Archives for Christian - Page 256

Christian

3 Challenges in Urban Ministry

By Ed Stetzer Urban ministry engages depravity, longevity and community. While cities are an excellent place for gospel advancement, urban ministry is not without its challenges. Some of these challenges can be better explained by three words: depravity, longevity and community. Depravity is everywhere, not just cities Quite a few Christians view cities as depraved. Undoubtedly depravity seems more evident in a city because there are many people in close proximity. The reality, however, is that sin and brokenness are everywhere. In the midst of the overwhelming evidence of depravity is the opportunity for the gospel to shine forth. When sin abounds, the gospel can abound even more. Cities are fundamental to God’s design and intent for the world, because while he begins his story in the Garden of Eden . In light of this, Christians need to move away from their fear of the city and stop seeing cities as inherently wicked. Instead, they need to see cities as good and full of opportunity. God is at work in the midst of depravity and brokenness. Some of the most vibrant Christian communities are found in cities. The gospel is going forth. Lives are being changed. Christians who love mission should view our world’s cities as great places for …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Churches in America—Part 3

By Ed Stetzer Convictional Christians are not leaving the faith. In addition to vital trends associated with Protestants and evangelicals, there are three more vital trends that are necessary to make sense of America’s religious landscape. The rise of non-denominational churches. The growth of nondenominational churches is often overlooked in analyses of U.S. religious data. These are congregations that are not affiliated with national church organizations like the United Methodist Church or Assemblies of God. The rapid growth of these churches demands attention. For example, the majority of the 100 largest churches in the U.S. are nondenominational. Soon, the largest evangelical ‘denomination’ will be nondenominational. The stability of historic African-American churches. Historically, African-American churches and denominations have continued to report steady numbers overall. These include denominations like the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the National Baptist Convention, and the Church of God in Christ, which emerged during segregation. Historic African-American churches tend to hold similar beliefs to evangelical churches, but do not prefer to use the evangelical label. Pew Research has found that about 7% of Americans identified with a historically African-American Church in 2009, and a similar number (6.5%) in 2014. The largest among these churches comes from charismatic and Pentecostal expressions, says Johnson and Melton from Baylor. In …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Interview: Forming a Society Worthy of Humans

By Interview by Joseph E. Gorra Robert Sirico says that in order to get economics right, we must first understand what it means to be human. Robert Sirico, a Catholic priest and co-founder of the Acton Institute, is perhaps one of the most economically literate clergymen you will find among America’s public intellectuals. While most seminaries do not train future pastors and lay leaders to think theologically about economics, Sirico says understanding questions about economics is necessary if Christian leaders want to rightly seek the good of society and train others to do the same. Joseph Gorra, founder and director of Veritas Life Center, talked Sirico about economic life and human flourishing. At this year’s Acton University conference, you spoke on how love is an indispensable basis for economic life. To some, that might seem odd if economic life is viewed as the maximization of utility and material well-being. We can’t enter the marketplace as something other than what we really are, and real human love demonstrates the impossibility of being merely homo economicus (“the economic man”), which is essentially a thesis that reduces human beings to their materiality. Humans are simultaneously material and transcendent, individual and social. We are not merely individual entities, though we are uniquely …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Russia: The Other Christian Nation

By Andrey Shirin A cozy relationship between church and state has lasting implications. Last Thursday, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a new anti-terrorism law, which, among other things, restricts missionary activities in Russia significantly. As was the case in the Soviet Union, believers will be able to evangelize only on property that belongs to their religious organizations and affiliated institutions. Violators may be subjected to steep fines. In addition, the law would tighten government control over Russian Internet providers. While it would be easy to blame these events on the history of communism in Russia, the relationship between church and the state has a longer and more influential history in Russia. A “Harmonious Relationship” Between Church and State In contrast to the cherished ideals of religious liberty and the separation of church and state held in the United States, a major contributing factor to the recent events in Russia is the concept of symphonia, or institutionalized “harmonious relations,” between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state. This intentional connection between church and state allows the Orthodox Church to enjoy all the attendant privileges of political preference and feeds into a uniquely Russian national identity. This recently signed legislation goes a long way toward preserving this …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

