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Weekend Edition—July 15, 2016

By Ed Stetzer Race, Russia’s bad law, Church cookouts, church signs, and more! The Pastors Out to Save Millennials’ Souls—Amanda Abrams Great reminder of the need for planting churches in difficult areas. The Church at Its Racial Turning Point—Theon E. Hill Thankful for the churches that are stepping up and praying that more will do so. Russia’s Newest Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church—Kate Shellnut Russian seems to be heading back to USSR views on religious freedom. Reflections on Amplify 16: a Fantastic Week—Alvin Reid Thankful for my friend Alvin and appreciate these meaningful remarks. My Church Is Having A Cookout This Weekend—Jay Sanders This rural Georgia church isn’t waiting for the government to “do something about race relations.” Don’t forget to subscribe to the The Exchange Podcast in iTunes. Click here to listen to my interview with Mark Batterson. This Week on The Exchange Learning to Recognize the Shepherd’s Voice Two Statistics Every Church Planter Needs to Know Leadership Development According to Dietrich Bonhoeffer Di-ver-si-ty: Overcoming Homogeneity in Our Churches Alcohol Abuse, Perry Noble, and the Church’s Response—What Now? Church Signs Good thing the law has been fulfilled. “Lovelutionaries”? That’s not a word, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Two Statistics Every Church Planter Needs to Know

By Ed Stetzer You can’t plant a church without partners. You can’t plant a church without partners and you can’t grow a healthy church without evangelism. But those will look different for different planters in different contexts. It has become fairly common to send a large (30+) group of people somewhere to plant a church. Others seek to build a group exclusively from the harvest in their new community. The churches I’ve planted never began with a core group. I have always parachuted in—that’s really the best description. While I have never begun with a core group, at the same time, I’ve never begun without a team. Once on site, I set about building a team. Biblical kingdom growth is evangelism that results in new churches. Though I’ve never seen a church planted with 100% new believers or lost people, it is certainly biblical to expect a large number of the members and attenders to come from the harvest. It is concerning to see an increasing number of church plants where the vast majority of the people are dissatisfied, disgruntled or re-energized Christians. Sadly, strategies that lend themselves to transfer growth have become the norm. In an issue of Mission Frontiers, Mike Breen laments …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Church at Its Racial Turning Point

By Theon E. Hill Five ways forward after the recent tragic events. The resounding dissonance left by the deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and five police officers in Dallas represent a dark moment for America. A surge in violence against police suggests that society stands on the brink of a chaotic response as a result of racial turmoil unmatched since the 1965 Watts Riots, which resurfaced in the 1992 Rodney King riots. The current crisis highlights the disconnect between black and white perspectives on race relations and exposes a growing impatience in minority communities with persistent and systemic forms of racism. The potential for positive change seems more distant now than any time in recent memory. Yet, despite a pervasive sense of gloomy pessimism, the light of opportunity continues to flicker. Recent events offer the potential of generating a new, meaningful and action-inspiring conversation on race in America. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” In this moment, American churches face the challenge and opportunity of addressing what some consider America’s “original sin.” A 2012 survey found that most evangelicals believe “one of the most effective ways to improve race relations is to stop …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Burden and Promise of Racial Reconciliation

By Mark Galli After Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, and Dallas, can we transcend optimism or despair? After the killing of two African-Americans this week, followed by the murder of five Dallas police officers, one strives to find something new to say. Right now the mind is clouded and confused, and the heart is heavy, first and foremost, for the family and friends of these victims. But the heart is also heavy because we are just so tired of our nation’s racial divide. And we’re discouraged because what we want to see is so hard to achieve. As Christians we aim for nothing less than racial reconciliation, but we know that this cannot come without racial justice. And if justice is so hard to achieve, how much harder reconciliation? We’re tempted at such times to go in one of two directions. One part of us wants to let loose our righteous outrage and double down on our efforts. But we know that commitments made in the midst of a tragedy rarely amount to much. If we are driven by emotion, when the emotion fades, so will our commitment. Our commitment to justice and reconciliation must have a more secure footing. Another part of us wants to just give up. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Russia: The Other Christian Nation

