Christian

Wheaton College Suspends Hijab-Wearing Professor After 'Same God' Comment

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

Teen Mania: Why We're Shutting Down After 30 Years of Acquire the Fire

By Morgan Lee CT Exclusive: Ron Luce explains why global youth ministry is calling it quits. ‘There are three stages of every great work of God,” Hudson Taylor, the well-known British missionary to China, once said. “First it’s impossible, then it’s difficult, then it’s done.” Teen Mania founder Ron Luce quoted Taylor when explaining to CT why the nearly 30-year-old ministry announced it would cease operations. “Honestly, the hardest part about our closure is for people to misinterpret what the closing of a chapter means,” Luce said in an hour-long, exclusive interview. “Scripture talks about old and new wineskins. Sometimes old wineskins don’t need to be used anymore. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty of Christian organizations that become institutions, that are dead and dry, and they’re old wineskins. We don’t want to become that. So it’s not a bad thing to say that the wineskin is done. We feel like we’ve completed this assignment.” An Army of Young People Luce became a Christian at the age of 16 and immediately devoted his life to youth ministry. An Oral Roberts University graduate, Luce participated in Young Life and Youth for Christ. But at age 25, Luce was hungry for something larger. So he said he …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

What Is Church Attendance Like During Christmastime? New Data From LifeWay Research

By Ed Stetzer Most Americans attend church during the Christmas season, and many would come if invited. Recently, LifeWay Research conducted a study to learn more about church attendance patterns during Christmastime. Historically, pastors and church leaders know that Christmastime attracts more visitors than perhaps any other time of the year, outside of perhaps the Lenten and Easter season. Carol Pipes, editor of Facts & Trends, wrote the story for LifeWay Research: In a recent poll of 1,000 Americans, LifeWay Research found six out of 10 Americans typically attend church at Christmastime. But among those who don’t attend church at Christmastime, a majority (57 percent) say they would likely attend if someone they knew invited them. “Regular churchgoers may assume the rest of America has already made up their mind not to attend church,” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research. “In reality, many would welcome going to a Christmas service with someone they know.” Americans living in the South (66 percent) and Midwest (64 percent) are more likely to attend church at Christmastime than those in the Northeast (57 percent) and West (53 percent). And throughout the U.S., more women than …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

The Faith of the Candidates; An Interview With Marco Rubio (Part 1)

By Ed Stetzer I recently talked with Florida senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio about his faith journey. His Faith Journey Ed Stetzer: You have one of the more fascinating faith journeys. You kind of run the gamut of conservative American religious traditions but left one went to the other for different reasons. So tell me a little bit about that. I mean beyond what we know. We know you grew up Catholic. You kind of were engaged in the Mormon church and came back to Catholicism. Where are you now? Are you solely a Catholic? I know you’re theologically and doctrinally aligned. Are you an Evangelical Catholic? How do you define yourself? Senator Marco Rubio: I was born into the Catholic church. My family attended the Catholic church. I was eight years old so we followed my parents, primarily my mother into the LDS church for a number of years. And by the time—I was 11 or 12—we had returned to Catholicism. So as an adult—is what I can speak to. Certainly growing up after that I attended Catholic church, was confirmed, married in the church and I’ve never really left the church. There was a time when I became not as engaged in my …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Vintage Church Fights to Stay Open Amidst Neighbor Complaints and Criminal Summons

By Ed Stetzer A church in New Orleans has filed suit because its pastor has been issued a criminal summons for the church being too loud. Religious liberty is always a tricky subject. People clearly have the right to worship, and what you’ll find in an increasingly secular society is the desire to reduce the right to “worship” God in your head as being the new and acceptable form of religious liberty. However, the right to practice our faith involves more than believing in our heads, and the new frontier for religious liberty will actually be around issues of zoning. No township, municipality, or city is going to deny a church the ability or the freedom to “worship,” they are just going to restrict through zoning laws where they can worship. For example, they can’t have a church in this zoning area, or the volume has to be this level. In 2011, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, then with Christianity Today, now with the Washington Post, wrote a story in the Wall Street Journal about how zoning laws are lagging behind the latest religion trends in America. She quoted me saying, “The future of religious liberty is going to be in the area of zoning …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

The Unexpected Book of the Bible that Comforts Me the Most

By Laura Turner In the midst of my anxiety, I remember God’s power through reading Revelation. I was nine years old the first time I watched Psycho. My mother brought it home from Blockbuster and lined the three of us kids up on the couch. I remember being confused—this wasn’t our usual cartoon fare—then terrified. That night, I slept with one eye open (which is to say, not at all) because I was sure that Norman Bates was going to creep through my bedroom window. I eventually fell asleep in the early morning hours and came home from school the next day ready to watch Psycho again. It remains one of my favorite movies, part of a genre that proves terrifying viewers is one of the most powerful effects a film can have. In the same way that horror films and Shirley Jackson offer me some odd comfort, I am drawn over and over again to the book of Revelation. I have struggled with anxiety most of my life, and many well-meaning friends have pointed me to passages like Matthew 6:34 or Philippians 4:6. But as I read these verses urging Christians not to worry, I’d wonder, what was wrong with me, that …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

