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Leadership Legacies: Why Character Trumps All

By Gary Corwin Good leaders are known for leading, encouraging, and caring for those in their organization. The Apostle Paul wrote, What after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who made things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. (1 Cor. 3:5-8) Whatever else one may say about Paul’s logic, he makes it clear that all the credit and glory for his work belongs to God. Every person in ministry would humbly acknowledge the same truth. And yet, how often do we seek to position ourselves so that when the report, article, or book is written, we will receive significant credit for the breakthrough? We can’t seem to help wanting to take some of what should be God’s glory alone. And the problem is even wider than the scope of the personal example Paul cites. Not only are there those who plant and those who water, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Louisiana Flooding: On The Ground With Relief Agencies And Why Christians Are Uniquely Suited To Help

By Ed Stetzer Why Christians are uniquely suited to help in times of disaster. Ed: Why are Christians uniquely suited to help those impacted by the flooding? Ross Johnson, Director of Disaster Response, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod: As Christians and congregations reach out, we’re able to take care of spiritual and physical needs. FEMA and other organizations are very helpful with temporal needs, but they don’t offer spiritual care like local churches can. Congregations make a great hub of mercy and human care in their community. No one knows there community better than the local church or pastor, especially when a disaster happens and the majority of responders are from the outside, not always knowing the community’s history or culture. Congregations were there before the tragedy and hopefully will be there for decades after the tragedy. After the first few weeks of the disaster, the congregation remains a hub of ministry, mercy, and outreach for the long term. And it’s only the Church that has the voice of Christ which brings the peace that surpasses all understanding, whether it is to Christians or non-Christians. We have a phrase that we say: “Proclaiming the gospel even in the wake of a disaster.” Whatever opportunity that we have, we …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Teens Read Bible More During the School Year

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra The latest study from Barna also shows how many teens think the Bible offers hope, and whether their house rules are influenced by Scripture. Most practicing Protestant teenagers—those who identify as Protestant, attend church at least once a month, and say their faith is very important in their lives—who read their Bible do so the same amount all year long (73%), much like all Bible-reading American teens (69%). Of those who are left, 18 percent of practicing Protestant teens read more during the school year; only half that amount read more during the unstructured summer (9%). Those numbers echo across all teens (21% read more during school, 10% in the summer) and non-practicing Christian teens (19% read more in the school year, 10% in the summer). Those findings come from the second annual poll of how more than 1,000 teens ages 13 to 17 interact with the Bible, commissioned by the American Bible Society and conducted by the Barna Group in May. Though there are fewer of them (16%, compared to 20% in 2015), practicing Protestant teens look a lot like they did last year. Slightly fewer said the Bible contains everything needed for a meaningful life (85%, down from …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Are You And Your Church Acting Like Sheep? An Invitation To Correctional Ministry

By Karen Swanson Our biblical mandate requires us to care for tho marginalized, including those impacted by crime. I cannot be more thrilled that the September issue of Christianity Today is dedicated to correctional ministry. You can read the main article here. Correctional ministry is often omitted or marginalized; however, it is a ministry which impacts everyone touched by crime—offenders, victims, families—through the transforming message of the gospel and holistic care which is grounded in love. In my first 39 years of life, I really didn’t think about prisoners or criminal justice issues. My only prison experience was seeing prisons from my car while traveling on family vacations growing up. But that all changed when a friend asked me to go with her and teach in a faith-based program at a men’s maximum security division at Cook County Jail in Chicago. That one visit changed my thinking, career, and life. God hooked my heart and gave me a growing passion for the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, and their families. At the time, my husband (an assistant pastor) and I attended a church where a congregant was sent to a federal prison for a few months. The pastoral staff and members of the congregation came alongside him and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Finally: Killers of Malatya Martyrs Sentenced to Life in Turkish Prison

By Morning Star News But Turkish Christians are still ‘infuriated.’ Here’s why. After a nine-year legal saga, a Turkish criminal court today sentenced five men to life in prison for the torture and murder of three Christians in southeast Turkey in 2007. The Malatya First Heavy Penal Court found Salih Gurler, Cuma Ozdemir, Abuzer Yildirim, Hamit Ceker, and Emre Gunaydin guilty on three counts each of premeditated murder, and sentenced them all to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Despite the conviction and sentencing, however, all five walked out of court free men while their case awaits higher legal review, infuriating Turkish Christians. Gokhan Talas, close friend of the three slain Christians and witness at the murder scene, said he was “okay” with the decision, but was angry that the convicted men walked away free while the sentence is reviewed by higher courts. “They need to be in jail right now,” Talas said. “This process is unjust. There’s no justice for Christians in this country. This is the proof of that. They are just hiding behind the laws. These people are killers.” In a press release issued by the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey, chairman and pastor Ihsan Ozbek echoed Talas’s …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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‘Why Christianity Today’ Revisited

