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Church Planting Metrics: Measure What’s Important (Part Two)

By Kenn Oke Measure outcomes, not activities. Read Church Planting Metrics: Measure What’s Important, Part One (The Problem of Measurement Inversion; Defining and Measuring “Healthy Church”; Is Your Organization Suffering from Measurement Inversion?). Define the Object of Measurement (i.e., Church) As mentioned above, the end goal for church planters should be a biblically healthy church. The target “biblically healthy church,” however, is too vague to be observed and quantified. The design team needs to take the target and deconstruct it into sub-targets and observable indicators. Sub-targets are the components that characterize biblically healthy churches. They don’t describe church planting activities, but rather results of those activities. The list of sub-targets, when taken together, should be an accurate description of a healthy church without going beyond the biblical definition of church. The design team prepares a draft list of sub-targets, which they revise and rewrite as they receive input from leaders and practitioners. To keep the list of sub-targets manageable, the final list should be as short as possible (e.g., seven or fewer sub-targets). The following questions can serve as a guide for the design team as they define sub-targets: Is the sub-target a description of an outcome (rather than an activity)? Is the sub-target an …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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City Refuses Atheist Group’s Request to Remove Cross From Public Park

By Heather Clark NEOSHO, Mo. — Officials at a city in Missouri have decided to refuse a prominent professing atheist organization’s request to remove a cross display from a public park. The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter earlier this month to the mayor of the city of Neosho, stating that it had been informed by a complainant that a cross… …read more Source:: Christian News Network       ...
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‘Church of Scotland’ Backs Homosexual Unions

By Editor (Christian Institute) — The Church of Scotland has taken steps to allow its ministers to perform same-sex “weddings,” after debating a report in its General Assembly. The report, put forward by the influential Theological Forum, acknowledged that the Bible condemns same-sex acts, but claimed Scripture was framed by cultural context. Marriage was redefined in… …read more Source:: Christian News Network       ...
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Hallmark Offering Cards to Celebrate ‘Gender Transitions’

By Heather Clark The popular greeting card company Hallmark is selling cards to affirm those who identify as “transgender” and to celebrate those who are undergoing gender “transitions,” the company has confirmed. “Hallmark is committed to helping people share what’s in their hearts with those they love, and we strive to be inclusive and relevant with our products,” the… …read more Source:: Christian News Network       ...
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Pregnant Teen Prohibited From Walking Christian School Graduation for Violating Code of Conduct

By Heather Clark HAGERSTOWN, Md. — A pregnant teenager has been prohibited from walking her graduation ceremony due to a violation of her Christian school’s code of conduct, which requires that students refrain from premarital sex. Heritage Academy Principal Dave Hobbs says that he doesn’t believe the situation would be a good example for those present and also doesn’t want to… …read more Source:: Christian News Network       ...
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Church Leader Among Dead in Central African Republic

By Editor (World Watch Monitor) — A church leader was among those killed in the recent outbreak of violence in the Central African Republic, it has emerged. Baptist pastor Ange-Apoléon Ngakolada, 36, leaves behind a wife and eight children. The president of the Association of Evangelical Baptist Churches in CAR, Singa Gbadia, told World Watch Monitor that Mr. Ngakolada… …read more Source:: Christian News Network       ...
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Following Vatican Visit, Melania Trump Spokeswoman Confirms First Lady Is Catholic

By Editor Photo Credit: Melania Trump/Twitter (Washington Post) — After she met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday, first lady Melania Trump confirmed a little-known fact about her faith: She is Catholic. And she described the visit with the leader of the Catholic Church as “one I’ll never forget.” While President Trump referenced his Presbyterian… …read more Source:: Christian News Network       ...
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Moral Outrage in America Is Now for Everybody

