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This Is a 'God Moment' on Race

By Mark Galli What Christianity Today believes our Lord is saying in recent events. Evangelicals are sensitive to what we call “God moments”—when circumstances fall together in a way that suggests God is at work in our lives in a fresh way. Mainstream white evangelicals have experienced collective “God moments.” In the 1970s, few churches concerned themselves with the relief of world hunger. Then Ron Sider wrote Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, and before long, we just assumed that evangelicals should be concerned about hunger. Before Roe v. Wade, abortion was sidelined as a Catholic concern. But after the advocacy of Francis Schaeffer and others, we quickly saw the great evil that abortion is. These were God moments—times when our Lord graciously gave us moral clarity about an issue he was calling us to engage. We are currently experiencing a new “God moment,” when God is shining his burning light on how our nation and our churches are fractured by racial division and injustice. In the past two years, we’ve seen image after image of injustice perpetrated against black Americans. We’ve studied the statistics. And most important, we’ve heard the anguished cry of a suffering community that is understandably hurting, angry, and demanding progress. Moderate …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Pressure Of The Pastorate

By Shawn Lovejoy In order to truly flourish, pastors need authentic and safe friendships. Wow. I spoke with another friend and megachurch pastor who was removed from his church last month. As a leadership coach and pastor to pastors, it breaks my heart and causes me to lose sleep every time. What happened? Nothing really. Life. The gravitational pull. Pressure. Pride. That’s what happened. At the end of the day, the ministry model so common in our day tends to lend itself for this to happen. One thing is sure…this is us, except by the grace of God. This is us, if we’re not careful. This is some of us if we keep going the way we’re going. To finish well, we will need to fight against the gravitational pull, and beat our bodies into submission. This is our call: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). The #1 mistake I see pastors make is living in isolation. We don’t mean to, but we just get busy, overcommitted, overextended, exhausted, and sometimes even numb. After a long week of ministry, many of us just want to go home and binge on …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Louisiana Flooding: On The Ground With Relief Agencies And Why Christians Are Uniquely Suited To Help

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

By Ed Stetzer What’s happening and how you can help. Ed: How is your organization responding to the disaster in Louisiana right now? Ross Johnson, Director of Disaster Response, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod: Right now we’re partnering with Lutheran congregations across Louisiana, particularly in Baton Rouge. The first phase of our disaster response is to partner with local congregations that are going to be doing muck-out and dealing with immediate needs of people who have been affected by the flooding. We’re anticipating the first eight to ten weeks we’re going to be bringing volunteer teams in. We already have volunteers who going to do the muck-out, tearing out the flooring and drywall. We’re also giving out flood buckets and emergencies supplies. We have elders at our churches and congregational pastors who are doing spiritual care during the immediate phase. We like to blend hands-on help along with spiritual care. I think that’s one thing that makes a church-based response slightly different than government-based responses is we don’t only help out with temporal needs, but we also help out with spiritual needs. We find that oftentimes when somebody has gone through a traumatic event in their life and has enormous economic loss or has been displaced, that they also …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Should Churches Try to Minimize Disruptions?

By Compiled by Ruth Moon Observers weigh in on how churches should respond to children disrupting a worship service. At South Carolina’s NewSpring Church, children are not admitted to the main service and doors are locked after the sermon starts. In North Carolina, Elevation Church leaders removed a boy with cerebral palsy from church because he was disrupting the service. The incidents raise the issue of how to respond to disruptions in worship. Should churches try to minimize disruptions in services? “Willow Creek puts a priority on creating an environment that helps people engage in worship without distractions during the service. By providing a variety of venues (main auditorium, parents’ viewing rooms, a video café area) where people may view the service, no one has to miss the message, regardless of their circumstances. We rarely have issues with disruptions during the service, but if one arises, the Guest Ministry team assesses the situation and takes appropriate next steps, which could mean respectfully suggesting one of the alternate viewing options.” “One thing I used to tell students in the course of a class is as a pastor, you’re responsible for leading the assembly on Sunday morning, and the assembly depends on you not to allow disruptive people …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Reconciling Witness And Worship: Six Ways To Begin

