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Saturday is for Seminars—and Preaching in Chicago Area Churches

By Ed Stetzer Here are four churches I’ll be preaching at soon. Now that we are Chicago bound, it means a new weekend preaching routine. I will be an occasional guest speaker at Grace Church when I am in Nashville. (I just preached there this week, and the Tennessean had a brief article about my comments concerning #Orlando.) I will remain as teaching pastor of Christ Fellowship in Miami, and will be preaching there several times this summer, and once a month in general. (Yes, I’m hoping a lot of that preaching is in the winter! Then, here are some places I will be in the Chicago area in in the next few weeks. Compass Church, July 3rd, 2016—Naperville and Wheaton, IL Christ Community Church, Aug 6-7, 2016—St. Charles (and all over), IL Moody Church, Sept. 11, 18, 25, 2016—Chicago, IL Chinese Union Church, Oct 2, 2016—Chicago, IL And, don’t forget to register for Amplify, coming soon, June 28-30 at Wheaton. Coming Soon June 28-30, 2016Amplify Conference Wheaton, IL July 18, 2016 Church of God General Assembly Nashville, TN August 12-13, 2016Gideons Global Impact Conference Toronto, Ontario, CA September 9, 2016Capacity Conference Atlanta, GA September 16, 2016American Association of Christian Counselors National Meeting Dallas, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Gospel-Centered Evangelism for a Multiethnic World

By Derwin Gray So what does high-definition evangelism look like? The vast majority of local churches in America are not growing. This should break our hearts. This statistic means that more and more people in America don’t know the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. This fact will increase divorce, addiction, injustice, greed, sexual immorality, idolatry, oppression, and a multitude of other sins that destroy people’s lives. We need evangelistic local churches, fueled by Christ-followers who see themselves as missionaries. We need “good news” local churches filled with “good news” people. So what does high-definition evangelism look like? Here are three characteristics of gospel-centered evangelism for a multiethnic world: 1) Evangelism must be rooted in a gospel-centered vision. What is the good news? It’s the announcement that Israel’s Messiah has accomplished what He came to do. Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through His sinless life, atoning death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of His father, where He is now our high priest. Jesus now rules His kingdom at the right hand of God the papa. By grace alone, through the Holy Spirit’s power, people who trust in Jesus are swept up into his glorious kingdom. This redeemed, multicolored people become a “chosen …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Over 25,000 Ebola Orphans at Risk

By Timothy C. Morgan Churches join effort to care for vulnerable children who have lost one or both parents in West Africa. “My mama is dead in my house and we don’t know what to do.” In Sierra Leone, an 8-year-old boy called the national hotline by dialing 1-1-7 earlier this month. The father had already died, presumably from Ebola, and this boy was now head of the household with five younger siblings. He had decided to call for a burial team to pick up his mother’s remains. In West Africa, the death of parents from the Ebola epidemic has caused a surge in orphans. They are mostly young children age 5 and under. Government officials estimate 25,900 or more of them are in urgent need of comprehensive care in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. A very high percentage of these children have lost both parents to the virus. Many of the children are under quarantine. Fearful relatives are shunning or abandoning them as possible carriers of the virus. But there is something worse for these orphans than abandonment: becoming infected with Ebola. “What I’m seeing on the ground is quite disturbing,” said Susan Hillis, a senior staff adviser in global health with the US Centers for …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Two Statistics Every Church Planter Needs to Know

By Ed Stetzer You can’t plant a church without partners. You can’t plant a church without partners and you can’t grow a healthy church without evangelism. But those will look different for different planters in different contexts. It has become fairly common to send a large (30+) group of people somewhere to plant a church. Others seek to build a group exclusively from the harvest in their new community. The churches I’ve planted never began with a core group. I have always parachuted in—that’s really the best description. While I have never begun with a core group, at the same time, I’ve never begun without a team. Once on site, I set about building a team. Biblical kingdom growth is evangelism that results in new churches. Though I’ve never seen a church planted with 100% new believers or lost people, it is certainly biblical to expect a large number of the members and attenders to come from the harvest. It is concerning to see an increasing number of church plants where the vast majority of the people are dissatisfied, disgruntled or re-energized Christians. Sadly, strategies that lend themselves to transfer growth have become the norm. In an issue of Mission Frontiers, Mike Breen laments …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Stockpiling Treasures in My Junk Closet

