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Ewan McGregor and Rodrigo Garcia On Jesus, Satan, and 'Last Days in the Desert'

By Alissa Wilkinson Our exclusive interview with the star and director of the hotly-anticipated Sundance feature. “I cringe a little bit when I think ‘Bible movie,'” says Rodrigo Garcia, with a smile. The writer/director is talking about Last Days in the Desert, his new film premiering at Sundance next week, which stars Ewan McGregor as Jesus and Satan. Garcia isn’t against Biblical epics, but that isn’t what he’s made—no eye-popping effects, no epic battles, no lines lifted from Bible passages. Instead, Last Days is a character-driven meditation on family and mortality, haunting and spare. On a cold December weekend in New York City, I’m meeting Garcia over breakfast and coffee to talk about how you make a movie about fathers and sons in which the main character also happens to be the most famous son of all time: Yeshua, as the film calls him. “I wrote a few pages in which I called him Jesus,” Garcia explains. “But when you’re writing a screenplay and it says ‘Jesus walks, Jesus says,’ after a while, the weight of the name is paralyzing.” As Garcia reminds me, in his native Spanish, Jesus is a common name. “But in English, it has big connotations”—nobody in the English-speaking world names their kid Jesus. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Meet the Filmmaker Exposing Planned Parenthood

By Bob Smietana How a 26-year-old founded the undercover operation to take down the abortion giant. For years, a group of pro-life activists and politicians have waged a fierce political and brand war with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a billion-dollar nonprofit that has positioned itself as a champion for women’s health. Pro-life groups and other critics called the abortion giant—Planned Parenthood terminates more than 300,000 pregnancies per year—a rogue organization that misuses about $500 million a year in government funds to underwrite its lucrative abortion business. After a string of victories from 2011, the movement to defund Planned Parenthood largely stalled out. A month ago, the movement was dead in the water. Not anymore. A series of undercover videos, showing Planned Parenthood executives haggling over the price for donated fetal tissue and organs over lunch and during a dissection, have the abortion giant on the defensive. The videos, which claim Planned Parenthood profits from selling fetal tissue, caused public outrage and launched nationwide rallies. As many as seven states, including Texas, have planned hearings or investigations into Planned Parenthood’s tissue donation program. Pro-life members of the US Senate introduced a bill to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. All …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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My Small Group Looks Like Me

By Morgan Lee Why some multiethnic churches don’t mandate diversity at gatherings. On any given Sunday at New Life Fellowship, worshipers from more than 75 ethnic backgrounds gather at the church’s three services in Queens, New York City. But during the week, an increasing number of them go to small groups intentionally split along ethnic lines. Congregations like New Life face a challenge when it comes to small groups: the things that make small groups thrive—like common interests, backgrounds, and culture—often work against the church’s goal of building multiethnic community. Some church leaders believe homogenous small groups actually attract diversity. At New Life, ethnic fellowships function as a “great entry point into a multiethnic church,” said small group pastor Phil Varghese, the son of Indian immigrants. “It’s a cultural shock for newcomers to see so many people groups gathering,” he said. “We’re building Spanish-language and Filipino, South Asian, and Indonesian ethnic fellowships.” Such groups can make new immigrants feel at home. Knowing that they can find weekday fellowship in their own language, many “first-generation parents will sacrifice not hearing a Spanish-language message because their kids are loving what they are getting at our church,” said Jorge Molina, an El Salvador native who pastors small groups …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Carly Fiorina Q+A: ‘Whom Shall I Fear?’

