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Ed Cash Leaves the Gathering, Citing ‘Troubling Allegations’

By Bob Smietana Departure comes after the cult-like group’s founder, Wayne Jolley, was accused of spiritual and sexual abuse. Christian songwriter and producer Ed Cash, best known as co-writer of the worship hit “How Great is Our God,” has cut ties with controversial pastor Wayne Jolley. For the past decade, Cash has a key member of the Gathering International, a small congregation that meets in Jolley’s home. He’s led worship for the group, donated funds to Jolley’s ministry, and acted at one of Jolley’s chief lieutenants. Cash and his brother, Scott, announced Wednesday, December 30, that they were leaving the Gathering after Jolley was accused of spiritual and sexual abuse. CT reported on concerns about Jolley’s conduct, theology, and finances earlier this month. “We find all the allegations against Wayne Jolley to be very troubling and are grieved by the pain others have endured,” they wrote. “We’re praying for the Lord’s total healing and restoration for everyone involved.” Scott Cash was also a leader at the Gathering. He preached at the group’s Saturday night meeting on November 21 in Jolley’s absence. After CT’s report on Jolley was published, all of Jolley’s sermon videos were removed from the Gathering’s website. That site was also …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Commentary: Love Doesn't Stop at Two

By Matt Reynolds Why China’s two-child policy is barely better than its one-child policy. For more than three decades, China has enforced draconian restrictions on family size. Now, after a sudden shift announced in late October, China will enforce slightly less draconian restrictions. The country’s notorious one-child policy has become a two-child policy. It’s a modest retreat from the oppressive status quo, stopping far short of the full dismantling that opposition groups rightly demand. Even so, there’s an understandable urge to celebrate. All Girls Allowed founder Chai Ling rejoiced that “the Lord has done a great and mighty thing,” likening the new reform to God’s miraculous parting of the Red Sea. Indeed, if any one principle sustains pro-life morale amid serial disappointments, it’s that incremental progress beats no progress. Relaxing China’s one-child policy means fewer forced abortions and sterilizations. Fewer little girls targeted in the womb or left to die as infants so that couples can preserve the possibility of male offspring. Fewer invasive state fertility checks, and fewer moments dreading inadvertent pregnancy. Praise God for every flicker of mercy in this dark world. But let’s keep the champagne corked for now. As any number of cool-headed observers have remarked, China’s loosened stranglehold on family …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christian Culture Is Better Than We Imagine

By Andy Crouch Let’s not forget the church’s long legacy of creativity and excellence. Have you been to a Christian bookstore recently? What a cultural wasteland. Novels with paper-thin characters, absurd plots, and execrable writing. Pragmatic, paint-by-numbers books that promise success in relationships, business, and, of course, dieting. Cheap, sentimental gifts that nobody needs. And don’t even get me started on the “lad magazines,” with their “provocative” covers hidden behind flimsy pieces of cardboard. Oh, wait, did I say “Christian bookstore”? I meant to say “airport bookstore.” If you think the Christian subculture is shallow, I suggest you pay a visit to mainstream culture. Turn on cable TV to a random channel, and you’re likely to encounter dialogue that would curl an English major’s toes. Choose the finest, Oscar-contending film at your local multiplex theater, and you’ll sit through a dozen puerile trailers before the feature begins. It’s not Christian culture that is especially shallow. It’s our Western, popular, mass-mediated culture. Evangelical Christians in the United States have a protean ability to pursue relevance, and our impulse to popularize has brought people to faith and sustained faith where it might have been lost. But even Christian popularizers recognize the problem. We each have our favorite Christian examples in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Building a Volunteer Culture in Your Church

It can be difficult, at times, to recruit volunteers at church. How might we create a volunteer culture in our churches? “Pull a Henry.” Their heads tilted; some brows furrowed. They thought I was crazy. It was working. When you are given the 8 p.m. Monday night slot for teaching seminary students, you’d better say something that awakens them from their post Sunday church hangover. I repeated myself, “If you want to build a volunteer culture in your church, you’ll have to pull a Henry. A Henry Ford. “ Henry Ford was the inventor of the first automobile assembly line. He wanted to produce more cars and ensure great quality, but in order to do that, he knew he needed a system. Henry hoped and dreamed that his system would change the automobile industry and culture and it did just that. So what on earth does pulling a Henry have to do with church and building a volunteer culture? Cars and people are the same? Nope, I’m not saying that. How they relate is that the ability to build a system that produces more and has better quality will ultimately change a culture. To this day, when consulting with churches, I haven’t met …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Biblical Archaeology’s Top Ten Discoveries of 2015