By Margot Starbuck, guest writer How I got rid of 1,000 things and finally found shalom. Show me a Real Simple magazine article on “decluttering your home” and all I see is a stack of shiny pages to decoupage Christmas ornaments over the long Thanksgiving weekend. That’s how I roll: for years I’ve squirreled away craft supplies (aka stuff to make other stuff), torn backpacks (aka stuff to carry other stuff), matchless socks, rusty baking trays, extra linens, and shelves of books no one will ever open again. I certainly wasn’t the kind of person you’d think would be captured by a movement as horrible-sounding as “minimalism.” Minimalist blogger Joshua Becker describes it as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.” The movement sounds radical to the North American ear—perhaps, even, easily discounted as the neuroses of extremists working out childhood deprivation issues. But this philosophy can be traced throughout Jesus’ life and teachings: take one outfit and a single pair of sandals for the journey, ask our Father for enough food for this day, and, for the love of God, please reconsider that reno on your double-wide storage pods.. Some adherents of simple living—Francis of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Pop Francis: Why Everyone Loves the Pope

By R. R. Reno From secular journalists to charismatic Christians, millions are taken with the Jesuit from Argentina. If you want to measure the global acclaim of the current pope, ask 100 random people about the Roman Catholic Church. While you will see a few thumbs up, most will express ambivalence bordering on dislike or distrust. Some will be hostile. Ask them about Pope Francis I, however, and the responses will be overwhelmingly positive. The Jesuit from Buenos Aires pleases many and brings smiles to their faces. He even made Luca Baratto smile. Baratto, a pastor in the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, heard Pope Francis apologize for the Catholic Church’s complicity in the Italian government’s persecution of Pentecostals and evangelicals during the 1920s and ’30s. Baratto was surprised too: Francis’s apology was unscripted and unannounced beforehand. That is his style, at once unpredictable and committed to breaking down the often-bitter rivalry between evangelicals and Catholics. The Jesuits carry the reputation of clerical commandos. In the US Army, a Green Beret can’t rise above the rank of colonel. That’s because men trained to freelance as fighters aren’t likely to fit well in the command-and-control system of the Army. The Catholic Church has drawn a similar conclusion …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christians to Science: Leave Our Bodies How God Made Them

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Pew examines how US religious groups feel about the ways that biomedicine can enhance human abilities. Gene editing, brain chip implants, and synthetic blood may reduce the risk of disease, sharpen minds, and improve body strength. But messing around with nature in order to enhance humans isn’t something many Americans are excited about. A new survey from the Pew Research Center asked approximately 4,700 adults what they thought of three potential medical procedures that could improve human life. For each, adults were more worried than enthusiastic. Religious Americans were especially concerned—in fact, the more religious they are, the more concerned they were. “All of the Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—share the belief that men and women have been created, to some extent, in God’s image,” wrote David Masci in an accompanying essay. “According to many theologians, the idea that human beings in certain ways mirror God make some, but not all, religious denominations within this broad set of connected traditions wary of using new technologies to enhance or change people, rather than heal or restore them.” Evangelicals—especially those who say religion is very important in their life, attend church weekly, and pray daily—were the most wary. Those who seldom …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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For Black Women, Looking Tough Takes a Toll

By Interview by Sarah Arthur Emotional strength can only hide heartbreak for so long, says pyschologist and theologian Chanequa Walker-Barnes You’ve seen her in the news: the calm African American woman reacting with dignity to a high-stress, traumatic situation. Her voice and face are steady. She stuffs down her emotions. No one will see her fall apart. She is the Strong Black Woman. I first heard that phrase in a sermon by Chanequa Walker-Barnes—theologian, clinical psychologist, fellow graduate of Duke Divinity School. Strong Black Woman Syndrome, something she saw regularly in her clinical practice, emerges out of the expectation that black women be “super capable, to take care of others, to be stoic—emotionally strong to the point of stoicism—and radically independent.” And I immediately thought, “I know this stereotype. I remember it from my childhood in the ‘80s. It’s Clair Huxtable.” It’s a cultural stereotype that’s enforced in the media, in popular culture, even in churches, by blacks and whites alike. But Walker-Barnes points out, this pressure isn’t sustainable. Many black women are falling apart physically and psychologically, as she recounts in her book Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength (Wipf and Stock). Picture Diamond Reynolds calmly recording the aftermath of her boyfriend Philando Castile’s …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Commentary: We’re So Unashamed We Wrote a Book on It. Three of Them, Actually