By Interview by Kate Shellnutt The candidate on her faith, abortion, and why women make good investment risks. Ever since Carly Fiorina’s forceful criticism of Planned Parenthood during CNN’s Republican debate, Americans have been paying more attention to the former Hewlett-Packard CEO. Fiorina saw her numbers rise in the polls over the past three weeks, as media continue to parse her remarks about watching a “fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating” against footage released by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress. The 61-year-old has gone from being viewed as the Republican foil to Democrat Hillary Clinton to a serious contender on her own. Like several other Republican candidates, Fiorina never held public office, having lost a 2010 Senate campaign to California’s Barbara Boxer. The sharp-spoken former executive has offered voters glimpses of her personal life, including her battle with breast cancer in 2009 and her stepdaughter’s tragic death after struggling with drug addiction. It was her Christian faith that sustained her through the pain, and continues to strengthen her as she sets her eyes on the White House, she said in an interview with CT. Fiorina spoke at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in 2007, two years after being ousted from HP. Through …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why You Shouldn’t Call that False Teaching a Heresy

By Justin S. Holcomb How to tell which errors deserve the ultimate warning label. A group of bloggers seeking reform in Southern Baptist circles recently decried pastor Rick Warren for teaching that God communicates to believers via dreams. The bloggers named Warren and other speakers at a 2015 Hillsong conference “heretical preachers that claim extra-biblical revelation from God.” To be sure, the nature of God’s revelation has been debated throughout church history, and overemphasis on dream interpretation can be theologically dangerous. Elsewhere, a UK Christian leader has devoted much of his writing and teaching to criticizing Christian Zionism—the belief that the founding of the State of Israel is foretold in Scripture. He and others have begun calling Zionism and its political implications “heresy” in online columns. And their views are not unique: Many Christians believe that Zionism is a misreading of God’s promises throughout the Old Testament. But are these problems of heresy? Both complementarian and egalitarian leaders have taken to the Internet to call each other’s views on gender and leadership heresy. That, though their respective movements have officially existed for about 30 years. Some say the Internet has democratized knowledge. Clearly, it has also democratized theologizing. Anyone with a computer and Wifi access can publish their …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What Is the Missional Church? (Part 3)—God-Empowered Love

By Ed Stetzer The world should be able to recognize the Church in an instant because of how the Church loves people as they have been loved by God. What does it mean for the church to be “Missional?” With these theological commitments from the Missional Manifesto as a guide, it is now possible to begin to answer our original question: What is a missional church? Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” While I may want to clarify the language, this impulse is needed. Mission is rooted in the identity of God Himself. God is on a mission, Jesus is the embodiment of that mission and empowers the people of God for God’s mission. Jesus identifies himself as being sent more than forty times in the Gospel of John. The church is sent on mission by Jesus. Being missional, therefore, is the church’s realization that it is called to join Jesus in God’s mission in the power of the Spirit. A missional church is one that seeks to engage all of the church in the activity God has for them—His mission. The Missional Church Begins With God-Empowered Love If all of the church is to be engaged in God’s mission, moving out …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Some Perspective on Millennials Serving in Ministry

What are we ought to think about Millennials as future leaders of the ministry? The Millennial generation, the oldest of whom are turning 35 this year, are inarguably the ministry leaders of the future. However, Millennials also have the smallest percentage of church attendance of any generation, leaving many pastors looking for insight and advice on how to reach them. While there are many opinions regarding Millennials and the future they may create, there is very little information regarding the perspectives of Millennials serving in ministry positions. Who Was Surveyed Our team took a qualitative approach to this question and surveyed Millennials serving in ministry, asking about their perspectives on religion, spirituality, and church. We used open-ended questions in order to obtain an expression of their thoughts. As is the nature of qualitative research, the results cannot be extrapolated to Millennials in general or Millennials in ministry in specific. Though still to be fully analyzed, the preliminary results are intriguing. Those in our survey ranged from single, to married, to parents. They also ranged from serving in volunteer positions in churches, to serving in Christian non-profits, to pastors. Overall, the trends demonstrated in this group were strong and personally encouraging. For example, many …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What is the Missional Church? (Part 5)—Forgetting Missions

