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Want to Be a Servant? Dress Like One.

By Alfred Cedeño How my life uniform helped me to consider the needs of others above my own. Whenever my grandpa described his journey as an indentured servant from Puerto Rico to Michigan 60 years ago, he highlighted three facts: He brought enough money to bribe a foreman to drive him to a bus stop and escape his duties as a farmhand. His trip to the mainland US was initially temporary, for some of his fellow travelers simply wanted to make enough money to take back to their families. On the flight back, the plane crashed and killed most of his former coworkers. He brought a lot of clothes to America. (He liked to tell this part with gusto.) I’ve learned two things from listening to his story: My grandfather was once a swaggy island dude, and he intended for our family to be more than servants. Sixty years after my grandpa’s escape from poverty in search of a better life—and even more clothes—my cousin Jason, a Vineyard pastor, and I chatted in a hospital waiting room while my dad recovered from surgery. While we discussed ministry and relationships, I described my newest life change, a change sure to make me iconic and more …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What is the Missional Church? (Part 5)—Forgetting Missions

By Ed Stetzer How might the local church better engage in world missions for the glory of God? Reasons Why Missional Churches Do Not Do Missions As the missional conversation continues and deepens, there is a growing trend among missional churches to forget the lost world around us. Why has this happened? There are five reasons I think this has happened: First, in rediscovering God’s mission, many have discovered its personal dimensions only. The encouragement for each person to be on mission (to be “missional”) has trended toward a personal obligation to one’s immediate context. While mission to our local communities is important, an inordinate focus on “local” neighbors misses the church’s obligation to “global” people groups. Second, in responding to God’s mission, many have made everything “mission.” Missions historian Stephen Neill, responding to a similar surge in mission interests, explained his concern this way: “If everything is mission then nothing is mission.” Neill’s fear was that the focus would shift from global evangelization (often called “missions”) to societal transformation (often called “mission”). Next, in relating God’s mission, the message increasingly includes the hurting but less frequently includes the global lost. Missional churches seem to speak more of underserved peoples rather than unreached peoples. As we engage to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Case Against 'Radical' Christianity

By Phillip Cary Michael Horton’s message to restless believers: Stay put, and build the church. Sometimes you can tell quite a bit about a book from its cover. On the outside, Michael Horton’s Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan) looks a lot like David Platt’s bestseller Radical, and that’s no accident. Horton, editor of Modern Reformation magazine, a founding figure behind the White Horse Inn’s teaching ministry, and host of its radio show, aims to provide an alternative to trendy calls for radical living. He thinks such calls serve mainly to make ordinary Christians anxious about whether they’re really Christian enough, and pastors anxious about ensuring that their ministries are radically transformative. Horton comes to their aid with a Reformational perspective that diagnoses such anxieties as the outgrowth of works righteousness. If we are justified by faith in Christ alone, then we need not be anxious to show how Spirit-filled we are by living extraordinary, radical lives. Having already received the promise of the Spirit in baptism—God’s promise, which we can trust he will keep—we are free to serve our neighbors with ordinary good works. We are freed from establishing our credentials before God or our own consciences. And we are even …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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First Day of Prayer Draws Debate in One of Africa's Christian Nations

By Morgan Lee President of Zambia seeks solution to economic problems. Christians debate whether motive matters. Home of the “world’s worst currency” and a sputtering economy, Zambia needed a national day of prayer. At least, its new president decided it did. So last Sunday, the southwestern African nation had its first. “I wish to thank the Almighty God for allowing us to assemble and observe the day of repentance, reconciliation, prayer, and fasting,” said Edgar Lungu in his public address. “I personally believe that since we humbled ourselves as a people and have sincerely cried out to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he has heard our cry, has forgiven our sins, and will surely heal our land.” Zambia, regarded as missionary David Livingstone’s greatest legacy, is officially a Christian nation. But it isn’t always heaven on earth. Lungu assumed office in January after his predecessor’s death. Since that time, the price of copper, one of Zambia’s main exports, has consistently fallen. Water shortages caused by drought have crippled the country’s hydropower plants—at times by cutting power for more than half the day, Bloomberg News reported. The bad weather has also hurt the corn crop, which has driven up inflation. In …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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20 Questions: What Evangelicals Think of GMOs, Genetics, Fracking, and More

