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Small Church (Chicagoland) Pastor, Need a Break? I'll Preach for You Tomorow

By Ed Stetzer I’m moving to Chicago. Need a Sunday off? I’ll come preach. Need pulpit supply and you pastor a small church in Chicagoland? I’ll be happy to preach for you, July 3, 2016. As you may have heard (if you are a blog reader), I’ll moving to Wheaton, IL. It’s close to my new job. ;^) Yesterday, Jaclyn (my daughter) and I drove to Wheaton and now up so I’ll be in the Chicago area Sunday, July 3. I’m not scheduled to preach anywhere that day, and most of my family is not yet here, so here’s the deal. I’d like to start my time in Chicago at a small church. The typical church is a small church, with an average attendance of under 100, actually. And, we’ve got some exciting plans coming up at the Billy Graham Center related to small churches (more on that later). But, I’d like to start my new role in this new city at a normal church—which is a small church. So, if you pastor a church of less than 150 and would like a Sunday off, I’ll be happy to preach for you in the morning service. I can go to lunch with the pastor, staff, other key …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Health Is About Way More than Weight

By Matthew Loftus Our bodily well-being can’t be reduced to a number on a scale. Which is worse: being overweight or being ashamed of being overweight? In recent years, some advocates have urged that we take a new approach to obesity. They argue that shame over body size only makes overweight people more anxious, depressed, and prone to disordered eating habits. Some go so far as to argue that obesity isn’t a real problem. The most rigorous research, however, still identifies obesity (defined as a high body fat percentage) as a risk for many diseases and early death. (It’s worth noting that many of those who downplay obesity receive money from Coca-Cola.) And excess weight isn’t the only problem. People who eat unhealthily and don’t exercise are also at greater risk for diseases like diabetes, even if their metabolism allows them to maintain a normal weight. But here’s some encouraging news: research suggests that people who change their lifestyle but don’t lose weight (or only lose 5 to 10 percent of it) still reduce their health risks if they maintain those healthy behaviors. And this provides a window of opportunity for local churches. Christian communities have not always taught a holistic view of what our bodies are …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Patriotic Worship is Coming to a Church Near You

By Ed Stetzer Pastors and churches mix patriotism and worship around July 4th. Doubtless most Americans believe America has a special relationship to God. Last year LifeWay Research found: Despite headlines lamenting the global decline of the United States since the Cold War, 54 percent of Americans believe the nation is on the upswing, according to a September survey by LifeWay Research. Only 4 in 10 think “America’s best days are behind us.” And though the U.S. Constitution makes no mention of God, 53 percent of Americans say they believe God and the nation have a special relationship, a concept stretching back to Pilgrim days. Even a third of atheists, agnostics, and those with no religious preference believe America has a special relationship with God. For followers of Jesus this should be cause for careful reflection. Following July 4th weekend a few years ago, I noted: For example, this past weekend was undoubtedly one of much pomp and patriotism in many churches throughout America. As an interim pastor at several churches, I’ve participated in such celebrations and appreciated the intent. However, as a pastor at churches I serve, we have not made a major practice of emphasizing patriotic holidays during …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Creating for Good

By Richard Clark Our hope isn’t simply to solve a perceived problem, but to address deeper causes. There’s a certain entrepreneurial impulse I’ve always admired. To an entrepreneur, problems are opportunities. Read enough business books—or watch a few episodes of Shark Tank—and you’ll recognize the pattern. Someone experiences a problem and solves it with a new business model or product. It’s human nature to get tripped up by the problem itself, to assume it’s here to stay, or to cynically pass it on to someone else. These days we’re awash in business models that “work” for one group of people at the expense of another. Retailers sell cheap goods crafted by those who barely make a living wage. Media outlets produce content designed to court grievance and controversy rather than empathy. But God has called his people to seek justice, and Scripture focuses on root problems, not merely their outward effects. Our cover story (p. 40) showcases 20 Christians who have gone further than a surface-level treatment to address such problems. These producers, musicians, writers, and designers saw the world as it was and sought to make it better. We can all do that in our own spheres of influence. Even without a business model, it’s possible …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Come Out of Your Gender-Role Foxholes