By Gordon Govier A glimpse at the important work that took place at excavations this year. Archaeological discoveries made public in 2015 have given us new information about biblical events and people. Below are the Top 10 findings of the important excavations taking place in the lands of the Bible. (This list is subjective, and based on news reports rather than peer-reviewed articles in scientific publications.) 10. Beit Shemesh idol head An Israeli boy enjoying a picnic with his family in mid-November at the ruins of the biblical city of Beit Shemesh found what appeared to be the small head of a statue and showed it to an Israeli tour guide. The guide encouraged the boy to take the find to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which he did. They determined it was the head of a fertility goddess, probably Asherah, dating to the 8th century B.C. 9. Horvat Kur Byzantine menorah mosaic The 2015 excavation of a Byzantine synagogue at Horvat Kur, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, revealed a mosaic depicting a menorah with a unique oil lamp design. This project is one of several synagogues being excavated near the epicenter of Jesus’ ministry, providing new insights into worship communities in the centuries after Jesus. 8. The site …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A Christian College Chapel's Bold New Windows

By Lisa Ann Cockrel Hand-blown glass and color combine in Peter Brandes’s strikingly contemporary installation. Blue, yellow, and red—those are the letters,” says celebrated Danish painter and sculptor Peter Brandes. “They’re like alpha and beta in the Bible: they are the beginning of everything. I could go on and make any language with those colors.” Color is the language Brandes speaks fluently in his most recent project, his third in the United States: four large contemporary stained glass windows for the newly constructed Christ Chapel at Cornerstone University, an evangelical college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For Christ Chapel’s westerly window, Brandes employed 250 sheets of hand-blown glass in 48 different shades of blue to explore the idea of baptism and rebirth. In the east, red represents the resurrection morning. To the north, yellow brings joy into the crucifixion scene, foretelling resurrection. To the south, a trio of complementary colors—green, violet, and orange—pays homage to the relationship between blessing and sacrifice in the Old Testament. Each window is made of about 1,000 pieces of glass. The glass used for all of the windowpanes was blown by hand in France at a factory that is 300 years old. The $14 million building is the first dedicated worship space …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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#ChurchLifeMatters

By Joshua Ryan Butler Why the fight for racial justice in America needs a God-centered vision. Due to cities like Ferguson and Baltimore, activist movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe, and tragedies like last year’s massacre of nine black Christians by a white supremacist in a South Carolina church, conversations about race are once again in the national spotlight. As a pastor whose church has moved to broaden its ethnic diversity, and as a Hispanic man whose heart breaks over systemic injustice, I’m pleased to see so much attention devoted to healing some of our country’s deepest wounds. Thus, I was excited to learn that Jim Wallis, the founding editor of Sojourners magazine, has weighed in with America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America (Brazos). For many reasons, the book offers a welcome contribution. First, it’s an excellent resource for getting “up to speed” on contemporary race relations in the United States. Wallis provides a solid overview of troubling social realities like mass incarceration, the “school-to-prison” pipeline, racialized policing, immigration, and America’s shifting demographic makeup. Second, it highlights systemic injustice, connecting the dots between historical legacies and present-day realities. There are powerful, indicting statistics on dysfunctions in our criminal justice system, public schools, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Pop Culture Is Obsessed with 'Identity'

By Alissa Wilkinson 2015 was a year when many movies and TV shows showed characters searching for their ‘authentic self.’ What Christians can learn from that search. Last spring, after seven seasons of women, work, two wives, and a lot of whiskey, Don Draper reached the end of his journey to define himself. And a record 3.3 million Americans settled in to watch how it would end. The broad appeal of Mad Men was surprising, given that the show’s protagonist—an affluent, straight, white male working on 1960s Madison Avenue—epitomized everything that social media pundits critiqued in 2015. From Oscar speeches to countless thinkpieces, from Jane the Virgin to Orange Is the New Black, the entertainment buzzword was diversity. The discussion about an industry still dominated by straight, white, male creators and characters often got heated, paralleling tensions over race and gender in American culture. Comedy-sketch shows like Inside Amy Schumer and Key & Peele satirized debates, suggesting pundits and politicians were missing the point, while the rest of us posted the clips online en masse. Yet if we are trying to read pop culture circa 2015, Don Draper is actually a near-perfect decoder ring. His story embodies two current and contradictory obsessions: one, we …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Modes of Mission: A Missional People