By Andrey Shirin A cozy relationship between church and state has lasting implications. Last Thursday, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a new anti-terrorism law, which, among other things, restricts missionary activities in Russia significantly. As was the case in the Soviet Union, believers will be able to evangelize only on property that belongs to their religious organizations and affiliated institutions. Violators may be subjected to steep fines. In addition, the law would tighten government control over Russian Internet providers. While it would be easy to blame these events on the history of communism in Russia, the relationship between church and the state has a longer and more influential history in Russia. A “Harmonious Relationship” Between Church and State In contrast to the cherished ideals of religious liberty and the separation of church and state held in the United States, a major contributing factor to the recent events in Russia is the concept of symphonia, or institutionalized “harmonious relations,” between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state. This intentional connection between church and state allows the Orthodox Church to enjoy all the attendant privileges of political preference and feeds into a uniquely Russian national identity. This recently signed legislation goes a long way toward preserving this …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Pew: Most Evangelicals Will Vote Trump, But Not For Trump

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra With half of voters dissatisfied with both presidential candidates, white evangelicals primarily plan to oppose Clinton. More than three-quarters of self-identified white evangelicals plan to vote for Donald Trump in the fall (78%). But they aren’t happy about it. According to a Pew Research Center survey of 1,655 registered voters released today, more than half of white evangelicals said they weren’t satisfied with their ballot options (55%), reflecting the feeling of Americans at large (58%). And 45 percent of white evangelicals said they meant their vote as opposition to Hillary Clinton, not as an endorsement of Trump. In stark contrast are black Protestants, two-thirds of whom are evangelicals (according to Pew). Almost 90 percent said they would be casting a vote for Clinton in the fall (89%), and 60 percent said they were satisfied with their choices. Half of black Protestant voters said their vote was in support of Clinton (53%), while one-third said they were voting against Trump (34%). This preference lines up with African Americans at large, who favor Clinton. Black Protestant voters diverge from the much larger group of white evangelicals, who make up one out of five registered voters and one out of three Republicans. “Despite the professed wariness toward …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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News: Allegations of Sexual Misconduct by Famous Chinese Evangelist Span 24 Years

By Timothy C. Morgan New GRACE report examines student’s claim against Yuan Zhiming in wake of accusation by Chai Ling. Following her father’s suggestion in early 2013, a Christian university student contacted China Soul for Christ Foundation—a top evangelistic organization for the global Chinese church—asking to apply for an internship. Across two days in September, she met in Paris with China Soul’s famous founder Yuan Zhiming, expecting an interview. But the first time they met, the 23-year-old student alleges she found herself in bed with Yuan, watching a soft porn movie in an airport hotel room. She realized something had gone horribly wrong and left the hotel. This woman’s story of surviving sexual misconduct is laid out in a new independent investigation from GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), which has produced other reports about abuse at Bob Jones University and New Tribes Mission. The investigation was undertaken at the request of Chinese Christian Life Fellowship (CCLife), a publishing and discipleship ministry founded in 1996. An earlier report, published by CCLife, found that four people alleged misconduct by Yuan. But the GRACE report focuses on just the university student’s account. During their next meeting the following day, she again was in Yuan’s hotel room late at …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Leadership Development According to Dietrich Bonhoeffer

By Daniel Im Bonhoeffer’s wisdom on leadership endures. Does your church have an intentional development plan to disciple and deploy believers to live out the Great Commission? Are you providing strategic pathways and opportunities for your congregation to participate in church planting so that they can be a part of the Kingdom of God invading into every crevice of society both locally and globally? Or, does this happen haphazardly when someone approaches you and they say that they feel called to ministry? Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38 HCSB) All Are Called When I look at those verses, I see them as a call to pray for more harvest workers. But as a pastor and as a church leader, I also see them as a call to disciple my congregation into being harvest workers for the harvest that exists around them both locally and globally. As a result, while a once-a-year sermon that challenges your congregation to consider full-time ministry may be helpful, it can actually create more harm than good. This sort of sermon unintentionally creates a culture that says some are …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Justice and Church Planting: August CPLF Gathering