By Tish Harrison Warren How men and women can have better conversations about leadership, love, and life together. “Just pick a side.” This message has come to characterize the intermural, evangelical debate over gender roles. Complementarians versus egalitarians. Choose a team; fly your flag; toe the party line. Only two options. Choose carefully. Complementarians believe that though men and women are equal in worth, men alone should hold leadership roles in the home and in the church. Egalitarians believe that women and men can share leadership in these roles. There can be an unstated belief that these terms, though unrecognizable to most Christians historically and most non-evangelicals currently, are the sole ways of approaching questions about gender and power. But perhaps there is more to sussing out complex truth than just choosing a side. The complementarian/egalitarian debate has become so stagnant, entrenched, even predictable, that it feels like a stuffy room, windows pulled tight, dim and dusty. In Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate, New Testament professor Michelle Lee-Barnewall seeks to open the windows, let some fresh air in, and set a table where the conversation can begin anew—with new starting points and new questions. New Lenses Lee-Barnewall’s analysis of the blind spots …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Wise Decision-Making in God’s Economy

By Anne Bradley How do we know that we are pleasing God in all that we do? Who will be our next president? It’s a question that is on everyone’s mind. In light of the upcoming presidential election, economic questions like, “Should we trade with China?” or “How do we pay for our debt?” are swirling in the minds of Americans. Questions like these are important, but they are also overwhelming and seem to best belong with pundits and academics. The reality is, the average American has little impact on the economic policies that answer these questions. The way we affect change is far more micro than macro. It starts with everyday questions like, “How should I spend my time?” or “What job should I take?” The futures of our families, churches, communities, and nation are grounded in our personal responsibility to make decisions that please God. From “What should I eat for breakfast” to “What ministry at church should I volunteer for?”, our responsibility as Christians is to be obedient to God’s desires in everything that we do. As believers in Christ, we strive to hear the blessing of our Father, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21). …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Complementarian Men Need Complementarian Women

By Courtney Reissig In the midst of our civil war on the Trinity, we need to put down our arms and remember that men and women are in this together. Being outnumbered by men has always been part of my life. I was raised in a family of brothers. I’m the mother to three sons. I’m also the only female editor at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), so I’m all too familiar with what it’s like to be the only woman around. Amid the recent “civil war” among complementarians about the Trinity and Christ’s subordination (recap by CT here), Christians following the back-and-forth on social media have been asking—where are all the women? Well, here’s one of them. I can tell you from personal experience that being the only woman in a room of complementarian men doesn’t mean that I’m ignored, overruled, or seen as a token female. At CBMW, I’m frequently called on to provide my unique perspective. More often than not, my male colleagues yield to my opinion. (And yes, that is consonant with our views.) More often than not, they’re interested in how a woman might perceive what goes up on our site. Even as we work through …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Can’t We Christians Laugh Anymore?

By Leslie Leyland Fields At a time when evangelicals feel culturally embattled, it seems we’ve lost our ability to laugh. When 50 Shades of Grey took over the world last year, it spawned so much Christian outrage that I took to satire and wrote a piece called “A Modest Proposal: 50 Shades of Grey in Every Classroom.” In it, I commended the author for successfully ignoring ISIS and the wars around the world and instead using her artistic skills toward a far greater social ill: puritanical mores and sexual repression. Both were clearly harming marriages and hampering our over-studious youth. A copy of 50 Shadesin every classroom should do the trick! So many of my (mostly Christian) readers were incensed and offended at my “proposal” that I had to explain I was using satire. And then, to some, I had to explain satire. (My shorthand definition: “When people are deaf,” wrote novelist Flannery O’Connor, “sometimes you have to shout.”) Last week I ventured into political commentary on social media. Along with the cascade of Republicans who were struggling to express their qualified support of Trump, I joked that I too found a way I could support Trump. First, he’d have to choose a smart, non-racist, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What to Expect When You’re Expecting (a Church)