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra New Pew survey explores attitudes on science, including experimental drugs, animal testing, and space exploration. For most churchgoers, faith doesn’t conflict with science, according to the latest survey from the Pew Research Center. In fact, most of the time, religious affiliation doesn’t affect how Americans view scientific topics. “Our analysis points to only a handful of areas where people’s religious beliefs and practices have a strong connection to their views about science topics,” lead author Cary Funk stated, “and a surprising number of topics where religious differences do not play a central role in explaining their beliefs.” Other factors that likely play a bigger part: gender, age, race, and education. Here’s how white evangelicals, black Protestants (two-thirds of whom identify as evangelicals, according to Pew), and Americans who attend religious services weekly feel about 20 science topics: 1. Two-thirds of black Protestants (68%) said genetically modified foods are unsafe, slightly higher than weekly worshipers (60%) and substantially higher than white evangelicals (50%). But 7 in 10 in each group feel that scientists don’t have a clear understanding on the health risks of genetically modified crops. 2. Black Protestants are also more wary of foods grown with pesticides. A full 83 percent said …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Let There Be Life (At the Movies)

By Paul Asay In Hollywood’s calculus, movies are expensive—but life is cheap. The dinosaurs in Jurassic World gobbled up at least 22 hapless park attendees. The villains from teen-centric films Divergent: Allegiant and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials go through victims as if they had expiration dates printed on their foreheads. In Mad Max: Fury Road, much of the world’s dystopian populace is vaporized in exploding clouds of petrol. Los Angeles and San Francisco both pretty much collapse in San Andreas; if you find yourself in that movie and you’re not named Dwayne Johnson, you could be in trouble. We’ve not yet bested the 7 billion death toll that Roland Emmerich reached in 2012 (released, oddly, in 2009). But hey, we’ve yet to see Star Wars: The Forced Unleashed—part of a franchise known for obliterating whole planets. So we’ve still got time. Yep, there’s a reason they’re called “extras.” But in the midst of all these bloody blockbusters, a handful of films are suggesting that human life shouldn’t be discarded like candy wrappers. And no matter who or what or where we are, we’re worth saving. The 33, which comes out on November 13, chronicles the real-life rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped nearly a half-mile underneath …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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This Veterans Day, Meet the Soldiers of Church History

By Logan Isaac Did you know the holiday was originally named after a French bishop? This June, CT drew attention to veterans’ experiences in the cover story “Formed by War.” To continue the discourse sparked by that story, alongside the Centurions Guild, CT is hosting an online series called Ponder Christian Soldiers. (Read the introduction to the series here, and the second installment here.) The following essay is from Centurions Guild founder Logan Isaac on long-forgotten soldiers of church history. When we think about Christian soldiers, we can be tempted (based on our views on war in general) to either venerate or vilify those who have participated in military service or combat. The battlefield certainly has its share of both beauty and tragedy, and that complexity can be confusing. To some, Christian soldiers—ready to stand up and sacrifice for a larger cause—are heroes, for “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). To others, the violence of combat seems overwhelming in its scope and severity. They take Jesus’ words, “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matt. 26:52), to mean that soldiers’ close proximity to killing …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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When We Love Outrage More Than People: Starbucks Cups and You

By Ed Stetzer It’s not Starbucks’ job to share the love of Jesus. It’s your job. This weekend, you may have been rudely interrupted by government officials barging into your home because they wanted to arrest you for Jesus fish on the back of your car in the driveway and the cross hanging on your front door. But that would require you to be persecuted, which if you’re reading this, you probably aren’t. However, your weekend may have been inconvenienced by a slightly-less intrusive news story about Starbucks red holiday cups. So, from what I’ve read, Starbucks hates Jesus because they have red cups without snowflakes on them. The thing is, Starbucks never had anything about the Christian Christmas on their cups. Sure, they had trees and snowmen, but nothing about Jesus. And more, Starbucks employees repeatedly deny being banned from being able to say, “Merry Christmas.” So, what should we do here… Grab Some Coffee, and Chill Out Folks, we really need to calm down. If you’ve posted an outrage Facebook update, take it down. Starbucks cups are red because of the Christmas season. Starbucks is not persecuting you. Starbucks may be attempting to respect those who don’t celebrate Christmas—and that’s OK. That’s their job. They’re a business …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Commentary: Four Theses on ‘Thoughts and Prayers’

