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Christian

Ten Christian Athletes Who Were Tebowing Before Tebow

By Paul Putz and Art Remillard Christian sports stars have a long history of using their public platform to display their private faith. Clergymen hovering along the sidelines; athletes proselytizing like revival preachers; and “Jocks for Jesus” steadily colonizing locker rooms nationwide. This was the brave new sports world that journalist Frank Deford described in a 1976 three-part series for Sports Illustrated on religion and sports. “It is almost as if a new denomination had been created,” Deford posited. “Sportianity.” Deford was writing at a unique historical moment. Newsweek had proclaimed 1976 “The Year of the Evangelical,” as presidential candidate Jimmy Carter identified as a “born again” Christian. Evangelicals, it seemed, were everywhere—even in the games that people played and loved. More than simply documenting this trend, though, Deford channeled his inner-most H. L. Mencken and produced a whimsical and astute lament of the burgeoning Sportian movement. “They endorse Jesus, much as they would a new sneaker or a graphite-shafted driver,” he quipped. In the 40 years since Deford’s profile, Sportians have become increasingly ubiquitous. Indeed, the mere fact of their presence is no longer noteworthy. It takes a more conspicuous act or angle to get attention: think of A. C. Green’s celibacy, Orel Hershiser’s singing of the doxology, or …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Ann Voskamp: We Must Trade Charity for Solidarity

By Ann Voskamp An excerpt from The Broken Way If you only knew what fire every person is facing, there isn’t one fire you wouldn’t help fight with the heat of a greater love. The day the homeless man moved into our loft, a heat wave broke over us. Gordon literally had nothing the day he showed up, nothing to his name but the sun-faded T-shirt sticking to his back, emblazoned with the words, “Normal people scare me.” A mingling of alcohol and tobacco seeps from his burning pores. My brother and a buddy, they’d found him wandering down an empty back road after a court date, the tongues of his boots panting open, longing for relief. Now he stands in the shade at our back door, asking for water. “You got anything to drink?” he asks me. My brother wonders if we have some work for Gordon. Wondered if we may have a place for him, and maybe—just to start—a glass of water? Gordon uses the tattered edge of his T-shirt to mop this mask of sweat puddling in the etched lines of his face. A silver cross hangs around his neck on this heavy chain. Before I even think, I touch my wrist to find the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: The Value of Friends Who Don’t Look, Think, or Vote Like You Do

By Interview by Richard Clark When you limit your social circles, you limit your opportunities to grow. In an era of stark political division and social-media distraction, genuine friendship doesn’t come easy. Which makes it all the more urgent, says Nashville pastor Scott Sauls. In Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear (Tyndale), Sauls especially advocates taking risks in befriending people unlike ourselves. CT online managing editor Richard Clark recently spoke to Sauls about building God-honoring friendships. Where do we go wrong in our ideas of friendship? One of our biggest mistakes is to limit our circles to people who look, think, and vote like us. It minimizes friction and disagreement—but also the opportunity to grow, to learn, and to have our assumptions challenged. We’ve also substituted digital connectivity for real, face-to-face, life-together friendships. This lets us give edited self-presentations, putting our best foot forward rather than allowing ourselves to be fully known. An essential aspect of community is having people know our best and our worst—our dreams and aspirations, but also our fears, insecurities, and failures. What if we reach out in friendship to someone unlike us, but the other person resists? You at least need the commonality of wanting friendship. David and Jonathan are a …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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God Is Not Out to Get You

By Jeremy Treat The Lord delights in you and sings over you. Can you believe it? My high-school basketball coach was a classic, old-school screamer who motivated with fear and shame. His voice was powerful, but I heard it only when I did something wrong. If I turned the ball over on offense or blew my assignment on defense, practice would stop, and the shaming would begin. Red in the cheeks and foaming at the mouth, he would scream until I had to wipe the spit off the side of my face. I never really knew him outside of basketball practice, but I know he was an angry man. Many people have a similar view of God. They believe he’s a grumpy old man who has to get his way, and that when he doesn’t, he will shame, guilt, and scare people to get them in line. Although most wouldn’t say it out loud, deep down even many believers think of God as “the God who is out to get me,” that he is waiting for us to mess up so he can meet his divine quota for punishing sin. Perhaps this comes from a particular teaching or from a bad experience with a church …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Diaspora Missions: Diaspora Churches as Equal Partners in Mission