By Ed Stetzer Join us at the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship For the past few years we have hosted a gathering of denomination and network church planting leaders from across North America to consider process and practices of church planting. We call this group the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship. This is a peer group, specifically focused on those who are leading church planting efforts in their denomination and/or network. This group is unique, in fact I’m pretty confident that it’s the only one of its kind. It regularly features leaders who represent around 75% of all North American Evangelical church planting in a given year. In the past we have featured speakers like Tim Keller, Rick Warren, Linda Stanley, Neil Cole, Dhati Lewis, Leonce Crump, Derwin Gray, and many, many others. What makes this gathering so special, though, is not just the learning we get (though it’s pretty spectacular), but the opportunity for peers to sit down and learn from each other. This August, we will host our next gathering focusing on Justice and Church Planting. Not only will this event be particularly relevant, due to recent current events, but it will also be the first time that the Billy Graham Center …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Perry Noble's Alcohol Firing by NewSpring Compares to Other Churches

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Stats suggest a substantial number of pastors struggle with addiction, but are split on what to do about it. Perry Noble asked his supporters at NewSpring Church to stand down this week. “If you love me, be at NewSpring on Sunday, and the next Sunday, and the next Sunday,” said the founder and former senior pastor of the South Carolina megachurch, which claims 30,000 members across 17 cities. He was addressing congregants upset that he was terminated on July 1 after a year of struggling with alcohol abuse. A petition to reinstate him garnered 573 signatures and 259 comments before it was shut down yesterday. “I love my church,” Noble said. “The leadership of NewSpring Church made the right decision. God has gotten my attention. I’m focused on getting better.” The church’s executive pastors met with Noble “over the course of several months” to discuss their concerns about his dependence on alcohol, which eventually resulted in his removal. “In my opinion, the bible (sic) does not prohibit the use of alcohol, but it does prohibit drunkenness and intoxication,” Noble wrote to his congregation of 18 years. “I never had a problem drinking alcohol socially, but in the past year or so I …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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10 Books Worth Reading This Summer

By Her.meneutics writers Our July book list: Her.meneutics writers recommend their favorites. At the peak of summer, it’s time to slump down in a chair or crawl into a hammock with a good book in hand. This July, we’re reading everything from poetry books to cookbooks to stories about a viral vampire apocalypse. Here’s a list of our current favorite reads. What are you reading this summer? Let us know your recommendations in the comments! — Andrea and Kate Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey To know me is to know that I love pit bulls, so the fact that I’m reading and loving this book should surprise no one. But the breadth and depth of this book will surprise folks. It’s a must-read for history buffs, for dog-lovers, and for anyone who cares anything at all about truth, justice, love, and the best dogs ever. — Caryn Rivadeneira City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin This summer I’m diving into City of Mirrors, the final installment of Justin Cronin’s trilogy The Passage, which is the story of how a girl saves the world from a viral vampire apocalypse. Cronin was challenged by his young daughter to write a story about “a girl who saves the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Cafe Society

By Alissa Wilkinson Woody Allen’s latest is an unfocused, wistful glance at both old glamour and the afterlife. Woody Allen has come under concentrated fire in the time since his (very bad) last movie, An Irrational Man. I don’t want to ignore or downplay the allegations of abuse brought against him by some of his children. (If you’re baffled, here’s a New York Times article from the Cannes Film Festival.) But I believe works of art are both generated by and stand apart from their creators, and this year’s Allen film is Cafe Society. Allen is the very definition of prolific; by my reckoning, he’s made a movie every year, since I’ve been born. The last truly great one was 2013’s Blue Jasmine. So what is there to say about Cafe Society? It stars Kristen Stewart—and if you’re still scoffing at Stewart post-Twilight, the time to stop has long since past. Stewart is a critical and audience darling for a reason: she can do anything, from art film to mainstream movies, and in Cafe Society she works wonders with a pretty thin script. She lives and breathes, and everyone else on screen—including Jesse Eisenberg, the film’s ostensible protagonist—seems shot in monochrome by comparison. In some ways …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Ghostbusters

