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Christian

Max Lucado's Hope for This Election Season

Why the beloved pastor and best-selling author isn’t despairing for the church’s future. Walk into any Christian bookstore in the country, and you’re likely to find whole shelves bearing the works of writer, pastor, and preacher Max Lucado. As a man who likes to “write books for people who don’t like to read books,” Lucado has left a mark on countless readers’ theological imaginations with his wisdom, accessible style, and warm, hospitable heart—qualities that are also on full display in his latest book, Because of Bethlehem. On this week’s episode of TheCalling, Lucado spoke with CT managing editor Richard Clark about Christmas, the upcoming election, and the lessons he’s learned in pursuing his pastoral calling: On his leadership style: “I’m a pastor. I can sit down with somebody who has a broken heart and love them and encourage them and remind them of how God cares. But I struggle when I look at a budget. Or I struggle when somebody says, ‘Well, what’s the long-term strategy for our church?’ Well, I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. Let’s love God, preach Jesus, and pray. There were times when I struggled because I didn’t match up to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

No, Evangelical Does not Mean "White Republican Who Supports Trump"

By Ed Stetzer Labels matter. So do definitions. Evangelicals are best defined by their beliefs. Having worked in church and culture research for over a decade, I can tell you that one of the most-asked questions is about the category of Evangelicals. It has been this way for a long time, but this election has brought it to the top of everyone’s list. With 4 of 5 white Evangelicals voting for Donald Trump, everyone both inside and outside of Christianity is trying to understand just who this group is. And among those self-identifying Evangelicals who did not support Donald Trump, many are wondering how they can share the same label. This is the moment when more people than ever are asking, what exactly is an “Evangelical” Christian? And, Evangelical does not mean “White Republican Who Supports Trump.” Evangelical? Some have said they don’t want to use the label anymore, embaressed because of its identification with Donald Trump. But, that’s backwards. It’s not the label that supported Trump, it’s people—white Evangelicals, primarily. But, it’s not politics that unite all Evangelicals, it’s the gospel. You see, most Evangelicals did not support Donald Trump; it was white Evangelicals that did. Yes, researches say “Evangelical,” and that’s a demographic catagorty, but usually they mean “White …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

You Are Plural

By Clayton Carlson Trillions of foreign creatures in and on our bodies shape our health, desires, and behavior. Here’s why they matter. Let us make humankind in our image,” said the triune God. And then he made us plural, too. “Male and female he created them,” but we are even more plural than that phrase indicates. Each of us is plural. We might picture our “self” as a single body. We know we’re a grand collection of cells, trillions of microscopic units that do everything from moving blood to processing nutrients into energy. But when we think about these cells, we take comfort that together they’re all one “me,” a huge organism sharing one DNA code that all started from one fertilized egg cell. True, we are that. But we are more: Each of us is a collection of communities, millions of millions of organisms working together, with very different DNA. We have about as many bacteria and other microbes in and on our bodies as we do human cells. For decades biologists estimated that we had about 10 times as many microbial cells as our own. But a new study found that the average man has about 39 trillion bacteria in his body and about …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

Realizing My Addiction Had Chosen Me Began My Road to Recovery

By Timothy King Framing addiction as a chronic disease gives a broader framework for understanding. I can’t remember much about the day when everything went wrong. No obvious moment indicated that the standard outpatient procedure would lead to weeks in the ICU, months in the hospital, and almost a year out of work. Memories of a dark hospital room and slowly blinking lights come back in fevered fits. Dislocated voices from intrusive floating faces were saying that things would be alright. I had known pain before: crutches, casts, and stitches. But until this moment, pain had always been experienced as something outside of myself. Now it was all that was left of me. The day turned into night turned into day turned into night. I had given up on crying for the pain to subside. My soul had turned to the guttural moan of Job. Dear God, if this is my fate, may I never have been born at all. I remember hearing the words “acute respiratory distress” and being moved to the ICU. I remember how my IV stand became a tree that blossomed with multi-colored ornaments hanging from stainless steel branches with cascading ripples of wires and tubes falling to my nose, arms, and chest. Also hanging …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Arsonists Still Love to Burn Churches