By Ed Stetzer How might the local church better engage in world missions for the glory of God? Reasons Why Missional Churches Do Not Do Missions As the missional conversation continues and deepens, there is a growing trend among missional churches to forget the lost world around us. Why has this happened? There are five reasons I think this has happened: First, in rediscovering God’s mission, many have discovered its personal dimensions only. The encouragement for each person to be on mission (to be “missional”) has trended toward a personal obligation to one’s immediate context. While mission to our local communities is important, an inordinate focus on “local” neighbors misses the church’s obligation to “global” people groups. Second, in responding to God’s mission, many have made everything “mission.” Missions historian Stephen Neill, responding to a similar surge in mission interests, explained his concern this way: “If everything is mission then nothing is mission.” Neill’s fear was that the focus would shift from global evangelization (often called “missions”) to societal transformation (often called “mission”). Next, in relating God’s mission, the message increasingly includes the hurting but less frequently includes the global lost. Missional churches seem to speak more of underserved peoples rather than unreached peoples. As we engage to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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This Veterans Day, Meet the Soldiers of Church History

By Logan Isaac Did you know the holiday was originally named after a French bishop? This June, CT drew attention to veterans’ experiences in the cover story “Formed by War.” To continue the discourse sparked by that story, alongside the Centurions Guild, CT is hosting an online series called Ponder Christian Soldiers. (Read the introduction to the series here, and the second installment here.) The following essay is from Centurions Guild founder Logan Isaac on long-forgotten soldiers of church history. When we think about Christian soldiers, we can be tempted (based on our views on war in general) to either venerate or vilify those who have participated in military service or combat. The battlefield certainly has its share of both beauty and tragedy, and that complexity can be confusing. To some, Christian soldiers—ready to stand up and sacrifice for a larger cause—are heroes, for “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13). To others, the violence of combat seems overwhelming in its scope and severity. They take Jesus’ words, “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matt. 26:52), to mean that soldiers’ close proximity to killing …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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College Can Kill Our Colorblindness (If We Let It)

By Heather Caliri, guest writer I used to be the white girl who didn’t get it. Earlier this month, protests about race erupted at several American colleges. The uproar began at the University of Missouri, where the chancellor and president resigned over their responses to racially charged harassment. Meanwhile at Yale, an official email about avoiding racist Halloween costumes, such as blackface, inspired one faculty member’s response asking for “free speech and the ability to tolerate offense.” The initial upheaval in Columbia and New Haven sparked tensions elsewhere. Someone posted anonymous online threats towards students at historically black Howard University, and protests followed last week on campuses at Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and nearly two dozen others. These protests reflect the recent grassroots activism around the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but the racial tensions they attempt to address are nothing new. For decades, white administrators and students themselves have ignored or downplayed the concerns of people of color regarding the racial climate on campus. I know because I was one of them. Like many white students, I hadn’t experienced real diversity until I went to college. The idea of diversity seemed nice before I arrived on campus. But once I started my freshman year at Rice University back in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Church Planting 2015: Who Attends and What Attracted Them

By Lisa Cannon Green – Facts & Trends Successful new churches share four factors, LifeWay Research finds. Protestants are planting new churches in America faster than their old churches are closing. More than 4,000 new Protestant churches opened their doors in the United States in 2014, outpacing the 3,700 that shuttered, according to estimates by LifeWay Research based on input from 34 denominational statisticians. And American church planters say 42 percent of their worshipers were unchurched while 43 percent switched from an existing church, according to LifeWay’s 2015 National Church Planting Study, released today. For the study, the Nashville-based research organization analyzed 843 churches started since 2008 by 17 denominations and church-planting networks, including: the Assemblies of God, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Center for US Missions (Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod), Christian and Missionary Alliance, Converge Worldwide, Evangelical Free Church of America, Free Methodist Church USA, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Texas District, New Thing Network, North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention), Presbyterian Church in America, Project Jerusalem, Path1 (United Methodist Church), Southern Baptists of Texas, Vineyard Church, and The Wesleyan Church. “In winning new converts to Christ, church plants are light years ahead of the average church because of their focus on reaching the unchurched,” said executive director …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Preachiness Never Changed Anybody's Mind