By Ed Stetzer Birthing a new church is not without pain. A mother church experiences stress when birthing. The pains are physical, spiritual, emotional, and financial. Starting a new church sounds exciting, but a church needs to prepare for this birth in the some similar ways that a mother prepares for a new baby. Having a Baby Creates Challenges A mother church needs to expect to go through the rollercoaster challenges of mothering. Simply put, there’s going to be some confusion and conflict. Churches are not always prepared for how demanding birthing a new church is. When Donna was in her final days of her third trimester with one of our daughters, she would ask (often through gritted, and smiling, teeth), “What did you do to me?” When she was delivering, she said, well, more things! It’s a good thing children are so cute, because mom soon forgets about the pain and surprisingly they often want to have another one. Having a child is strenuous, but it’s amazing. (Isn’t there something in John’s gospel about this?) It’s difficult and it’s often messy. Just like Donna was (jokingly) mad, sometimes that “mothering pain” can really strain relationships. When I was a seminary professor, one class researched 10 different churches planted …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Weekend Edition—June 24, 2016

By Ed Stetzer Church members, Stats, Singing Scripture, Church Signs, and more! Five Reasons It Is So Painful For A Pastor To Lose A Church Member—Thom Rainer If you are a pastor who hasn’t suffered this pain, you will. Singing Scripture is really good for you—Aaron Armstrong And the psalms are a great example of it. where are God’s people to end slavery? slavery could end — and it begins here—Ann Voskamp & Gary Haugen A strong reminder about a crucial problem. Gay Marriage in the U.S., After Obergefell v. Hodges—Marina Koren This is included to bring you the latest stats. Success Focused on Yourself Poisons Your Soul—Chris Martin Success as a byproduct is great. As a goal, it can be trouble. Don’t forget to subscribe to the The Exchange Podcast in iTunes. Click here to listen to my interview with Dr. Bruce Ashford. Earlier this week on The Exchange As goes the mainline, so goes the nation The Future of the SBC—Is Not White What the Tower of Babel Can Teach Us about Our Desire for True Gospel Witness The Future of the SBC—State Conventions Some …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Purge: Election Year

By Alissa Wilkinson The opportunity for biting social critique gets swept away in a torrent of bloody destruction. Few, if any, of CT‘s readers probably ought to see (or bother seeing) The Purge: Election Year. Like its predecessors (The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy), its world is drawn thinly in ways that don’t actually help the very interesting concept of the plot: that in an alternate universe very close to our own, the U.S. is ruled by the NFFA—the New Founding Fathers of America, a party of apparently mostly white guys who got sick of “hypocrisy” and believe that instead of sublimating our aggressive urges, we ought to just let them all out in a twelve-hour annual “holiday” where all crime is legal, including murder. Lest you complain that this seems unsubtle, be warned, there is nothing subtle about The Purge. The idea obviously draws on some Foucaultian idea that outright violence, in a strange way, is more “civilized” than the faux-humane social engineering of an oppressive surveillance culture—an idea the film both rebuts and seems to accept. (Drones show up in this one, by the way.) The people who suffer most from The Purge are the poor, defenseless, and homeless, who can’t defend themselves …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Nations Have Come to Our Cities

By Ed Stetzer We cannot overlook the influx of “the nations” ready for the gospel. Our first public service for Church of the Beloved launched on a cold Saturday afternoon in the diverse Near West Side of Chicago, surrounded by different African American, Mexican, Chinese, even historically Italian neighborhoods. Within walking distance is the University of Illinois at Chicago, one of the more internationally diverse universities in the country. We didn’t know it at the time, but from this location we started a church that would welcome people from different cultures and backgrounds. Within a few months of planting, I felt prompted to ask my new congregation to stand if they were born outside of the States. I wondered what God was up to when more than half of the church stood up. The nations were coming to our church. Our first conversion was a Thai American anesthesiologist. The day after his conversion, he shared his testimony with a group of international students who had just moved from Thailand. Through a translator, I was also able to share the gospel in their heart language. Only one person in the group had an idea of who Jesus was. This was their first time ever hearing of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The BFG

