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Laughing At, Or Laughing With?

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

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

By Elizabeth Drury There are plenty of reasons we justify NOT giving, but there are just as many reason to give generously anyway. Ever felt excited about giving a gift to people in need, only to have your generous spirit squashed by a barrage of cautions? I have. Don’t just throw money at the problem. Don’t give without accountability or sustainability. Don’t create dependency. Don’t enable. Don’t patronize. Don’t be naive. The onslaught of don’ts can dampen anyone’s genuine desire to do—even at Christmas and despite overwhelming needs. It’s not that the cautions are unreasonable. In fact, when gift-giving crosses a cultural or socioeconomic border, you’re on unfamiliar ground. Values, rules, and realities out there may differ vastly from your own. Helping can hurt, and charity can be toxic. But which is better: to give imperfectly or not at all? Here’s good news. You can give with maximum impact in ways that dignify people in need. Consider these five habits of gift-giving exemplified by the babe in the manger. 1. Jesus crossed borders. Rather than staying close to the comfort of home, he became flesh and “moved into the neighborhood,” crossing a border from heaven to earth for the sake of extending love to people very unlike …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Wheaton College Suspends Hijab-Wearing Professor After 'Same God' Comment

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

By Brett McCracken Quentin Tarantino is an unlikely contributor to the theology of Incarnation. This article is adapted from a chapter in the newly published book Tarantino And Theology. The Hateful Eight will be the second Quentin Tarantino film in a row to be released on Christmas Day (following 2012’s Django Unchained), a fact that probably has more to do with the lucrative holiday market than anything related to the significance of Christmas. But what if Tarantino’s films actually do have something theological to say in this season of celebrating Christ’s Incarnation? Tarantino is admittedly an unlikely contributor to the theology of Incarnation. But in their fixation on bodies (both fierce and frail), curious interest in food and drink, and focus on the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the material world, Tarantino’s films represent an aesthetic that is distinctively “incarnational.” They help the viewer re-sensitize to the physical, fleshy world in which Christ lived, breathed, died and rose. By paying attention to the incarnational aesthetics of Tarantino’s films, we push against the increasing disembodiment of our digital world, as well as our western Christian tendency to etherealize our faith, divorcing it from a material and embodied context. Flying Limbs, Exploding Hearts, and The Centrality of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Refugees on the Roma Road

By Melody J. Wachsmuth in Osijek, Croatia In Europe, Christian ‘gypsies’ best understand those fleeing Syria and Iraq. Months before he encountered the refugees, Aleksandar Subotin had a dream. The 31-year-old Roma pastor saw a large group of people walking through a train station. He had never seen them before, but he knew he was there to help them. He remembered this dream when he first brought 500 packages of food to a refugee processing camp in Kanjiza, Serbia, last fall. “Then I started to pray for God to open doors so we could work with them,” said Subotin, who leads two Roma churches and 15 home groups in northwest Serbia. Like many Christian Roma along Eastern Europe’s “refugee highway,” which stretches from Greece to Croatia, Subotin feels for the families fleeing Syria, Iraq, and other troubled nations. His empathy stems from belonging to a group stigmatized for generations in Europe as “gypsies.” Today, Europe has about 11 million Roma, a collection of related ethnic groups that compose one of the world’s largest people groups without its own nation state, as well as the seat of a massive Christian revival . More so than most European Christians, Roma believers—most of whom are Pentecostals—understand displacement …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Join Us at the 2016 GC2 Summit on the Church and Refugees

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

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

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

By Halee Gray Scott Historic trends bring context to Trump’s confounding popularity. Thousands of political pundits, commentators, writers, and bloggers have attempted to understand and explain Donald Trump’s appeal. As a registered Independent, I’ve struggled alongside them. What would make people—and 37 percent of evangelical Christians especially—overlook such bad behavior? Judging by the dismissive attacks toward Trump supporters, one common explanation is to question their sanity or their character. While some share his fringe views, and some simply enjoy the Trump circus, I suspect Trump’s Christian backing—enough to earn him a spot among the top candidates in yesterday’s Iowa caucus—has less to do with contemptible biases and more to do with leadership theory. “Leadership is like beauty,” wrote leadership expert Warren Bennis. “It’s hard to define but you know it when you see it.” Part of the reason leadership is so difficult to define is because, contrary to popular notions, what we look for in a leader changes and evolves. Since the early 20th century, scholars have marked several different approaches to leadership—each corresponding to people’s values and needs in a particular time. … Over the past century, we moved from looking for “Great Man,” commanding leaders like Winston Churchill …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A Better Way to Be Evangelical