By Kate Shellnutt Gallup finds record-high liberalism on 10 of 19 issues. Yet moderates and liberals are growing more concerned. Ask Americans about their personal views on moral issues, and they are more likely than ever to hold a liberal position. Ask them about the country’s moral values, and they’re becoming more and more pessimistic. The church today finds itself in a precarious position, as an ethical shift pushes public opinion in favor of stances that Christians have traditionally sided against. Meanwhile, Americans from all political and theological stripes have their own reasons to be concerned over moral decline. In a recent poll, Gallup found a widening embrace for more than a dozen moral issues, including record-high acceptance for gay relationships, divorce, pornography, polygamy, and physician-assisted suicide. Of the 19 issues queried about, Americans have become more liberal on 13 of them (with 10 hitting record highs) and stayed consistent on 6—most notably abortion, which 43 percent of Americans and 34 percent of Protestants deem morally acceptable. Americans have not shifted more conservative on any of the 19 moral issues measured. “There was a time that basic Christian morality was at least something people were afraid to violate—at least in an answer on a public survey,” said Dan …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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New Undercover Video Captures Crowd Chuckling as Abortionist Tells of Eyeball That ‘Fell Down Into My Lap’

By Heather Clark A new undercover video released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) features clips of various Planned Parenthood officials and other abortion advocates making nonchalant statements about the abortion process, including that the baby’s eyeballs fell into their lap or that they had to tear off a leg to avoid technically performing a partial-birth abortion. The… …read more Source:: Christian News Network       ...
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Terrorists Kill 26 Christians on Church Bus Trip to Popular Monastery

By Jayson Casper in Cairo On eve of Ramadan, attack stuns Egypt’s Copts. Terrorists ambushed a Coptic church bus trip on Friday near Minya in Upper Egypt, killing at least 26 and injuring 25, including many children. Egypt’s interior ministry reported that three 4×4 vehicles of 8 to 10 gunmen dressed in military uniforms opened fire on the vehicle, which was on its way to St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Samalout, 140 miles south of Cairo. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the attack—which occurred on the eve of Ramadan—follows church bombings claimed by the Islamic State on Palm Sunday and in advance of Christmas. Last week, Egyptian authorities arrested 48 individuals, securing confessions of belonging to a terrorist cell linked to the Islamic State. “I am grieving. It is sad and shocking,” said Bishop Thomas of the Coptic Orthodox diocese of Qusia, 75 miles from the monastery. “But at the same time, I know this is not new. I was expecting things like this to happen. And it will not be the last.” Thomas described St. Samuel’s as a favorite location for Copts to visit in central Egypt. A desert monastery, it has a simplicity that attracts both spiritual pilgrimage and social outings. The …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Our Spiritual Gifts Have an Expiration Date

By Andrew Wilson Let’s rejoice in them—while looking forward to a time when they’re no longer needed. Spiritual gifts can cause confusion. As a pastor in a charismatic church, I encounter it all the time. Some are worried whenever they hear talk of the gifts of the Holy Spirit—languages, prophecy, healing, miracles, and so forth—and others are worried whenever they hear talk of anything else. The second group risks turning a good thing into an ultimate thing; the first risks dismissing a good thing because it might frighten the horses. God’s miraculous gifts have often been met with mixed responses. Some pour scorn over them, and some fawn over them. For a better way to think about the place of gifts in the contemporary church, it’s helpful to think back to an Old Testament example: Spiritual gifts are like manna. There are all sorts of reasons for the comparison. Both are miraculous gifts that come down from heaven daily to sustain people. Not for nothing does Paul describe manna, and the water from the rock, as “spiritual food” and “spiritual drink” (1 Cor. 10:3–4), before moving on to talk about “spiritual gifts” (1 Cor. 12–14). Both are easily misunderstood. When the Israelites first encountered manna, they …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Ben Sasse: Adolescence Is a Gift, but Extended Adolescence Is a Trap

By Interview by Matt Reynolds The Nebraska senator wants parents to get serious about shepherding kids into responsible adulthood. During the 2016 presidential race, Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, struck a chord on social media with principled opposition to his party’s nominee, Donald Trump. But his posts on the political scene weren’t the only ones getting attention. That same year, his teenage daughter, Corrie, went away to apprentice at a cattle ranch, where she performed variety of unpleasant, sometimes gross-sounding jobs. Sasse began relaying some of her text-messaged observations to his Twitter followers under the heading “lessons from the ranch.” (A sample: “Today we checked to confirm some cows were pregnant—which Megan did by jamming her hand up their rectums. Eww.”) That dirty, sweaty, achy work builds character is one of many axioms reverberating through the senator’s book, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis—and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance. During his tenure as president of Midland University (a small Lutheran school in his hometown of Fremont, Nebraska), Sasse often observed students who seemed stuck in adolescence, having never acquired the virtues and character traits they’d need to raise families, run businesses, and revitalize communities. His book warns that Americans have lost touch with …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Freedom and Chaos of Sola Scriptura