By Commentary by Ted Olsen The first editorial for this magazine—reprinted here—still reflects our ‘deepfelt desire.’ Evangelist Billy Graham awoke from a dream at 2 a.m. one night in late 1953 and wrote out a plan for a new Christian magazine, from its budget to its editorial departments to its name: Christianity Today. He soon found a champion in his father-in-law, Presbyterian lay leader L. Nelson Bell, and a reluctant but prolific editor in Fuller Seminary’s star theologian, Carl F. H. Henry. While those men were giants in their day, this magazine was never intended as a celebrity vehicle or tribute to the past. (Graham complained that his photo appeared too many times in the first issue.) Nevertheless, we often find CT’s founding documents remarkably prescient. The anxieties and goals that occupied those leaders in 1956 remain ours in 2016, not because we’re overcome by nostalgia but because CT’s early vision was both forward-looking and based in timeless gospel passions. We are as ardent as ever in our “desire to express historical Christianity to the present generation.” Here, then, is the original founding editorial from our first issue, with some midrash. — Ted Olsen, Director of Editorial Development WHY CHRISTIANITY TODAY? Christianity Today has its origin in a deepfelt desire …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Are Religious Kids Meaner or Nicer?

By Melinda Lundquist Denton A Christian sociologist responds to two contradictory studies and what they tell us about science. Is faith good for kids? A paper published in Current Biology last year posed this question. The authors of the study, Jean Decety and his colleagues, conducted experiments with young children from the United States, Canada, Turkey, Jordan, South Africa, and China and measured how many stickers they were willing to share with other children. Their conclusion: Kids from religious homes shared fewer stickers on average than those from non-religious homes. The findings were picked up by national and international news outlets and reported with damning headlines like, “Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts, study finds,” and “Nonreligious children are more generous.” A recent study published in Current Biology has called these findings into question. Azim Shariff, a psychologist at the University of California–Irvine, and his colleagues found that the authors of the first study had miscoded the data and didn’t properly take into account differences across countries. It was the equivalent of comparing two girls—for example, a religious girl from Turkey and a non-religious girl from Canada—and concluding that the difference in their sticker sharing was due to religion. However, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Where Kids Get Their Political Views

By Jen Wilkin In a heated election, Christian parents can model a measured response. “Clinton is a worthless liar. America needs a better president or our country is going to fall apart.” The Sunday after Election Day in 1996, I listened to girls in a seventh-grade Sunday school class offer their commentary on the winner. A new parent who had only been teaching the class for a few weeks, I was ill prepared for a room full of terrified, politically minded tweens. Where was this coming from? Decades later, I know the answer. Young children don’t get their opinions from CNN or Fox News. They don’t study exit polls or approval ratings. They do not learn fear and vitriol in social studies. They learn it from their parents. Recognizing this sobering truth shifted the way my husband and I discussed politics with our own kids. We model a response for our children, and yet, we often underestimate how much they care. Developmentally speaking, children live “in the moment” and tend to overvalue the good and the bad they encounter. If we act like the sky is falling because our candidate is not elected, our child will feel exaggerated fear. If we act like the kingdom of heaven has …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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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       ...
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There's Still Hope for Our Politics

By Michael Wear But only if we plant our feet in the gospel. Perhaps there was a glimmer or two of the potential for better politics even in this presidential race. At the conclusion of the second presidential debate, in the midst of one of the most bitter, trivial, and personal campaigns in modern political history, the candidates were asked to name one positive thing they respect about their opponent. Donald Trump, refreshingly, took the opportunity to point out that Hillary Clinton “doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. I tell it like it is. She’s a fighter.” Clinton had a particularly moving exchange with a ten-year old immigrant. When the young girl told the candidate through tears that she was scared her parents would be deported, Clinton called the girl over to sit on her lap. “I’m going to do everything I can so you don’t have to be scared,” she said. “And you don’t have to worry about what happens to your mom or your dad or anyone else. I feel really, really strongly, but you’re being very brave and you have to be brave for them too. Because they want you to be happy. Let me do the worrying. …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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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       ...
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Jo Saxton Q+A: What's Holding You Back?

By Interview by Kelli B. Trujillo We’re all enriched when women lead. Jo Saxton is passionate about leadership. A Londoner of Nigerian descent who now lives in the Twin Cities, Saxton is a church planter, leadership coach, and the author of More Than Enchanting. A sought-after speaker, Saxton also serves as chair of the board for 3DM, a global discipleship ministry. Saxton’s latest endeavor is “Lead Stories,” a podcast with co-host Steph Williams, in which they discuss themes like soul care; the “behind the scenes” life of leaders; and assessing leaders’ physical, relational, and mental health. We connected with Saxton to get her take on the unique experiences of women in leadership. Why are you so devoted to equipping women for leadership? In the Great Commission, we are all called, as men and as women, to be involved in what God is doing. He designed us to know him and make him known in the world around us. We need to be equipped and empowered to do that, and I don’t think we can do that with just 50 percent of the global population. We want to see 100 percent—both men and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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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       ...
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Why You Can't Read Scripture Alone

By Gerald R. McDermott Studying the Bible in light of the Great Tradition. You are a new Christian. You want to learn all you can about the Bible, for you know it is the Word of God, and somewhere you heard that you can know God only to the extent that you know his Word. You know a woman down the street who has walked with God for more than 60 years and has studied Scripture all that time. She has read commentaries, enjoyed attending churches within different denominations, and discussed the deep things of God with other mature believers and pastors. You consider reading Scripture with her, to glean her wisdom. But you choose to read the Bible for yourself by yourself. You don’t visit the woman because you don’t want her beliefs to influence your own reading. And you want to listen to the Holy Spirit yourself, so you can get to the purity of God’s message untainted by outside influence. Some Christians, and not just new believers among them, take this “me and God” approach to reading Scripture. They have learned from Matthew 15 not to be like the Pharisees, whom Jesus said exalted human tradition over God’s Word. They also try to heed …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A Decision in Ferguson: How Should Evangelicals Respond?