By Ed Stetzer In the first of a series on posts on modes of mission, we look at how Peter modeled mission. To help clarify, challenge, and encourage church leaders (and their churches) towards missional effectiveness, it may be helpful to consider three modes of mission as embodied by the Petrine Mission (1 Peter 2:9–12), the Johannine Mission (John 20:21), and the Pauline Mission (the life of Paul). In doing so, we can discern that a missional people, embodying “sentness,” are on a mission of multiplication. The reality of these modes is that an in-depth study of each would reveal elements of one another. However, below I intend to stress the major foci of each in an effort to build a visual of the enactment of the message and movement of mission, which results in missional effectiveness. Petrine Mission—A Missional People When God saves people, he doesn’t save them only from their sins and themselves, but also saves them to himself and tohis people. For instance, when God called out Abraham, it wasn’t merely for Abraham, but also for the people who would descend from him. Thus, God’s mission includes forming a people for his glory and his purposes. In the New Testament, the Petrine mode of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Dispatches from the Wondrous, Terrifying World of Bible Scholarship

By Andrew Byers Why studying Scripture professionally can bring great joy—but also great pain. I made the confession while leaning over the coffee table weighted by her enormous family Bible: “Grandmother, I think God is calling me into ministry… and I’ve decided to go to seminary.” Local preachers had enjoyed warm hospitality in her home for decades. But I knew my announcement would meet with disfavor—I had used the word “seminary.” And indeed, she berated me as one who had chosen a foolhardy and perilous course. My grandmother believed every word in that King James Bible positioned between us, the browning edges of old obituary clippings and baby announcements protruding from the sides. But in her mind, the “academic” (that is, dry and highfalutin) study of the Bible held no vocational validity in bona fide Christian ministry. True ministers did not require a seminary education. Testimonies of Another Sort It’s easy to dismiss the rants of an old woman worried about the Bermuda grass in her day lilies. But my anti-intellectualism underlying my grandmother’s warnings, so deeply embedded in the American psyche, is not without warrant. The academic study of the Bible has a well-earned reputation for hurling students and scholars alike beyond the safe boundaries of orthodox …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Best of 2015: Duggar Scandal, Beth Moore, and the Yoga Pants Debate

We rank the top 10 posts of the year. From celebrity happenings to the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision, Her.meneutics weighed in week after week to address the biggest stories in the news and the Christian blogosophere. Here are our readers’ favorite posts of the year: 1. Why Reality TV Can’t Handle the Josh Duggar Scandal(Kate Shellnutt) After reports that the oldest brother on TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting had molested family members years before their reality TV fame, Shellnutt called for the show’s end: Not all issues can be fake-resolved over the course of an episode or season, especially not involving conditions as difficult as abuse, mental illness, and addiction. In this case, I believe it would be unfair and potentially hurtful for TLC to even try. 2. ‘Pioneer Girl’ Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Real Memoir Overturns Our False Nostalgia (Jennifer Grant) Wilder’s never-before-published memoir became a bestseller thanks to Little House on the Prairie fans. Grant wrote: Not long into reading Pioneer Girl, that sentimental fog that’s risen in me whenever I’ve thought about Laura Ingalls completely burned off…. The real Laura Ingalls saw a “much grittier world” than did the fictional one. 3. To the Christian Men and Women Debating Yoga Pants (Lore Ferguson …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Meet the Christian Doctor Who Changed How We Play Football

By Interview by Katelyn Beaty Bennet Omalu, played by Will Smith in the new film ‘Concussion,’ says it’s time to ban children from playing high-contact sports. “I wish I never met Mike Webster, because it disrupted my life.” So says Bennet Omalu about the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers center who died at age 50 in 2002. “Met” is a strange term here, because when Omalu first encountered Webster, he was examining Webster’s brain, lying on a slab in a coroner’s office. Omalu, a Nigeria-born pathologist, had been brought in to figure out why Webster had acted so strangely in his final days. Omalu later discovered a protein in Webster’s brain that’s found in the brains of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. The finding suggested a link between high-contact sports and permanent brain damage. Omalu published the discovery of what he called Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy (CTE) twice in the peer-reviewed journal Neurosurgery. But the National Football League (NFL) rejected his findings until American scientists backed him up—and more NFL players took their own lives. Omalu’s story, first told in GQ magazine in 2009, is on the big screen this Christmas. Concussion stars Will Smith as an optimistic immigrant yearning to be accepted by Western elites, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Best of 2015: Duggar Scandal, Beth Moore, and the Yoga Pants Debate

