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Exploring Evangelicalism: An Interview With Brian Brodersen of Calvary Chapel—Part 2

By Ed Stetzer Brian Brodersen explains what some Evangelicals have misunderstood about Calvary Chapel ES: What do many Evangelicals often misunderstand about your movement? BB: One of the most common misunderstandings about Calvary Chapel that I’ve encountered is on the issue of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It seems that the non-Charismatics think we are Charismatics, and Charismatics think we are non-Charismatic. Or, the Baptists think we are Pentecostals, and the Pentecostals think we are Baptists. As already mentioned, we believe in all the gifts of the Holy Spirit for today and give room in many of our services for ministry in the gifts to take place; but we are very careful to maintain an orderly environment. Another subject of misunderstanding would be in relation to the Calvinism / Arminianism debate. This is one more area where we seemed to have landed in a bit of a different place from other Evangelicals. We are not Calvinists, yet we enjoy fellowship with and glean much from our Calvinist friends. However, we are not Arminians either, and we also enjoy fellowship with and glean from our Arminian friends. What we have sought to do when it comes to the subject of soteriology is to be as biblical as …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Give Us a King!: Leadership Theory for Election Season

By Halee Gray Scott Historic trends bring context to Trump’s confounding popularity. Thousands of political pundits, commentators, writers, and bloggers have attempted to understand and explain Donald Trump’s appeal. As a registered Independent, I’ve struggled alongside them. What would make people—and 37 percent of evangelical Christians especially—overlook such bad behavior? Judging by the dismissive attacks toward Trump supporters, one common explanation is to question their sanity or their character. While some share his fringe views, and some simply enjoy the Trump circus, I suspect Trump’s Christian backing—enough to earn him a spot among the top candidates in yesterday’s Iowa caucus—has less to do with contemptible biases and more to do with leadership theory. “Leadership is like beauty,” wrote leadership expert Warren Bennis. “It’s hard to define but you know it when you see it.” Part of the reason leadership is so difficult to define is because, contrary to popular notions, what we look for in a leader changes and evolves. Since the early 20th century, scholars have marked several different approaches to leadership—each corresponding to people’s values and needs in a particular time. … Over the past century, we moved from looking for “Great Man,” commanding leaders like Winston Churchill …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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I Know Why the Government Went after Pro-Life Investigative Journalists

By Jim Daly For Americans determined to speak out according to our deeply held beliefs, the price tag is becoming increasingly steep. Last week, a Texas grand jury indicted activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt last week for allegedly using fake IDs and attempting to buy fetal tissue. Both of the Center for Medical Progress, the pair concealed their identities while attempting to frame/highlight the willingness of Planned Parenthood employees to sell fetal tissue, capturing their conversations on a series of videos first released last summer. Christianity Today reached out to Daniel K. Williams, a historian of the pro-life movement, and Focus on the Family president Jim Daly to provide their perspective on the ethics of the pairs’ actions. I watched in horror last year as undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) surfaced showing the alleged sale of baby body parts by executives at the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. A few months later, I’m shaking my head in disbelief over reports that a Texas grand jury has indicted CMP’s David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. The charges? Tampering with a government document—in other words, using a fake ID—and attempting to buy fetal tissue. The first offense is one for which minors around the country are …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Most Protestant Pastors Aren't Voting Trump as Primaries Approach

By Bob Smietana – Facts & Trends Church leaders still undecided or pick other candidates, according to LifeWay Research. Ted Cruz is the favorite presidential candidate of pastors who lean Republican. Hillary Clinton leads among pastors who lean Democratic. And Donald Trump is near the back of the pack. But “Undecided” is by far the most popular choice of America’s pastors, according to a new telephone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The survey found nearly half of those planning to vote (48%) don’t know whom they would vote for if the presidential election were held today. “One of the most surprising findings of our survey was the poor showing of Donald Trump,” says Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “When it comes to Mr. Trump, there seems to be a huge gap between the pulpit and the pew.” Among other findings: Half (54%) of Protestant pastors indicate they are Republicans. One in four are independent (23%), while one in seven (14%) are Democrats. Among pastors who are Republicans, Cruz (29%) is in the lead, followed by Ben Carson (10%), Marco Rubio (8%), and Trump (5%). Meanwhile, 39 percent are undecided. Among pastors who are Democrats, one-third favor Clinton (38%), one in four (23%) favor Bernie Sanders, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Pastor of China's Largest Church Jailed for Protesting Removal of 1,500 Crosses

