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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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Have Yourself a Merry Kitschy Christmas

By Sarah Arthur What weird Nativity sets get right about the story of Jesus. I’m not a collector, but I love the Nativity sets that begin appearing this time of year. Whether ornate, simple, ethnic, crafty, plush, porcelain, enormous, or fit-in-eggshell teeny—show me a crèche, and I’m a kid on Christmas Eve again. But even I admit there’s a point at which crèches cross into the realm of weird. Nativities starring chickens, for instance. Or trolls. Or zombies. Or any of the bizarre kitsch that youth ministry veteran Mark Oestreicher has found for his ongoing list of “the worst and weirdest nativity sets,” including the Meat Nativity—made of bacon and sausages on a bed of hash browns. Discerning Christians in the West often protest the mishandling of Christmas: the tacky, irreverent, quaint, and theologically-problematic distortions that pass as the gospel, not to mention as art. While I find the Meat Nativity hilarious, I realize a hotdog Jesus takes the carne of the Incarnation a little too far. But I wonder if, in our hurry to correct such spiritual shallowness, we miss a vital opportunity to engage the broader culture at a moment when our neighbors are actually focused on the right thing: the story …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A Conversation with Nate Parker about 'The Birth of a Nation'

By Alissa Wilkinson CT talks to the writer, director, and star of the highly-anticipated film about his faith and race in America. On January 25, I settled into the balcony of the Eccles Theater at the Sundance Film Festival, next to another critic. We’d already seen two movies that day and were getting ready for the third, but before the film even began the crowd gave it a standing ovation. By the time it was over, most of the audience was in tears, and the film received another standing ovation after the credits rolled. We all had a sense that something historic had happened that afternoon. The film was The Birth of a Nation (read my Sundance review), the story of slave preacher Nat Turner and the 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia. In the film, Turner is (illegally) taught to read the Bible as a child by the mistress of the plantation on which he lived as a slave; as an adult, he becomes a preacher, and his study of Scripture as well as his observation of cruelty on the plantations he visits as a preacher leads him toward violent action. (The film has a great deal, thematically, in common with Braveheart.) Nate Parker, who …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Flooded by a Storm, Then by Grace

By Jeannine Seery The superstorm almost destroyed our home. What happened afterward shocked me. My husband and I stood at the front door and paused. We knew that we’d reached a watershed moment—literally. With one turn of the key, nothing in our lives would stay the same. And although there was nothing we could do but step inside, we stopped, as if doing so would keep our nightmare from becoming a reality. The storm surge of Hurricane Sandy dumped more than 4 feet of water into the first floor of our home. Our living room, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom had absorbed a mix of ocean water, diesel fuel, raw sewage, and whatever else the Atlantic Ocean had to offer on October 29, 2012. We knew that the water had receded, but we had no idea what our lives looked like on the other side of that door. Nothing could prepare us for what we saw. Only a thick layer of wet sludge remained on the floor, and the water hadn’t reached our second floor. But the force of the ocean had taken all of our furniture and moved it around the first floor. The refrigerator had capsized, spilling out its contents. Our sofa was now …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Call Out Locker Room Talk for the Sin That It Is

By Karen Swallow Prior We can’t excuse inconsistent principles in our politicians or in each other. “It’s just locker room talk.” With these five words, Donald Trump and many of his supporters have tried to brush away the presidential candidate’s sexually predatory comments recorded in a 2005 conversation between the GOP presidential candidate and NBC host Billy Bush. Presumably, the same defense covers Trump’s conversations with Howard Stern about threesomes, anal sex, and his own daughter’s derriere. Putting aside the more serious question of whether Trump’s words in his conversation with Bush accurately describe real actions he has committed (something he denied when pressed by Anderson Cooper in Sunday night’s debate), let’s consider the notion that all this is “just locker room talk.” The locker room, with its shiny little lockers and their built-in locks, lulls us into the illusion that compartmentalization of our lives is possible. The locker room offers the appearance of privacy, but at the same time elicits public performance (as every awkward middle school student knows too well). A liminal space, the locker room requires people to be at their most vulnerable—naked—in front of other people and therefore elicits the most bravado, whether feigned or genuine. Thus the locker room is emblematic of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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I Used to Think Abuse Was Love

By Angie Hong I’m learning that true healing requires facing the past The concert ran late and I knew I was breaking curfew, which spoiled any of the fun I had in the previous hours that night. I carefully tiptoed up to my room hoping that, for a change, my mother had already gone to sleep so my punishment would come in the morning. This wasn’t the best move to make right before leaving for college. But I wasn’t running too late; maybe there was a chance that she would forget about it. Maybe not. I quietly turned the corner to enter my room, and my jaw dropped in horror as I found all my belongings in a big pile in the middle of the floor. Everything, from pencils to underwear to my computer, was built into a giant mountain. She was wild-eyed and furious, waiting for me to arrive, and like a lion pouncing on its prey, she proceeded to yell and scream, reiterating her analysis that I was inherently bad. This sort of dramatic reaction to my disobedience was not unusual, each time leaving me in a state of confusion and shame. But something about the way she said it this day was different. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Lovekindness: A Post-Election Path for Christians in America

By Barry H. Corey Democracy sees the value of dialogue for the common good. Where do we go from here? It is November 9, and after an exhaustingly long, divisive election that has at times felt apocalyptic, America now has a new President-elect, Donald Trump. But while there has been resolution to the long-contested question of who will occupy the White House come February, the problems that gave rise to (and were exacerbated by) this horrific election will not be gone from America. We are a nation divided. And the wedges were driven deeper by the vitriol of this campaign. We state our intractable views on everything from race to religion to class to sexuality to culture to Colin Kaepernick. Facebook used to be a place where friends shared updates and photos. Now, it’s a forum for overheated ranting among strangers. Sadly, Christian communities have been complicit in this culture of divisiveness. Whether the topic is Trump, transgenderism, or refugees, on any given day the Christian Twitterverse is barely distinguishable from any other angry subculture. American Christians, like all Americans, are being conditioned by the rhetoric of division. It’s the air we breathe on 24-hour cable news, on social media, and in the click-bait articles that favor unnuanced and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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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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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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All the Justice Money Can Buy

By Mary DeMuth, guest writer From the ‘affluenza’ teen to Steven Avery, there’s a reason we care so much about a fair trail. Shauna Jennings will never forget June 16, 2013. It was supposed to be a happy celebration, the day of her son’s graduation party. But when they came upon an accident on their way, her husband—a pastor and a good man to the core—stopped to help a stranded driver and got struck by a speeding truck. He died at the scene, the sudden, tragic end to their 20-year marriage. Jennings was not alone in her grief; in all, four pedestrians were killed, and two others severely injured. The person responsible—though “irresponsible” seems to be a more apt term in the case—is now a name we know from headlines: Ethan Couch. At 16, he’d been driving his daddy’s pickup at 70 miles per hour, his blood alcohol at three times the legal limit thanks to two cases of beer shoplifted from a local Wal Mart. He also tests positive for Valium. From time to time, we read about such accidents in the news and lament how one person’s bad decisions and foolish actions gravely impact families and communities. The small solace for victims is the hope …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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