks in growing churches need a focus person. Thom Rainer, back in 2013, referred to the executive pastor position as becoming a “hot” position. I think he is right. So just what is an executive pastor? It is a pastor that works for or with the senior or lead pastor to execute the ministry and mission of the church. How do they specifically execute the ministry and mission of the church? According to Thom, there are two historical broad paths that executive pastors have taken. Some execute their role through staff oversight, making sure the staff is fulfilling the vision of the church as it relates to their specific area of ministry. Other executive pastors execute their role as the business administrator—something similar to that of a CFO in the corporate world. In some cases, executive pastors fulfill both roles. I’d also add that another position with growing presence is the campus pastor position. As multisite has become popular, so has this position. The campus pastor role functions similar to that of an executive pastor, given that the campus pastor position tends to be a non-preaching role. Therefore, the role is filled with people who have a pastoral heart and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Weekend Edition—June 3, 2016

By Ed Stetzer British Evangelicalism, A Confession, Military chaplains, church signs and more! British Christianity isn’t dying. It’s sleeping. Evangelism can awaken it—Tim Stanley Great analysis from a British historian. A Confession of Liberal Intolerance—Nicholas Kristof Self-examination is essential for any movement. The Crisis in Flint Isn’t Over. It’s Everywhere.—Ben Paynter Leaving aside politics for a moment, there are a lot of people suffering in this debacle. What happens when the military chaplain is shaken by war—Michelle Boorstein The cost of war to soldiers is great, as is the cost paid by those who care for them. 3 Shortcuts Leaders Should Never Take—Eric Geiger Eric brings his ongoing great insight into leadership. Want to read a weekly digest of The Exchange blog? Click here to subscribe to Christianity Today’s Newsletter for The Exchange to get weekly wrap-ups direct to your inbox. Don’t forget to subscribe to the The Exchange Podcast in iTunes. Earlier this week on The Exchange The Ministries of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism Trends in Church Staffing: Executive and Campus Pastors Amplifying Evangelism—Helping Non-Christian Friends Hear God’s Voice How Events Help People Share the Mission Church Signs Bring Your Own Bolt …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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3 Ways Suffering Produces Sanctification

By Ed Stetzer Suffering for the believer is never without purpose. “Why?” is the question many of us ask of the Lord when something tragic happens in our lives or in the life of someone we know. There’s story after story of suffering in the Bible, but very seldom do we know why the people suffered. On this topic Paul wrote: We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance products proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5 Rejoicing in the midst of suffering focuses our attention on the knowledge of what the Spirit produces in us through that suffering. The result is threefold: suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Suffering Unleashes Endurance Endurance in the Bible means steadfast adherence to a course of action in spite of difficulties and testing. As we go through trials, we develop greater perseverance to deal with increased challenges. Consider James’s words on the subject: Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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As UK Votes 'In' or 'Out' on EU, Christians Have Two Tasks

By Daniel Webster Today, the United Kingdom decides on its European Union membership. Tomorrow, the most important role of Christians begins. Editor’s note: Last week, the EAUK’s Daniel Webster explored why Christians must show that disagreement without division is possible in both UK and US politics. Today, he explores the two roles that Christians must play during and after closely divided votes, whether “Brexit” today or Trump v. Clinton in November. Today the United Kingdom finally votes on whether to remain in the European Union (EU), or to leave it. After a couple days of respite after the shocking murder of politician Jo Cox, campaigning resumed at a frenzied pace. Having led in the polls since the start of the campaign, the #Bremain camp slipped behind the #Brexit camp over the last couple of weeks. But the trend may have shifted direction once again in the final few days. The tight finish suits both campaigns. It energizes activists, and it gives voters a reason to get out and vote. It’s always heartening to hear people want to talk politics. It’s encouraging that churches provide space to debate vital issues, and it’s crucial that Christian leaders speak into the public sphere. There is a lot of good in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A Tale of Two Billy Graham Statues