By Alissa Wilkinson I ain’t afraid of no ghosts. Your questions, answered. Is this new Ghostbusters movie funny? Yes. How funny? On a scale ranging from whatever Adam Sandler is subjecting us to these days to the Jump Street series? Depends on what tickles your funny bone. You’ll laugh, but sometimes you’ll groan. There are good one-liners and gags (I’m partial, for personal reasons, to Melissa McCarthy’s ongoing war with the Chinese food delivery guy over the number of wontons in her soup), and others that feel half-baked. But on balance, it’s a good time. Why are there a bunch of women starring instead of men? Is this some kind of man-hating gimmick? Why is this even a question? Ghostbusters never succeeded because of its cogent social commentary, thoughtful themes, or innovative plotting. Born of sketch comedy, it’s all about the performances. The original Ghostbusters (which is about six months younger than me) featured mostly actors known for their hilarious work on Saturday Night Live. This one does too. Anyone with half a brain watching SNL these days knows the women have far outpaced the men in the cast for a while. Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy (who’s hosted SNL to great effect), and, above all, the great, zany Kate …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Emojis Reveal How Minorities Tweet the Bible Differently

By Stephen Smith Here are the Top 10 verses shared on Twitter with darker vs. lighter skin tones. “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Prov. 18:22). If you have tweeted this Bible verse along with an emoji depicting a specific skin tone, there’s an 86 percent chance it had a darker skin tone rather than a lighter one. Last year, the Unicode Consortium, the group that ratifies emojis, approved “skin tone modifiers” for emojis of people and body parts. The default tone for these emojis is usually Simpsons yellow (it varies by platform). But users can optionally set them to one of five tones, from pale to dark. More than half of the time, people use the default emoji skin tone. Since April 9, 2015, when these tones first arrived on Apple’s iOS, people chose a specific tone about 45 percent of the time. (Only certain emojis allow you to specify a tone.) Andrew McGill of The Atlantic recently wondered “Why White People Don’t Use White Emoji,” finding that light-toned emojis are less common on Twitter than demographics would imply. Though three out of four Twitter users are white, only about 48 percent of skin tone modifiers …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Christians Don't Want to Stop Serving Their LGBT Neighbors

By Duane Litfin A balanced take on the gay rights-religious freedom debate requires an understanding of complicity. America’s culture wars show little sign of letting up. In recent years the federal government’s executive and judicial branches have heated the battle by pressing hard on controversial LGBT issues, including the right to marry. Some state legislatures have followed suit. California and Iowa, for instance, are presently weighing new laws designed to pressure recalcitrant faith-based organizations to get on board. Unsurprisingly, those who believe their religious rights are being infringed by these developments have pushed back. A series of southern states have passed laws they say are needed to protect religious freedom. These laws in turn have generated some push back of their own: state boycotts by a collection of high-profile individuals, companies and organizations. Not to be outdone, the U.S. Department of Justice fired off a lawsuit against North Carolina’s law in particular—to which North Carolina quickly responded with a countersuit against the Justice Department. Thus do the battle lines in this dispute seem more entrenched than ever. What should we make of all this pushing and shoving? Inevitably in our digital world, a cacophony of commentators have offered their counsel. Virtually all of America’s major media …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Ken Ham's Enormous Ark Park Open for Business

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra (UPDATE) The boat’s big debut comes five months after the park won up to $18 million in tax breaks. Update: The Ark Encounter, a six-year, $100 million project by Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis ministry, opened its doors today. The 510-foot long, seven-story high boat is built to biblical proportions and sits on 800 acres in Williamstown, Kentucky. Thousands came for the ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, which drew on ancient Hebrew customs of placing 12 stones, releasing doves, and playing a shofar. “In a world that is becoming increasingly secularized and biased, it’s time for Christians to do something of this size and magnitude,” stated Ham. Ham said he expects “a large percentage” of visitors will be non-Christians. Answers in Genesis predicts between 1.4 and 2.2 million visitors will see the ark in the first year, though a consultant for the state earlier calculated that 640,000 was more likely. Along with 12,000 square feet of exhibits on 3 decks, the Ark Encounter also includes the Ararat Ridge Zoo, camel and donkey rides, live entertainment, and a 1,500-seat themed restaurant. Visitors called the park “breathtaking” with “a lot of attention to details.” A group of atheists also turned out to protest. Ham’s …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Lamentations: A Bottle for the Tears of the World