We rank the top 10 posts of the year. From celebrity happenings to the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision, Her.meneutics weighed in week after week to address the biggest stories in the news and the Christian blogosophere. Here are our readers’ favorite posts of the year: 1. Why Reality TV Can’t Handle the Josh Duggar Scandal(Kate Shellnutt) After reports that the oldest brother on TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting had molested family members years before their reality TV fame, Shellnutt called for the show’s end: Not all issues can be fake-resolved over the course of an episode or season, especially not involving conditions as difficult as abuse, mental illness, and addiction. In this case, I believe it would be unfair and potentially hurtful for TLC to even try. 2. ‘Pioneer Girl’ Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Real Memoir Overturns Our False Nostalgia (Jennifer Grant) Wilder’s never-before-published memoir became a bestseller thanks to Little House on the Prairie fans. Grant wrote: Not long into reading Pioneer Girl, that sentimental fog that’s risen in me whenever I’ve thought about Laura Ingalls completely burned off…. The real Laura Ingalls saw a “much grittier world” than did the fictional one. 3. To the Christian Men and Women Debating Yoga Pants (Lore Ferguson …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christianity and Islam: Evangelicals and Americans Are Not on the Same Page About the "Same God"

By Ed Stetzer A lot of debate has swirled around the similarity (or dissimilarity) of Christianity and Islam lately. What do people think? Just a few months ago, in October, LifeWay Research published a good amount of data on how Americans, pastors, self-identified evangelicals, and religious service attendees see Christianity and Islam. Today, I wanted to share just a bit of data with you regarding how similar or dissimilar these groups of people see the two most popular monotheistic faiths in the world. Do Muslims and Christians Worship the “Same God?” In the last week or so, the debate about whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the “same god” has been stirred up due to a controversial situation at Wheaton College, about which I wrote last week. (Full disclosure, I’ve written on several occasions that Muslims and Christians do not pray to the same god and saying so is not helpful.) Perhaps the reason for the controversy around such “same god” issues is that the country is split, though you would think that country overwhelmingly believes they do worship the same god based on the responses. But, the nation is actually split down the middle. Forty-six percent of Americans agree Christians and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Let Christmas Be Complicated

By Mandy Rodgers-Gates, guest writer We often overlook the tragic backdrop to Jesus’ birth. I have always loved the color gray. All my favorite hoodies, sweatpants, and T-shirts are gray. One Christmas shopping trip, my fashion-savvy mother tried to get me to “please, pick some color besides gray—something bright!” As much as I try to branch out, there is something inexplicably comfortable and comforting about the color. I feel at home in it. Much later, the world itself seemed to turn gray. After six months of struggling with depression and self-hatred in a country that wasn’t my own, I returned home to find my nicely packaged view of how the world works shattered. Gone was the God who did things “for a reason,” the God who, if he called you to a place, would give you a deep contentment, even if circumstances were difficult. My relationship with God went through a fundamental shift then, and the way I see the world has never been the same. As I struggle off and on with depression, I live through seasons of lighter and darker shades of gray. Instead of rose-colored glasses, I see the world through a dimming and dulling filter. But even as the world has turned gray, it has …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Virgin Births Happen All the Time

By Ted Olsen Birds do it. Bees do it. Snakes, sharks, lizards, and lots of other animals do it solo too. It was Christmas, the turkey had been eaten, and it was terrible. “It would be pretty hard for the Department to be serious and issue an obituary notice for a turkey,” an unnamed department official told the United Press. Nevertheless, news of the turkey’s death hit front pages around the world. Because it was Christmas. And Graydon the turkey was no ordinary turkey. He had no father. He didn’t have an absentee father. He hadn’t been born through artificial insemination or other technological advances. He literally had no father. His mother—one of dozens of turkey hens in an experiment—had been carefully separated from turkey toms by the government agency at a research facility in Beltsville, Maryland, under the watchful eye of embryologist Marlow W. Olsen. Graydon’s origin had been, in other words, a kind of virgin birth. Or at least a virgin hatching. He wasn’t the first fatherless turkey to emerge from the more than 28,000 eggs in Olsen’s experiment. There had been about 20 others. But almost all died within an hour or two. No others had lived longer than 22 days. But Graydon was 254 days …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why We Get Religious About ‘Star Wars’

