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Scarlet Hope

By Rachelle Starr Louisville-based ministry shares the love of Jesus with women in the adult entertainment industry I had been loving and serving dancers in strip clubs for several years when my teammates and I decided to do something special. While we usually just did hair and makeup, on this particular night we decided we would give the dancers pedicures. We were given our usual greeting as we walked into the club and began setting up in our usual spot near the back of the stage. “The Church Ladies are here!” While we have never called ourselves “Church Ladies,” and, in fact, don’t come from one particular church, for nearly ten years our ministry of Jesus-loving women who go into more than a dozen strip clubs around Louisville every week have been dubbed “the Church Ladies.” “Is your mom feeling better? I’ve been praying for her this week.” “How did your husband’s interview go?” After catching up with the dancers, many of whom we’d grown very close to, we began setting up. We had heated up water in a kettle before we left the house so that when we poured it into our basin it was the perfect temperature for a relaxing foot soak. Then we set out …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Babies Halt the Great Commission

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Christian researchers think population growth will stall the gospel’s spread. Over the past century, the Good News has taken off faster than at any other time in history.­­ It took nearly 2,000 years for the gospel to spread from the early church to nearly half the world’s population. In 1900, 45.7 percent of people everywhere were aware of the gospel, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. More than 100 years later, that number has grown to more than 70 percent. Given that the number of mission organizations has grown from 2,200 in 1970 to 5,100 in 2015, the whole world should soon hear the Good News, right? Not so fast, said the CSGC. By 2050, it predicts only another 2 percent of the world’s population will be evangelized, totaling 72 percent. The root of the slowdown: babies, rival religions, and the painstaking work of building disciples. The evangelism boom of the 20th century came primarily from the work done among African tribal groups that had no ties to the world’s major religions. The number of Christians on the continent rose from 7 million in 1900 to 470 million in 2010, according to Pew Research Center. But …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Adulterous Pastors Should Not Be Restored

By R. Kent Hughes and John H. Armstrong Repentance is not enough for returning fallen ministers to the pulpit. “Genuine forgiveness does not necessarily imply restoration to leadership,” former CT editor Kenneth Kantzer once wrote after the moral failure of several prominent evangelical leaders. Yet the impulse to link forgiveness with restoration to ministry remains strong. Here two pastor-theologians argue for the importance of keeping separate the restoration to the body of Christ and restoration to pastoral leadership. The North American church is seriously vexed by the question, “What shall we do with an adulterous pastor?” Over the past decade, the church has been repeatedly staggered by revelations of immoral conduct by some of its most respected leaders. How do we respond to those who have sexually fallen and disgraced themselves, shamed their families, and debased their office? The typical pattern goes like this: The pastor is accused and convicted of sexual sin. He confesses his sin, often with profound sorrow. His church or denominational superiors prescribe a few months, or often one year, in which time he is encouraged to obtain professional counsel. Then he is restored to his former office, sometimes in another location. He is commonly regarded as a “wounded healer,” one who now knows what it means …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Laughing At, Or Laughing With?

By Asher Gelzer-Govatos When is it okay to laugh at characters in a documentary – and when does that laughter cross a line? Of all the adjectives people might use to describe documentary films–important, artsy, difficult–one that does not spring immediately to mind is fun. But the new documentary Finders Keepers challenges this preconception of nonfiction films as hard work, offering a wild tale full of severed limbs, courtroom drama, and plenty of salty humor. In the midst of the many belly laughs the film offers, though, it also poses a key question for sensitive viewers of documentaries: when is it okay to laugh at the people onscreen? The story revolves around a legal dispute between two men over a preserved, amputated leg. When irrepressible showboat Shannon Whisnant finds the leg in a grill he purchases at auction, he sets out to do the American thing and make some money off the spectacle. John Wood, the leg’s original owner, demands its return. Whisnant refuses to budge. The two men trade words and eventually take each other to court. Filmmakers Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel keep their focus tight on the two characters, and Whisnant especially fills up the screen with his charisma and homebrewed witticisms. As …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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From Tent City to Tiny Houses