By Morgan Lee Christian unity growing as government-approved churches no longer immune from persecution. Until last month, Gu Yuese was the senior pastor at China’s largest government-approved Protestant church. In addition to his responsibilities at the Communist nation’s first megachurch—the 10,000-member Chongyi Church—Gu also held a leadership role in China’s state-approved denomination, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). But Gu’s most visible move occurred in 2014 when he publicly opposed a government-sponsored cross-demolition project, which has removed thousands of crosses in an area of Zhejiang province known as “China’s Jerusalem.” Chongyi Church is in Zhejiang’s capital city, Hangzhou. In January, the TSPM and China Christian Council forcibly removed Gu from Chongyi Church, saying the change was necessary to “move one step closer towards the proper self-construction and management of church locations … and sort out the interpersonal relationship between the province and the two municipal organizations.” Ten days later, Gu was taken into custody and sent to a black jail, a detention facility which falls outside of the country’s established penal system, China Aid reported. The following day, the Chinese government confirmed that Gu was currently undergoing a criminal investigation. “This is really quite an escalation,” China Aid president Bob Fu told …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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That Great Teacher: What We Learn From Insecurity

Insecurity teaches us by revealing where we are not surrendered to God A few weeks ago I sat on the couch, opposite my husband, as we shared our dreams for the future. He is a pastor and I am a writer, two vocations that walk well together, hand-in-hand. We talked about ministry, calling, and vision. We hashed out our plans, our successes, our failures, and our fears. Eventually the conversation turned to a subject I know well: insecurity. Throughout the past few years I have experienced a lot of insecurity in my writing and my call. The world of social media makes it easy to compare, leaving me to wonder if my gifts even matter. For years I ached, and even wept, over my inadequacy. My husband has dealt with insecurities of his own. Although his are different from mine, the hearts of our insecurities are essentially the same: Am I enough? Are my gifts enough? How do I compare with other leaders? Am I capable of growing my ministry effectively? Over the years, my husband’s struggles have functioned like a mirror reflecting back on my own, but with a wonderful, new kind of clarity. As I have walked my own journey of insecurity, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Gettys Spearhead Call For a Global Hymn Sing

By Ed Stetzer Acclaimed hymn writers to reintroduce “Facing a Task Unfinished” on a global scale Last week, my daughter and I visited with Keith Getty a bit, talking about music, ministry, and her plans. Keith left our meeting to head to a conference call about a new project they are launching. I asked for some info on that to share with you. As you may know, Keith and Kristyn Getty are prolific and highly-regarded hymn writers. They have reinvented the hymn-form creating a noteworthy catalog of songs, known and sung the world over by young and old. They’ve connected traditional and classical composition with contemporary, accessible melodies. An estimated 40 million people sing their song “In Christ Alone” (co-written with Stuart Townend) every year in churches around the world. You can watch my interview with Stuart on The Exchange video page. The Gettys are joining with OMF International to promote a “global hymn sing,” February 21, 2016, featuring the near-100-year-old hymn, Facing a Task Unfinished. Our church will be participating and I want to invite yours to as well. The Gettys didn’t write the hymn. In fact, China Inland Mission (now OMF International) worker Frank …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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To the Confused, Apathetic, and Undecided Christian Voters

By Katie Thompson, guest writer Our political engagement matters to our country, our neighbors, and God. As we approach the start of primary season, it has become impossible to avoid signs of the upcoming presidential election. Amid the events, commercials, articles, and memes, I noticed one “campaign” making waves: IDK Not Trump Tho. Comedian Dave Ross coined the slogan (text-speak for “I Don’t Know, Not Trump Though”), and he’s offering the logo for bumper stickers, yard signs, and T-shirts. It’s one of those jokes with an underlying truth to it; IDK Not Trump Tho clearly resonates with voters struggling to identify with a particular candidate or even a major party. Many of us in the 18-to-34 range find ourselves in this position—compelled by major issues related to justice, race, and the economy, yet disconnected from the politicians themselves. A Pew Research Center report on Millennials in Adulthood found that this generation is “unattached to organized politics,” with 50 percent of millennials identifying as political independents. Further, less than a third of us see a strong difference between Republican and Democratic parties. Many of my fellow 20- and 30-somethings—especially Christians—find themselves “politically homeless.” They can’t position themselves on the political spectrum, at least not consistently. They might support …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Trend #1 For The Future Of Church Planting—Kingdom Collaboration