News: Quitting While Ahead

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Why some United Methodist evangelicals suggest a split, even though their side is winning. Every four years for the past four decades, America’s second-largest Protestant denomination officially debates homosexuality. And each time, the United Methodist Church (UMC) affirms the position that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Contrary to other mainline groups, the UMC’s stance is increasingly unlikely to change. Approximately 5 million UMC members are in Africa, compared to 7 million in the United States. The socially conservative African contingent gains 200,000 members each year as American churches lose 100,000. And attempts to let Americans set policies without African input were soundly defeated at the denomination’s two most recent conferences. Yet this year, 80 evangelical Methodist pastors and theologians proposed that traditionalists and progressives, like Paul and Barnabas in Acts, “part amicably.” Decades of fighting over the issue have been “emotionally draining” and “spiritually nullifying,” said Maxie Dunnam, a former Asbury Theological Seminary president who organized the public letter. A tipping point came when some bishops refused to discipline pastors who married gay couples. Dunnam believes ministry by both sides would be more effective without the distracting debate. Pastors have suggested multiple models for parting ways. Kansas megachurch pastor Adam Hamilton …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Deadly, Healing Medicine

By J. Todd Billings I had to ingest poison if I hoped to live. Incurable cancer. I could hardly believe it when I heard the diagnosis. My wife and I had just celebrated our tenth anniversary, and our lives were spinning in joyful commotion with one- and three- year-olds at home. Initial testing brought back some worrying results. I had researched the possibilities, and I didn’t sound like a likely prospect for this cancer. The average diagnosis age is about 70; I had just turned 39. But here it was: an active cancer that had already been eroding the bones in my skull, arm, and hip. With the Psalmist I cried out, “Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (Ps. 6:2b–4). What was this “healing” for my bones and soul? The cancer has no cure, but it can be fought with special treatment. This treatment to extend my lifespan was not going to come through a gentle pill. Ready or not, I was in the midst of a battle. I needed strong medicine for healing to come. Within a week I was …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

20 Truths from Family Life of a Christian Leader, by Ajith Fernando

By Ed Stetzer Joy is not complete until it is shared. 1. Belief is one of the basic values of Christianity and it applies to every area of life. (9) 2. It goes without saying that the greatest desire of Christian leaders for the members of our families is that they become God’s children and follow him. (10) 3. One of the most obvious signs of the primacy of God in the Christian home is prayer. (14) 4. After 38 years of marriage and countless counseling appointments, I have come to realize that what most often takes away the joy and peace of our homes is the refusal to crucify self. (16) 5. If we are causing hurt and unhappiness in our family life because of some problem on our part, we must regard it as an urgent matter that requires immediate attention. (21) 6. A key aspect of the biblical understanding of love is that love is an end in itself and not simply a means to an end. (22) 7. It is very easy for couples to take each other for granted and in the process to overlook expressing their love and concern for each other. (26) 8. One of the most important areas of growth in the Christian …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

The Sacred Ritual of Church Suppers and Snacks

By Rachel Marie Stone By honoring the gift of food, we honor the body of Christ. The apple juice didn’t taste quite right. Neither did the cookies, which were the store-brand imitation of the better-tasting, more expensive version. And there was always fear that there wouldn’t be enough. There would be pushing and grabbing, big kids taking six cookies, and occasionally tears. Always small for my age, and the pastor’s daughter to boot, I didn’t have it in me to jostle and struggle against the other children for the snacks at coffee hour, at Vacation Bible School, at Sunday school. It wasn’t worth it. “Why does the apple juice at church taste weird? Why do we have ‘creme-filled sandwich cookies’ instead of Oreos?” I asked my mom. Maybe the budget didn’t allow for better. This was a generation ago, and “organic” was not a commonly used term. And anyway, we were just kids. Did it matter, really? The grownups got weak and bitter coffee with powdered non-dairy creamer in thick white Styrofoam cups, and those little powdery donuts that came in white and blue boxes from the grocery store shelves and mysteriously stayed fresh for weeks. Church ladies bought several boxes on sale and stored them in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Clergy Working Fewer Hours, Getting Paid More

By David Brigg Counting the cost is getting easier. The wages of battling sin are getting better for men and women of the cloth. Non-Catholic clergy have experienced significant increases in income even as their work weeks declined by more than 15 percent in recent decades, according to a major new study of clergy compensation published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. (While the non-Catholic category was primarily Protestant, it did include a small number of non-Christian clergy, the study said.) The study is believed to be the first to take into account the benefits clergy receive in the form of housing allowances or living in church-provided residences, which usually cause difficulty in any wage comparison of clergy to the general public. Overall, in inflation-adjusted wages, non-Catholic clergy made $4.37 more per hour in 2013 than they did in 1983. That figure is more than double the wage increase of the average worker with a college degree. In 2013, the average American made $49,225; non-Catholic clergy earned $46,216. Put another way, the general population averaged $21.20 an hour, while church clergy pulled in $18.85 an hour. (Clergy that worked elsewhere, like in hospitals or administration, earned $21.79 an hour.) Like most everyone else in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Am I Humble Enough to Learn from Millennials?