By Tish Harrison Warren Christians still need a better understanding of the complexity of shame. Our age is characterized by what psychotherapist Joseph Burgo called an “anti-shame zeitgeist.” The beloved researcher Brené Brown wrote two No. 1 New York Times bestsellers decrying shame, and her TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” has been watched more than 26 million times. This year, the anti-shame revolution is front and center in Christian publishing, with three new Christian books all titled Unashamed. Go to your local Christian bookstore and ask for a copy of Unashamed, and you may hear, “Which one? Lecrae, Heather Davis Nelson, or Christine Caine? Take your pick.” There is no shame in sharing a title, but this coincidence points to a marketing reality: becoming proudly unashamed is all the rage now. Lecrae’s Unashamed is a memoir, and as a fan of his music, I couldn’t put it down. (My six-year-old’s most requested musical artists are Elsa and Lecrae.) Lecrae’s story is compelling and deals with different facets of shame. As a young boy, he confronted deep shame over his father’s abandonment; he also faced sexual abuse. Throughout the book, he returns to the theme of not quite fitting in—whether it be because he was …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What Americans Think of What Evangelicals Think of Religious Liberty

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra How both sides of the debates over same-sex marriage, transgender bathroom access, and employer-provided contraception feel about each other. On two of three contentious issues at the intersection of religious liberty and nondiscrimination concerns, Americans remain evenly divided. Though most Americans believe employers should be required to supply birth control in their health insurance plans, they are split down the middle on whether businesses should be required to provide wedding services for same-sex couples, as well as on whether transgender people should be allowed to use the restroom of their choice, says a study released this week by the Pew Research Center. As expected, most evangelicals take a strong stance against making businesses provide wedding services to same-sex couples or allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. They’re more comfortable with requiring employers to offer birth control to employees. Pew also asked whether Americans sympathized with one side or the other—or both—in each debate. In order to facilitate that, researchers asked the questions in an unusual way. Instead of the normal phone survey, Pew asked respondents to read the questions. The purpose was both to make people feel more comfortable answering sensitive questions and to allow them see all of the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview with Kent Shaw, Executive Director of Harvest Bible Fellowship

By Ed Stetzer “We want to plant 1,000 churches in our lifetime.” Kent, how would you describe what you’re doing? What’s the Harvest Bible Fellowship “way” of church planting? We want to plant vertical churches. A vertical church is, as you know, based on James’s book. We’re looking to plant churches that have the same DNA distinctives that we do. Basically those are the four pillars of: proclaiming the authority of God’s word without apology, lifting high the name of the Lord Jesus in worship, sharing the good news of Jesus with boldness, and a firm belief in the power of prayer. We’re looking to plant churches wherever God opens doors for us. First we thought around the country, but now around the world. How many churches have been planted through the movement, and how many are in the network? We have planted 150 churches, we probably have about 170 churches that would be included in the network that have affiliated with us. We have about 100 in the States and about 50 internationally. We’re at Harvest University today, you have 40 residents training here, so tell me about the residency, and then tell me about Harvest University. How do those two relate? Our residency program is our beginning, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Fighting with My Husband and the Work of Shalom

By Tish Harrison Warren Do I proclaim radical love for the world even as I neglect to care for those closest to me? Jonathan stopped by at midday to pick something up at the house, and we had a fight. I would call it an argument, but that sounds too reasonable, like we were coolly debating opposing sides of an issue. Logical. Rational. Collected. The stuff to make marriage therapists proud. This was hardly that. Because most often what we’re arguing about—in this case a decision about our daughter’s schooling—isn’t really what we’re arguing about. What we are actually arguing about is our fears, anxieties, identities, and hopes. We were really arguing about how we love our daughter and feel a chasm—a terrifying chasm—between our responsibility for her and our ability to bear it well. We were grieving the reality of our limitedness and our inability to rescue our daughter from suffering in our broken world—and even in our broken family. And we were arguing about the sharpness in our voices, and who interrupts whom, and how often, and about a passing comment he made yesterday and a look I gave this morning. These are the patterns in family life that make it hard to be patient and gentle …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What Do White Evangelicals Owe People of Color in Trump’s America They Helped Create?