By Andy Crouch Prayer—and lament—is the proper first response to tragedy. We can say with some confidence that all the following are true. 1.a. When news of a tragedy reaches us, almost all of us find our thoughts overwhelmed for minutes, hours, or days, depending on the scope and severity and vividness of the loss. This is called empathy—our ability to put ourselves in the place of others and imagine their suffering and fear, as well as heroism and courage, and to wonder how we would react in their place. 1.b. Almost all human beings, whatever their formal religious affiliation, find themselves caught up in a further reaction to tragedy: reaching out to a personal reality beyond themselves, with grief, groaning, and petition for relief. Even those far from the church will find themselves, almost involuntarily, addressing God in these moments. This is, in a way, another and perhaps higher form of empathy. It reflects our instinct that our own experience of personhood, identification, and love must ultimately reflect something—or Someone—fundamental to the cosmos who is personal, who has identified with us, and who responds to us and all the world with love. 1.c. Unless the tragedy is literally at our door, this empathic response—call it “thoughts …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Bruised and Bleeding: Watching 'Daredevil' and 'Jessica Jones'

By Kristen O’Neal Two Marvel shows give us an uncommon abandonment of the lone-hero trope. Just before Thanksgiving, the much-anticipated Marvel series Jessica Jones released in full on Netflix–and it lived up to every expectation. The show follows the critically-acclaimed spring release of Daredevil (the two heroes, as well as Luke Cage and Iron Fist, will come together eventually to become the Defenders). But Jessica Jones stands firmly on her own two feet, offering her own narrative that is as good, if not better, than Daredevil. The shows have wildly different protagonists, but both explore complicated moral and psychological quandaries. Daredevil‘s Matt Murdock, a blind, justice-loving Catholic lawyer with heightened physical senses, takes it upon himself to right the corrupt wrongs of his own neighborhood—through his law practice by day, and by putting on a mask by night. He’s not saving the world. He’s just trying to make a difference in his corner of the city. Questions of morality, God, and the devil swirl at the center of Daredevil, with a rendering of faith that’s uncommonly honest and respectful, that paints doubt as valid and involvement in social issues as necessary. The show continues a long tradition of onscreen Irish priests and gangsters (think On the Waterfront) …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Beyond Fight or Flight: $1 Million Reveals How Christians Cope with Persecution in 30 Countries

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Under Caesar’s Sword conference in Rome explores strategies in 100 beleaguered communities. From demolished church crosses in China to beheaded believers in Libya, the persecution of Christians regularly drew international media attention this past year. It also caught the attention of researchers, who spent three years and $1.1 million compiling “the world’s first systematic global investigation into the responses of Christian communities to the violation of their religious freedom.” Last week in Rome, scholars—gathered by the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs—presented their findings at the Under Caesar’s Sword conference. “By now, the scale of Christian persecution has been amply documented,” stated Thomas Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project. “But nobody has examined systematically and globally what these communities do when they are under massive repression. Do they flee? Resist? Work with outsiders to build safe havens? Accommodate? Forgive? Or what?” That depends on the circumstances Christians face, researchers found, based on studying 100 Christian communities in more than 30 countries. Christians threatened by Boko Haram attacks in Africa or severe state pressure in Iran and Saudi Arabia flee. Those …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Neither Heroes Nor Head-Cases

By Zachary Moon A better framework for ministering to military members. This June, CT drew attention to veterans’ experiences in the cover story “Formed by War.” To continue the discourse sparked by that story, alongside the Centurions Guild, CT is hosting an online series called Ponder Christian Soldiers. (Read the introduction to the series here, and the following installments here, here, here, and here.) The following essay is from Zachary Moon, a military chaplain currently serving with the Marines and author of Coming Home: Ministry That Matters with Veterans and Military Families (Chalice). We were back at Camp Wilson, deep inside Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base, Southern California. With its rudimentary structures for sleeping, eating, hygiene, and church services, it was not civilization, but it was more than we’d had in a while. We sat on metal benches waiting for hamburgers, sipping on sodas, and sucking in the conditioned-cool air. We wore the dusty grime and smells of desert living, and a real shower was still three days away. Working together in the same battalion, we had known each other for more than two years—an eternity in an ever-rotating military. He was a junior officer …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Bedeviled by My Wife's Dementia