By Timothy C. Morgan 2,378 houses of worship have been torched since 1996. At least half of all fires at churches or houses of worship are arson, including 29 so far this year, according to Pew Research. While the number of church fires has declined in recent years, many are still intentionally set. That sets church fires aside from other kinds of blazes. For example, in 2013, only about one in ten nonresidential fires—and one in twenty residential fires—were caused by arson. Church arson is more common. From 2010 to 2014, there were about 74 church arson per year or “48% of all church fires,” reported Pew. So far in 2015, there have been 79 fires at house of worship—29 arsons, 21 accidental, and 29 of undetermined cause. “Anytime there is a house of worship involved in a fire, ATF is automatically assigned to look into the cause,” said agency Special Agent Tom Mangan with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in news reports concerning a major fire at Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Greeleyville, South Carolina, on June 30. Less than a week later, investigators determined lightning caused the blaze that destroyed the historic African American church building. But after the <a target="_blank" …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

The Long Tail: No Man Is An Island

By Kenneth R. Morefield Films (and one television show) about community you can watch at home. Alissa’s note: Ken Morefield, a longtime contributor to Christianity Today Movies and a cinephile and critic for whom I have great respect, writes a post we call “The Long Tail.” Each month, he looks at a few films that are being primarily distributed to American audiences through DVDs or Internet streaming and tries to surface some movies that might otherwise fly under the radar. If you’re worn out on on comic-book films and bubble gum blockbusters, you may be ready to scan the lists of DVD and streaming releases for less flashy fare. September offers some great options, unified by a common theme: individuals who are both shaped by their communities and trying to influence them. Francesco: St. Francis of Assisi Film Movement kicks off the month of September with a Blu-ray reissue of Liliana Cavani’s powerful and affecting Francesco—a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. On paper Cavani, best known for the controversial sadomasochism-themed The Night Porter, would seem an odd choice for this project. And Mickey Rourke, coming off of Nine ½ Weeks, Angel Heart, and Barfly, would not have been among the first fifty actors I would have imagined playing …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

How a PTSD Diagnosis Can Help, and Harm

By Warren Kinghorn Psychological diagnoses can tell someone they are not alone. They can also be used to alienate even further. This June, CT drew attention to veterans’ experience 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. The following essay is from Warren Kinghorn, associate professor of psychiatry and pastoral and moral theology at Duke Divinity School. Ray sat in my examination room, tense and uncomfortable. A Vietnam combat veteran with a wiry build and a gray, frizzled beard, he was sitting in a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital for the first time in 38 years. He had visited once in the 1970s and had left angrily, vowing never to return. But his wife had recently told him that she was leaving for good if he didn’t get help. So he was back, sitting in my office. After hearing Ray’s story, I asked him a set of standard clinical questions: Do you have trouble sleeping? Yes—four or fewer hours per night, since Vietnam. Frequent nightmares? Yes—at least twice weekly, usually of experiences in Vietnam that he doesn’t want to talk about now. Do you avoid …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

Despite Wrong Doomsday Stats, Pastors Holding Up Just Fine

By Ed Stetzer Somehow, bad stats about pastor misery persist. LifeWay Research data gives us a clearer picture of reality. Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve published a couple of blog posts in an attempt to further squelch the false idea that pastors are constantly miserable and that thousands of them are leaving the church each year. On October 14th, I wrote: People are legitimately concerned about how many pastors are leaving the ministry. You can hear some disconcerting numbers. The most common stat batted around is 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month. Recently, I think someone must have decided that number needed updating, so they added an extra 200 and now you hear 1,700 pastors. If you Google it, the claim is everywhere. The problem is that we cannot find any research that validates those numbers, and the research we do have doesn’t come close to that. The Wesleyan church has done an internal study and LifeWay Research has done some research as well. When extrapolated to the whole of the pastor population, neither approaches 1,500 pastors leaving each month. I said it in that post, and I’ll say it here again: the people perpetuating …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