By Sandra Van Opstal Imagine a church that considers its’ surrounding ‘neighbors’ and the future majority of our country in developing practices of worship. How will our future worship witness to the God of all nations? Imagine the year is 2025 and you are congregating in your church. Your mind and heart are focused on the Lord and His invitation to make disciples of the nations. Close your eyes and take a minute now to imagine it (yes, I do mean now). Did your future reflect the reality of a younger, browner, unchurched majority? Were the images you saw the multiethnic, multiclass church singing in many styles and praying in many languages? Be honest. In the U.S., we are well on our way to seeing no ethnic majority projected for the 2050 census. The latest census numbers show a population younger than 5 years old stood at 49.9% minority in 2012, and among those under 1 year of age, the minority had become the majority*. In only two years, 2018, minorities will become the majority among children. This has huge implications for children’s ministry, youth ministry, family ministry, and future leaders of the Church. We have an opportunity to witness to the kingdom through how we form …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Putting the Fear of God in the Fashion Industry

By Whitney Bauck Menswear creator Jerry Lorenzo wears his faith on his sleeve. You don’t expect to spot a reference to Oswald Chambers devotionals in the pages of Vogue—unless you happen to know the man the magazine calls “LA’s coolest” menswear designer, Jerry Lorenzo. Considering the name of Lorenzo’s brand, Fear of God, or that the promotional video for his latest collection features the church favorite “How Great is Our God,” it’s clear that the 39-year-old doesn’t shy away from the Christian faith that inspires his work. Without context, the Bible references on his apparel seem like lip service at best or ironic appropriation at worst. But the fervency and frequency of Lorenzo’s God-talk prove his faithfulness is more than a brand fad. You’d almost assume he was trying to evangelize through cheesy T-shirts if his style wasn’t so supernally hip. “What makes Fear Of God cool is that it taps into the nostalgia guys from 50 years old to 18 years old have for the ’80s and ’90s,” explained GQ style writer Jake Woolf in an email. “He’s taking the touchstones of that era—stonewashed denim, plaid, slightly looser fits, awesome rock band tees—and setting them against a 2016 backdrop where streetwear, high-fashion, and ‘middle …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Let Them Bake Cakes

By D.L. Mayfield, guest writer The Great British Baking Show teaches me about offering and receiving friendship in a fractured world. A few weeks ago, I sat down for coffee with a family from Syria. I was teaching an English class in our apartment complex and afterward the mother of this family invited me into her home. They arrived in the US very recently. If you’ve paid attention to the news, then you might have a dim view of this family’s background: They faced suffering and the threat of violence; they most likely fled their country in an arduous journey; they had to wade through camps and bureaucracies to make it all the way here, to the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, where they are the first of their community to be resettled. You might have images of boats and tents and mothers clutching their children. But I have in mind a more immediate, more personal image: I was sitting in a sparsely decorated living room drinking coffee that was served thick and dark and sugary in tiny red cups. I drank it, even though it was late in the evening and I knew I would pay for it later. I drank it because that coffee contained …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Resources Changed My Mind

By Ed Stetzer The books we read and allow to influence us hold great importance, for good or bad. When I was a young teen, my mom (a new Christian) gave me a book called Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis. She said it was a science fiction book written by a Christian. Being the sci-fi fan that I was, and intrigued by the idea of a Christian authoring those types of books, I finished it and the rest of Lewis’ Space Trilogy. At that time, I had no idea how much I would come to be influenced by their author. I later discovered C.S. Lewis as the man behind The Chronicles of Narnia and numerous other works influenced by his faith. His nonfiction writings built my passion for accessible theology. I read Mere Christianity and have since shared it with hundreds of different people as an apologetic defense of the gospel. As a young, recently converted believer, I was drawn to the writing of Lewis—an articulate and engaging Oxford professor who talked about Jesus. To me, Lewis made it OK to love Jesus and have a brain. Half a century after his death, we still read his works because of how he wrote …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Grapes of Wrath: Refugees Face Steinbeck Scenario in Lebanon's Napa Valley