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Churches try hip solution to aid the homeless. In Nashville, Tennessee, six brightly-colored, 60-square-foot homes dot the property of Green Street Church of Christ. But their occupants aren’t fashionable trend-setters. They’re homeless folks who have found shelter in tiny houses. In addition to four walls and a roof, the homes offer Murphy beds, laminate flooring, and a door that locks. Even better, they provide residents, some of whom used to live in tents, an address to put on job applications. Green Street Church began allowing the homeless to pitch tents on its property several years ago, but ran into trouble with Nashville zoning ordinances. While that matter hasn’t yet been legally solved, a privacy fence has settled things down with the neighbors. Having people move from tents to tiny houses, which are rent-free, should help even more. “ aren’t really made to be lived in,” Caleb Pickering, a deacon at Green Street Church, told CT. The homes were set up by a local nonprofit and the church keeps an eye on them. “We have the right to go in and make sure they’re being taken care of,” Pickering said. “It’s trickier with tents. Tiny houses also present a better face to your neighbors.” The tiny …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Wheaton College Suspends Hijab-Wearing Professor After 'Same God' Comment

By Bob Smietana Larycia Hawkins said she wanted to show Advent solidarity with Muslims. A tenured Wheaton College political science professor who pledged to wear a hijab during Advent in support of her Muslim neighbors has been placed on administrative leave. “Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion, and theological clarity,” said a statement from the college’s media relations office. “As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the college’s evangelical Statement of Faith.” Larycia Alaine Hawkins, who has taught at Wheaton since 2007, announced last week that she’d don the traditional headscarf as a sign of human, theological, and embodied solidarity. “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she wrote in a Facebook post on December 10. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.” Hawkins also sought approval for her actions from the Council on American Islamic Relations, a sometimes controversial Muslim advocacy group. Her comments made headlines but also led to criticism from other evangelicals. “This statement …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Join Us at the 2016 GC2 Summit on the Church and Refugees

By Ed Stetzer Learn how the Church can serve refugees at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL on January 20th for just $15. The refugee crisis has been exploding for quite some time and over the last few weeks and months it has captured attention across the country. While the crisis has been happening for a while, some are just now beginning to process the devastation. Over 200,000 Syrians have died in their 4.5 year conflict. That is roughly the equivalent of the Paris death toll every day since the start of their struggle. Approximately 25% of those killed have been women and children, and over 80,000 of those killed have been civilians. This has led to a mass exodus where over half the population of Syria, 12 million people, have now had to flee their home looking for safety. It’s not just a Syrian refugee crisis, but that’s become the news. That impacts the Middle East, and much of our efforts should be there—working for peace, serving the hurting, and helping people settle there. The vast majority of work is in the Middle East, but also conversations about refugees are also at work in the West. We believe that Christians need to respond …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Wheaton, Hawkins: Let Us Reason Together, Please

By Mark Galli How might a Christian college handle a controversy that threatens to undo it? The situation at Wheaton College continues to unravel. Political science professor Dr. Larycia Hawkins refuses to meet any longer with the administration, and the college is now initiating the process of firing her—many assume because she said that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. (If you’re not aware of this controversy, check out our news coverage here and here and here.) Of course, a controversy of this magnitude—it’s been international news for weeks, with stories and comments in the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Guardian, and now Time—is never actually “all because” of one thing. The media coverage has often needlessly inflamed the conversation, and yet you could hardly invent a case that would touch on a greater number of fundamental issues in Christian higher education: 1. The theological integrity of a Christian institution. Evangelical Christians want their institutions to have and maintain standards of belief and behavior. We’ve seen too many historical examples of Christian institutions that let their theological guard down, and the result has been the sabotaging of the institutions’ Christian identity. 2. Loving our Muslim neighbors. Islam …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Hating the Way Jesus Hates