By Douglas Groothuis My expertise in philosophy did not give me the answers I needed. Liam, my 10-year-old friend, recently asked me if I was a philosopher. “Yes,” I replied. “What do philosophers do?” “We think a lot about arguments,” I said. That seemed to satisfy him, and it satisfied me. But philosophy is deeper than arguments. It also summons reflection on the grisly vicissitudes of life—what breaks the heart and binds it back together. Philosophy originally was a discipline for finding out not just how to think, but how to live. I am that rare person who has found my vocation and avocation to be one. I don’t need to escape into hobbies to compensate for my day job. As Robert Frost put it in “Two Tramps in Mud Time”: Only where love and need are one, And the work is play for mortal stakes, Is the deed ever really done For Heaven and the future’s sakes. I do what I love, and it usually benefits others. Research and teaching and mentoring is where I flourish. The gifts given to me have been confirmed, as the late seminary professor Howard Hendricks would say, by finding people with the gift of benefiting from my teaching and writing. For years I’ve pondered the topic …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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College Can Kill Our Colorblindness (If We Let It)

By Heather Caliri, guest writer I used to be the white girl who didn’t get it. Earlier this month, protests about race erupted at several American colleges. The uproar began at the University of Missouri, where the chancellor and president resigned over their responses to racially charged harassment. Meanwhile at Yale, an official email about avoiding racist Halloween costumes, such as blackface, inspired one faculty member’s response asking for “free speech and the ability to tolerate offense.” The initial upheaval in Columbia and New Haven sparked tensions elsewhere. Someone posted anonymous online threats towards students at historically black Howard University, and protests followed last week on campuses at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and nearly two dozen others. These protests reflect the recent grassroots activism around the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but the racial tensions they attempt to address are nothing new. For decades, white administrators and students themselves have ignored or downplayed the concerns of people of color regarding the racial climate on campus. I know because I was one of them. Like many white students, I hadn’t experienced real diversity until I went to college. The idea of diversity seemed nice before I arrived on campus. But once I started my freshman year at Rice University back in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Contextualization at Home: What Would Jesus Do Here?

By Ed Stetzer We can’t reach the world for Jesus if we don’t know Jesus and how He operates. Getting Started Contextualization is a hot topic. How do we share the gospel in a way that is both true to God and appealing to people? But we seem to understand the importance of contextualization when it comes to foreign missions. No one sends an American missionary out to turn an African nation into Pennsylvania. Rather, we train them to offer the Gospel in a way that makes sense to the people they are trying to reach. For the longest time, however, we apparently didn’t think that approach was necessary in our culture. But it is. I have written and spoken about what I call the Missional Matrix. To figure out how we carry out the work of God, we need to be vigorously considering three issues. Christology: Who is Jesus and what has He sent us to do? Ecclesiology: What expression of a New Testament church would be most appropriate in this context? Missiology: What forms and strategies should we use to be about the Kingdom of God in context? In this new three part series, we will look at each of these and what it takes to contextualize the mission here …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Paris Affected American Attitudes on Helping Syrian Refugees

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra World Vision poll suggests terrorism didn’t change compassion. Other polls highlight fears. Nearly 3 out of 4 American adults (72%) say they are willing to help Syrian refugees, according to an Ipsos Public Affairs poll sponsored by World Vision nearly a week after the Paris terrorism attacks. The number is virtually unchanged (71%) from when Ipsos/World Vision asked the same question in October, before the City of Lights experienced tragedy and American politicians began debating state bans on Syrian refugees in response. Of poll respondents who said they were unwilling to help, 7 in 10 (69%) said they thought Americans should help people in the US first, up from 6 in 10 (58%) in October. And 41 percent said they feared Syrian refugees are potential terrorists, up sharply from 25 percent in October. The new numbers are a more positive response to the Syrian refugee crisis than other recent polls, including an Ipsos/Reuters poll taken the weekend after the Paris attacks. In that survey, more than half of Americans (52%) said that countries accepting Syrian refugees were less safe. Respondents were almost equally split on how to respond to that risk: 40 percent said that countries should continue to accept refugees …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How We Forgot the Poverty of Christmas