By Russell Moore An excerpt from CT’s Beautiful Orthdoxy Book of the Year. I once clicked off a television program I normally love, because it just became too preachy. This episode was about preventing sexually transmitted diseases. A cartoonish, stereotypical Religious Right activist insisting on abstinence education frustrated the task of educating persons about proper condom use. The storyline enabled a series of coarse jokes, sprinkled with ongoing messages that abstinence doesn’t work and hurts people, and that government officials need the courage to fight the ideologues. I, of course, am a conservative evangelical Christian who believes, with the historic Christian church, that chastity until marriage is God’s design and is necessary for human flourishing. I also think many efforts at sex education—those built merely around disease and pregnancy prevention rather than human dignity—have hurt people and diminished civil society. I’m not afraid of hearing other viewpoints. I turned off the television not because I was outraged, but because I was bored. This program was presenting a viewpoint with the kind of smug assurance of rightness that simply caricatured the views I hold. I’m not worried about televised comedies. I was provoked, though, to think about how often we, as the Body of Christ, do the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: Sisters

By Jessica Gibson Good for fans of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, but not for much else. mpaa rating:R (For crude sexual content and language throughout, and for drug use.) Genre:Comedy Theatre Release:December 18, 2015 by Universal Pictures This is a great movie for fans of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who are OK with laughing until they cry at dirty jokes that have no right being that funny. Anybody who’s just one, the other, or neither, should probably steer clear and go see Star Wars. For those of you left in that small camp, you’ve hit a gold mine. Sisters is hilarious in all the worst ways, one of those movies you feel bad for laughing so hard at and enjoying so much. Maybe that’s what makes Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in combo so good – they can land some of the nastiest punchlines by making them feel as awkwardly spontaneous as crude jokes should. That chemistry is the most significant thing about the film. The story could be a lot worse, but any movie that bookends an hour-long party plot with brief sympathy-building scenes could be better. Tina and Amy play to their strength of playing off each other as polar-opposite sisters Kate (Fey) …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Virgin Births Happen All the Time

By Ted Olsen Birds do it. Bees do it. Snakes, sharks, lizards, and lots of other animals do it solo too. It was Christmas, the turkey had been eaten, and it was terrible. “It would be pretty hard for the Department to be serious and issue an obituary notice for a turkey,” an unnamed department official told the United Press. Nevertheless, news of the turkey’s death hit front pages around the world. Because it was Christmas. And Graydon the turkey was no ordinary turkey. He had no father. He didn’t have an absentee father. He hadn’t been born through artificial insemination or other technological advances. He literally had no father. His mother—one of dozens of turkey hens in an experiment—had been carefully separated from turkey toms by the government agency at a research facility in Beltsville, Maryland, under the watchful eye of embryologist Marlow W. Olsen. Graydon’s origin had been, in other words, a kind of virgin birth. Or at least a virgin hatching. He wasn’t the first fatherless turkey to emerge from the more than 28,000 eggs in Olsen’s experiment. There had been about 20 others. But almost all died within an hour or two. No others had lived longer than 22 days. But Graydon was 254 days …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Best of 2015: Duggar Scandal, Beth Moore, and the Yoga Pants Debate

We rank the top 10 posts of the year. From celebrity happenings to the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision, Her.meneutics weighed in week after week to address the biggest stories in the news and the Christian blogosophere. Here are our readers’ favorite posts of the year: 1. Why Reality TV Can’t Handle the Josh Duggar Scandal(Kate Shellnutt) After reports that the oldest brother on TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting had molested family members years before their reality TV fame, Shellnutt called for the show’s end: Not all issues can be fake-resolved over the course of an episode or season, especially not involving conditions as difficult as abuse, mental illness, and addiction. In this case, I believe it would be unfair and potentially hurtful for TLC to even try. 2. ‘Pioneer Girl’ Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Real Memoir Overturns Our False Nostalgia (Jennifer Grant) Wilder’s never-before-published memoir became a bestseller thanks to Little House on the Prairie fans. Grant wrote: Not long into reading Pioneer Girl, that sentimental fog that’s risen in me whenever I’ve thought about Laura Ingalls completely burned off…. The real Laura Ingalls saw a “much grittier world” than did the fictional one. 3. To the Christian Men and Women Debating Yoga Pants (Lore Ferguson …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Building a Volunteer Culture in Your Church