Teen Mania: Why We're Shutting Down After 30 Years of Acquire the Fire

By Morgan Lee CT Exclusive: Ron Luce explains why global youth ministry is calling it quits. ‘There are three stages of every great work of God,” Hudson Taylor, the well-known British missionary to China, once said. “First it’s impossible, then it’s difficult, then it’s done.” Teen Mania founder Ron Luce quoted Taylor when explaining to CT why the nearly 30-year-old ministry announced it would cease operations. “Honestly, the hardest part about our closure is for people to misinterpret what the closing of a chapter means,” Luce said in an hour-long, exclusive interview. “Scripture talks about old and new wineskins. Sometimes old wineskins don’t need to be used anymore. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty of Christian organizations that become institutions, that are dead and dry, and they’re old wineskins. We don’t want to become that. So it’s not a bad thing to say that the wineskin is done. We feel like we’ve completed this assignment.” An Army of Young People Luce became a Christian at the age of 16 and immediately devoted his life to youth ministry. An Oral Roberts University graduate, Luce participated in Young Life and Youth for Christ. But at age 25, Luce was hungry for something larger. So he said he …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

Incubation: Multiplication by Addition (Part 1)

By Ed Stetzer Ray Chang stops by to share about how churches may come alongside church planters to support them in their work. Several months ago, we launched our first church planter cohort. Seven church planters sat around tables, each one sharing his vision for launching a new church. As each planter shared his background and story, I began to hear a common theme around these church planters. Out of the seven, five had already planted a church, but the church was unable to sustain and flourish. Each story was filled with pain, frustration and helplessness. One planter was given orders from his senior pastor to plant a church in two weeks. He could ask anyone in the two week time frame and was given a two months salary to launch a church. Another planter left a large mega-church where he served on staff as the youth and college ministry pastor. After expressing his desire to plant a church, the senior pastor let him go without support or help. The next planter shared the story of starting off at a local college campus, where they started reaching the campus, but they soon realized that without a financial base of families, the church began to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian

What to Watch When There’s Nothing New to Watch

By Kenneth R. Morefield You’ve resolved to expand your film horizons. But where do you start? Americans watch a lot of movies. A 2015 poll from Rasmussen showed that 9 percent of those surveyed said they watched a movie “every day or nearly every day”; almost half (47%) of the respondents answered that they watched once a week or more frequently. But are we watching a lot of different movies—or just the same ones over and over? Older movies are more accessible today than ever before—but over 50 percent of the fans’ highest-rated movies at IMDB were released in the last 25 years. Nearly a quarter of the films that IMDB voters love best were released in the 1990s. What explains this? With so many movies at our disposal, why do we stick to the same favorites over and over? One reason might simply be choice paralysis: there are just more good movies than you can watch in a lifetime. Getting a foothold—finding a place to start—can feel intimidating. Yet watching broadly helps us become more aware of the world around us—and can even help us understand, feel empathy for, and learn how to love people who aren’t like us. Or it can give us a firmer grasp …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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If We Can’t ‘Fear Not,’ Let’s Fear Better

By Amy Simpson How to show love in a time of terror. Remember the color-coded terror threat alert system implemented by the Department of Homeland Security after September 11? Each color represented a different threat level; the greater the threat, the more vigilant citizens should be. That scale was replaced in 2011 with the National Terrorism Advisory System, which offered more specific designations and steps communities, agencies, and private citizens can take to protect themselves or prevent an attack. According to Homeland Security, this newer system “recognizes that Americans all share responsibility for the nation’s security, and should always be aware of the heightened risk of terrorist attack in the United States and what they should do.” In other words, it’s more realistic and more helpful to simply accept significant risk as reality. The old alert system never went to green (low risk) or blue (guarded). It stayed at yellow (elevated risk) most of the time and occasionally moved to orange (high risk). Yellow became the color of everyday life. Yellow became easy to ignore as we learned to live in a new normal. While such adaptation can turn into complacency, it’s also a healthy process—we are not designed to be chronically on guard. In …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christians Can't Help Abiding in Christ