By Interview by Dorcas Cheng-Tozun Why more believers need the courage to get angry at sin. As a young woman, Sarah Sumner never allowed herself to be angry, until her parents divorced when she was 22. The experience was one inspiration behind her doctoral dissertation (at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) on godly anger, which has blossomed into a book, Angry Like Jesus: Using His Example to Spark Your Moral Courage (Fortress Press). San Francisco–based Her.meneutics writer Dorcas Cheng-Tozun spoke with Sumner, former dean of A. W. Tozer Theological Seminary, about bringing a healthy dose of righteous anger to today’s church. Why is the topic of godly anger so significant to you? Over the years, working in Christian organizations, I have seen fudging and compromise and blatant refusals to do things in a Christian way. And then people want to cover it up. That makes me angry. I don’t mean blustery anger, where I want to slam the door. It motivates me to try righting wrongs in a structured, strategic way. What’s the difference between sinful and godly anger? Sinful anger does not trust God, while godly anger does. Sinful anger is prideful, while godly anger flows from humility. Sinful anger participates in evil, while godly anger abhors evil. But the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Dear Everyone: Stop Writing Open Letters

By Rebecca Jones, guest writer Open letters have changed history, but our petty online rants are getting old. When Dear Mom on the iPhone went viral a few years ago, sparking a lively round of retorts, I’d just had my first baby and purchased my first smartphone. Thanks to fluky timing, that debate seemed strangely personal. Of course it wasn’t, and I’ve toughened to the mommy guilt since—but I’ve also kept a curious eye on the groundswell of “Dear ____” posts. Do a little Googling and you’ll find page after page of open letters addressed to quarterbacks and ex-boyfriends and snarky salespeople who won’t ever actually read them. And now, like all good overgrown fads, the game has gone meta: In December, TIME published an open letter to all the open letter writers (ahem). Though the Internet has offered us all a megaphone for addressing the masses, these letters aren’t remotely new. Over history, they’ve proved an effective rhetorical device, making us smarter, making us tougher, and, most importantly, making us think. Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, after all, worked as an open letter—inked, as he said, to spur dialogue “Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light.” In similar …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evenly Split, Southern Baptists Pick President after Candidate Quits

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra J. D. Greear withdraws from unusually tight SBC election, making Steve Gaines the next leader. In an unusually contested race, Southern Baptist messengers elected Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines as their next president this morning. Gaines replaces Ronnie Floyd, who has served the maximum two consecutive terms. SBC presidents are elected one year at a time; the post is largely honorific, except for its ability to fill certain leadership positions. The SBC actually meant to elect a new president yesterday. But a rare tight race between the top two out of three candidates—North Carolina pastor J. D. Greear (45%) and Gaines (44%)—led to a runoff vote. (A candidate must receive just over 50 percent of the vote to win.) Yesterday’s runoff vote was also too close to call, with Gaines receiving 49.96 percent of the votes and Greear receiving 47.8 percent. (More than 100 ballots were disqualified, yet were included in the determination of the total number of votes needed for a victory.) This morning, in a surprise move, Greear pulled out. “I spent a good amount of time last night praying, and believe that for the sake of our convention and our mission we need to leave St. Louis united,” he …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Come Out of Your Gender-Role Foxholes

By Tish Harrison Warren How men and women can have better conversations about leadership, love, and life together. “Just pick a side.” This message has come to characterize the intermural, evangelical debate over gender roles. Complementarians versus egalitarians. Choose a team; fly your flag; toe the party line. Only two options. Choose carefully. Complementarians believe that though men and women are equal in worth, men alone should hold leadership roles in the home and in the church. Egalitarians believe that women and men can share leadership in these roles. There can be an unstated belief that these terms, though unrecognizable to most Christians historically and most non-evangelicals currently, are the sole ways of approaching questions about gender and power. But perhaps there is more to sussing out complex truth than just choosing a side. The complementarian/egalitarian debate has become so stagnant, entrenched, even predictable, that it feels like a stuffy room, windows pulled tight, dim and dusty. In Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate, New Testament professor Michelle Lee-Barnewall seeks to open the windows, let some fresh air in, and set a table where the conversation can begin anew—with new starting points and new questions. New Lenses Lee-Barnewall’s analysis of the blind spots …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Lord's Supper Is a Rehearsal Dinner