By Jeremy Weber While US debates resettling 10,000 Syrians, a country smaller than Connecticut struggles with hosting 1.5 million. Faysal stands amid the rolling fields of the Bekaa Valley. Just down the road are award-winning, decadent vineyards—a product of the fertile agricultural region’s 5,000-year head start on Napa Valley. The Romans even chose to build their temple to Bacchus here. Above loom the snow-covered slopes of Mt. Hermon, where many today place Jesus’ transfiguration. Surveying the sea of green plants rustling in a pleasant breeze, the 43-year-old describes what he feels: “A knife in my heart.” For Faysal, a Syrian refugee, the scene is not one of grandeur but of guilt; in the field before him are three of his children—his 15-year-old son and 13- and 11-year-old daughters—bent in half as they weed potatoes instead of attending school. “I have no choice,” says the father of six. In Aleppo, one of Syria’s most war-torn cities, his job as a truck driver once provided a four-room house and a middle-class, urban life. Now, having injured his back in his own efforts at day labor, he can’t pay the rent for their cobbled-together shelter on a farmer’s property. So he just stands and watches his children. And cries. “As …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Given Deborah, Jael, and Judith, Why Shouldn't Women Serve in Combat?

By Owen Strachan, Jan McCormack, and Alan “Blues” Baker Three views on the warrior women of the Bible and today, as the Pentagon announces it’s lifting the ban. Editor’s note: The Associated Press reported today that the Pentagon is removing its 1994 ban on women in combat. Men Are Fitter Owen Strachan is a contributing writer for the Gospel Coalition and executive director of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Recently, the Marine Corps Gazette published a bold op-ed on a hot topic: women in combat. This essay was not written by a patriarchal jarhead, however. It was authored by Katie Petronio, Marine captain. Petronio, a former college hockey player, shared that after five months on the frontlines in Afghanistan, “I had muscle atrophy in my thighs that was causing me to constantly trip and my legs to buckle with the slightest grade change.” Eventually, Petronio lost 17 pounds and was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome. She concluded, “There is no way I could endure the physical demands of the infantrymen whom I worked beside.” This experience confirms the fears of evangelicals who have concerns about women in combat. Scripture teaches that woman was made from man, a truth that grounds her dependence on him (Gen. 2:21-22). It details how Adam failed to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Extreme Athletes Don’t Have to Settle for Adrenaline Highs

By Kate Tracy Action-sports ministries help wakeboarders, surfers, skaters, and snowboarders ground their passions in gospel truth. Action sports have slowly made their way into the Olympics over the years, and the International Olympic Committee announced that surfing, climbing, and skateboarding will be among the new sports added to competition at the 2020 Games in Tokyo. On the winter side, skiing has been a staple since 1936, and snowboarding was added back in 1998. About 10 percent of the Olympic athletes on Team USA prepared for competition at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. All around our state, athletic prowess is in the air. It’s no coincidence: Training at this altitude is thought to improve performance. The mountains have become a destination for a range of dedicated athletes. People flock to ski towns each winter, and beach towns each summer, often bringing with them idealistic notions of outdoors and adventure. These action sports, which appear to offer a sense of freedom and excitement, end up building a culture of highs and lows. Pitkin County, home to Colorado’s ski mecca Aspen, has a suicide rate that is three times higher than the national average, while Utah’s Salt Lake County—home to training facilities for the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Does Your Church Talk About Prison?

By Morgan Lee The disparities in America’s criminal justice system find an echo in which churches do, and don’t, discuss the issue. In a study of 1,000 mainline and evangelical pastors conducted by LifeWay Research this year, only 26 percent said they had addressed the country’s incarceration rates in the past six months. Four out of five pastors (83%) said they had visited a correctional facility, and about three out of four pastors whose churches averaged 250 or more attendees reported that individual members were ministering to those in correctional facilities (80%), the families of the incarcerated (73%), and those coming home (78%). But these same churches were far less likely to have formal programs: Just over half (53%) said a team from their church worked in correctional facilities. About 1 in 4 churches had a formal ministry to families of incarcerated people (24%) and people leaving correctional facilities (22%). Responses varied dramatically by race. One third of African American pastors (32%) reported mentioning mass incarceration in the last month, compared with only 7 percent of whites. White pastors were most likely to say that they had never addressed it in a sermon (41%). That’s partially because of their audience: About one third of African American pastors …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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Before Flooding Louisiana With 'Help,' Read This