The Divine Rise of Multilevel Marketing

By Kate Shellnutt, with reporting by Hannah Anderson Behind the $34 billion industry making its way to your church. Heather St.Clair’s phone peeks out of the plum, pleather laptop bag she totes around a women’s retreat in Lynchburg, Virginia. Before dinner with friends, she grabs the phone, swipes the oversized screen, then flashes a smile. “I just made $50!” she announces. Last year, St.Clair became a seller with Thirty-One Gifts, a Christian-owned company that makes customizable bags and accessories. She wanted to get a deal on her laptop bag, and has since hosted 22 parties—in person, through catalog orders, and online. In July, the 38-year-old mother of four drove six hours to attend Thirty-One’s national conference in Columbus, Ohio. There, the arena glowed pink from the crowd of 9,000 women dressed to match the signature magenta logo. Each wore a string of ribbons designating their achievements and goals: “Paid off debt!” “Empower women!” “Live for me!” Thirty-One Gifts has drawn in 300,000 sellers since Cindy Monroe founded it in 2003. “We are a business that’s helping women make more income so they can reach their dreams and look for what God’s calling them to do,” said Monroe, 41, who named the company for Proverbs 31’s Wife of Noble Character. Last year, Thirty-One Gifts …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

By Jackson Cuidon The magic is back. mpaa rating:PG-13 (For sci-fi action violence.) Genre:Action, Fantasy Theatre Release:December 18, 2015 by Disney Yes, it’s good. I don’t want you skimming paragraphs trying to find the sentence where I say it’s good, so here it is. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a spectacularly good movie. Now, explaining why it’s good is the real uphill battle. The hype has been ridiculous. If do-overs existed for movies, then The Force Awakens is pretty much the do-over for 1999’s The Phantom Menace. It’s been a decade since our last Star Wars movie, and arguably three times that since one that wasn’t a heavily-qualified “good.” So the question looms: can a modern movie capture what made the first trilogy so magical? That word comes up a lot in any discussion of what makes Star Wars special. It’s just got such tremendous multivalence: movie magic, the magical “Force,” the magic of suspension of belief, CGI wizardry, et cetera, ad Entertainment Weekly-ish nauseum. Magic, it turns out—in all its meanings—is what makes Star Wars so special, so distinct, so disappointing when it fails, and so thrilling when it succeeds. … We open on the desert planet of Jakku, where Rebel Alliance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Review: Don Verdean

By Alissa Wilkinson Can a satire about Christian subculture get it right? mpaa rating:PG-13 (For crude and suggestive content, some language and brief violence.) Theatre Release:December 11, 2015 by Lionsgate I mean this in a good way: Don Verdean probably never had much of a chance. It’s a satire set in American church culture, which means it will offend those Christians who don’t find that funny. And a lot of its humor relies on the audience’s insider knowledge of the obsessions and verbal tics of a subculture to which many of them don’t belong. That probably explains why, the first time I saw it, the laughter in the theater was restricted to a few chuckles—except for two people obnoxiously howling at the screen. One was some guy near the back of the room. The other was me. Jared and Jerusha Hess (the Mormon filmmakers who brought you Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre) tell the story of Don Verdean (Sam Rockwell), a “Biblical archaeologist” who’s built his career and reputation on work he believes in wholeheartedly. He digs up discoveries in Israel and brings them to the United States. From there, a 1990s-style promotional video tells us at the beginning, Don travels around the country with …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Preachiness Never Changed Anybody's Mind

By Russell Moore An excerpt from CT’s Beautiful Orthdoxy Book of the Year. I once clicked off a television program I normally love, because it just became too preachy. This episode was about preventing sexually transmitted diseases. A cartoonish, stereotypical Religious Right activist insisting on abstinence education frustrated the task of educating persons about proper condom use. The storyline enabled a series of coarse jokes, sprinkled with ongoing messages that abstinence doesn’t work and hurts people, and that government officials need the courage to fight the ideologues. I, of course, am a conservative evangelical Christian who believes, with the historic Christian church, that chastity until marriage is God’s design and is necessary for human flourishing. I also think many efforts at sex education—those built merely around disease and pregnancy prevention rather than human dignity—have hurt people and diminished civil society. I’m not afraid of hearing other viewpoints. I turned off the television not because I was outraged, but because I was bored. This program was presenting a viewpoint with the kind of smug assurance of rightness that simply caricatured the views I hold. I’m not worried about televised comedies. I was provoked, though, to think about how often we, as the Body of Christ, do the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