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Dual delays on efforts to honor ‘America’s pastor,’ while researchers rank his admiration in 30 countries. Yesterday, contractors working to dismantle the familiar 9-foot statue of Billy Graham outside of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville ran into trouble. LifeWay, which sold its 15-acre downtown campus last year, plans to move the statue to the entrance of its Ridgecrest Conference Center near Graham’s home in North Carolina. But today the statue still stands in Nashville, delayed “because it was attached to the ground differently than expected,” LifeWay stated. The removal has been rescheduled for June 25, LifeWay spokesperson Marty King told CT. It was secured by grout, reportedThe Tennessean. When the statue does come down, it will be stored until its new site is ready in the fall. LifeWay’s new headquarters is only three acres, making the mountain retreat “the most optimal location,” King told the Nashville newspaper. The statue depicts Graham in a three-piece suit, standing by a 17-foot cross. His arms are outstretched; his left hand is wrapped around a Bible. The piece was sculpted by pastor Terrell O’Brien and donated to LifeWay by two Southern Baptist businessmen in 2006. “Ridgecrest is a perfect location for the Graham statue,” stated …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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As SBC Backs Refugee Resettlement, World Relief Leader Resigns

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Southern Baptist vote comes hours before Stephan Bauman reveals next move. Southern Baptists adopted a resolution this morning encouraging fellow Christians to offer “care, compassion, and the gospel” to refugees resettled in the United States, while at the same time calling on the American government to “implement the strictest security measures possible in the refugee screening and selection process.” While on the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, Resolution 12 on “refugee ministry” was amended to encourage Southern Baptists “to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His Throne.” “We’re of course very encouraged by this,” Matthew Soerens, US director of church mobilization for World Relief, told CT. “One of World Relief’s core programs is helping local churches (including many Southern Baptist congregations) welcome refugees.” (Last year, CT reported why World Relief disagreed with half of US governors after the Paris attacks changed how Americans view refugees and US churches became twice as likely to fear refugees as to help them.) Hours later, World Relief had an announcement of its …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Amid ‘Evangelism Crisis,’ Southern Baptists Bring In $400 Million More

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra While the No. 1 evangelical denomination reports the highs and lows of 2015, America’s No. 3 reports just highs. Over the past year, Southern Baptists went to church less, gave less to missions, and baptized fewer people. Yet new churches continued to open, and the people actually in the pews donated more dollars. These are among the mixed findings of the 2015 Annual Church Profile (ACP) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The report is released each year in advance of the 15-million-member denomination’s annual meeting. Last year, the SBC immersed about 295,000 people, down from about 305,000 baptisms in 2014. At the same time, SBC pastors planted almost 300 new churches, bringing the total number of SBC churches to about 46,800. Church membership dropped by about 204,000 people to 15.3 million, and average weekly attendance dropped by about 97,000 people to 5.6 million. In contrast, undesignated giving increased more than $406 million to surpass $9 billion. Giving to Great Commission ministry programs was down by about $24 million to $613 million, but since October, giving to North American and international ministries has been rebounding, SBC president Ronnie Floyd noted in his reaction to the report. Last year, budget constraints forced the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Amplifying Evangelism—Why Preparation for Evangelism Is More Important than Evangelism

By Laurie Nichols As God nurtures us, we are ever ready to share the gospel. Two nights ago, as I was getting kids ready for bed, I received a phone call from a sweet woman who has been a victim of sexual exploitation for years, perhaps decades. I met her in a bar a few years ago and felt an instant bond with her. “Laurie,” her message began, “I would like to see you.” My friend had just discovered she needed a liver transplant after having suffered quite a bit over the past few months with issues related to a number of organs. “It’s going downhill quickly,” she said. My heart raced as I listened to her message. Overlaying her words were God’s, telling me I needed to see her. As I texted with her last night I tried to contextualize the gospel message as best I could through my knowledge of her, my understanding of her situation, and the technology I had. I would perhaps best describe my texts as a stream of living thoughts seeking to be the seed that plants itself on good soil (yes, I had just read Mark 4 the night before). At worst, they were a cacophony which beated …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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BAMCinemafest 2016 Round-Up