By Alissa Wilkinson What accounts for our religious devotion – and our need to shoehorn ‘Star Wars’ into our own theology? Absolutely no spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I promise. It was inevitable, and truly a sign of our times. Reuters reports that Berlin’s Zion Church chose an unusual order of worship on Sunday: a Star Wars-themed service, obviously meant to coincide with the global release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh episode in the intergalactic space opera. This is notable partly because Zion Church is a landmark in Berlin, a place where Dietrich Bonhoeffer worked at the beginning of the 1930s, according to a Berlin tourism site. (That it was also the fourth Sunday in the Christian season of Advent, traditionally dedicated to contemplating “peace,” seems to have escaped most journalists’ irony detectors.) I’d wager quite a few Galactic Credits that Zion Church wasn’t the only place in which congregants heard some reference to Star Wars last Sunday, though maybe not everyone toted their light sabers to church. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (our review), the seventh episode in the intergalactic space opera, raked in record-breaking returns from critics, fans, and the box office. And it’s safe …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: Joy

By Alissa Wilkinson The film is uneven, but Joy knows just who she is. mpaa rating:PG-13 (For brief strong language.) Genre:Drama Theatre Release:December 25, 2015 by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation The text at the beginning of Joy, the latest film from director David O. Russell (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook), says it is “inspired by the true stories of daring women . . . one in particular.” That “one” is Joy Mangano, played here by Jennifer Lawrence, who is always fun to watch and certainly holds the film together. The character and her story are based on Mangano’s true story of inventing the Magic Mop, hawking it on the still-new QVC, and overcoming difficulty to become a business mogul able to support other inventors and entrepreneurs. Russell makes weird and frenetic movies that aren’t to everyone’s taste. They lurch around a bit and at times seem more infatuated with style than substance or coherence. That shows up again in Joy, which is narrated by Joy’s grandmother (Diane Ladd) and includes a montage introduction and a couple early black-and-white scenes from a melodrama, shot in soap opera style. Soon we segue into a whirling-dervish madcap romp through Joy’s house, with Joy as the axis, populated …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Importance of Leading Kids to Love Jesus

By Ed Stetzer I recently asked #kidmin leaders how they help children love Jesus for themselves. Ed Stetzer: How do we avoid teaching moralistic principles, making the focus moralism, but instead at all ages and at all stages making sure people understand the gospel itself. Lou Cha (Kenwood Baptist Church, Cincinnati, OH): I think that one of the important things is you know training our teachers because our teachers are the ones that are teaching the curriculum and they are the ones that are imparting the truth to the children. And I think helping them to see that God’s Word is a revelation of Himself. That the hero of the Bible is God. He is telling something about Himself to us and sometimes whether through curriculum or even our own growing up within our church backgrounds, we’ve learned so many of the stories but we always look at the stories through the human points of view and the perspective of you know that person, individual person. Instead of looking at a God-centered view of you know this is God’s revelation to us, something about Himself that He wants us to know and understand. And so I think that a part of helping our children to see that is …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The AIDS Epidemic and the Refugee Crisis: Faithfulness, Not Fear, Is Our Call

By Ed Stetzer When a situation is not understood, the Christian response is often defined by fear. In New York City in the early 1980’s medical doctors began to diagnose a strange and frightening disease. The New York Times reported: A SERIOUS disorder of the immune system that has been known to doctors for less than a year — a disorder that appears to affect primarily male homosexuals — has now afflicted at least 335 people, of whom it has killed 136, officials of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said yesterday. Federal health officials are concerned that tens of thousands more homosexual men may be silently affected and therefore vulnerable to potentially grave ailments. It was initially called GRID (gay-related immunodeficiency). The disease wreaked havoc with the immune systems of its victims, in many cases opening the door to a rare skin cancer type: Kaposi’s sarcoma, which until that point was uncommon in younger men. The early death toll from GRID was higher than toxic shock syndrome and Legionnaire’s disease combined. The population that contracted the disease was primarily in New York City, New Jersey, and California. Those early victims, according to the Times, were primarily male homosexuals “in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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