By Interview by Mark Galli Historian Mark Noll helps unravel the uses and misuses of ‘the Bible alone.’ It’s been a hallmark of Protestantism for 500 years, but what do we mean when we base our faith on “the Bible alone”? Is it even possible to read the Bible without being influenced by the social and theological contexts in which one is immersed? Hasn’t this doctrine, more than any other Reformation doctrine, been responsible for the fragmentation of the church? To help unravel such questions, editor in chief Mark Galli interviewed a scholar who has given much thought to the place of Scripture in the church’s life: Mark Noll, recently retired from the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492–1783, as well as an essay in Protestantism After 500 Years entitled, “Chaotic Coherence: Sola Scriptura and the Twentieth-Century Spread of Christianity.” Though the idea of sola scriptura predates Martin Luther, when did the idea surface in his life? It came in controversies with people defending indulgences and unquestioned obedience to the pope. In these disputes he appealed directly to the Bible—as with his dramatic statement to the Holy Roman Emperor at Worms in 1521: …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Defending the Faith (of Others)

By Kate Shellnutt Russian evangelicals’ hesitancy to back Jehovah’s Witnesses could backfire. Evangelism is a tough sell in Russia, where the Orthodox Church dominates the religious and political landscape. So the Kremlin’s ban on one of evangelicals’ door-to-door competitors for souls—Jehovah’s Witnesses—would seem to be good news for the Good News. However, Witnesses have historically served as a bellwether for religious freedom for other minority groups. In Russia, that includes evangelicals, who remain hesitant to defend the rights of Witnesses as a fellow non-Orthodox faith. In April, Russia’s Supreme Court declared the pacifist religious organization an “extremist group” and banned all of its activity. Jehovah’s Witnesses were put in the same category as terrorists. Yaroslav Sivulsky, spokesman for the Witnesses national headquarters near St. Petersburg, called the move “a disaster for rights and freedoms in our country,” particularly for the 175,000 followers and 2,000 congregations that make Russia one of the faith tradition’s largest strongholds in Europe and Asia. Leading up to the trial, witnesses fought back. The organization launched a global letter-writing campaign asking the Kremlin to reconsider the ban. Members in Russia filed a counter-suit, claiming political repression. The court dismissed them, saying it did not have the authority to decide either way. Witnesses faced the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Do Children Go to Heaven When They Die?

By Alan Bandy God’s love for children is clear in Scripture, but the ‘age of accountability’ is harder to find. Several years ago, I took a group of college students to the Amazon basin to share the love of Christ in some remote river communities. After a few days in one village, I left a small group of students there and continued upriver to another village. After I left, a young family in the community tragically lost a 6-month-old baby to an unknown illness and dehydration. The parents asked my students to do the funeral. These 19- and 20-year-olds were not prepared for the emotional and spiritual gravitas of the situation. They did the best they could to minister to that family. But they all felt the acute burden of answering the inevitable theological questions arising from such a difficult loss: What happens when children die? Are they saved? What do we say to comfort grieving parents? It is natural, maybe even inevitable, that we seek comfort in the hope that God welcomes little ones in heaven when their time on earth is cut painfully short. While most Christians affirm the doctrine of inherited sin and confess that forgiveness of sin comes only through personal …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Christians See Muslims

By Kate Shellnutt Missions experts urge concern for both souls and security. Last December, two Muslim college students visited an upstate New York megachurch as part of an assignment to learn about different faiths. After the service, some congregants shared stories and offered hugs. One called Homeland Security. The incident was an anomaly. But it still made national news, because it played into stereotypes of American evangelicals’ unfamiliarity with Muslims and tendency to conflate Islam with terrorism. Surveys suggest that what evangelicals think Muslims think is quite different from how Muslims in the United States and abroad describe their beliefs. White evangelicals are also the least likely Americans to know a Muslim. This concerns evangelical experts on Muslim missions. Because as more Muslim migrants flee unstable and violent homelands, the mission field that was once half a world away has made its way into many American communities. Last year, the US admitted about 39,000 Muslim refugees, a record high. “This is the best chance we’ve had in human history to share the love of Christ with Muslims,” said David Cashin, an intercultural studies professor at Columbia International University. But survey after survey indicates that white evangelicals are the least excited about their new neighbors. They show the highest levels …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Do We Treat Sunday the Way the Earliest Christians Did?