By Ed Stetzer We carry each other’s burdens now so we can cry out with one voice for eternity. In 2010, visual artist Gene Schmidt embarked on a journey using Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, as his canvas. Schmidt used panels of scrap wood to recreate 1 Corinthians 13 and laid it out against buildings and along sidewalks throughout the city. His work of art is now displayed throughout Wheaton College’s campus. Every day, as I walk into the Billy Graham Center, I see a section of these scrap pieces. Here is the portion I see: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” Without love we have nothing as the Body of Christ. The past 48 hours I’ve done interviews with reporters asking, “Where do we go from here? Where does the Church go from here?” I’ve gotten tweets and emails and seen endless posts that have one common thread, which I believe is critical for us if we are truly to walk together as one in the coming days. This thread is the need for authentic repentance and reconciliation. A Deep Divide What was once perhaps in the background …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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News: Why Two Tombs Compete for Jesus’ Burial

By Gordon Govier Historic renovations at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre won’t change some Protestants’ preference for the Garden Tomb. Beneath layers of ancient marble, renovators at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem say they have found what may be the limestone bench where the body of Jesus was laid after his crucifixion. For the first time in half a millennium, church officials have allowed access to a tomb even more famous than that of “King Tut,” the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. However, they can’t say for sure that it is the right tomb. The official purpose of the historic project is to rebuild the Edicule, the shrine in the middle of the church rotunda which encloses the tomb. Built in the early 19th century over previous constructions, the shrine was in danger of collapse and barely held together by iron girders added decades later. Beginning October 26 and working nonstop for 60 hours, a team from the National Technical University of Athens removed marble coverings and layers of fill and debris, before finally reaching the revered limestone level at the base of the tomb. They also discovered, surprisingly, that the limestone walls of the tomb were somewhat intact beneath the layer of marble. “We can’t say …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Save the Drama: Raising Girls Who Speak Truth

By Jen Wilkin, guest writer Don’t let power plays manipulate young friendships. Growing up the only girl among four brothers, when I pictured myself as a mother, I never saw myself having daughters. In my mind, girls meant girl drama. Despite my lack of imagination, God still graciously gave me two daughters, and over the past 18 years, I’ve learned over and over again how wrong I was to believe the negative hype around raising girls. Girl drama is definitely a thing, and a well-documented one at that. Queen Bees & Wanna Bees (the book that inspired the movie Mean Girls) examines the unique tensions of adolescent girls, specifically stemming from their relationships with each other, and countless teen movies, books, and TV shows rely on these-all-too-common tropes. Anyone who has spent time around tweens or teens has probably noticed these kinds of power plays: pouting, shunning, hyper-sensitivity, clinginess, playing favorites, spreading gossip. Though girl drama is nothing new, today’s technology makes it even more pervasive. Drama no longer pauses when the school bell rings, it follows our daughters around in their pockets wherever they go. It does not sleep, and it never takes a summer break. But don’t panic: drama doesn’t have to plague our daughters. We …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Your Husband’s Infidelity Is Not Your Fault

By Julie Roys, guest writer Adultery comes from a greedy heart, not an insufficient wife. Though in many ways polar opposites, reality TV stars Khloe Kardashian and Anna Duggar are receiving similar messages about their husbands’ infidelity from two radically different sources: a pimp and a Christian matriarch. For Kardashian, the message came from Dennis Hof, owner of the brothel where her estranged husband, former NBA standout Lamar Odom, was found unconscious last week after ingesting cocaine, alcohol, and herbal sexual stimulants. “If she really cared about this man,” Hof said, “he wouldn’t be at my place with my girls.” This, even though Odom’s relationship with drugs and prostitutes predates his relationship with Khloe Kardashian. For Duggar, the remarks weren’t as direct. Following the Ashley Madison leak, her husband, Josh, admitted to several affairs and a porn addiction. Then, the Duggars’ family pastor in Arkansas addressed the leak in a sermon on infidelity. “If a husband or wife fails to keep his or her partner happy sexually they are opening themselves up to the attack of the enemy,” he said. “And that enemy is going to take your spouse away from you.” A recent blog post from Anna Duggar’s mother-in-law Michelle carries that implication. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Does Halloween Scare Off Americans? New Data from LifeWay Research