By Daniel Im Church planting will thrive when we work together As I’ve been consulting with denominations, networks, and churches regarding their strategy to assess, train, coach, and fund church planters, there are a few trends that I’m beginning to notice. In fact, a few of these trends were the focus of Ed Stetzer’s and my writing in the newly updated edition of Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (May 2016). Not only did we overhaul every single chapter, but we also wrote several new ones. If you read the previous edition, it would be worth your time to take a look, since it’s practically a new book. Here are the three major trends that I’m beginning to notice for the future of church planting: Kingdom collaboration, bivocational ministry, and residencies and theological education. In this blog post, we’ll focus in on the first trend, and leave the other two trends for future posts. Trend #1: Kingdom Collaboration Together we can accomplish more than we can ever do alone. This is the buzz phrase of the new generation of church planters. In the future of church planting, church planters will be less focused on building their kingdom and more focused on seeing Jesus …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Two Ways Christians Distort Islam (and Two Ways Muslims Distort Christianity)

By David W. Shenk An excerpt from “Christian. Muslim. Friend: Twelve Paths to Real Relationship.” Editor’s Note: Christian. Muslim. Friend. received the 2016 Christianity Book Award in the category of Missions/The Global Church. My wife, Grace, and I were in a restaurant in an Asian country when friends ushered to our table another American couple. Our friends introduced me as an expert on Islam. “Oh, how delightful to meet you!” the American couple exclaimed. “We want to learn all we can from you about Muslims. Of course, we both know it is difficult to describe Muslims, because the Muslim holy book teaches Muslims to be liars. So when a Muslim says he has become a Christian, we can all know he is still a Muslim because his lies actually communicate the opposite of what is true.” On another occasion I was in a mosque on a Friday just on the eve of the Christmas holidays. In the sermon the imam confidently explained to the congregation that Christians get drunk on Christmas. So a proof of the truth of Islam is that Muslims do not get drunk, he said; they would never think of desecrating a Muslim festival by drinking. Neither statement is true. Some Muslims do …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Are Today’s Pro-Lifers Borrowing Pro-Abortion Supporters’ Philosophy?

By Daniel K. Williams Pre-Roe v. Wade, the pro-life movement vehemently denounced the idea that the end justifies the means. Last week, a Texas grand jury indicted activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt last week for allegedly using fake IDs and attempting to buy fetal tissue. Both of the Center for Medical Progress, the pair concealed their identities while attempting to frame/highlight the willingness of Planned Parenthood employees to sell fetal tissue, capturing their conversations on a series of videos first released last summer. Christianity Today reached out to Daniel K. Williams, a historian of the pro-life movement, and Focus on the Family president Jim Daly to provide their perspective on the ethics of the pairs’ actions.” Before Roe v. Wade, the pro-life movement vehemently denounced the idea that the end justifies the means. Abortion legalization advocates argued from a utilitarian perspective, maintaining that societal well-being, women’s health, and population pressures could be improved through the legalization of at least some abortions. Pro-lifers argued that no cause could justify the destruction of innocent unborn human life. It’s therefore ironic that a number of pro-life activists during the past few decades have unwittingly adopted a utilitarian ethic that their movement’s founders opposed. When pro-lifers break the law …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why I Gave in to Barbie, Even Before Her Size Change

By Laura Goetsch, guest writer Barbie teaches my girls to play. I’ll let other examples teach them about being a woman. After 57 years, Barbie has a new shape. Several, actually. In an effort to boost declining sales, Mattel unveiled curvy, petite, and tall Barbies late last month. These new dolls will be sold alongside traditional Barbies. While mothers around the country will appreciate this historic change, a few millimeters difference in size cannot reverse the cultural message about women’s bodies that has already reached many young girls. My three daughters have collected Barbie dolls for years. Given her reputation as impossibly skinny, usually white, and overly commercialized, Barbie’s presence among our kids’ toys has caused well-meaning friends to silently question our parenting: Don’t they know that Barbies foster body image issues? Can’t they see that they teach destructive ideas about being a woman? Of course I can see it. Barbie’s traditional proportions make no sense, and her look implies that beauty is exclusively defined as thin, white, and silky blond. For five whole years, we intentionally kept Barbie out of our home. But after our oldest daughter’s fifth birthday, we could hold out no longer. We threw her a butterfly-themed party, and one guest …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Should Christians Disagree? Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians Try a New Model