It can be difficult, at times, to recruit volunteers at church. How might we create a volunteer culture in our churches? “Pull a Henry.” Their heads tilted; some brows furrowed. They thought I was crazy. It was working. When you are given the 8 p.m. Monday night slot for teaching seminary students, you’d better say something that awakens them from their post Sunday church hangover. I repeated myself, “If you want to build a volunteer culture in your church, you’ll have to pull a Henry. A Henry Ford. “ Henry Ford was the inventor of the first automobile assembly line. He wanted to produce more cars and ensure great quality, but in order to do that, he knew he needed a system. Henry hoped and dreamed that his system would change the automobile industry and culture and it did just that. So what on earth does pulling a Henry have to do with church and building a volunteer culture? Cars and people are the same? Nope, I’m not saying that. How they relate is that the ability to build a system that produces more and has better quality will ultimately change a culture. To this day, when consulting with churches, I haven’t met …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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7 Anticipated Books of 2016

CT asked publishers which theology and biblical studies books they were most excited to publish this year. Here are the entries. Modern Christian Theology Christopher Ben Simpson (T&T Clark, February) By putting the story of modern Christian theology against the backdrop of the history of modernity itself, Simpson examines the ways in which theology became modern, while showing how theology contributed to the rise of modernity. None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) Jen Wilkin (Crossway, April) Wilkin highlights the joy of seeing our limited selves in relation to a limitless God—and how realizing this frees us from striving to be more than we were created to be, which is the root of human sin and rebellion. The Church: A Theological and Historical Account Gerald Bray (Baker Academic, April) Bray discusses the four classic marks of the church—its oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity. He then surveys the ecumenical climate today and suggests ways that these marks should manifest in our present global context. A Theology in Outline Robert Jenson (Oxford, April) Jenson frames all of Christian theology as a response to the question, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezek. 37:3). He considers how the story that God lives with his people continues, and whether …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Modes of Mission: A Missional Posture

By Ed Stetzer This week, in our series examining mission modes, we look at how John lived on mission. One of the active characteristics of God’s mission is the notion of “sentness.” God establishes this pattern early in redemptive history. He goes to Adam and Eve, but sends Abraham to the Promised Land, Moses to Egypt, Jonah to the Ninevites, Jesus to the world, the Spirit to the Church, and the Church to the nations. Clearly, God’s mission involves sending. In the New Testament, John stresses the “sent” theme more than any other. Other than describing the sentness of Jesus and the disciples, John also references John the Baptist being sent (John 1:6–7, 15; 3:28, 34) and the Holy Spirit being sent (John 14:26; John 16:7–8). Thus, the Johannine mode of mission establishes sentness as a missional impulse. The missional impulse of sentness is found in John 20:21, where John records Jesus saying, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” It may seem on the surface that sentness means going. While sentness certainly implies going, the Johannine mode of mission stresses something far deeper and richer given that it connects the sentness of the disciples to that of the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Trend #1 For The Future Of Church Planting—Kingdom Collaboration

By Daniel Im Church planting will thrive when we work together As I’ve been consulting with denominations, networks, and churches regarding their strategy to assess, train, coach, and fund church planters, there are a few trends that I’m beginning to notice. In fact, a few of these trends were the focus of Ed Stetzer’s and my writing in the newly updated edition of Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (May 2016). Not only did we overhaul every single chapter, but we also wrote several new ones. If you read the previous edition, it would be worth your time to take a look, since it’s practically a new book. Here are the three major trends that I’m beginning to notice for the future of church planting: Kingdom collaboration, bivocational ministry, and residencies and theological education. In this blog post, we’ll focus in on the first trend, and leave the other two trends for future posts. Trend #1: Kingdom Collaboration Together we can accomplish more than we can ever do alone. This is the buzz phrase of the new generation of church planters. In the future of church planting, church planters will be less focused on building their kingdom and more focused on seeing Jesus …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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