By Alissa Wilkinson Fairy tales need real dragons. Roald Dahl weaves strange yarns for kids, mixing imagination and whimsy with a distinct strand of menace. The enduring popularity of his stories—Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published in 1964!—depends on all those threads, menace included. What good is Matilda without the criminally neglectful parents or abusive Agatha Trunchbull? Or James and the Giant Peach without the cruel aunts? Or Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator without the Vermicious Knids? The thing is, children love books that harbor cartoonishly-rendered dangers which nonetheless ring true with their own fears: bad adults, bad choices, bad space aliens. Dahl’s books, like Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, need that sinister edge to balance out their (sometimes literal) sugary content. It’s what keeps it interesting—without the possibility of danger, the playful loses its punch a bit. G.K. Chesterton wrote about how fairy stories need “dragons.” And kids get this intuitively. But sometimes adults don’t. The result might look a bit like Steven Spielberg’s The BFG: utterly harmless and totally sweet-natured, visually sophisticated and imaginative but narratively closer to Teletubbies than its source material—which is to say that if you’re over the age of four, it’s pretty dull. In truth, that’s not a total condemnation; …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Supreme Court Rules in First Pro-Life Case in Nearly a Decade

By Kate Shellnutt The wave of state-level restrictions on abortion clinic may coming to a halt. The Supreme Court sided with abortion providers in a landmark case today, striking down Texas’ stricter requirements for clinics and setting a precedent against further regulation in other states. Ruling on its first abortion case since 2007, the court voted 5-3 that the provisions of the 2013 Texas law known as HB-2 “place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, constitute an undue burden on abortion access, and thus violate the Constitution.” Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented. By requiring abortion clinics to comply with the same requirements as outpatient surgery centers, the law effectively shuttered a majority of abortion providers in the state. Due to location, many were unable to meet the new standards, such as having admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and adhering to certain building codes. The last time the justices decided a major abortion case was nine years ago when they ruled 5-4 to uphold a federal law banning a late-term abortion procedure. The Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case also represents the High Court’s first decision on abortion since the death of Antonin Scalia in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Professional Soccer Was My God

By Gavin Peacock My sense of well-being depended entirely on my on-field performance. Exactly ten years ago, I was preparing to go to Berlin and broadcast the World Cup. The World Cup final is the most-watched sporting event on the planet—in 2014, the final game drew 1 billion viewers. I was in Germany as an ex-professional soccer player pursuing a career as a broadcaster/analyst. I never could have predicted that two years after that, I would give it all up and move to the Canadian Rockies with my wife and children. After the move, my phone rang off the hook with media outlets wanting to know how anyone could trade a dream career with the BBC for anonymity in Alberta. The answer is a story of God’s grace and a tale of two turning points. The Art of Turning One skill my dad taught me as a child was the art of turning with a soccer ball. I was never going to be tall, so he would take me into our backyard in Southeast London and teach me how to quickly switch directions with the ball at my feet. “The big guys won’t be able to catch you!” he said. For hours I would practice turning …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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News: When Tithing Comes With a Money-Back Guarantee

By Kate Shellnutt How did churches like NewSpring and Life.Church get thousands of Christians to start giving? By offering a refund if God isn’t faithful. This month, hundreds of Christians at a South Carolina megachurch can request a refund on all the money they’ve given since March. NewSpring Church, led by pastor Perry Noble, is one of hundreds of congregations across the country that have offered 90-day tithing challenges. Participants sign up with a commitment to give 10 percent of their income or more, and if “God doesn’t hold true to his promises of blessings” after three months, they can request their money back—no questions asked. It’s the church’s version of “satisfaction guaranteed.” The challenge pulls inspiration from the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, which states: Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it (Mal. 3:11, NIV). “God literally says, ‘Test me out, see if I’m God,’” Noble preached. “You and I cannot out-give him.” About 440 Christians joined NewSpring’s most recent …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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News: Releasing God's Word: Do Copyrights Help or Hurt Bible Translation?