By Ed Stetzer Suggestions that will help you help without causing unintentional harm. Thinking of jumping in your car and driving to Louisiana to help those affected by the flood? Wondering how you could mail some food or hand-me-down clothes to help? If you answered yes — don’t do it. Yet, that is. Hit the brakes for a moment before acting. Here’s the deal: Volunteers and resources are going to be needed. In a recent Humanitarian Disaster Institute study, we found that social and spiritual support was vital to fostering resilience among flood survivors. However, being a spontaneous unaffiliated volunteer (what we call an SUV) is likely to cause more harm than good. Sending supplies before communities are ready to receive them isn’t the way to help either. You will likely only add to the chaos happening there. Here are some suggestions that will help you help without causing unintentional harm. Pray As people of faith, we are called to pray for others, especially for those in need. We don’t think that saying “sending our prayers” is a meaningless gesture; we think it’s a God-ordained means of calling out for divine help. In times of disasters we shouldn’t see prayer as an afterthought, but rather as …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Are US Christians Really ‘Persecuted’?

By K. A. Ellis If our overseas brothers and sisters say we are, then we probably are. Anti-Christian hostility is on the minds of many American Christians these days. Each new legal challenge to religious liberty at the state and federal levels raises the issue afresh. It seems that today, Christians must think through their cultural position more carefully than at any other point in US history. Still, given the terrible persecution of Christians overseas, I wonder whether it’s accurate to say that American Christians are “under persecution.” When I discuss the rise in anti-Christian hostility in the States, I avoid the “p word,” and I don’t make comparisons to other parts of the world. But listen to a Middle Eastern underground house church leader: “Persecution is easier to understand when it’s physical: torture, death, imprisonment….American persecution is like an advanced stage of cancer; it eats away at you, yet you cannot feel it. This is the worst kind of persecution.” A Syrian remaining in the region to assist Christians and Muslims cautions, “It wasn’t only ISIS who laid waste to the church; our cultural compromises with the government and our divisions against each other brewed for a long time. We are Damascus, the seat of Christianity; what …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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An Invitation To Our First Billy Graham Center Vision Gathering

By Ed Stetzer We are building a Center that is rock solid on a vision to build One Body of Christ that shows & shares Jesus well in our broken and hurting world. Join us August 25 in Jackson, MS, to learn more! Just a little over a month ago I became the new Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College. When I accepted this role, I knew the team at the Center was already doing some great work. So my primary goal here became two-fold: (1) to build on the legacy and work we have done in order to (2) create a Center where partnerships and coalitions are formed and sustained on a level that create deep change across dividing lines and leads us towards a new level of unity around our calling of showing & sharing the love of Jesus in a broken and hurting world. You will be hearing that a lot from us in the days to come: ‘showing & sharing.’ The proclamation of the gospel can never be divided from the demonstration of the gospel. Sometimes one rises in urgency over the other, but when laid side by side, the two can never be …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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Am I Humble Enough to Learn from Millennials?

By Nicole Sheets, guest writer Learning from my elders is easy. Learning from those younger than me—not so much. I was at a garden party last summer with my new baby. A group of twentysomethings smiled at her between bites of flatbread pizza and fruity, boozy popsicles. One of them admitted that the baby was cute, but asked: Doesn’t having a baby cramp your style? I told him I was really glad that someone was cramping my style, that I was starting to be afraid no one would ever cramp my style, that I’ve had so much time with my style! It’s one of the big benefits of being an old new mom. If turning 30 meant saying goodbye to my young youth, then 40 is saying goodbye to my youth, period. It’s accepting that some of my wildest fantasies involve eight consecutive hours of sleep, or sitting down in a chair with a magazine, or trying out a new kale soup recipe. As I try to figure out this new stage of life, I find myself more and more irritated by the ideas and habits of younger people. But to my surprise, I’m also discovering how much I have to learn from them. I teach English …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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