By C. John Collins If we are in Jesus, we will stay connected to him. When I began my senior year of college in the fall of 1975, I had been a believer for nearly two years and was being discipled through a campus parachurch ministry. One morning, I overslept. When I realized that I had missed my weekly appointment with the graduate student discipling me, I wondered whether any of this Christian stuff I had embraced was even real. It certainly didn’t seem to be making much of a difference in me. I thought, Maybe the most honest thing to do would be to throw it all away and quit the religious pretense—which is what I thought my “faith” was. What kept me sane? My connection with other Christians, the tender patience of my discipler, knowing that the guys I was discipling were depending on me, and my sense of how my defection would hurt other believers. In this season, I began to own the words of Peter. When Jesus asked him if he wanted to check out, he replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68, ESV used throughout). My interconnectedness with and outright dependence …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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7 Spiritual Lessons from Running

By Halee Gray Scott What hitting the running trail taught me about the Christian life. I can trace my zeal for running back to a single moment: Summer 2003, at Yosemite National Park. My friends and I sat down to eat chips and deli sandwiches in the park’s Village Store when I realized I’d left my water bottle in the car. As I trudged the dusty 100 yards back through the dirt parking lot, I was appalled by my own dejection. How did I become a person too lazy to walk the length of a football field? That single moment catapulted me into more than a decade of fitness fanaticism. I’ve benched my body weight; scaled 14ers, some of the biggest mountain peaks in the US; hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, and finally, last year, completed my first marathon. This year, as the running season ramps up, I’ve already begun hitting the pavement here in Colorado to train for my first triathlon and my second marathon (and okay, the Bolder Boulder). Of all my fitness endeavors, running has done the most to improve both my physical and spiritual fitness. Given all the lessons I’ve learned on the running trail, Hebrews 12:1 resonates deeply with me …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Kids Want What We Teach Them to Want

By Jen Pollock Michel Habit proves to be powerful liturgy. “Do your kids ever complain about going to church every week?” my friend asks. She and her husband were raised in small countryside churches in the south of France, and while they were never zealous for the faith, they dutifully attended mass on Christmas and Easter until recent years. My friends accept the seeming inevitability of spiritual lapse. Sunday worship, hardly exhilarating in its own right, stands to compete with birthday parties, competitive sports, and the luxury of sleeping late. Remarkably, our five children don’t complain. This isn’t to say that our 13-year-old son doesn’t occasionally look bored during the sermon. It isn’t to deny that our twin eight-year-old boys wiggle distractedly during prayer, asking in loud whispers, “When is this going to be over?” On any given Sunday, our children may be more or less engaged in the 90-minute liturgy that moves us from a call to worship to a final benediction, but they do come willingly. Everyone is a worshiper, and every habit is a liturgy. This is the central premise of James K. A. Smith’s research in the last several years, whose work David Brooks highlighted in his recent New York Times column, <a target="_blank" …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Gender and the Trinity: From Proxy War to Civil War

By Caleb Lindgren The latest complementarian debate isn’t over women’s subordination—but Christ’s. Last week, a group of evangelical theologians who normally agree on many controversial issues began a heated debate, prompting claims that scholars are getting God’s nature so wrong that they should quit their jobs. The topic: the Trinity. The group: Reformed complementarians, i.e. Christian thinkers who affirm a broadly Calvinist view of theology and are also committed to the view that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, and religious leadership. Debates about the Trinity and how to understand it are not exactly new in the history of Christian theology. But in recent years, such disagreements among evangelicals have usually been divided along the lines of other hot-button theological issues—namely gender roles in the church. So what makes this latest discussion significant—beyond the increasingly fiery rhetoric on blogs and Twitter—is the surprise of seeing theologians who agree on so much (including gender roles) breaking ranks with each other around such a core component of Christian belief. What’s more, the opposing sides are calling into question each other’s commitment to historic Christianity. Accusations of “constructing a new diety” and “reinventing the doctrine of God,” are flying fast and thick, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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ChristianMingle Lawsuit Forces Site to Add Options for Gay Daters

