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Sarah Bessey: In Praise of Everyday Theologians

By Sarah Bessey, guest writer God-talk isn’t just for academia. It’s for laundry rooms, gyms, hospitals, and everywhere else. Editor’s note: Sarah Bessey’s new book Out of Sorts explores how our faith can change over time. The following excerpt comes from a chapter encouraging readers to not be intimidated to raise questions and study theology as a way to encourage their own spiritual growth and evolution. Robert Farrar Capon writes in The Supper of the Lamb, “There, then, is the role of the amateur: to look the world back to grace.” It’s for this reason that, while I love professional hockey such as the NHL games, nothing gets Canada more excited than the World Junior Ice Hockey Tournament. There’s something about a bunch of kids who play just for the love of the game that is so sweet to us. They’re amateurs, sure, not as skilled as the professionals, but oh, do we love to cheer them on. John Wimber, one of the founders of the Vineyard church movement, used to say, “Everyone gets to play.” He meant that everyone gets to minister, everyone gets to hear from God, everyone has a part to play in this church and in this world, everyone gets …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Some Perspective on Millennials Serving in Ministry

What are we ought to think about Millennials as future leaders of the ministry? The Millennial generation, the oldest of whom are turning 35 this year, are inarguably the ministry leaders of the future. However, Millennials also have the smallest percentage of church attendance of any generation, leaving many pastors looking for insight and advice on how to reach them. While there are many opinions regarding Millennials and the future they may create, there is very little information regarding the perspectives of Millennials serving in ministry positions. Who Was Surveyed Our team took a qualitative approach to this question and surveyed Millennials serving in ministry, asking about their perspectives on religion, spirituality, and church. We used open-ended questions in order to obtain an expression of their thoughts. As is the nature of qualitative research, the results cannot be extrapolated to Millennials in general or Millennials in ministry in specific. Though still to be fully analyzed, the preliminary results are intriguing. Those in our survey ranged from single, to married, to parents. They also ranged from serving in volunteer positions in churches, to serving in Christian non-profits, to pastors. Overall, the trends demonstrated in this group were strong and personally encouraging. For example, many …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Three Ways Christians Can Be Like Jesus Amidst a More Polarized Culture

By Ed Stetzer New data from Pew Research Center points to a growing ideological polarization in the U.S., and an opportunity for us to be like Jesus. Yesterday morning, Pew Research Center published a new set of data from a recent study on Americans and religion. You may remember a similar study in May of this year called the “American Religious Landscape” survey. (For my take on those, see articles at CNN, USAToday, the Washington Post, and here on my blog.) The newest data confirms much of what the General Social Survey (the data I used in many of the above articles) shows. America is becoming more secular, but the faithful are remaining devout. There is more than one thing going on, but a big part is that “nominal” Christians, the data shows us, are abandoning the “Christian” label more in the last seven years than they have before. As every single reliable researcher believes: the church isn’t dying. In other words, there’s not a collapse of practicing Christianity, and that’s the headline of almost every story, though some people still won’t believe it. But, take a look at the stories and their headlines such …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What Is the Missional Church (Part 4)?—Shaped By God and His Mission

By Ed Stetzer Mission and missions must work together. We mustn’t have one without the other. The Missional Church is Shaped by God and His Mission In order for the church to recover its missional passion, we must reclaim our lost sense of the glory of God’s mission. While evangelical churches affirm the orthodox doctrine of God, we approach him too often as a God we can use. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction. We have shrunk God down to our size. We have limited the scope of his mission in our minds. We have unwittingly bought into the idea that progress is more important than redemption (Stetzer, 175-179). Our zeal for mission has been undermined by our small view of God. We have simply replaced God’s purpose for the world with our own purpose for the world. Even when we serve and help and give and share, we too often do it from a sense of obligation or a desire to impress. We have become a church that is motivated by a host of things but a singular desire to glorify God. We will not recover the missional vision of the church until we recover the grandeur of a big God, of being …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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When Complaining Tears Us Apart

