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Amplifying Evangelism—Why Preparation for Evangelism Is More Important than Evangelism

By Laurie Nichols As God nurtures us, we are ever ready to share the gospel. Two nights ago, as I was getting kids ready for bed, I received a phone call from a sweet woman who has been a victim of sexual exploitation for years, perhaps decades. I met her in a bar a few years ago and felt an instant bond with her. “Laurie,” her message began, “I would like to see you.” My friend had just discovered she needed a liver transplant after having suffered quite a bit over the past few months with issues related to a number of organs. “It’s going downhill quickly,” she said. My heart raced as I listened to her message. Overlaying her words were God’s, telling me I needed to see her. As I texted with her last night I tried to contextualize the gospel message as best I could through my knowledge of her, my understanding of her situation, and the technology I had. I would perhaps best describe my texts as a stream of living thoughts seeking to be the seed that plants itself on good soil (yes, I had just read Mark 4 the night before). At worst, they were a cacophony which beated …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Grandparenting Redeemed Our Family

By Erin Wyble Newcomb, guest writer This Father’s Day, I celebrate my parents’ choice to move close to my kids. “We’re playing huckle-buckle-beanstalk!” My six-year-old beamed at me, bouncing on the balls of her feet. My younger daughter skipped around the living room. In the kitchen, my mother pulled a small, plastic princess doll out of the sugar canister and dusted off the toy. “I found her!” she called out, laughing. I stood in the doorway smiling, even though I’d never heard of the game before. My mother walked over to greet me, shrugging her shoulders. “It’s a silly game my sisters and I used to play,” she said. “I don’t remember why we named it that.” My parents recently bought a house in our neighborhood to be close to me, my husband, and our two daughters, their only grandchildren. No longer serving in the “sandwich generation” role of caring for their own aging parents, my parents are exercising their freedom by spending their golden years close to my girls. They’re part of a growing trend. As Harriet Edleson writes in The New York Times, geographic distance is a major factor in family relationships these days. “With families increasingly far-flung,” she writes, “those who want to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What to Expect When You’re Expecting (a Church)

By Ed Stetzer Birthing a new church is not without pain. A mother church experiences stress when birthing. The pains are physical, spiritual, emotional, and financial. Starting a new church sounds exciting, but a church needs to prepare for this birth in the some similar ways that a mother prepares for a new baby. Having a Baby Creates Challenges A mother church needs to expect to go through the rollercoaster challenges of mothering. Simply put, there’s going to be some confusion and conflict. Churches are not always prepared for how demanding birthing a new church is. When Donna was in her final days of her third trimester with one of our daughters, she would ask (often through gritted, and smiling, teeth), “What did you do to me?” When she was delivering, she said, well, more things! It’s a good thing children are so cute, because mom soon forgets about the pain and surprisingly they often want to have another one. Having a child is strenuous, but it’s amazing. (Isn’t there something in John’s gospel about this?) It’s difficult and it’s often messy. Just like Donna was (jokingly) mad, sometimes that “mothering pain” can really strain relationships. When I was a seminary professor, one class researched 10 different churches planted …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Churches in America—Part 2

By Ed Stetzer Mainline Protestantism as a whole is hemorrhaging. Mainline Protestants Mainline Protestants (those in the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America , Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church , American Baptist Churches, United Church of Christ , and The Christian Church ) have fared poorly in recent decades. While Christianity overall is not dying in America, Mainline Protestantism is getting closer. According to the GSS, 28% of Americans identified with a mainline church in 1972. By 2014, that number had dropped to 12.2%. A recent report from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) corroborates this trend. The report looked at church statistics from 2002 to 2013. The denomination reported net membership losses each year. In 2002, the denomination shrank by 41,812 members. This number peaked in 2012 when they reported a net loss of 102,791. Other Mainline denominations faced similar declines due to several factors, including aging membership, falling birthrates, a lack of theological clarity, and a shortage of new churches. Mainline Protestantism as a whole is hemorrhaging and is facing an existential crisis. If the current trajectory continues, some Mainline denominations could cease to exist in the next four to five decades. Evangelicals Evangelicals have remained steady for the most part, according to the polls. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Emojis Reveal How Minorities Tweet the Bible Differently

By Stephen Smith Here are the Top 10 verses shared on Twitter with darker vs. lighter skin tones. “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Prov. 18:22). If you have tweeted this Bible verse along with an emoji depicting a specific skin tone, there’s an 86 percent chance it had a darker skin tone rather than a lighter one. Last year, the Unicode Consortium, the group that ratifies emojis, approved “skin tone modifiers” for emojis of people and body parts. The default tone for these emojis is usually Simpsons yellow (it varies by platform). But users can optionally set them to one of five tones, from pale to dark. More than half of the time, people use the default emoji skin tone. Since April 9, 2015, when these tones first arrived on Apple’s iOS, people chose a specific tone about 45 percent of the time. (Only certain emojis allow you to specify a tone.) Andrew McGill of The Atlantic recently wondered “Why White People Don’t Use White Emoji,” finding that light-toned emojis are less common on Twitter than demographics would imply. Though three out of four Twitter users are white, only about 48 percent of skin tone modifiers …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Pew: Most Evangelicals Will Vote Trump, But Not For Trump

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra With half of voters dissatisfied with both presidential candidates, white evangelicals primarily plan to oppose Clinton. More than three-quarters of self-identified white evangelicals plan to vote for Donald Trump in the fall (78%). But they aren’t happy about it. According to a Pew Research Center survey of 1,655 registered voters released today, more than half of white evangelicals said they weren’t satisfied with their ballot options (55%), reflecting the feeling of Americans at large (58%). And 45 percent of white evangelicals said they meant their vote as opposition to Hillary Clinton, not as an endorsement of Trump. In stark contrast are black Protestants, two-thirds of whom are evangelicals (according to Pew). Almost 90 percent said they would be casting a vote for Clinton in the fall (89%), and 60 percent said they were satisfied with their choices. Half of black Protestant voters said their vote was in support of Clinton (53%), while one-third said they were voting against Trump (34%). This preference lines up with African Americans at large, who favor Clinton. Black Protestant voters diverge from the much larger group of white evangelicals, who make up one out of five registered voters and one out of three Republicans. “Despite the professed wariness toward …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Sunday Journeys—Serving as Interim at Moody Church

By Ed Stetzer Looking forward to serving Moody Church in the coming months. Normally in this space, I share about places where I’ve been preaching, to point out something helpful or instructive in that context. I plan to catch up on that soon. However, my outside preaching and teaching will soon be drastically reduced as I do something I have always enjoyed—serve as an interim. An interim is a pastor who serves between pastors, helping the church to have consistent Bible teaching, while they search for a new pastor. As you may know, long-term pastor Erwin Lutzer retired earlier this year. He’s a well-loved and globally known pastor, with a global radio ministry. Actually, the church has been on radio for decades, including Dr. Lutzer’s Running to Win, the Moody Church Hour, and Songs in the Night. They are currently searching for a pastor, and that can take some time. So, it was announced this morning, that starting September 11, I’ll be serving as the Interim Teaching Pastor at the Moody Church in Chicago. I’ll be speaking three out of four Sundays, preaching the morning service. Pray for Moody Church as they continue to search for a senior pastor. I am not a candidate. I’m …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Real Cost (and Power) of Seeking Justice

By Gary Haugen The murder of Willie Kimani can rally the global Body of Christ for an end to impunity. Earlier this month I spent two weeks in Kenya, where international attention has focused on the abduction and murder of three men: my colleague Willie Kimani, a human rights lawyer and investigator for IJM, our client Josephat Mwenda, and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri. Willie and the IJM team were pursuing a case against a Kenyan police officer for shooting Josephat, and the two went missing with their trusted taxi driver while heading for their homes following a court hearing in Nairobi. Tragically, eight days after they went missing, despite an extensive search led by Kenyan police and IJM staff, their bodies were found in the Ol-Donyo Sabuk River to the northeast of Nairobi on July 1, 2016. On Monday, July 18, four police officers were charged in their murder. While we are encouraged by the investigation and arrest, our hearts are still devastated. And even as we deeply mourn these obscene murders, we are profoundly grateful to every government agency, nonprofit, church, and individual who used their voice to rally an urgent response to their disappearance. Now we need continued action to help us bring …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Are Young Evangelicals More Liberal Than Their Parents?

By Ed Stetzer There is a common idea today that young evangelicals are liberating themselves from conservatism, but is that true? The young, restless, and… liberal? Are younger evangelicals really more left-leaning than their parents? The easy answer is, “Of course they are! Look at how many of them are voting for pot legalization and driving those tiny cars!” But not so fast—the swerve into liberalism may not be as drastic as we think, according to a study from 2010 conducted by Buster Smith and Byron Johnson of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. Smith and Johnson began their research with a couple of hypotheses: Young (18-29 year old) evangelicals are less likely to associate with the Republican Party than older evangelicals and young evangelicals are more likely to self-identify as liberal than older evangelicals. They found some fascinating data that shows young evangelicals may not be as liberal as we think. Are Young Evangelicals Less Likely to Associate with the Republican Party? As we stated above, the first hypothesis Smith and Johnson had was that young evangelicals were less likely to associate with the Republican Party. Is that true? Not really, no. Here are some key stats: 55% of young evangelicals identify with the Republican Party, 24% …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Medal-Winning Swimmer Maya DiRado: My Faith Frees Me to Dream Big

By Interview by Dorcas Cheng-Tozun She sets high goals inside and outside the pool, saying there’s more to life than swimming. First-time Olympian Madeline (Maya) DiRado has already earned a trio of medals—gold, silver, and bronze—as part of the US swimming team. She says it’s the “quiet confidence” of her Christian faith that allows her to be a grateful, joyful, and goal-oriented athlete, even at the highest levels of competition. A native of Santa Rosa, California, the 23-year-old has been swimming on the world stage for five years. After she narrowly missed qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, DiRado took this year’s trials by storm when she won three individual events. Her early performances in Rio earned her a spot on a relay as well; that 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay team went on to win gold. DiRado also placed second in the 400-meter individual medley and third in the 200-meter individual medley. She competes in her final event, the 200-meter backstroke, later today. Equally accomplished outside the pool, DiRado skipped second grade, started high school at the age of 13, and entered Stanford University at 17. After graduating with a degree in management science and engineering, she secured a consulting job that she will start soon …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Are We Talking Past Each Other? 3 Tips For Talking Faith With Friends & Neighbors

By Barry Cooper It is past time we return to the basics if we are to relate to those around us in a way they will understand who God is and what it means to follow Him. When we send missionaries across an ocean, we know they will need to spend months learning not only a new language, but also new attitudes, customs, and expectations. But what about when we share the gospel with our next door neighbor? Most of our neighbors speak the same language we do, shop at the same grocery store, and take the same roads to work. We assume they will understand the words we use when we share with them the hope we have in Jesus. As Western culture is less and less influenced by Christian ideology, we can no longer assume our neighbors are familiar with basic biblical concepts or terms. When you say words like “God” or “saved,” your neighbor might hear dozens of different meanings. As a result, like cross-cultural missions, reaching out to our neighbors requires us to learn a new “language.” Just because we both speak English does not mean my friend will understand my words the way I intended. Needless to say, talking with …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Adding Criminal Justice Reform to Prison Ministry

By Morgan Lee Churches and ministries are becoming increasingly involved in prison reform. In the early 19th century, evangelicals were at the forefront of prison reform—England’s Elizabeth Fry being a foremost example. Today, while many churches have or support prison ministries of mercy and evangelism, very few work on criminal justice reform. Four out of five American churches (80%) say they are not currently involved in advocacy to reform the criminal justice system, according to statistics from new LifeWay Research published this year. But among those that are involved, African American pastors are two-and-a-half times more likely (42%) than white pastors (16%) to say that they are currently involved. The PICO National Network is trying to change those statistics. Its Live Free campaign organizes dozens of predominantly black and Latino pastors to address mass incarceration and gun violence in their communities. PICO works across faith traditions, and since the campaign started in 2010, it has partnered with evangelical institutions like the Exponential Conference and Urbana to teach about mass incarceration. Michael McBride, director of the Live Free campaign, said, “I try to remind people that when it comes to addressing systems of justice, our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers.” Prison Fellowship’s …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Behind the Trinity Tussle

By Kate Shellnutt For complementarian women, the debate was more than abstract. The evangelical blogosphere engaged in a major theological debate about the Trinity this summer, with more than 150 posts published within five weeks. Malcolm Yarnell, theology department chair at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he had “never seen anything like it.” The debate focused on Christ’s relationship to God the Father. Some argue that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father, while others say the Son was subordinate in his earthly life only. It transformed a decades-old proxy war between some complementarians and egalitarians over what the Trinity reveals about God’s design for gender roles into a civil war between complementarians (see CT’s online explainer, “Gender and the Trinity,” June ’16). While complementarian women wrote only a handful of the posts, they played a significant role in launching the conversation and raising concerns over how the distinction can play out in the pews. The original post came from Presbyterian pastor Liam Goligher. He stated that theologians Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem are distorting Trinitarian relations in order to uphold their view of gender roles. (Grudem is the founder of the complementarian Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood .) Goligher’s post appeared at Housewife Theologian, a …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Jesus, Not Salvation, Is God’s Greatest Gift to Us

By Andrew Wilson We’re too quick to see the What instead of the Who. Jesus is the greatest gift there is. That is a staple of Christian theology, not to mention Christmas cards. Yet as soon as we hear this statement, we’re apt to collapse it into a statement about some other gift, like salvation. Being given Jesus, in our minds, quickly morphs into being given forgiveness, or rescue, or eternal life. Jesus himself, the gift who perfectly embodies God’s generosity and goodness, gets bumped to the third page. The Gospels don’t do that. From his Incarnation to his Ascension, Jesus Christ puts the liberality and largesse of God on display. It is not just at the Cross, or even in the Resurrection, that Jesus represents the grace, the gift-giving-ness, of God to us. In every miracle, every parable—simply by being in the world at all—Jesus is proclaiming, “God is good, he loves giving, and I’m here, among other things, to prove it.” Many parables in the Gospels present God as an irrepressible giver, even when the parable has other goals. Once there was a farmer who scattered seed so liberally that most of it didn’t take root. Once there was a king who forgave a …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Burkinis Should Matter To Christians Who Care About Religious Freedom

By Ed Stetzer We must speak into religious liberty issues that protect the rights of those who believe differently than we do. Yesterday I wrote an article for Religion News Service about women and burkinis. But, it was not really about women and burkinis. It was about secularism and its march. Before you go much further, click here and see this picture at the New York Times. It’s of the French police making a woman take off more clothes to stay on a beach. So, this is not really about burkinis, but it is about the right of religious people to live out the implications of their beliefs, even in the face of the secular march of the Western world. I’ve written on that before, talking about religions freedom in an earlier RNS column. In “3 reasons Christians should back religious freedom for all,” I explained: The First Amendment does not protect certain faiths, but all faiths, and people of no faith. Minority faiths, like minority viewpoints, are the ones who need the most protection. When those of us who identify as Christians allow the government to pick whose freedoms are recognized, we undermine our own religious liberties. So, why do I, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How a Man of the Coasts and Cities Found Christ

By Andrew Klavan My story of ditching hypocritical religion and secular hedonism for the joys of true discipleship. One midnight in late winter, at age 13, I rose stealthily from my bed. Moving quietly so as not to wake my parents and three brothers, I removed a leather box from the storage cabinet built into my wall. It was filled with jewelry, watches, pens, and savings bonds—thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts. They had been given to me that summer for my bar mitzvah. For a long time, I had marveled at these riches, great wealth for a boy in the 1960s, even in the well-to-do suburb in which I lived. From time to time, I would open the box and arrange the jewelry in its compartments, touching the rattling identity bracelets, tie pins, and cufflinks. I would silently estimate the value of the haul. But over time, that pleasure soured and died. The truth was, I had hated my bar mitzvah. The majesty and profundity of the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony—the majesty and profundity of Judaism itself—were lost on me. Or rather, they had never been instilled in me, for the simple reason that my parents did not believe in God. My homemaker mother was, to the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Red Tape: China Wants to Constrict Christian Activities with 26 New Rules

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Both official and ‘underground’ churches now face bigger threat than cross removal campaign. This week is the last chance Chinese Christians have to tell their government what they think of its latest religion law. They have an awful lot to comment on. China released a draft of new religious restrictions in September, including the prohibition of online religious services, running religious events in schools, and organizing people to leave the country to attend religious training or conferences. The State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) then opened up a one-month window for responses to the 26 new rules in its Regulations on Religious Affairs. The final day for public response is Friday, October 7. The draft law opens with the assurance that all Chinese citizens are free to believe whatever they want and to engage in religious activity—as long as it’s within the tighter limits. One Chinese religious policy expert, who asked to remain anonymous, summed up some of what the regulations include: No religious activities that are not approved by SARA. No one may provide a venue for religious services that are not approved by SARA. No one may use their home for religious practices that are not approved by SARA (including home …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Amena Brown Q+A: Poetry in an Age of Lament

By Interview by Andrea Palpant Dilley How the spoken-word poet uses art to speak truth about race, faith, and womanhood. In 2002, Louie Giglio, founder of the Passion Movement, invited an unknown artist named Amena Brown to perform her spoken-word poetry at a vision-casting event called One Day Link. The conference was simulcast to over 20,000 people. At the time, Brown had been turned down by graduate schools and faced disappointment. “I did my poem and knew that God was trying to say to me, ‘This is why you didn’t get into grad school, and my plans for your life are different than your plans for your life,’” says Brown. Since then, Brown has toured with Gungor and performed and spoken at Creativity World Forum, Chick-Fil-A Leadercast, the National Poetry Slam, and the annual IF: Gathering, where she will co-lead a pre-conference session for women of color. She participates in the Atlanta poetry scene at Urban Grind Coffee and Java Monkey and over the last seven years has produced four spoken-word albums. Her fifth album, Amena Brown Live, releases this November. I spoke recently with Brown about poetry, racism, and how performance art impacts her life and faith. So much of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: N. T. Wright: The Church Continues the Revolution Jesus Started

By Mike Bird In his new book, Wright explains that Jesus’ death does more than just get us into heaven. A foundational Christian belief is that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our sins. For many, the most important result of this is that believers go to heaven when they die. Bestselling author, scholar and bishop, N. T. Wright, thinks we’re missing a critical aspect of what Jesus accomplished on the Cross if we limit our understanding just to this explanation. His latest book, The Day the Revolution Began, explores the Crucifixion and argues that the Protestant Reformation did not go far enough in tranforming our understanding of this event. Mike Bird, author of What Christians Ought To Believe, interviewed Wright about how Christians should view the Crucifixion. Tom, you describe Jesus’ death as the beginning of a “revolution.” What was that revolution and why does it still matter today? Most Western Christians have been taught that Jesus died so that they could escape the results of sin and go to heaven after they die. The New Testament, however, regularly speaks of Jesus’ death as the defeat of the powers of evil that have kept the world in captivity, with the implication that the world …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Cradle Christians: Protestants Keep the Faith Better Than Catholics or Nones

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Pew examines which parents successfully pass their religion to their kids—and whether mom or dad mattered most. American Protestants are keeping their children in the faith at a higher rate than Catholics or the unaffiliated, according to the latest study from the Pew Research Center. Four out of five children raised by two Protestant parents remained Protestant into adulthood. For those raised in Protestant homes where religion was very important or often discussed, the retention rate jumps even higher (85% and 89%, respectively). For those raised by a single parent who was Protestant, the retention rate doesn’t dip much. Three-quarters of American adults who had a Protestant single parent still identify as Protestant. Those raised by two Catholic or unaffiliated parents, on the other hand, were equally less likely (62%) to remain in their parents’ religion—or lack thereof. Protestantism is also gaining a larger percentage of adherents from Catholicism or the ranks of the unaffiliated than its losing to both groups. (However, given US Protestantism’s larger base—about 45 percent of American adults—losing a smaller percent still means losing a larger number of members.) Among Americans with an exclusively Catholic background, 16 percent are now Protestant. Meanwhile, just 3 percent of those raised in an exclusively …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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