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Experts debate whether laws protect Scripture or restrict its spread. In the late 1800s, a team of British and American translators updated the King James Version (KJV). The resulting Revised Version was originally copyrighted just in England, and within years, unauthorized translations with slight changes cropped up in the United States. In 1901, that Bible—the Revised Version, Standard American Edition (now known as the American Standard Version)—was copyrighted and printed by Thomas Nelson & Sons. It was the first Bible translation to be copyrighted in the United States. Now, it is also the version that Wycliffe Associates (WA) is using to “lock open” a copyright-free version of the Bible for global translation. “The bulk of the church around the world cannot access the resources they need to legally translate for themselves,” explained Tim Jore, WA’s director of translation services. “Copyright law worldwide reserves the right of translation for the owner of the content. This means the global church is in a dilemma unless each one of them is given a custom contract from the owner of the Bible translation they want to use.” In order for local churches in minority languages to translate from a major-language Bible, they have to first get permission from and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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McDonald’s May Be the Most Welcoming Spot in Your Neighborhood

By Morgan Lee A fast-food skeptic finds lessons on community in an unexpected place. I’ve blamed McDonald’s and fellow fast food joints for enabling Americans’ worst eating habits. They help us scarf down a meal in our cars, by ourselves, and in a hurry. Their cheap, greasy food steals away poor people’s paychecks, and their glowing signs interrupt our skylines. I worry that McDonald’s triumph has led us to value expediency and efficiency over all else. But maybe I’ve missed something major about fast-food culture. “McDonald’s: you can sneer, but it’s the glue that holds communities together,” declared a recent headline from The Guardian. The article featured Bible study groups, Retired Old Men Eating Out (better known as “Romeo”), African American community meetings, and other gatherings that have become staples at the Golden Arches. For socioeconomically disenfranchised individuals, McDonald’s offers a crucial refuge—not just Big Macs and fries. It’s a place for “cheap and filling food…free Wi-Fi, outlets to charge phones, and clean bathrooms.” Rather than swiftly ushering people in and out of its doors, “McDonald’s is also generally gracious about letting people sit quietly for long periods—longer than other fast-food places,” the article recounts. A restaurant founded on the value of speed has become …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Issues in the Future of Evangelicalism

By Ed Stetzer The future of evangelicalism includes harsh realities for churches. The enduring question for the church is this: how do we fulfill the Great Commission in a rapidly changing world? We—the church of the West—receive no exception from the question. But it appears that despite our best efforts to keep up with the ever-morphing values and circumstances of Western cultures, the answer eludes us. For many , the answer is not to adapt or change at all, but merely to maintain as if by some force of will the imagined halcyon days gone by of Christendom come full circle (or at least feels nostalgic for the faith of their grandfathers). But Christendom is over and no amount of wishing will make it return. The Great Nostalgia is not the Great Commission. The answer does not lie at some outlying extreme of either constant adaptation or constant constancy. Instead, our churches must continue the hard work of contextualizing the message of Jesus Christ to all tongues, tribes, and nations, whether in the Congo or in California. This is just good missionary work. The strategy needed is a counter-cultural return to biblical mission. What we need to do is advance back to the scriptural blueprint for the church on mission. What …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Q+A with Adam Grant: Does Our Calling Make Us More Creative?

By Interview by Kate Shellnutt The author of ‘Originals’ talks about how faith factors into our ideas and work. A psychology professor at Wharton Business School, Adam Grant probes motivations and inspirations to get at the heart of work. His research reveals unexpected glimpses of humanity and character, like how generosity can help leaders get ahead (his 2013 bestseller Give and Take) and how the rest of us are more like iconic innovators than we think (his latest book Originals). Packed with the stories behind the success and failure of memorable projects from Seinfeld to the Segway, Originals was the basis for Grant’s top-ranked TED talk on creativity and generated acclaim from figures like author Malcolm Gladwell and director JJ Abrams. It’s what inspired me to explore innovation among Christians for our July/August cover story, CT Makers. Grant offers up his expertise in organizational psychology—how individuals behave in groups and in the workplace—to discuss different ways evangelical faith may affect how we think and create. A lot of Christians express a sense of calling, the idea that they believe God has called them to work to solve a certain problem, help a certain group of people, or go into a certain field. How does this sense …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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