By Anthony L. Blair “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” As the president of an institution with evangelical in its name, I’ve had many opportunities to reflect on the mixed legacy that comes with that word. If you don’t explain what you mean, others will fill in the meaning for you—and today, all too often, they will treat it as a synonym for “narrow-minded,” “fundamentalist,” “intolerant,” or even “hatemonger.” The hard truth is that those of us who have borne the label “evangelical” have not always put our best foot—or our best gospel—forward. We may have held to orthodoxy, but it has not necessarily been beautiful or full of grace. What should we do? We could abandon the word altogether and leave it to its narrowest, most reactive partisans. Or we can reclaim it with fresh descriptions of what evangelical faith really can and does mean. To paraphrase Charles Dickens just a bit, we have a far, far better gospel and a far, far better Savior to offer this world than what they have heard from us at times. It is time to embrace the call to be boldly, broadly, and beautifully evangelical. Being Evangelical The word “evangelical” today …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Dear Everyone: Stop Writing Open Letters

By Rebecca Jones, guest writer Open letters have changed history, but our petty online rants are getting old. When Dear Mom on the iPhone went viral a few years ago, sparking a lively round of retorts, I’d just had my first baby and purchased my first smartphone. Thanks to fluky timing, that debate seemed strangely personal. Of course it wasn’t, and I’ve toughened to the mommy guilt since—but I’ve also kept a curious eye on the groundswell of “Dear ____” posts. Do a little Googling and you’ll find page after page of open letters addressed to quarterbacks and ex-boyfriends and snarky salespeople who won’t ever actually read them. And now, like all good overgrown fads, the game has gone meta: In December, TIME published an open letter to all the open letter writers (ahem). Though the Internet has offered us all a megaphone for addressing the masses, these letters aren’t remotely new. Over history, they’ve proved an effective rhetorical device, making us smarter, making us tougher, and, most importantly, making us think. Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, after all, worked as an open letter—inked, as he said, to spur dialogue “Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light.” In similar …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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You Were Never Made to Be 'Productive'

By Dorcas Cheng-Tozun Why rest is at the center of God’s design. Compared to people in other industrialized nations, Americans work longer hours, take fewer vacation days, and retire later in life. Busyness, once seen as the curse of the disadvantaged, has become equated with status and importance. Our work increasingly defines who we are. On the surface, John Koessler’sThe Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap (InterVarsity Press) seems ideally suited to this particular moment in cultural history. Interestingly, though, one of the first things Koessler does is decouple the concept of rest from work. “Rest is an end in itself,” he writes in the introduction. “We do not work in order to justify the fact that we rest. We do not rest in order to work. Rest as the Bible describes it is our destiny. It is what we were made to do.” According to Koessler, this type of godly rest (distinct from play, relaxation, or sleep) is inextricably tied to our identity as children of God. Jesus is our ultimate rest, which we can only find when we release the worldly anxieties, ambitions, and expectations that pull us toward greater productivity. For an overachieving people-pleaser like me, thinking of rest as an …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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On Dying and Reckoning with the Prosperity Gospel

By Interview by Morgan Lee How church historian Kate Bowler’s cancer diagnosis brought her face-to-face with the beauty and terror of the popular movement. Kate Bowler is a Canadian professor at Duke Divinity School who researches the prosperity gospel movement. She’s also 35, a wife and mother, and critically ill with cancer. In a widely shared New York Times piece “Death, the Prosperity Gospel, and Me,” the author of Blessed reflected on her research and how it informed her convictions on suffering and faith. (Read CT’s book review.) “I’m never very theologically declarative,” said Bowler. “I’ve really tried to hold off on doing that in order to make enough space for people to make up their own minds. But in this case, it was just a lot more personal. I don’t have a lot of pretention anymore.” Bowler recently spoke with Christianity Today‘s assistant editor Morgan Lee about how Americans define suffering, what she would embrace from prosperity gospel theology, and how she copes with the loss of control that suffering brings. “It’s very bizarre to be eclipsed by a disease you barely knew existed a couple months ago,” she said. “It’s been a really intense year.” In what ways have your feelings changed towards the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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It Starts With "Shukran"