By Stanley John Hispanic, Korean, Chinese, and Nigerian churches embody the vitality and vibrancy of Global Christianity. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the first united symposium of the Chinese Alliance churches in Canada. These churches are part of the Canadian Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) and offer services in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English languages. They represent nearly 100 churches which account for 20% of all C&MA churches in Canada. There, I met Pastor Solomon Chiang, a seasoned church planter who was pastoring in Taiwan and came to Canada for his theological studies. He then pastored a Chinese church in Parsippany, New Jersey, before moving to the greater Toronto area, where he planted three churches in the last two decades, all of them exceeding several hundred members. He focused his ministry on reaching the Mandarin-speaking new immigrants from mainland China. When asked of the reason why the churches are growing, he simply responds that the church demonstrates Christian love and that is the catalyst that draws people to Christ. On the States’ side, diaspora churches now account for more than 46% of the nearly 2,000 C&MA churches in the Unites States. Pew Forum’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study reports ethnic diversity among North American …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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Trump Won. Here's How 17 Evangelical Leaders Feel.

By Compiled by Emily Lund Pastors, authors, and others weigh in on 2016 election. This week, a divisive and unprecedented election season culminated in a win for Republican nominee Donald Trump. Exit polls reported that four out of five white voters who self-identified as “evangelical” voted for him. Following the election, CT surveyed the reactions of evangelical leaders. Responses are listed alphabetically. Matthew Lee Anderson: “I have not lost any of the skepticism” Founder of Mere Orthodoxy “As one who opposed both our major party candidates, I am glad that the campaign is over and hopeful that America will endure the four years ahead. … Yet while the hope I feel is real, I have not lost any of the skepticism I have frequently registered about the effects of a Trump presidency on evangelicalism, on racial minorities, and on America. That skepticism will not be alleviated for a long time to come.” Thabiti Anyabwile: “Now the work begins afresh” Pastor, Anacostia River Church, Washington, DC “I am doing well following the election. Our political process worked again, and that’s a blessing. The result is not what I wanted. Ideally, I longed for a way for both major party candidates to lose. And Mr. Trump’s election was, by a sliver, the worse possible …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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Opposition to Assisted Suicide Dies Out

By Bob Smietana – Facts & Trends Most Americans, including 4 in 10 evangelicals, want doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives. The American Medical Association has described physician-assisted suicide as a serious risk to society and “fundamentally incompatible with a physician’s role as healer.” Millions of Americans disagree. Two-thirds say it is morally acceptable for terminally ill patients to ask their doctors for help in ending their lives, according to a new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. A similar number says doctors should be able to help terminally ill patients die. Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, says Americans want more say over how they die. That’s especially true if facing a painful, terminal illness, he says. “If they are facing a slow, painful death, Americans want options,” he says. “Many believe that asking for help in dying is a moral option. They don’t believe that suffering until they die of natural causes is the only way out.” Widespread support Physician-assisted suicide first became legal in the US in 1997 under Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” law. Since then, 991 patients in Oregon have ended their lives using medications prescribed by a doctor under the law, according to that state’s reports. Today six states allow physician-assisted suicide. The latest …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Forming a Society Worthy of Humans