By Ed Stetzer How do you view the holiday? Share your thoughts in the comments. Earlier this week, LifeWay Research released data from a recent survey gauging American views on Halloween. The holiday is one of the more controversial of the most popular American holidays because of it’s relationship with witchcraft, paganism, and other “dark” elements. Historically, many people in varied strands of Christianity have opted out of the holiday in favor of more neutral “fall” or “harvest” themed celebrations. Where Americans Stand Our survey told us that a third of Americans avoid Halloween or its pagan elements. Here’s a fun graph depicting the data: As you can see, well over half of Americans see Halloween as being all in good fun, acknowledging the reality that most people who celebrate Halloween are not worshiping Satan or sacrificing animals in the name of false pagan gods. Still, though, as Carol Pipes reports for LifeWay Research, about one third of Americans avoid the holiday, or just the pagan elements: Although 3 in 5 Americans told LifeWay Research Halloween is “all in good fun,” 21 percent avoid the holiday completely and another 14 percent avoid the pagan elements. Halloween has been known in North America since colonial …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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God or Transcripts: Where Do You Put Your Trust?

Too many students (and parents) make idols of grade point averages. Find your hope in Jesus. When I was growing up, there were A-students, and B-students, and C-students, and no one—not the kids, not their parents—worried much about it. We all found our way. A single generation later, my son arrived at our local public high school fresh out of a K-8 parochial environment to discover honors students taking Adderall to give them the edge in AP-cram sessions and the SATs, and parents being called home from PTA meetings to find their high-achieving daughters breathing into paper bags. It’s not surprising that our secular culture has allowed the pressures of quarterly-earnings-report thinking to invade the American childhood in the name of “just wanting them to be happy.” By what other standard would success be measured? But what about those of us who claim to follow a God who promises that our children are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); that in all things He “works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28); that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)? Assured that there …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Unexpected Book of the Bible that Comforts Me the Most

By Laura Turner In the midst of my anxiety, I remember God’s power through reading Revelation. I was nine years old the first time I watched Psycho. My mother brought it home from Blockbuster and lined the three of us kids up on the couch. I remember being confused—this wasn’t our usual cartoon fare—then terrified. That night, I slept with one eye open (which is to say, not at all) because I was sure that Norman Bates was going to creep through my bedroom window. I eventually fell asleep in the early morning hours and came home from school the next day ready to watch Psycho again. It remains one of my favorite movies, part of a genre that proves terrifying viewers is one of the most powerful effects a film can have. In the same way that horror films and Shirley Jackson offer me some odd comfort, I am drawn over and over again to the book of Revelation. I have struggled with anxiety most of my life, and many well-meaning friends have pointed me to passages like Matthew 6:34 or Philippians 4:6. But as I read these verses urging Christians not to worry, I’d wonder, what was wrong with me, that …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Modes of Mission: A Missional People

By Ed Stetzer In the first of a series on posts on modes of mission, we look at how Peter modeled mission. To help clarify, challenge, and encourage church leaders (and their churches) towards missional effectiveness, it may be helpful to consider three modes of mission as embodied by the Petrine Mission (1 Peter 2:9–12), the Johannine Mission (John 20:21), and the Pauline Mission (the life of Paul). In doing so, we can discern that a missional people, embodying “sentness,” are on a mission of multiplication. The reality of these modes is that an in-depth study of each would reveal elements of one another. However, below I intend to stress the major foci of each in an effort to build a visual of the enactment of the message and movement of mission, which results in missional effectiveness. Petrine Mission—A Missional People When God saves people, he doesn’t save them only from their sins and themselves, but also saves them to himself and tohis people. For instance, when God called out Abraham, it wasn’t merely for Abraham, but also for the people who would descend from him. Thus, God’s mission includes forming a people for his glory and his purposes. In the New Testament, the Petrine mode of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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