By Ed Stetzer The grand jury has made a decision in Ferguson, now we have to make ours. How will we respond? In light of the grand jury decision handed down tonight in the wake of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO, I think it is of utmost importance that all Christians, but specifically white evangelicals, talk a little less and listen a little more. Or, put another way, maybe some need to spend less time insisting that African Americans shouldn’t be upset and spend more time asking why some are. Yes, this case reminds us again that the racial divide is clear, as a just released CNN poll demostrated. I wasn’t in the grand jury room, and I don’t know the evidence, but many godly African American leaders are hurting and they are explaining why. I think we should listen to them. Race Remains The issue of race remains contentious in our nation and in our neighborhoods, and many white evangelicals remain confused as to how they should respond. It is often difficult for those of us on the outside of an issue to fully grasp the complexity and the hurt of those from a different background. Throughout the course of the events in Ferguson I have …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Best Guest Posts of 2014

By Amy Julia Becker Disability, race, and family top this blog’s charts this year. Although I began blogging in 2008, this blog moved to Christianity Today last February. It is called “Thin Places” because I hope it is a space dedicated to creating unexpected connections–“places” where heaven and earth touch, where we might glimpse God’s presence through grace and kindness and healing. Typically, I write and welcome guest posts related to the intersection of faith, family, and disability. This year, we widened the circle to include what turned out to be a monthlong reflection on race relations, and I have continued to feature posts related to the ongoing tensions–and potential for healing–between black and white Americans. Of the dozens of guest posts that ran this year, the following six represent some of my personal favorites, as well as the top three as far as pageviews: White Christians: It’s Time to Stand in Solidarity With Your Black Brothers and Sisters by Christena Cleveland The history that led us to Ferguson. Why “the unified family of God is the answer to the problem of race in America.” “The American church, plagued by its own racial divisions, offers little in the way of healing and hope. Brothers and sisters, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Top Posts of 2014

By Amy Julia Becker Looking back on a year in news and culture from Let it Go to Ferguson to Prenatal Testing The cool thing about blogging is that you get to cover a whole host of topics over the course of a year. Pop culture, sex, and race tend to fly to the top of the charts, so I’ve picked ten posts from the past year that represent the most popular as well as the breadth of topics this blog tries to cover. Faith, family, disability and a whole lot more: Have Christians Made an Idol of Life? Ezekiel Emanuel says he wants to die at 75. Why we can support his reasoning. “It’s a somber reminder that we don’t live forever, and for Christians to accept the physical limitations that come with these bodies demonstrates a humble response to our creatureliness. How many of us instead look to our culture as a guide when it comes to aging? How many of us hope that we can avoid death altogether?” What I Learn From My Kids in Talking About Disability Instead of framing those disabilities as weaknesses deserving pity or as frightening or negative differences, we talked about them in terms of our common humanity. “As …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Bible is More Than Stories of Morality

By Ed Stetzer It is possible to teach Bible stories without ever teaching the Bible Story. It is safe to say that most churches want their kids and students to learn the Bible. But in reality, as you’ll often hear The Gospel Project team say, it is possible to teach Bible stories without ever teaching the Bible story. In other words, it is possible to teach the Bible in a way that is not distinctively Christian. There are many too many approaches to teaching the Bible that teach people values, virtues, and behavior – and that’s it. That should disturb us. The Bible is Not a Book or Virtues, but a Gospel Book The simple fact is the Bible is not just a collection of stories with morals for life application; the Bible is the story of God’s grace in redemption through Jesus Christ. There is a soul-endangering consequence in virtue-based Bible study material, centered on life principles or character qualities, and ripped away from the central focus of the Bible– Jesus Christ. When I was a young pastor, some people in our church wanted us to get involved in Bill Gothard’s “Basic Life Principles” teachings. Gothard was well known in the 70’s and 80’s for his curriculum focused on virtue …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The 'Boy Who Came Back from Heaven' Retracts Story

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Tyndale pulls best-selling book after Alex Malarkey, now 16, says, ‘I did not die’ and ‘Bible is sufficient’ on heaven. Tyndale House Publishers has stopped production of the book and DVD of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven after the book’s coauthor and subject, Alex Malarkey, released a statement retracting the book’s contents. In an open letter, the self-described “boy who did not come back from heaven” wrote: Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short. I did not die. I did not go to heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible. It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of heaven …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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