By Bekah Stoneking Perhaps learning a new language is your next discipleship move. “I’d like a green tea, please.” The cashier swiped my card as her co-worker put the ingredients into my cup, snapped on the lid, and handed it over the counter without much eye contact; she had already turned to tend to the next customer. “Shukran!” She turned back to my direction and I repeated myself—in English this time. “Thank you.” As my tea steeped, I began to panic. Did her nametag really say she was from Egypt? Did I use the correct form of “thank you” for her as an Egyptian woman? Did I use someone else’s “thank you” and offend her? Did I even say “thank you”?! Oh no. Here she comes… When she asked if I spoke Arabic, I told her I was learning to read the Qur’an but had been practicing conversational phrases for about a week. She seemed delighted and told me how important she thought it was for people to learn Arabic since many Middle Easterners were moving to the city. We went back in forth with basic phrases and she even taught me some new ones “Allah mahaba. Allah is love,” she said. She opened the door; all I had to do …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Weekend Edition—June 3, 2016

By Ed Stetzer British Evangelicalism, A Confession, Military chaplains, church signs and more! British Christianity isn’t dying. It’s sleeping. Evangelism can awaken it—Tim Stanley Great analysis from a British historian. A Confession of Liberal Intolerance—Nicholas Kristof Self-examination is essential for any movement. The Crisis in Flint Isn’t Over. It’s Everywhere.—Ben Paynter Leaving aside politics for a moment, there are a lot of people suffering in this debacle. What happens when the military chaplain is shaken by war—Michelle Boorstein The cost of war to soldiers is great, as is the cost paid by those who care for them. 3 Shortcuts Leaders Should Never Take—Eric Geiger Eric brings his ongoing great insight into leadership. Want to read a weekly digest of The Exchange blog? Click here to subscribe to Christianity Today’s Newsletter for The Exchange to get weekly wrap-ups direct to your inbox. Don’t forget to subscribe to the The Exchange Podcast in iTunes. Earlier this week on The Exchange The Ministries of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism Trends in Church Staffing: Executive and Campus Pastors Amplifying Evangelism—Helping Non-Christian Friends Hear God’s Voice How Events Help People Share the Mission Church Signs Bring Your Own Bolt …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evenly Split, Southern Baptists Pick President after Candidate Quits

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

By Ed Stetzer Here are four churches I’ll be preaching at soon. Now that we are Chicago bound, it means a new weekend preaching routine. I will be an occasional guest speaker at Grace Church when I am in Nashville. (I just preached there this week, and the Tennessean had a brief article about my comments concerning #Orlando.) I will remain as teaching pastor of Christ Fellowship in Miami, and will be preaching there several times this summer, and once a month in general. (Yes, I’m hoping a lot of that preaching is in the winter! Then, here are some places I will be in the Chicago area in in the next few weeks. Compass Church, July 3rd, 2016—Naperville and Wheaton, IL Christ Community Church, Aug 6-7, 2016—St. Charles (and all over), IL Moody Church, Sept. 11, 18, 25, 2016—Chicago, IL Chinese Union Church, Oct 2, 2016—Chicago, IL And, don’t forget to register for Amplify, coming soon, June 28-30 at Wheaton. Coming Soon June 28-30, 2016Amplify Conference Wheaton, IL July 18, 2016 Church of God General Assembly Nashville, TN August 12-13, 2016Gideons Global Impact Conference Toronto, Ontario, CA September 9, 2016Capacity Conference Atlanta, GA September 16, 2016American Association of Christian Counselors National Meeting Dallas, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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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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Come Out of Your Gender-Role Foxholes

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