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Joint statement by believers in Israel and Palestine is a small but hopeful step toward peace. Historically, Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories haven’t gotten along much better than their respective governments. The list of issues to argue about is long: security, the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, equality of citizenship in Israel, refugees, acts of lethal violence, and the search for justice and peace were examples listed at a gathering last month of 30 Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews. However, the group didn’t gather to argue. Instead, they spent four days in study and prayer before issuing a statement of unity. “In times of tension and violent conflict, relationships suffer, while suspicion, accusation, and mutual rejection thrive,” the statement read. “At such times it is even more essential that we who affirm our unity in the Messiah must uphold ethical standards of life that are worthy of our calling, in all our attitudes, words, and deeds.” The conference was hosted in Cyprus by the Lausanne Initiative for Reconciliation in Israel-Palestine (LIRIP) with the hopes of promoting “reconciliation within the body of Christ and our wider communities in Israel and Palestine.” The network of participants was meant to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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7 New Theology Books You Should Read This Year

By Compiled by Kevin P. Emmert A list to help you grow intellectually and spiritually. CT asked publishers which theology and biblical studies books they were most excited to publish this year. Here are the entries along with descriptions from the authors, showing how their books address questions and concerns Christian have. What does it mean to be a Christian today? Modern Christian Theology, by Christopher Ben Simpson (T&T Clark, February) My book tells how the story of Modernity is deeply intertwined with the story of Christian theology. Few people in the modern Western world think about God or religion. A religious perspective is no longer dominant in our society. If we look back 500 years, we see a world in which it would be strange for someone not to believe in God. What happened from 1500 onward—the rise and development of “Modernity”—was not only influenced by developments in Christian theology, but also influenced what it means when we today claim to be Christians. Our Christian theology has a history, and understanding that history—and the resources therein—shapes how we should think about ourselves, the modern world, and the Christian faith. ~ Christopher Ben Simpson, professor of philosophical theology, Lincoln Christian University How can we truly understand ourselves? None Like Him: 10 …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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An Ambassador to the ‘Spiritual but Not Religious’

By C. Christopher Smith Why David Dark thinks it’s a mistake to reject the R-word. In the first half of the 17th century, Rene Descartes put forth a new method of philosophy, inaugurating what would come to be called the modern age. His philosophy was driven largely by skepticism about the reigning religious and philosophical traditions of his day, and his method was geared toward weakening their influence. Over the last four centuries, Decartes’s work has become deeply embedded in Western culture. As a result, we are increasingly alienated from the places, stories, and traditions through which our ancestors made sense of the world. Descartes’s philosophy has a surprisingly contemporary feel in the 21st century. A recent re-reading of his work gave me the sense that he might feel right at home with those who identify as “spiritual but not religious” (or simply, the “nones”). Like many nones today, Descartes likely saw the senseless devastation that was done in the name of religion. (He was, after all, born less than a century after the dawn of the Reformation and undoubtedly knew the religious violence that saturated Europe in the early 17th century.) Today, we still see our share of religious violence and inconsistent or abusive behavior …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Bring Back Blind Dating

By Stephanie Rische, guest writer Online matches put the pressure on us, while setups offer a sense of community support. Married at First Sight is one of those extreme reality shows with a premise so far-fetched you can hardly believe it’s “reality,” yet there’s something about it that compels you to watch. As the title suggests, it features three couples who are matched by a panel of experts and agree to get married upon their initial meeting. While these brave souls may be the exception in the dating world, the show’s popularity speaks to what may be a growing weariness with today’s dating process. In his standup comedy and his relationship book Modern Romance, comedian Aziz Ansari likewise marvels at his own parents’ arranged marriage. He notes with some irony, “It was quicker for my dad to find a wife than it is for me to decide where to eat dinner.” Ansari contrasts the community-focused way his parents met with online dating, which relies heavily on personal preference … and is growing more specific and niche than ever. It’s true, there’s a specialty site for nearly every demographic: FarmersOnly.com, EquestrianSingles.com, VeggieDate.org, and even MouseMingle.com for Disney Parks fans. At these sites, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Church Planting At Thomas Road Baptist Church—An Interview with Jonathan Falwell