North Korea Sentences Canadian Megachurch Pastor to Life in Prison

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra (UPDATED) Toronto pastor who made hundreds of humanitarian trips dodges death penalty. North Korea has sentenced the pastor of one of Canada’s largest churches to life in prison. Hyeon-Soo Lim, leader of 3,000-member Light Korean Presbyterian Church in suburban Toronto, has been held by North Korea since January, and allegedly confessed in August to conspiring against the government of Kim Jong-Un. According to the official Korean Central News Agency, state prosecutors argued for the death penalty against Lim in Wednesday’s 90-minute trial, reportsThe New York Times. The defense begged for mercy, pointing to Lim as a fellow Korean and his alleged confession. Lim’s lawyers asked for a life sentence “so that he can witness for himself the reality of the nation of the Sun as it grows in power and prosperity,” reports Reuters. The government accused Lim of “trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system,” among other charges, reports CBC News. The Canadian foreign affairs department called the sentence “unduly harsh” in light of Lim’s “age and fragile health.” —– [Originally published on August 3 at 11:50 a.m., entitled “North Korea Reveals Why It Captured Canadian Megachurch Pastor | After hundreds of humanitarian trips, Toronto pastor …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

News: Died: Ian Howard Marshall, Courageous and Winsome Bible Scholar

By Bob Smietana A tribute to the New Testament expert who kept the flame of evangelical scholarship from burning out. Ian Howard Marshall, a gentle giant among New Testament scholars, died December 12 from pancreatic cancer. He was 81. Marshall was the honorary research professor at Aberdeen University in Scotland, where he taught for three decades. He was former editor of The Evangelical Quarterly and author of Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away, Luke: Historian and Theologian, The Origins of New Testament Christology, and many other works. Marshall was one of the great British evangelical scholars of the second half of the 20th century. “New Testament interpretation will be much poorer as a result of his death, and I doubt we will see another like him for some time,” said Stanley E. Porter, professor of New Testament at McMaster Divinity School in Hamilton, Ontario. Porter, one of Marshall’s former doctoral students, said Marshall was also a fabulous mentor and example to younger scholars. He was “honest, interested, and humble—besides, of course, being firmly evangelical in the best sense,” said Porter. At the beginning of his career, Marshall’s approach to the New Testament seemed antiquated, and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Neither Heroes Nor Head-Cases

By Zachary Moon A better framework for ministering to military members. This June, CT drew attention to veterans’ experiences in the cover story “Formed by War.” To continue the discourse sparked by that story, alongside the Centurions Guild, CT is hosting an online series called Ponder Christian Soldiers. (Read the introduction to the series here, and the following installments here, here, here, and here.) The following essay is from Zachary Moon, a military chaplain currently serving with the Marines and author of Coming Home: Ministry That Matters with Veterans and Military Families (Chalice). We were back at Camp Wilson, deep inside Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base, Southern California. With its rudimentary structures for sleeping, eating, hygiene, and church services, it was not civilization, but it was more than we’d had in a while. We sat on metal benches waiting for hamburgers, sipping on sodas, and sucking in the conditioned-cool air. We wore the dusty grime and smells of desert living, and a real shower was still three days away. Working together in the same battalion, we had known each other for more than two years—an eternity in an ever-rotating military. He was a junior officer …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Leadership, Prophecy, and Criticism

By Ed Stetzer What does biblical prophecy look like, and how does it apply to us today? In the Old Testament, every time God wanted to do something significant, He would raise up a prophet. Today, God is still looking for men and women who will listen to Him and speak for Him. Would you love to speak for God? Lead spiritual movements? Catalyze people toward God’s mission? For that to be the case, you and I must embrace the requirements that come with being a prophet. Prophets have a few key characteristics. Prophets get their vision from God. Prophets never define the vision for themselves. God doesn’t promise to put His stamp of approval on our agenda. Prophets must get the vision from God. The word vision in the Bible is actually translated revelation. Vision is something revealed to us by God! We don’t get our vision from a conference or another church or organization. True prophets spend time alone with God enough to receive a fresh vision only God can give. If we want to be the type of prophet God uses in these last days, we have to be still enough for long enough to know what God is saying. We must accept …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Kirsten Powers: Becoming a Christian Ruined My Love of Christmas

By Kirsten Powers But then I learned to see the beauty of Christ’s coming like never before. In my unorthodox childhood, Christmas was as an oasis of normalcy. It was the one day of the year I could count on some sort of harmony in my divided family. At age five, my parents divorced and established two outposts in my life, from which I shuttled back and forth. One home was headed by my sophisticated, East Coast-born, feminist mother; the other by my down-to-earth, Idaho-bred father, who held fast to his traditionalist views. The Christmas season was a magical time, made all the more special because I got to experience the magic twice. I helped pick out and decorate two Christmas trees, one at my mother’s house and one at my father’s. Wherever we woke up on Christmas morning, my brother and I were greeted by mountains of presents piled under the tree. We would spend hours plowing through them and then look at each other with delight as we realized we would get to do it all over again just a few hours later at the other house. Christmas meant two of everything. Or rather, almost everything: Church we only did once. My mother was a …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