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

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

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

By Thomas S. Kidd How the threat of eternal punishment stirred moral and spiritual urgency in early America. Hell mattered a lot before the Civil War. The prospect of eternal torment was cited to bolster the urgency of missions, campaigns against alcohol abuse, the abolition of slavery, and other moral crusades in our nation’s history. The sheer pervasiveness of the doctrine of hell struck me as I read Kathryn Gin Lum’s revealing and engaging Damned Nation: Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction (Oxford University Press). Americans believed in and invoked hell regularly. But their polemical uses of the threat of damnation seemed, at times, to treat hell more as a tool of political motivation than a spiritual reality. Gin Lum, an assistant professor of religious studies at Stanford University, introduces a startling range of people who talked about hell in early-19th-century America. They included evangelical believers and critical skeptics, African American slaves and proslavery whites. Belief in hell helped to inspire the evangelistic efforts that came to define the Second Great Awakening and the “Great Century” of domestic and international missions. Charles Finney, the definitive evangelist of the Second Great Awakening, did not hesitate to speak about hell. He once told a dying Boston woman he …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Making Room For Those With None

By Sherry Woods, Guest Writer We all know there was no room for Christ at the inn. But is it the same in our own lives? A guest post by Sherry Woods From Peter: “While doing ministry in Washington D.C., it was my privilege and honor to partner at several moments with Sherry Woods, director of the Unique Learning Center (ULC). The Unique Learning Center has provided biblical mentoring and tutoring to at-risk children of the Shaw neighborhood since 1982, during some of the most violent years of that city’s history. I’m pleased to share a post from Sherry about another ministry that God has called her to. If you are looking to make an end of the year donation to a very worthy organization, please consider the ULC – details can be found here.” It is difficult to find room for all the Christmas events and end of the year activities that capture our attention during this season: church services and programs, wrapping presents and mailing greeting cards, and attending various parties of various sorts. We manage to find room for it all. Yet there is often little room to reflect on how the birth of one Child, sent down from our Father above and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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20 Truths from Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear

By Ed Stetzer You need to check out this new resource from J.D. Greear on how your church can be a Great Commission church. 1. Jesus did not say come and grow, but come and die. (17) 2. We live by losing. We gain by giving away. What we achieve by building our personal platform will never be as great as what God achieves through what we give away in faith. (18) 3. Study after study shows that most Christians have never even shared their faith—most indicating that somewhere 90 percent of evangelicals have never shared their faith with anyone outside of their family. (22) 4. The church is now Jesus’ vehicle for the completion of his mission. Jesus finished the purchase of our salvation, paying the full price for our sin on the cross and shattering the powers of death in the resurrection, but the mission of salvation is not yet complete. (31) 5. Blessing the community might certainly include growing a big church, but it would also mean giving away some of our resources. (42) 6. A “sending” ministry always starts with a heart exam. Sending out people and giving away your resources, you see, will most often compete with your church’s “bottom line,” not benefit it. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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To Kill a Predator

By Caryn Rivadeneira What is it about this lion’s death that has us so outraged? Even though the story of Dr. Walter J. Palmer and Cecil the Lion was an unusual one—a Minnesota dentist who illegally lured, tortured, and killed a famous lion in Zimbabwe— it was easy to predict how people would react: Palmer would become a public enemy, criticized and declared evil. He would have to hide. His news would be read in comparison to the other social justice stories in our feeds. So, those expressing outrage over the lion’s death would get shamed for caring more about the slain animal than the unborn or Sandra Bland. I knew the first the because I’ve been around the Internet long enough. People’s lives and careers have been trampled by tweets, shares, and likes for “less” than illegally shooting a beloved lion. And I knew the second because I’ve been around Christians long enough. From the time as a kid I began applying Scripture about justice to protecting animals to my current outspoken advocacy for pit bulls, I’ve heard people try to redirect my outrage. Why do I care more about homeless dogs than homeless people? Why do I care more about overcrowded …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Dozens of Assyrian Christians Kidnapped or Detained By ISIS