By Katelyn Beaty The Incarnation is not a story we can package or market. It is also the greatest story ever told. We don’t believe in Christmas anymore. We believe in Christmas gatherings, Christmas shopping, and Christmas recitals, of course, and even Christmas outreach events and Christmas acts of charity. If you are reading this issue of CT while fighting tryptophan-induced sleep, you know that Christmas has dominated our mass-mediated imagination since before Halloween. Christmas is the piece de resistance of a year spent hustling from one “big event” to another, anticipating the next holiday as we try to enjoy the present one. Christmas is the biggest celebration on the calendar. But we know not what we celebrate. Church leaders are in a major bind with this one. They have to compete with the usual rivals—Santa Claus, TV specials, and generic holiday cheer that can be felt without taking the family to a church. This year, Christian leaders face the allure of the new Star Wars. In a tossup between the baby Jesus and Luke Skywalker, I’m not sure most Christians would bet on the Christ Child over the Jedi Fighter. In an effort to capture their neighbors’ flitting attention, churches have perfected their Christmastime marketing game. It’s …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Women Who Aborted Feel about the Local Church

Two in three evangelicals were attending monthly or more at the time of their first abortion. On behalf of Care Net, a national network of crisis pregnancy centers, LifeWay Research surveyed more than 1,000 American women who have terminated one or more of their pregnancies. Here’s what evangelicals and churchgoers, defined as those attending church once a month or more, as well as all women who have had abortions, said: Church Attendance at Time of First Abortion 2 in 3 evangelicals were attending monthly or more. (“Evangelicals” is based on self-identification.) Judgment vs. Care Both churchgoers and non-churchgoers equally reported receiving or expecting reactions from local churches that were “judgmental” (1 in 3) or “condemning” (1 in 4). But churchgoers were much more likely than non-attenders to report or expect reactions that were “caring” (31% vs. 7%), “helpful” (28% vs. 7%), “loving” (25% vs. 6%), and “informative” (17% vs. 5%). Still, less than one-third of churchgoers said they received or expected such positive reactions from their local church. Reaction of Local Church (Received or Expected) In the Secret, Quiet Place 52% of churchgoers say no one at church knows they terminated a pregnancy. 38% say someone at church does know (including 55% …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Importance of Leading Kids to Love Jesus

By Ed Stetzer I recently asked #kidmin leaders how they help children love Jesus for themselves. Ed Stetzer: How do we avoid teaching moralistic principles, making the focus moralism, but instead at all ages and at all stages making sure people understand the gospel itself. Lou Cha (Kenwood Baptist Church, Cincinnati, OH): I think that one of the important things is you know training our teachers because our teachers are the ones that are teaching the curriculum and they are the ones that are imparting the truth to the children. And I think helping them to see that God’s Word is a revelation of Himself. That the hero of the Bible is God. He is telling something about Himself to us and sometimes whether through curriculum or even our own growing up within our church backgrounds, we’ve learned so many of the stories but we always look at the stories through the human points of view and the perspective of you know that person, individual person. Instead of looking at a God-centered view of you know this is God’s revelation to us, something about Himself that He wants us to know and understand. And so I think that a part of helping our children to see that is …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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An Update on the GC2 Summit on the Christian Response to Refugees

By Ed Stetzer Here’s what we have planned so far for the the GC2 Summit on refugees in January. Recently, we announced the GC2 Summit, a gathering for Evangelicals to consider an appropriate response to the growing, global refugee crisis. Here’s the more formal information. The Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College (BGCE) and the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College (HDI) have announced a summit, in partnership with LifeWay Research, to help Christians respond to the global refugee crisis. The meeting, called a GC2 Summit, will focus on leading a conversation on meeting needs, caring for, and engaging refugees around the world. The GC2 Summit will feature a number of key speakers and collaborators from the Evangelical community who specialize in ministry to refugees, in addition to senior denominational leaders, non-profit, and church leaders. The GC2 Summit will occur in two parts, with the first pre-meeting conversation occurring on Thursday, December 17, 2015, and the second gathering occurring on Wednesday, January 20, 2016. Both events will take place on the campus of Wheaton College. GC2 is a moniker that reflects an Evangelical commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. The intent of the gatherings is to reflect on and call for …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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