By Derek Rishmawy When we partake in communion, we’re practicing for something big. My wedding rehearsal dinner was, in itself, a joyous experience. I don’t often think back and wish we would have eaten a certain food or gone to some other venue (though I do sometimes wish I had been wearing my beard a bit thicker at the time). In the providence of God, we managed to pull together just the precise blend of friends, family, and food to mark the miraculous union of two into one. There is one odd bit of wedding culture, however, that I don’t think I ever fully managed to grasp before I experienced my own wedding: how important the rehearsal dinner is to making all that goodness happen. Aside from getting to eat a little more, what is the point of feasting before you feast? Feasting with the Lamb The buildup to a wedding is a microcosm of the whole of history. When John the Revelator recorded his vision of the drama of history, one of its key scenes is a wedding celebration. On that day, the Bride, Christ’s church, will come arrayed in the splendor of spotless holiness to wed her king, and the glory of that festival will be …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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When Merry Christmas Doesn't Come Easy

By Bo Stern, guest writer In Christ, we get to celebrate even in our sorrow. I really loved my first forty-five Christmases. They certainly weren’t perfect, but they also weren’t painful. In fact, I would say that based on the purely imaginary Standard Holiday Happiness scale, although I had known highs and lows, my cumulative Christmas experience stood at a good, solid 8. I really liked holidays, and I loved making them happy for my husband and kids. It was a job I felt born to do. Then came February 2011. Just after celebrating our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary and on the day of our daughter’s sixteenth birthday, my wonderful husband, Steve, was diagnosed with ALS (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). ALS is a disease so fierce and foul that I feared all my holidays—before and after—would be redefined by it. I imagined looking at the family picture taken when we celebrated Christmas at SeaWorld and mentally recaptioning it: one year before our world fell apart. In the months after the gut punch of the initial diagnosis, I caught my breath a little. We began to get our heads around what we were facing and how we would fight it. Slowly, as spring moved into summer, we …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why We Need Rich Christians

By Amy Julia Becker Excessive wealth isn’t good for anybody, unless it’s used for good for everybody. Despite some recent economic good news—the unemployment rate is dropping and the economy as a whole has been growing for a while now—plenty of people in America have reason to worry about money. Fifteen percent of the nations live below the poverty line. Nearly 48 million people receive food stamps. The median household income has decreased in recent years, settling just above $50,000. (Data from The Nation’s Economy, This Side of the Recession.) Meanwhile, the rich are getting richer. According to Chris Matthews of Fortune magazine, “in America, the wealthiest 160,000 families own as much wealth as the poorest 145 million families.” It’s been in the news countless times—the top one percent of households controls a disproportionate share of wealth in the United States, and that share has only increased in recent years. That wealth poses problems for everyone, including the wealthy. Michael Lewis, writing for The New Republic, describes the negative effect of wealth on the moral behavior of wealthy people. He sites studies in which wealthy people, again and again, demonstrate a sense of entitlement and disregard for justice: drivers of expensive cars disregard pedestrians …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why I’m Not a World-Changer

By Michelle Van Loon In my middle-age years, I’ve traded revolution for good old-fashioned faithfulness. Recently, a friend of mine named Katie confessed her deep discouragement over her “failed” quest to turn the world upside down for God. She’d pursued a ministry degree from a Christian college and after graduation, secured what she believed was a world-changer job at a world-changing church. But then her vision collided with longstanding, intractable politics that had turned the congregation inward on itself. Three years later, mired in student loan debt and disillusioned by her experience, she left her position. “The only one who has changed is me,” she told me. For years, I moved in Christian circles where young people were coached into adulthood with motivational victory-speak that called on them to do great things for God. Even now this sentiment can be found in every corner of the evangelical world: Christian colleges, discipleship programs, and among both conservative and more progressive streams of our movement. How many 20- and 30-somethings among us have attended a youth conference—Passion or Acquire the Fire (sponsored by the now-shuttered Teen Mania Ministries)—and heard at least one speaker tell their audiences they were destined to be world …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What We Can Learn From The Black Church When We Are Pushed To The Margins