By Interview with Rob Moll Christopher J. H. Wright explains what one of the Bible’s most neglected books teaches about our cries of grief. We live in a world with untold amounts of pain from war, famine, and oppression. But our worship sometimes leaves little room for emotions of lament. In The Message of Lamentations (IVP Academic), Christopher J. H. Wright, Old Testament scholar and international ministries director for Langham Partnership International, introduces readers to one of the Bible’s most heartbreaking, poetic, and neglected books. CT editor at large Rob Moll interviewed Wright about the role of Lamentations in understanding—and protesting—human suffering. What is the likely setting in which Lamentations was written? Almost certainly, it is the immediate aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. It was the most traumatic moment in Israel’s Old Testament history. The writer paints a portrait of utter devastation and appalling suffering: starvation, disease, slaughter, rape, scavenging, looting, and the desecration of holy things. Unlike in Job and many of the Psalms, God says nothing to the writer of Lamentations. What should we make of his silence? One commentator, Kathleen O’Connor, calls God’s silence “inspired.” This resonates on three levels. First, God allows the suffering people to have their full …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How to Date When You’re Almost Middle-Aged

By Anna Broadway As I close in on 40, I’m learning how to live without marriage (even as I desire it). The older you get, the weirder your prospects for marriage become. At least that’s what a then-single cousin once told me. Those weren’t her exact words, of course, but the gist of what she said was that our odd quirks and habits become more prominent as time passes, and our rough spots get rougher without enough close human friction to sand-smooth them down. My cousin was probably younger than I am now when she said that and free to date without today’s many online “aids” to romance. But what she said rings true to my current dating experience as someone within spitting range of 40. (I just turned 38.) The men I meet—on websites and apps and in lines for coffee—are shaped by many more experiences and more settled in life than my youthful self ever imagined, and so am I. During the years when I thought I’d marry in my 20s, I assumed I’d figure out a lot of life’s big questions with a spouse. I thought I’d figure out a lot of me in relationship to a husband and probably children. Instead, I’ve …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Does This New Bill Threaten California Christian Colleges' Religious Freedom?

By Thomas Berg An expert in religious liberty law explains the Golden State’s controversial SB 1146. Later this year, California governor Jerry Brown may sign legislation with numerous harmful repercussions for the Golden State’s Christian colleges. The state is currently moving closer to adopting a bill that would subject religious higher-education institutions to regulations forbidding them to act on their religious tenets if their students receive state grants to support their studies. SB 1146 “could destroy the ability of numerous faith-based colleges and universities to pursue the mission for which they were created,” warned Ed Stetzer, the executive director of Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, in a recent post reporting on an earlier draft. The bill has received considerable criticism from legislators and college presidents. Fresno Pacific University president Richard Kriegbaum wrote in early June that the bill “would severely restrict the free and full exercise of religious freedom granted by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.” According to Asuza Pacific University president Jon R. Wallace, the bill “significantly reduces religious freedom” and “would effectively eliminate faith-based institutions as a choice for California’s most disadvantaged students.” “SB 1146 seeks to divest us of our religious …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Di-ver-si-ty: Overcoming Homogeneity in Our Churches

By Ed Stetzer Diversity, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization. It can also mean the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, and the like. With these two definitions, it is no wonder Martin Luther King Jr. once pointed out that Sundays were the most segregated (most homogenous) day of the week. With regard to racial reconciliation and diversity on Sunday mornings, not much has changed for almost a half century. The majority of churches clustering for their worship gatherings still remain mainly homogenous. However, in recent years there has been movement towards embracing and enacting diversity within denominations and churches. Globalization, urbanization, and the onslaught of media coverage of racial turmoil have played a huge role in resuscitating the discussion and importance of diversity and racial reconciliation among evangelicals. And I think for the sake of the gospel and the mission of God this is a great thing. In his book, The Big Sort, Bill Bishop notes something that is interesting but shouldn’t surprise us. He argues that although America has become increasingly diverse, the places where we live …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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