By Nicole Sheets, guest writer Learning from my elders is easy. Learning from those younger than me—not so much. I was at a garden party last summer with my new baby. A group of twentysomethings smiled at her between bites of flatbread pizza and fruity, boozy popsicles. One of them admitted that the baby was cute, but asked: Doesn’t having a baby cramp your style? I told him I was really glad that someone was cramping my style, that I was starting to be afraid no one would ever cramp my style, that I’ve had so much time with my style! It’s one of the big benefits of being an old new mom. If turning 30 meant saying goodbye to my young youth, then 40 is saying goodbye to my youth, period. It’s accepting that some of my wildest fantasies involve eight consecutive hours of sleep, or sitting down in a chair with a magazine, or trying out a new kale soup recipe. As I try to figure out this new stage of life, I find myself more and more irritated by the ideas and habits of younger people. But to my surprise, I’m also discovering how much I have to learn from them. I teach English …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

An Invitation To Our First Billy Graham Center Vision Gathering

By Ed Stetzer We are building a Center that is rock solid on a vision to build One Body of Christ that shows & shares Jesus well in our broken and hurting world. Join us August 25 in Jackson, MS, to learn more! Just a little over a month ago I became the new Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College. When I accepted this role, I knew the team at the Center was already doing some great work. So my primary goal here became two-fold: (1) to build on the legacy and work we have done in order to (2) create a Center where partnerships and coalitions are formed and sustained on a level that create deep change across dividing lines and leads us towards a new level of unity around our calling of showing & sharing the love of Jesus in a broken and hurting world. You will be hearing that a lot from us in the days to come: ‘showing & sharing.’ The proclamation of the gospel can never be divided from the demonstration of the gospel. Sometimes one rises in urgency over the other, but when laid side by side, the two can never be …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Black to the Future

By Jeffrey Overstreet New documentary, ‘13th,’ makes the case that to save the future, we need to stop defending the past. “Defend the past. Save the future.” Those words are lighting up TV screens this week, promoting the new NBC time-travel adventure series Timeless. But really, it’s ridiculous. No matter how many people want to go back and “kill Hitler,” the past cannot be changed. Right? Right? I don’t know. Last night, director Ava DuVernay took me back to familiar figures from my childhood. She didn’t “defend the past.” She revealed politicians I remember as heroes to be complicit in things I find difficult to accept. And if you take that journey with me, we might yet become a church that helps “save the future” by refusing to defend our past. DuVernay, who directed Selma—a gripping historical drama that has the gospel blazing through its veins—has just delivered a brilliant lesson in time travel, and its streaming now on Netflix. It’s called 13th. With startling interviews, ugly statistics, kinetically charged animation, and shocking man-on-the-street footage of American history, 13th reintroduces Americans to their very own criminal justice system. I say “reintroduces” because DuVernay films through lenses that reveal a cancer running unchecked. Full disclosure: Despite Jesus’s call for his …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Fruitful Near-Culture Church Planters: A Qualitative Study (Part 2)

By Gene Daniels and Pam Arlund A survey of near-culture church planters Fruitful Near-Culture Workers Use a Variety of Ministry Methods The near-culture workers we interviewed personified one of our Fruitful Practice statements in the area of communication methods: “Fruitful workers use a variety of approaches in sharing the gospel.” All of those we interviewed were skilled at selecting which of various approaches would be best for each situation. Also, we found it interesting that none of the interviews specifically mentioned any of the methods which are making the rounds among Western agencies for sharing Jesus with Muslims (e.g., Camel method, T4T, Any3, Discovery Bible Studies, Simply the Story, etc.). It is likely that at least some of them were using one or more of those methods or were aware of these methods, but none felt any of these important enough to mention by name. And while some interviews mentioned activities that sounded similar to these well-known methodologies, we cannot be sure whether they had been taught the methods mentioned here or simply discovered them on their own. What was clear, however, was that these workers did not feel it necessary, or even beneficial, to use only one method when sharing the gospel. No one directly said, “I use different methods …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
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       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

How Fidel Castro’s Death Will Affect Cuba’s Christian Revival

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra It won’t. And that’s (mostly) a good thing. The remains of Fidel Castro are being displayed in Havana as part of Cuba’s nine days of official mourning for the deceased dictator. Many world leaders will not attend the funeral next week for the man who raised literacy rates but kept a rigid grasp on civil rights. For Cuban Christians, his death isn’t likely to be a sea change in how the island nation’s Communist government approaches religion. Like most Cubans, Castro himself was raised Catholic, educated by Jesuit priests as a child. He rejected his faith during the 1959 revolution, after the church rejected his movement toward atheism and socialism. Priests were killed and deported, while Catholics (and other Christians) were discriminated against and banned from joining the Communist Party. But Castro—and his brother, current ruler Raúl—softened with time. Some credit the Catholic Church and its popes with influencing Cuba’s slow turn from Marxism. They were also good for religious holidays. Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1998; the next day, Castro reinstated Christmas. In 2012, Pope Benedict visited; soon after, the government allowed Good Friday observances. This year, Cuba was the site of a historic step toward religious reconciliation: …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