By Matthew Barrett Historian Justo González charts how observance of the Lord’s Day has changed over time. I never miss the opportunity to read Justo González. The eminent Cuban American church historian has long provided a wealth of insight into the development of Christian doctrine as it has spread across the globe. At first, I was puzzled by the title of his latest book, A Brief History of Sunday: From the New Testament to the New Creation (Eerdmans). Could 150 pages really do justice to such a massive subject? Yet the book, though small in size, packs a substantial punch, correcting a number of misconceptions long held by historians and theologians alike. The second half of the book covers expected topics, like how the British Puritans approached the Sabbath, and how secularization has influenced Sabbath observance in modern times. But in the first half, González makes a provocative claim: that the argument for naming Sunday the Sabbath day might not be as obvious as we suppose. “Many may be surprised,” he writes, “to learn that connecting Sunday with the fourth commandment finds very little warrant in the early church, and that calling Sunday ‘the Sabbath’ is a relatively …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Invisible Heroes of the Persecuted Church

By Timothy C. Morgan The case for Christians investing in the profession only 1 in 5 Americans trust. Behind every Asia Bibi—the Pakistani Christian mother of five still on death row after seven years over a false blasphemy charge—are the near-invisible lawyers who defend persecuted believers, pastors, and churches around the globe. Only 1 in 5 American Christians think lawyers are highly ethical or contribute a lot to the well-being of society, according to surveys by Gallup and the Pew Research Center. But human rights lawyers overseas face death threats, arrest, detention without trial, beatings, and torture. Over the past 25 years, 30,000 Christian legal advocates and judges in 156 nations have organized into national networks through the efforts of Advocates International (AI), based near Washington, DC. These lawyers—who work together across countries to release imprisoned pastors or harassed missionaries—are a vital part of the body of Christ that easily escapes notice, says president Brent McBurney. “Our work helps the gospel,” he said. “If you don’t have lawyers who are following Christ to fight to keep the doors open for the gospel, then the doors close and no missionaries can go in.” Such advocacy has gained high recognition in political circles. “In the more repressive countries, these lawyers are …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Eugene Peterson: The Pursuit of Happiness Is a Dead-End Street

By Eugene Peterson How Ecclesiastes shows a better way to joyful living than chasing pleasure When God spoke to Job “out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1, RSV throughout), he told him that when he, God, “laid the foundation of the earth”—that is, created everything that exists—“the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (vv. 4, 7). Which is to say, if we throw our minds back into the past as far as we can imagine, what we find is joy: the stars of God and the sons of God singing and shouting joyfully. Then go the other direction—as far in the future as we can imagine, into heaven—and we find a similarly joyful pleasure. In Revelation, all creation is gathered around God’s throne, and songs of joy are lifted up by great multitudes in exuberant chorus. In the midst of the assembled joy, 24 elders, representing the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles of the church—venerable and dignified figures who represent symbolically the centuries of discipleship and faith in a grand finale—take off their crowns and throw them into the air, pitching them before God’s throne (Rev. 4:1–11). The picture is one of hilarity, almost of frivolity. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Gleanings: June 2017

By CT Staff Important developments in the church and the world (as they appeared in our June issue). Christian hospitals could face crushing pensions The US Supreme Court will decide this month whether Christian hospitals have to meet federal rules on funding pensions. Since 1980, the government has allowed the hospitals—and other church-affiliated groups like daycares and schools—to claim the same ERISA pension exemptions as churches. But lower courts ruled that three major religiously affiliated health care systems aren’t exempt, because their benefit plans weren’t established by a church. That precedent leaves the courts in the position of making “sensitive determinations” about what constitutes a “church,” argued the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in an amicus brief. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty noted that if the hospitals are ordered to make the billion-dollar back payments, they will have to cut programs for the poor or shut down altogether. Evangelicals protest Trump cuts to foreign aid More than 100 prominent Christians, including two who prayed at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, urged Congress to reject Trump’s proposed budget cuts to foreign aid. National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president Samuel Rodriguez and Cardinal Timothy Dolan were among the humanitarian experts, denominational leaders, seminary presidents, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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