By Bob Smietana In May, ISIS demanded $23 million in ransom for previous group of captives. Dozens of Syrian Christian families have been abducted by fighters from ISIS, according to a new report from Reuters. About 230 people, “some of who were taken from a church,” were kidnapped or detained by ISIS when the terrorist group captured the Syrian town of Qaryatain on Friday. Prior to the start of the civil war, about 18,000 people lived in Qaryatain, about 2,000 of them Syriac Catholics and Orthodox Christians, reportsThe Telegraph. Following the fighting between ISIS and the Syrian army, at least 1,400 families fled the town to safer areas or took shelter in the government-controlled city of Homs, reports the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights. In May, two priests who ran monasteries in the area, went missing from the town. Earlier this year, ISIS launched surprise attacks on 35 villages in northeast Syria and took more than 200 Christians captive. Some captives were released in March. ISIS reportedly demanded a $23 million ransom for the release of 240 Christians, according to World Watch Monitor (WWM). “This is an amount beyond the capacity of a tiny church and community,” an Assyrian Christian leader told WWM. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Stinginess Is More Sinful than Divorce, Say Churchgoing Evangelicals

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Pew asks Americans what constitutes a sin or socially acceptable behavior. Refusing to write a check to charity while living in luxury is a sin, according to almost half (48%) of white evangelicals who attend church weekly. That opinion is also shared by almost half (47%) of all Americans who attend worship services weekly. And 36 percent of all black Protestants (two-thirds of whom identify as evangelicals) feel the same way, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. In fact, being stingy with charitable giving draws more condemnation than divorce. Only 37 percent of white evangelicals who attend church weekly told Pew that divorce was a sin. So did a quarter (26%) of all black Protestants. (CT recently noted which reasons for divorce are sinful in the eyes of most Americans.) The more generous attitude toward divorce may stem from its frequency. The percentage of Americans who have divorced has almost doubled over the past 53 years, from 24 percent to 45 percent, according to University of Connecticut sociologist Bradley Wright. Evangelical divorce rates were slightly higher than average (47%) from 2010-2014 and correlate with church attendance, Wright told CT. Only 38 percent of evangelicals who attend church …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Is Your Church a Level Five Multiplying Church?

By Ed Stetzer I’m thankful for Dave Ferguson and Todd Wilson’s new book. Here’s my foreword to it. It’s a strange thing seeing something of little importance become a major focus, yet that’s exactly my experience with church planting. I still remember the gatherings of church planters that took place when I first began in the late 80s. Church planting recently had emerged from obscurity, but just barely. National conferences would draw a few hundred people, who often could not get ministry or church jobs elsewhere. When I fast-forward a few decades and a few church plants later, I see church planting at the forefront of the thinking of missiologists and pastors, both nationally and globally. The rapid increase in church planting is evident across a wide variety of denominations and networks. Simply put, we see a greater number of people engaged in church planting. Furthermore, according to the latest research, the effectiveness of church planting has increased. Metric after metric is trending in the right direction. Those national conferences on church planting that used to struggle to fill out a hotel conference room, now pack large arenas in a way that seemed inconceivable only a few years earlier. Actually, the authors of this book co-founded Exponential, the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Crisis Averted: Christian Colleges Avoid Split over Same-Sex Marriage

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Eastern Mennonite U and Goshen College leave CCCU, rather than cause more dissension. The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) escaped a predicament in September, when two Mennonite members voluntarily withdrew from the association. The schools—Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Virginia and Goshen College in Indiana—had decided earlier this year to permit faculty and staff to be in same-sex marriages. Before the withdrawals, two other schools—the Southern Baptist–affiliated Union University and Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU)—quit the CCCU in protest. “We believe in missional clarity and view the defense of the biblical definition of marriage as an issue of critical importance,” said OKWU president Everett Piper. “The CCCU’s reluctance to make a swift decision sends a message of confusion rather than conviction.” The CCCU interviewed more than 120 member presidents, and found that about three-quarters of them favored demoting EMU and Goshen to “affiliate” status. That would mean they could not vote on association matters. But the Mennonite schools withdrew prior to a decision. “Both schools have been clear from the outset that they did not want to be the cause of significant division within the membership,” stated the CCCU board. The departure leaves the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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