How We Instagrammed Away Our Feelings

By Andie Roeder Moody, guest writer Today’s hipster irony and OMG sentimentality distracts from real-life sincerity. Irony walks the streets of Chicago’s most hipster neighborhood, Logan Square, where I live. Think Portlandia: Women wear ‘90s-style thrifted T-shirts, floral dresses, oversized sweaters, and Peter Pan collars; men’s curly mustaches and tapered pompadours stretch to new heights of hyperbole. They crowd local restaurants, sipping Pabst Blue Ribbon from a can and capturing it all on social media. This neighborhood I love has, over the last few years, started to look more and more like a living version of the Hipster Barbie Instagram account. When you constantly watch the couples in coffee shops and restaurants practically having photoshoots for every single outing (perfecting the “candid” shot), all that #authenticlife starts to look little #disingenuous. As with our lifestyles broadcast on social media, there’s mounting pressure for all of us—even kids and teens—to show how cool we are online. Many of today’s teens have had smartphones since they were in elementary school, and they’re being pressured to define themselves on social media. On Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook, they amass huge social media followings among each other (an extreme example: this 14 year old with 1.3 million Snapchat followers). I see …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Border Crossing: Five Habits of Incarnational Giving

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

Christianity Today's 2016 Book Awards

Our picks for the books most likely to shape evangelical life, thought, and culture. Friends who know my book-besotted line of work sometimes ask whether I actually read, cover-to-cover, all the volumes that come streaming into my office. I have to suppress a snicker, because that’s a bit like asking whether Alex Trebek knows all the answers on Jeopardy! Still, I devoured every word of the four finalists for CT’s first-ever Beautiful Orthodoxy book award. What, you might wonder, is that high-sounding coinage supposed to mean? Think of everything that makes public discourse today a nails-on-chalkboard nightmare: the screaming matches, the hair-trigger outrage, the glib snarking and self-righteous peacocking. You might call “Beautiful Orthodoxy” our shorthand for the opposite of that—for theological, political, and cultural expression that unites truthfulness and loveliness. The way the gospel does. Plenty of people speak the truth about God and his world, but their manner is abrasive. Others use warm, artful language in the service of half-truths and falsehoods. At CT, we believe in the possibility of truth without ugliness, of beauty without moral and theological squishiness. (Don’t take it from me, though. Let editor in chief Mark Galli flesh out our commitment to Beautiful Orthodoxy in <a target="_blank" …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Is Your Heart Ready to Help?

By Ed Stetzer A lot of noise is swirling around about refugees, America, and the local church. What do we make of it? As I have been processing my response to the crisis of people on the move, I’ve had a family on my mind. And the more I have thought about them, I realize that understanding their journey is the key to defining our response as the Global Church. The story of their dangerous travels across deserts, along borders, and through cities is well known to many of you. I try to imagine the bags they hurriedly packed in the middle of the night to get out of town. The glances back at their home as they fled . . . danger behind and danger ahead. Would they ever return to their home? What would their reception be like in a foreign place? Could they raise a family there? Like I said, you have heard this family’s story. No, it isn’t a recent Syrian family walking through Europe or a Libyan family bobbing in the Mediterranean. It isn’t even a Latino family making their way across the Sonoran deserts of Mexico. I’m thinking of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth with little Jesus in tow. Why were they …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »
Christian

Interview: John Danforth: I'm Not Absolutely Right, and You're Not Absolutely Wrong

By Interview by Jake Meador The former senator and United Nations ambassador says religious people should be the leading voices for political compromise. Americans are bitterly divided on a host of political and cultural issues. John Danforth regrets that religion has often been deployed to deepen our divisions rather than to seek the common good. In The Relevance of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change Politics (Random House), the former Episcopal priest, Republican senator, and United Nations ambassador argues that communities of faith can restore a spirit of civility to our longstanding disagreements. Jake Meador, the lead writer at Mere Orthodoxy, spoke with Danforth about the possibilities—and pitfalls—of faith-based activism. What do you mean when you talk about “the proper place” of politics? Politics is not the realm of, “I am absolutely right and you are absolutely wrong.” It’s the art of compromise. It depends on civility and a degree of interpersonal forbearance. People practicing politics have to show some degree of respect for their adversaries. Putting politics in its proper place means seeing that it’s not, to use the language of Paul Tillich, a matter of “ultimate concern.” You encourage religious believers in politics to work for the common good. But one lesson from recent debates …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
Continue Reading »