By Charlie Dates The powerful, painful history of the Black Church has much to teach us as our culture continues to push the church to the margins of society. At dinner the other night, our family sat in earshot of a group of people discussing presidential politics. They were older, Caucasian, and rather conservative in their political leanings. It was clear that they, like many Americans, are uninspired and—in their words—disheartened by the current party presumptive nominees for this year’s election. Their reflections echoed aged sentiments of prestige, shared beliefs, and religious privilege once represented by the Oval Office. I mentioned to my wife how nice it must have been for generations past, and cultures unlike ours, to enjoy a political system concerned about their values and attentive to their voices. Our forefathers experienced a rather different portrait of American presidents and politics, one that left them living not in the center, but on the margins of American culture. This is no bitter slight to American history so much as it is an acknowledgement of the new disequilibrium so many American Evangelicals are feeling in the wake of a cultural shift. More accurately, it is like an earthquake; the changing political and cultural landscapes of our nation …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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News: Now Kazakhstan Christians Can Prove Their Faith Isn't Foreign

By Timothy C. Morgan Archaeologists discover that Christianity existed along Silk Road long before the Russians arrived. A team of archaeologists uncovered seven Christian gravestones late this summer in the ancient Silk Road city of Ilyn Balik near the Kazakhstan-China border. The historic find is rare archaeological evidence that eastern Christianity was established along East-West trading routes hundreds of years ago, not brought in by the Russian Orthodox Church as many had believed. “This discovery supports the understanding of ancient Kazakhstan as a multicultural center between the East and West with Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians living among the local herdsmen and nomadic tribes,” stated Thomas Davis, a member of the field team and archaeology professor at the Tandy Institute for Archeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in Fort Worth, Texas. “ reinforces so much of what we already knew about the church of the East in central and eastern Asia,” said Philip Jenkins, author of The Lost History of Christianity. “It is strange to think that at the time those places flourished, they might have been on the same scale as the famous Christian cities of Europe,” the Baylor University history professor told CT. “There is nothing new in the world except the history we have forgotten.” Kazakh …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Breaking the 200 Barrier: New Vintage Church in Richland, Washington

By Matt Molt Church seeks to meet the needs of unbelievers in southwest Washington State When we broke the 200 mark for the first time—what a victory! We were sure that full-on revival had broken out in the SW corner of Washington State. At times, my wife and I would crash on the couch at the end of a weekend and wonder, “Where did the all these people come from, and why were they coming to our church?” We did begin to evaluate the “why” people were coming, and how we could keep the momentum going. The key, I was convinced, as the lead pastor was for me to do just that: lead. Andy Stanley’s podcasts in those days helped our thinking so much, when he said that churches didn’t need better pastors, but they needed better leaders. Andy is right—we need to lead better to help our churches grow. Leading well will help you go beyond the invisible 200 barrier. Here are three things we learned about leading well. First, people are judging what we do as much or more than what we preach. Are we kind to our spouse? Do we keep our cool with our kids? Are we inviting people to our church? Do …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Trump Elected President, Thanks to 4 in 5 White Evangelicals

By Kate Shellnutt Dramatic election ends with historic victory for Donald Trump. Election results suggest that “Never Trump” was never a likely outcome for white evangelical voters, who showed up to support president-elect Donald Trump at a higher margin than any election since 2004. Despite reservations expressed by many evangelical and Republican leaders, white “born again” or evangelical Christians cast their ballots for the controversial mogul-turned-politician at an 81 percent to 16 percent margin over Hillary Clinton. Evangelicals of color—who represent 2 in 5 evangelicals, but aren’t segmented out in most national political polls—preferred Clinton in surveys leading up to the election. But she ultimately underperformed among Hispanics and African Americans compared to President Barack Obama before her. While Clinton’s campaign ignored evangelical outreach (unlike Obama), Trump spent much of the months leading up to Election Day courting Christian support, and those voters—particularly in battleground states such as Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida—proved to be one of his strongest support bases. During the Obama election years, as many as a quarter of evangelicals voted Democrat; with Clinton, it was nearly 10 percentage points less than that. “The fact of the matter is that in this race only one of the two major party candidates even …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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