By Kate Shellnutt For the first time in 11 years, same-sex couples can find “God’s match for you” on the site. ChristianMingle.com will open its 16 million-member site to gay and lesbian users following an anti-discrimination lawsuit. According to a settlement approved by a California judge last week, the country’s most popular Christian dating site will offer options for same-sex matches, rather than limiting searches to “a man seeking a woman or a woman seeking a man,” the Wall Street Journalreported. The plaintiffs in the case sued ChristianMingle in 2013 for violating a California civil rights law requiring “all business establishments of every kind whatsoever” to offer full accommodations regardless of a person’s sexual orientation (among more than a dozen other protected classes). A spokesperson for ChristianMingle’s parent company, Spark Networks Inc., said they recognize that “this is a divisive issue and hope that the greater good of our mission is what people appreciate about us.” ChristianMingle, known for its commercials promising to “find God’s match for you,” is the largest dating site owned by Spark Networks. The company brought in $48 million last year running niche sites including JDate.com, LDSSingles.com, CatholicMingle.com, and AdventistSinglesConnection.com, as well as sites for black, aging, and deaf daters. The …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Asking 'Why Me, God?' But in a Different Way

By Peter W. Chin The question “Why me, God?” can be a lament, but also an expression of gratitude. I have much to be thankful for this year. January will mark five years since my wife’s breast cancer surgery, after which her chances of recurrence drop significantly. Thinking back to the frightening months following my wife’s initial diagnosis, I remember that many doubts and questions dominated my mind. But no question was more paralyzing and difficult to answer than this one, as well as its myriad variations: “Why me, God?” “God, why did you let my wife get sick with breast cancer? Did we do something wrong? What had we done to deserve this?” “God, why did you let my church plant close down? Am I a terrible pastor, a failure?” “God, why have I been unemployed for so long? How am I going to provide for my family, how am I going to afford insurance in case my wife gets sick again?” “Why God? Why me?” These are questions that every person asks themselves at some point in their lives. But what sets these questions apart are that they are not just personal but theological in nature, and so lay bare our understanding of self, of God, and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Leadership Development According to Dietrich Bonhoeffer

By Daniel Im Bonhoeffer’s wisdom on leadership endures. Does your church have an intentional development plan to disciple and deploy believers to live out the Great Commission? Are you providing strategic pathways and opportunities for your congregation to participate in church planting so that they can be a part of the Kingdom of God invading into every crevice of society both locally and globally? Or, does this happen haphazardly when someone approaches you and they say that they feel called to ministry? Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38 HCSB) All Are Called When I look at those verses, I see them as a call to pray for more harvest workers. But as a pastor and as a church leader, I also see them as a call to disciple my congregation into being harvest workers for the harvest that exists around them both locally and globally. As a result, while a once-a-year sermon that challenges your congregation to consider full-time ministry may be helpful, it can actually create more harm than good. This sort of sermon unintentionally creates a culture that says some are …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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America the Beautiful, America the Violent

By Peter W. Chin Ferguson may be about race, but it is also about violence. And we should have something to say about both. Let me be clear: I believe that Ferguson is about race. I know that many people disagree with that statement, that Officer Darren Wilson’s actions were not ostensibly motivated by race, and so could not have been racist. But racism goes beyond an individual’s prejudice against people of a different color. It is a historical reality that goes back to the inception of this country, and exists not only in people’s minds but in the halls of our most powerful institutions. So even if an event is not directly motivated by personal prejudice, it can still be about race. I think Lecrae put it far better than I ever could: When people say “why are you making this a racial thing?” They’ve unknowingly answered their own question. —@lecrae, November 25, 2014 Come to think of it, Lecrae says everything far better than I ever could. But what I find strange about Ferguson is that no one is addressing the overarching theme to this entire tragedy: violence. Surely that is the common thread that ties all of these stories together: a young black …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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