By Alissa Wilkinson Five films worth looking for. At Christianity Today we try to cover festivals all over, as much as we can manage. Just in the last year, we’ve reported extensively from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah; the Berlin International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany; True/False in Columbia, Missouri; South by Southwest in Austin, Texas; the New York Film Festival in upper Manhattan; and the Tribeca Film Festival in downtown Manhattan. We believe film festivals are a vital place to take the pulse of our culture and to sample the broad spectrum of creativity, imagination, and earnest questioning on offer. They’re a great place to develop your palate as a discerning filmgoer while also supporting artists, many of whom poured years of their lives and their savings into their film. They’re also an important place for aspiring filmmakers and critics to begin joining the “guild,” so to speak—to see the breadth of filmmaking that goes way beyond the Hollywood genre-movie factory and develop an imagination and a community. (Plus a lot of these movies will make their way to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evenly Split, Southern Baptists Pick President after Candidate Quits

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra J. D. Greear withdraws from unusually tight SBC election, making Steve Gaines the next leader. In an unusually contested race, Southern Baptist messengers elected Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines as their next president this morning. Gaines replaces Ronnie Floyd, who has served the maximum two consecutive terms. SBC presidents are elected one year at a time; the post is largely honorific, except for its ability to fill certain leadership positions. The SBC actually meant to elect a new president yesterday. But a rare tight race between the top two out of three candidates—North Carolina pastor J. D. Greear (45%) and Gaines (44%)—led to a runoff vote. (A candidate must receive just over 50 percent of the vote to win.) Yesterday’s runoff vote was also too close to call, with Gaines receiving 49.96 percent of the votes and Greear receiving 47.8 percent. (More than 100 ballots were disqualified, yet were included in the determination of the total number of votes needed for a victory.) This morning, in a surprise move, Greear pulled out. “I spent a good amount of time last night praying, and believe that for the sake of our convention and our mission we need to leave St. Louis united,” he …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Finding Dory

By Alissa Wilkinson Everyone’s favorite forgetful fish is back – in a quietly subversive tale. Pixar historically does well by their sequels, defying most of Hollywood: the Toy Story franchise actually got better as it went along, and Monsters University was a fun, imaginative romp as well. (Cars 2 had the misfortune of being a sequel to Cars.) And yet it was anyone’s guess if Finding Dory would be good—or even could be good. Its predecessor, released 13 years ago, told the story of a father on a journey across the ocean to find his lost son. But wouldn’t repeating that formula feel a bit . . . formulaic? Nope. Finding Dory, directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Toy Story) is flat-out terrific, even a little subversive. It’s hardly a spoiler to say that this movie is about how Dory was lost, and how she gets found, and by whom. It’s not even necessary to give the rest away, but it means we get some adorable scenes from Dory’s young fish-hood. (Side note: this movie has noted our collective obsession with cute baby animals and milks it for all it’s worth, to great effect.) Marlin and Nemo are back in a more minor role, as …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Genius

By Alissa Wilkinson Great American writers get an interminably dull film. On paper this film should be custom-made for book lovers: it’s the story of Max Perkins (Colin Firth), the famous book editor whose authors included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, among others. Those three are all in the film (played by Guy Pearce, Dominic West, and Jude Law), but the film’s focus is the unruly Wolfe, whose logorrhea threatens to take over Perkins’ life. The two men work together. They learn from each other. Things go sour, and so on. Alas: the film is dull as tombs, partly because it’s very hard to make the work of actually writing and editing look fun or even just interesting (I speak here from some knowledge). Part of the problem is a hamfisted script; for instance, Wolfe and Perkins going to an underground jazz club, the only white guys there, to have an epiphany, which has to be most tired and possibly retrograde trope a so-called prestige historical drama can dredge up. Or there’s Nicole Kidman as Wolfe’s neglected mistress delivering the line, “I’ve been . . . edited!” In fact the women—all of whom are fascinating creatures in their own right—appear only to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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