New Parents: Your Sex Lives Are Going to Change

By Courtney Reissig How healthier expectations for marriage might keep us away from Ashley Madison. I’ve followed the coverage of the Ashley Madison list, each scandalous revelation exposing yet another seemingly wholesome family man with a wandering eye. We know by now that many Christians, and our leaders, visited this site. Sadly, sin can be a great equalizer as we fall under our lust for attention, sexual satisfaction, and freedom. As a mother of a three-month-old and twin toddlers, I can’t help noticing the young husbands and fathers who sought affairs through Ashley Madison. Despite appearances of happy families, despite praising their wives for loving them and caring for their children, these men wanted more, and looked for it in the dark corners of the Internet. This reality hit close to home for me, and perhaps for many parents in the tiring early months and years after starting a family. Having a baby drains you physically, mentally, and emotionally; sometimes I feel too exhausted to carry a full conversation with my husband, let alone be intimate with him. We are both overwhelmed. As much as we love each other and our growing family, I’d be lying if I didn’t say this season isn’t grueling. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Give Your Kids the Gift of Absence

By Amy Julia Becker Time and attention are not the only ways to bless our children. When we first moved to Connecticut five years ago for my husband’s job, I decided that I would go without childcare. Our kids were six, four, and two at the time. I wanted to be their source of stability in the midst of their dad’s new job, a new town, new friends, and a new house. In the years since then, I’ve learned that time is not the only gift we give our children. In fact, I’ve learned that, while parental presence is certainly crucial to children’s development, so too is parental absence. I used to think my children’s wellbeing depended entirely upon my presence, but now I believe that it is equally important to entrust them to the care of other people. Just a few weeks ago, my husband and I had planned to leave town for a weekend away. The childcare we had in place fell apart at the last minute when my extended family came down with the flu, so I texted a babysitter to see if she could help. “That would be great!” she said. And it was. That weekend, the babysitter and her mother—who happens to be …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

What Would People Think If They Knew That I'm a 'Jesus Freak' Freak?

By Joel Heng Hartse Yes, dcTalk’s defining album has some truly cheesy moments. But 20 years later, it’s still just really good. Jesus Freak, by dcTalk, is the most important Christian pop album of all time. This is an audacious claim, to be sure. What about Amy Grant’s Lead Me On or Rich Mullins’s A Liturgy, a Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band, or any number of releases by Larry Norman or Jars of Clay, or even U2 or Bob Dylan? “Contemporary Christian music” is a notoriously tricky genre to pin down. Is it music marketed just to Christians? Do the bands have to play shows at churches, or just claim faith? But by the conventional definition of CCM—music made by and for evangelicals—it’s hard to think of a more groundbreaking, genre-expanding, or era-defining album than Jesus Freak, which turns 20 this month. Jesus Freak was released in the right place and the right time for maximum impact. It was the flagship album of Christian music’s golden age, minting frontmen Toby McKeehan, Michael Tait, and Kevin Max as genuine Christian rock stars. Fewer albums loom larger in the imagination of those of us who came of age amid Acquire the Fire conferences, WWJD bracelets, and See You …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

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       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

An Update on the GC2 Summit on the Christian Response to Refugees

By Ed Stetzer Here’s what we have planned so far for the the GC2 Summit on refugees in January. Recently, we announced the GC2 Summit, a gathering for Evangelicals to consider an appropriate response to the growing, global refugee crisis. Here’s the more formal information. The Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College (BGCE) and the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College (HDI) have announced a summit, in partnership with LifeWay Research, to help Christians respond to the global refugee crisis. The meeting, called a GC2 Summit, will focus on leading a conversation on meeting needs, caring for, and engaging refugees around the world. The GC2 Summit will feature a number of key speakers and collaborators from the Evangelical community who specialize in ministry to refugees, in addition to senior denominational leaders, non-profit, and church leaders. The GC2 Summit will occur in two parts, with the first pre-meeting conversation occurring on Thursday, December 17, 2015, and the second gathering occurring on Wednesday, January 20, 2016. Both events will take place on the campus of Wheaton College. GC2 is a moniker that reflects an Evangelical commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. The intent of the gatherings is to reflect on and call for …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »