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Amplifying Evangelism—Doing Evangelism in the Workplace

By Ed Stetzer Integrating evangelism into our workplaces is critical. If the average person spends at least eight hours on work five days of the week, then in the span of a year, this adds up to 2,080 hours a year in the workplace setting and community. Even if this number is half of this, that’s still a lot of time. Much ink has been spent on how Christians can share their faith in the workplace and why or why not those who follow Jesus should even try to do evangelism in the workplace. If done properly, there is one foundational reason that all of us should be seeking ways to share our faith wherever God has placed us: we have been called to share our faith by the very God we acknowledge is Lord. I won’t go into all the scriptures that call us towards a gospel witness in both word and deed (e.g., Isa. 6:8-9, Acts 22: 14-15; Acts 4:20; Matt. 28:19). What I will say is that evangelism, when done in the proper way and the proper setting, is of utmost importance if we are to see God’s kingdom grow and more people come into a saving knowledge of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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7 Spiritual Lessons from Running

By Halee Gray Scott What hitting the running trail taught me about the Christian life. I can trace my zeal for running back to a single moment: Summer 2003, at Yosemite National Park. My friends and I sat down to eat chips and deli sandwiches in the park’s Village Store when I realized I’d left my water bottle in the car. As I trudged the dusty 100 yards back through the dirt parking lot, I was appalled by my own dejection. How did I become a person too lazy to walk the length of a football field? That single moment catapulted me into more than a decade of fitness fanaticism. I’ve benched my body weight; scaled 14ers, some of the biggest mountain peaks in the US; hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, and finally, last year, completed my first marathon. This year, as the running season ramps up, I’ve already begun hitting the pavement here in Colorado to train for my first triathlon and my second marathon (and okay, the Bolder Boulder). Of all my fitness endeavors, running has done the most to improve both my physical and spiritual fitness. Given all the lessons I’ve learned on the running trail, Hebrews 12:1 resonates deeply with me …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Did Will Smith Deserve an Oscar Nomination?

By Kenneth R. Morefield How do we judge good acting? And why does it matter? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences appears to have defused the #OscarSoWhite controversy—for now. There are still no actors or actresses of color nominated in this weekend’s ceremony, but changes to the nomination and voting procedures have blunted the movement to boycott the ceremony or lodge some kind of protest. What about viewers? Should they skip the ceremony to express solidarity with the performers they feel have been slighted? Actors I spoke with—professionals, teachers, and students—expressed dissatisfaction with this slate of nominations but also deep ambivalence about a potential protest. A boycott potentially hurts the individual performers the ceremony is designed to honor more than it helps undervalued artists gain the recognition they are striving for. A better way to effect change might start with examining the craft of acting so that arguments about awards are informed by something more than name recognition and studio ad campaigns. Many critics and viewers agreed that actors such as Will Smith (Concussion) and Michael B. Jordan (Creed) deserved to be nominated, especially in the relatively weak field of nominees for Best Actor. But in the wake of their anger and disappointment, an important …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Around the World in 46 Chromosomes

By Rebecca Randall I expected to discover myself in my DNA test. But I found us all. “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him…” Acts 17:26–27 My heart beat rapidly with excitement when I received the email proclaiming that my DNA results had been analyzed. But nothing could prepare me for the surprise I experienced when I clicked the link that would take me to my results. Colored circles lit up the world map showing me where my ancestors had ancient origins. Not surprisingly, a large blue circle highlighted East Asia—my mother was born in Korea and adopted as a child by a family in Missouri. What caught me off guard was the circle around West Africa. According to my results, 20 percent of my DNA originated in what is today Nigeria, while another nearly 18 percent came from other parts of Africa. Growing up, my assumptions were all wrong, according to this, and my emotions swirled around trying to make sense of it. Yet I was also …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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4 Pieces of Advice for My Younger Self

By Ed Stetzer What we learn along the way can help those who’ve yet to live it What advice would you give your younger self? Thinking through that question can allow a new generation to learn from the journey of those who have gone before and have the scars to show for it. Several years ago Episcopalian priest Peter Wallace published 52 things he would have told his younger self. Among those: It’s a good thing that we don’t know everything that’s going to happen to us. (2) Your hard work in school will be worth it. But come on, don’t kill yourself.​ (4) Engage in self-reflection, but don’t let it become self-deception. (30) You can’t pray too much. (38) “Things I would tell my younger self” is another way to say “here as some things I’ve learned along the way.” Those of us who are older need to remember how much we can teach younger people if we will do it humbly. If I could go back in time, here are the four things I would tell my younger self. First, be cautious with whom you choose to work—not everyone has your best interests at heart. Why would I mention this point as my …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Saturday is for Seminars—Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago

I’m looking forward to being back at TIU! Trinity International University Colloquium—Deerfield, IL As you may have noticed I write about evangelicals and evangelicalism. A lot. No, I mean a lot. March 22, at TIU Rick Richardson and I will look at the state of evangelicalism as a movement and it’s engagement in evangelism, in particular. The presentation will include statistics on the culture, the church, and its mission. The colloquium will look at barriers to mission and evangelistic engagement and ways churches and Christians are overcoming those barriers. If you’re a student at Trinity come say “hello.” It’s also open to the general public, so feel free to drop by if you are in Chicago. Coming Soon February 20-21, 2016Christ Fellowship Miami Miami, FL February 23, 2016National Religious Broadcasters Convention Nashville, TN March 1 & 3, 2016Talbot Faculty Forum (lectures and chapels) La Marida, CA March 2, 2016Ignite Church Planting Gilbert, AZ March 12-13, 2016Christ Fellowship Miami Miami, FL April 8-10, 2016Colson Center Wilberforce Weekend Washington, D.C. April 17, 2016The Moody Church Chicago, IL April 22, 2016 AWANA National Meeting Streamwood, IL April 23-24, 2016Christ Fellowship Miami Miami, FL April 26-28, 2016Exponential East Orlando, FL April 27, 2016Reformed …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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How Should Christians Disagree? Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians Try a New Model

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Joint statement by believers in Israel and Palestine is a small but hopeful step toward peace. Historically, Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories haven’t gotten along much better than their respective governments. The list of issues to argue about is long: security, the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, equality of citizenship in Israel, refugees, acts of lethal violence, and the search for justice and peace were examples listed at a gathering last month of 30 Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews. However, the group didn’t gather to argue. Instead, they spent four days in study and prayer before issuing a statement of unity. “In times of tension and violent conflict, relationships suffer, while suspicion, accusation, and mutual rejection thrive,” the statement read. “At such times it is even more essential that we who affirm our unity in the Messiah must uphold ethical standards of life that are worthy of our calling, in all our attitudes, words, and deeds.” The conference was hosted in Cyprus by the Lausanne Initiative for Reconciliation in Israel-Palestine (LIRIP) with the hopes of promoting “reconciliation within the body of Christ and our wider communities in Israel and Palestine.” The network of participants was meant to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Kanye West’s Work-in-Progress

By Jason Bellini Why the rapper’s new “gospel” album, The Life of Pablo, has Christians curious. Earlier this month, rapper Kanye West described his latest release as “a gospel album with a lot of cursing.” The phrase exemplifies the sense of confusion and apparent contradiction surrounding The Life of Pablo—which came out February 14, after lots of hype and speculation. Christians also wondered about what was to come from the famous husband of Kim Kardashian (and foil to Taylor Swift): How much gospel will be in this “gospel album”? Who exactly is Pablo? For starters, it isn’t a typical album in any sense. Following its digital release, it has yet to be transferred to a physical format (no CDs, no vinyl). The Life of Pablo is not, and may not ever be, available for purchase. So while we’re told the album exists, it requires a certain amount of faith to experience. It is not available on iTunes, Amazon, or Spotify. No man cometh unto The Life of Pablo except through Tidal—the online music-streaming site run by Kanye’s figurative “big brother” Jay-Z offers the only legal way to listen to the project. During the final months of production, the album went through a spiritual …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Mavis Staples: Voice of Joy and Justice

By Mark Moring The new HBO documentary “Mavis!” takes a look at the woman who has lent her distinct voice to the cause of love for more than six decades. It’s unfathomable that Mavis Staples didn’t win a Grammy Award till she was 71 years old. She’d been one of America’s most distinct voices for six decades before finally taking home the trophy in 2010. And even then, the recognition came in a somewhat unexpected category: Best Americana Album for You Are Not Alone. Staples was best known for her gospel, soul, and R&B music through the decades, including many with her family group, The Staple Singers. But when you think about it, Mavis Staples is Americana—certainly a big slice of it, of those things that make up our history, folklore, and cultural heritage. She helped redefine gospel music and bring it to the mainstream. She marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and was a powerful voice in the civil rights movement. She has performed for five sitting presidents—she sang at Kennedy’s inauguration and recently, at the White House for the Obamas. She interacts easily with people of all races and music of all genres. She is loved by all and, with a big heart of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Have Christians and Jews Extended the Olive Branch Too Far?

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Orthodox rabbis say Christianity is God’s will. Vatican says don’t formally evangelize Jews. Five decades ago, the Roman Catholic Church famously acknowledged the unique relationship between Jews and Christians. In the wake of World War II, the Vatican officially rejected anti-Semitism and affirmed the covenant between God and the Jewish people. Now, the Vatican and a group of Jewish leaders have extended the olive branch even further through an exchange of letters on the 50th anniversary of that Nostra Aetate (“in our time”) detente. In December, more than 50 Orthodox rabbis stated that “Christianity is neither an accident nor an error, but the willed divine outcome and gift to the nations.” In separating Jews and Christians, the rabbis wrote, God was not separating enemies but creating partners—ones with significant differences in belief. “Both Jews and Christians have a common covenantal mission to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Almighty, so that all humanity will call on his name and abominations will be removed from the earth.” A week later, the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews announced that Catholics should not evangelize Jews—at least in an organized way. Entitled “The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable” (a nod …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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10 Obscure Gospel Moments Most Jesus Films Miss

By Peter T. Chattaway A look at commonly neglected gospel stories and films that depict them. Ten years ago, I compiled a list of my ten favorite Jesus movies for CT. Several new Jesus films have released since then, with more coming out this year: Risen (February 19), The Young Messiah (March 11), and a new version of Ben-Hur (August 12). But I’ve never felt a need to update the list. The original still holds up pretty well, I believe. That said, while none of the newer films have nudged their way into my all-time top ten, some of them have highlighted aspects of the Gospels that most other films miss. Indeed, one of the things I value more and more, as I study this genre, is the way some films highlight aspects of the Gospels that are often overlooked—not just by other filmmakers, but also by teachers, preachers, and other Bible readers. So I wanted to supplement my earlier list with a newer, more particular list of ten stories that usually get ignored by Jesus movies—and the (often obscure, sometimes edgier) films that have actually dramatized those stories. Here they are, in more or less biographical order. 1. The Circumcision of Jesus On the eighth day of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Am I My City’s Keeper?

By Ed Stetzer Jesus served people He came to save. We should join Him in that mission. There is much talk today about “seeking the welfare of the city.” To various people it means different things. As a Biblical phrase, it can have serious missional connotations. To have a biblically sound missiology, we should consider what the phrase means to us in the church today, and also tease out what it doesn’t mean. First, let’s look at the Scripture which gives us this famous phrase. Jeremiah 29:4-7 says, “This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and live in them, Plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons and give your daughters to men in marriage so that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper.’” Jeremiah was writing to a people who did not want to be where they were. Because of their idolatrous ways God had made them captives …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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The Secret Ingredient of Our Poverty Relief

By Bruce Wydick Economists are showing that one emotion makes a statistical difference in developing nations. Driving on a main highway in Mexico, I slow down at a stoplight. A man outside my window is igniting a cotton ball on a stick soaked in gasoline and extinguishing the flame in his mouth. He starts approaching the cars to ask for money for his admittedly breath-taking stunt. I don’t give him anything; I don’t want to reward him for potentially blowing his head off. Nor do I want to facilitate the slow but certain onset of brain damage caused by inhaling gasoline fumes. I have the urge to give him 200 pesos if he promises to take the day off, but I know he won’t. The scene makes me wonder how hopeless a man must be to try to earn a living this way. For six months this year, my family and I lived in a small village in Oaxaca to study hope. Oaxaca is a curious place to try to find hope. It is the poorest state in Mexico, and many of the people in villages like ours are not very hopeful. The same social and political problems that have plagued other regions in Latin …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Humble Coach Behind Celebrity Christianity

By Paul Putz Remembering the tenacity and ironies of Fellowship of Christian Athletes founder Don McClanen. On Tuesday this week I spent the day hunched over a desk, reading letters that Don McClanen had written 60 years ago as he agonized over whether or not he should leave the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization he had founded in 1954. On Thursday I saw the news on my Twitter timeline that McClanen had died. A historian is supposed to keep a critical distance from his or her subjects of study, and I like to think that I follow that standard. Yet when I saw the news, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of loss for a man I never met, a man I know only through dusty letters written long ago. When I first began my research on the early history of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I had no affinity for McClanen—I barely knew who he was. At first he seemed too earnest, too persistent. In his letters he badgered, he pestered, he shared too much information too soon. Yet the more that I encountered McClanen in the archives, the more I grew intrigued by his combination of intensity, sincerity, and humility. There is a …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Sunday Journeys: Celebrating at James River Church, an Assemblies of God Church in MO

By Ed Stetzer James River Church is a people of worship and prayer I was recently back at James River Assembly in Springfield, MO (I was there in 2011 and again in 2012). It’s a flagship church in the Assemblies of God and one of the most welcoming churches I ever visit. I was there to preach and do a seminar from my book (with Eric Geiger) Transformational Groups. I’ll share the normal things about such a church, but then at the end, I want to focus on something about their personal ministry time. First, the worship is high energy and passionate. The praise band and team were participative and enthusiastic. John Lindell is the pastor (he’s written for The Exchange, too). You can tell he loves the church and he loves Springfield. The church has two services in its largest location, but has other locations as well. The folks at JRC sent me a pic of my preaching time. In my view, that’s too many pics of Ed Stetzer at one time. 😉 There is so much you could talk about from JRC. They run James River Leadership College. They are convictionally Pentecostal. They are …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Mandarin Moment: Should US Churches Switch from Spanish-Language Services?

By Morgan Lee China has overtaken Mexico as the No. 1 sender of legal immigrants to America. Fred Biby thought his congregation was missing an opportunity. Dozens of Chinese immigrants were sending their children to Bridges Community Church’s preschool. But the Fremont, California, church wasn’t engaging the adults. So the associate pastor teamed up with the preschool to promote Bridges’ Sunday morning services and outreach events in Mandarin. A Mandarin-language small group formed, and 15 years later, Bridges is a congregation of about 100, with a Mandarin-language pastor on its payroll. Biby’s initiative aligned with broader demographic trends: in 2013, China overtook Mexico as the No. 1 sender of legal immigrants to the United States. When Latino immigration spiked in past decades, many Anglo congregations launched Spanish-language ministries. Should US churches now devote more resources to the Chinese? And will the bilingual ministry learning curve be faster this time? Experts agree that churches won’t be able to cut and paste from their Spanish ministries. For example, since two-thirds of Mexican immigrants live in poverty and half lack health insurance, many churches offer social services like food pantries and ESL classes. But only one-third of Chinese immigrants live in poverty, and more than half are college graduates (compared …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Lauren Chandler: How God Wrings Out Praise During Tough Times

By Interview by Megan Hill The singer, pastor’s wife, and author opens up about God’s ‘Steadfast Love.’ When I asked Lauren Chandler about the challenges of being known as the wife of Matt Chandler, the lead teaching pastor of The Village Church in Texas and head of the Acts 29 church-planting network, she immediately knew her response. “They think that because Matt is bold and strong, then I must be quiet,” she said. “They think I’m his opposite, and I get pegged as something I’m not.” Chandler respects her husband, but also matches him in transparency and intensity. The worship leader at Village Church, one of the fastest-growing congregations in America, Chandler has recorded an album, written a book, and launched a marriage conference with her husband for thousands of couples worldwide, all within the past few years. The pastor’s wife and mother of three admits her weaknesses, laughs easily at herself, and acknowledges that she’s a big believer in biblical counseling. Whether she’s discussing rocky seasons in her marriage or her time in Celebrate Recovery‘s steps program, she comes across as unflinchingly honest. You don’t have to talk to Chandler for long before you see that she has a tender heart that longs …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Kathie Lee Gifford: How Billy Graham Led Me to Christ

By Kathie Lee Gifford, as told to Kate Shellnutt My Christian faith got me to and through Hollywood. For most of my childhood, my family honored God in a general sense but didn’t know him personally. We were culturally Jewish on my father’s side and culturally Christian on my mother’s side. But our faith—and indeed everything about our lives—began to change one night when I was 12. I came home to see my mother and sister in our living room, sobbing in front of the television. A couple years prior, President Kennedy had been assassinated, so I walked in thinking, What cataclysmic event has happened this time? But I discovered that my mother and sister had been watching one of Billy Graham’s televised crusades. That night they both came to Christ. A few months later, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association released its first movie in theaters, The Restless Ones. It is about a girl at the cusp of making big decisions in her life. She asks herself whether she’ll follow the way of faith or the way of the world. I went to see it at a small theater in our town, Annapolis, Maryland. As I watched, I heard a voice speak to me directly. Although it wasn’t audible, I sensed God …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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