Thomas Road’s pastor discusses the church’s 60-year history of planting churches Ed Stetzer: Tell me about the church planting history of Thomas Roads Baptist Church as you look back at your 60 years. Jonathan Falwell: My dad was always about church planting. He planted Thomas Road in 1956 and planted the first church out of Thomas Road just a year later. The church in Arnold’s Valley, Virginia is still thriving today. In our close to 60 years at Thomas Road, we’ve planted 4,791 churches and we’re casting the vision for more. We want to go over 5,000 churches by the end of next year. That’s a passion that has always been part of our DNA and something we continue to work towards and pray about. We realize the way to change the world is not through elections, but through the local church. ES: When we talk about Thomas Road, everyone thinks about Liberty University. But does the passion and focus on church planting precede the university? JF: Absolutely. It goes back to the very genesis of our church. Recently, I read through some documents from the church in Arnold’s Valley telling how dad helped plant that church. Four months after he planted Thomas Road, in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Nominal Nation—The Shift Away From Self-Identified Christianity

By Ed Stetzer The decline of nominal Christianity is an opportunity for the gospel There was a time in American history when it seemed like everyone was a Christian. Now, depending on where in America you live, it can seem like no one is a Christian. In reality, in our lifetimes, there was never a time when everyone was a Christian, and there will never be a time when there are no Christians. We’ve used the term “Christian” so broadly that it sometimes doesn’t bear a resemblance to itself. It’s nearly become a word without a meaning in modern America. Or, I should say it has endless meanings. Therefore, we can get the wrong ideas about what is and is not true in the Church and in culture. The way things were At one point, there was more of a Judeo-Christian consensus. There was a time when most people in America lived by more religious principles. This is why America has been referred to as a “Christian nation.” Of course, we know that nations cannot be “born again” in an evangelical sense, so a nation can’t truly be “Christian.” Only individuals can be Christians. Now, 70-75% of American say they are Christians. I’ve estimated that about a third of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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4 Pieces of Advice for My Younger Self

By Ed Stetzer What we learn along the way can help those who’ve yet to live it What advice would you give your younger self? Thinking through that question can allow a new generation to learn from the journey of those who have gone before and have the scars to show for it. Several years ago Episcopalian priest Peter Wallace published 52 things he would have told his younger self. Among those: It’s a good thing that we don’t know everything that’s going to happen to us. (2) Your hard work in school will be worth it. But come on, don’t kill yourself.​ (4) Engage in self-reflection, but don’t let it become self-deception. (30) You can’t pray too much. (38) “Things I would tell my younger self” is another way to say “here as some things I’ve learned along the way.” Those of us who are older need to remember how much we can teach younger people if we will do it humbly. If I could go back in time, here are the four things I would tell my younger self. First, be cautious with whom you choose to work—not everyone has your best interests at heart. Why would I mention this point as my …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Amplifying Evangelism—Stay the Course

Keep your church evangelistically focused over the long term The idea of a marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger who was sent from the Battle of Marathon to Athens—26 miles away—to inform the Greeks that the Persians had been defeated. Legend has it that Pheidippides ran the entire 26 miles without stopping, and upon delivering his message collapsed and died. Although there’s debate about the historicity of this event, the practice of the marathon is real. According to the 2014 Annual Marathon Report (yes, it’s a real report), 541,000 people were classified as “finishers.” In other words, 541,000 people who started a marathon actually completed it. Here’s a real simple principle when it comes to completing a marathon: anyone wishing to start and finish a marathon must have what it takes to stay the course. In the beginning… Leading a church is similar to running a marathon. For church planters there is much practice and preparation done before the big launch day. They cover a lot of groundwork prior to launching—building relationships, evangelizing people, connecting with community entities, creating communication pieces, and attempting to engrain themselves in the daily rhythms of the community. All of their preparation prepares them for the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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