By Sharon Hodde Miller Sociologists say voicing our frustrations brings us together. Scripture offers another way. Complaining is a social lubricant that makes conversation easy, whether we’re talking about our families or the weather or the switch from Daylight Saving Time. When we commiserate with one another, we connect. Some researchers suggest complaining facilitates bonding and is psychologically healthy. Irene S. Levine, a professor of psychiatry at New York University, describes complaining as an opportunity to feel understood. Through it, we offer one another “reassurance and support.” The “bond” created by complaining is why, in its presence, many of us instinctually join in, even when we can’t relate to the specifics of the complaint. Maybe you’re not married to a messy husband, but your roommate is kind of a slob. Maybe your husband isn’t lazy and forgetful, but there was that time when he double-booked your schedules. I don’t know about you, but I have complained about people and things that had not bothered me otherwise, simply to be included. A couple years ago, I sat with a group of exhausted young mothers as we sipped our coffees and laughed about our weeks. We relished the pause from a frenzy of kids and commitments, and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Settle for the 'Wilberforce Option' When We Have Dr. King?

By Gabriel Salguero There is a model for cultural engagement that doesn’t depend on power and privilege. “There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learnt to see the great events of world history from below.” This quote, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s essay “After Ten Years,” could describe many evangelicals after the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. Losing cultural influence is a necessary corrective to conflating Christian witness with political and cultural dominance. Christian witness is never a guarantee of success. But there is something missing in many descriptions of this “from below” moment. Evangelical Christians are not, and have never been, a monolith. Sweeping statements about past dominance and present dislocation show that, for many, evangelicals of color remain Ralph Ellison’s “invisible man.” Many Hispanic, Asian, and African American evangelicals are not having a “Chicken Little” moment. Our sky is not falling, because we have lived under fallen skies for years. Conservative Christians have been disproportionately affected by racism, immigration, poverty, and denial of voting rights (to name a few issues) for decades and centuries. Why did lack of progress on these issues not arouse similar concerns long ago? Author and activist Lisa Sharon Harper put the point vividly to me: “None of church …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Accelerating Accuracy: The Bible Translation Challenge

By Freddy Boswell, Samuel Chiang, Bob Creson, Carl Moeller, Michael Perreau and Roy Peterson A coalition of Bible agencies warns against overemphasizing speed. Every Tribe Every Nation, an alliance of philanthropic and Bible agencies, represents groups that have developed more than 85 percent of the Bible translations in the world. It includes the American Bible Society, Biblica, Seed Company, SIL, Wycliffe USA, and the United Bible Societies. After Christianity Todaypublished its article on Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation (MAST) in its June issue, the alliance sent this statement. See also today’s CT report on the ongoing debate over MAST. Speed and accuracy. In many areas of life, we are challenged to balance speed and accuracy. An equestrian trying to finish a course in the quickest time with the fewest penalties. The typist who strives for the fastest speed with the fewest errors. Medical researchers searching for the quickest path to a cure with the fewest side effects. And when it comes to Bible translation, speed and meaningful accuracy are also fundamental principles that undergird the work. We have an incredible sense of urgency to ensure that all people can access the gospel message, but we take very seriously our spiritual responsibility to ensure that each new translation accurately relays the Scripture’s full meaning and spirit of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Goodbye 'Bathroom Bill': Houston Voters Reject New LGBT Protections

By Kate Shellnutt Inspired by subpoenaed sermons, conservative Christians overturn HERO. At the polls yesterday, Houston voters rejected an anti-discrimination law that would extend protections for LGBT residents among other groups. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, was branded the “bathroom bill” by opponents who feared accommodation of transgender individuals would give men, including sexual predators, the right to use women’s restrooms in public. Conservative Christian congregations in the area rallied and prayed against HERO as a violation of their beliefs on gender identity. “Biology and the Bible show us that there’s a difference between men and women,” said Gregg Matte, pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church. “In order to keep men out of women’s locker rooms, I want to encourage you to vote ‘no’ to Proposition 1 (HERO).” Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church, called the ordinance “a very serious moral issue” that could potentially open the city up to godlessness. “It has been reported that we discriminate,” he told his church. “If we open up our facilities so that someone can choose … those of us who believe that men should use men’s facilities and women’s facilities, we will be discriminated against.” Opponents raised nearly $3 million to campaign against the law, more …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Is Germany’s Refugee Crisis a Muslim Mission Field?

By Morgan Lee A three million-strong Christian denomination says a “strategic mission” to convert Muslims goes against “the spirit” of Jesus. Up to one million refugees are expected to arrive in Germany by end of this year, hoping to gain asylum in the European Union’s largest country. Many are arriving from Muslim-majority countries, including Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran. But while German churches have been eager to materially support the refugees, Christians aren’t on the same page about sharing the gospel with newcomers. One prominent denomination has claimed in a position paper that trying to evangelize refugees is unchristian, reports Religion News Service. “A strategic mission to Islam or meeting Muslims to convert them threatens social peace and contradicts the spirit and mandate of Jesus Christ and is therefore to be firmly rejected,” said the Evangelical Church of the Rhineland in a paper entitled “Pilgrim Fellowship and Witness in Dialogue with Muslims, according to RNS. A denomination of about three million, the Evangelical Church of the Rhineland is one of twenty Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant groups that make up the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). According to the most recent figures, 23 million Germans are part of EKD, whose numbers …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: Spotlight

By Kenneth R. Morefield What happens when good men stop doing nothing? mpaa rating:R (For some language including sexual references.) Genre:Drama, Historical Theatre Release:November 06, 2015 by Open Road Films Editor’s note: the following is a review from the Toronto Film Festival, where the film premiered in September. My biggest fear going into Spotlight, the historical drama which reenacts the Boston Globe‘s exposé of clergy sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, was that auteur Tom McCarthy would find some way—probably through lionizing the journalists—to recast this horrific chapter of our history into a feel-good story. In America, we don’t mind movies that ask us to pity victims. But we sure seem to hate anyone or anything that asks us to not feel quite so good about ourselves. I had nothing to worry about. If anything, Walter Robinson’s (Michael Keaton) biggest epiphany is a bit of a Schindler moment: Why didn’t I do more? As Robinson and his team of investigative reporters act as our surrogates, they don’t lead us into the temptation of self-righteous hindsight, nor do they deliver us from realizing that we’re complicit in our silence. Spotlight is a serious film, both artistically and morally, and it wrestles with explosive content while never …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Sherry Turkle: How to Keep Your iPhone from Destroying Your Relationships

By Interview by Morgan Lee The MIT expert weighs in on our worst technology sins. If you’ve ever watched a group of people glued to their smartphones and wondered how these devices are shaping our relationships, Sherry Turkle’s research is for you. The MIT professor, known for her insightful books and TED talks, studies Americans’ relationship with technology and how it spills over into our interactions with our partners, kids, and friends. A recent Pew Internet survey found that 9 in 10 Americans had used their cell phones during the most recent social gathering they attended, even though the vast majority of us (82%) consider it annoying or distracting for others to do so in conversation. Actually talking with other people, free from interruptions, can help mitigate some of the damage done by distracting smartphones and tablets, writes Turkle in her new book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. “The pathway to empathy is something you learn through conversation. It’s not as if we need to invent incredible new technology,” she said. “We learn empathy through the process of conversation.” Turkle recently spoke with CT assistant editor Morgan Lee about the constant interruption of digital notifications, how we became so uncomfortable …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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True Friends Will Change You

By Leilani Mueller, guest writer Transformative friendships happen everywhere… not just in small groups. After a welcome banquet for new students, the two of us sat beside a fountain and chatted about our shared backgrounds. Among the mostly white student body, we’d noticed that we were both multi-racial. From there, we discovered that we were both theater girls, having even played some of the same roles before. We loved books and beauty, and we were in the same honors program. We both took our faith seriously. Amid the excitement of so many shared passions, I met one of my best friends. In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis defines friendship as the moment when two people realize a shared love. Over time, this kind of instant connection evolves into something more. A friendship based on mutual interest turns into the chance to shape and sharpen each other’s interests. You grow and change because of the other person. It’s this transformational nature of friendship that makes it a significant part of our lives as Christians. God uses friendship not just to change us, but to make us like him. Dallas Willard states in The Divine Conspiracy that making people like Christ consists in “bringing people to believe with their …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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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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