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The Future of Southern Baptist Evangelism: A New (Closing) Series

By Ed Stetzer The math doesn’t lie: Southern Baptists need new evangelistic momentum. Cultural challenges A negative view of engaging culture, and being negatively viewed by culture, remains a thorn to SBC effectiveness. And, to be honest, some leaders have exacerbated this problem. Many think being on the front line of the culture wars for decades is “fighting for the faith.” There are things worth a fight, but we’ve sure found a lot of fights to wage. For many of our neighbors, our warring is interpreted as being against them. You can’t reach a people and war with a people at the same time. As of yet, we’ve not made it to the point where we have, as SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page has suggested, become known for what we are for rather than what we are against. Yet, we simply cannot continue building walls between ourselves and the culture, then castigate people on the other side for not climbing over. That means our churches need to change, and part of that change has to be a renewed emphasis on evangelism. Effective evangelism The fact is, we seem to have lost our …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Dangerous Divide Between Theology and Practicality

By Ed Stetzer An unnecessary divide between theology and methodology is unwise. In many corners of the church today, there’s an unhelpful and unhealthy division between theology and practical ministry. This division is damaging to both the discipline of theology and the practice of ministry because one without the other causes an imbalance. Part of the cause of this division is the large number of theologically-minded people who spurn practicality as pragmatism. This can be seen as an overreaction to the Church Growth Movement of the 1980s. Such critics rigorously decried a methodological mania as devoid of theological foundation. They took aim at folks like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and John Maxwell, accusing them of having only a modicum of theology accompanied by mountains of methodology. Unfortunately, those theologically-minded people concerned with too much practicality, strategy, and leadership, threw the baby out with the bath water. Rather than looking for the proper place of practicality, strategy, and leadership, they found no place for it. There are theologically-minded people who are producing large bodies of literature attempting rebuff any emphasis on the practical. They are teaching a whole world of people—a whole generation of pastors—that practical ministry, leadership strategies, and coaching don’t matter. I feel like some think practicality …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Southern Baptists Repudiate the Confederate Flag

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra (UPDATED) SBC is first of three evangelical groups seeking racial unity after Ferguson and Charleston. Update: Southern Baptists have voted to repudiate the Confederate flag. “We call our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters,” states Resolution 7, passed today by an overwhelming majority of messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). “It’s not often that I find myself wiping away tears in a denominational meeting, but I just did,” wrote Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. In a statement, Moore noted: The Southern Baptist Convention made history today and made history in the right way. This denomination was founded by people who wrongly defended the sin of human slavery. Today, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination voted to repudiate the Confederate battle flag and it’s time and well past time. The Confederate flag is a symbol of horrific injustices against our African American brothers and sisters in Christ and has been used as …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Singled Out

By Cassie Curtis It’s time to lay aside our assumptions about singleness. Singlism: the stigmatization of uncoupled adults, whether divorced, widowed, or ever single. I picked up the vibe right away. We were standing in a hallway waiting for one or two people from a different department to join us for a casual lunch. As we circled up to make introductions, I noticed that one person quickly shifted his shoulders and denied eye contact. The man in question was probably in his late twenties. Moderately attractive. No wedding ring. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, assuming that he was just reserved. After observing his lively dialogue with other members of our group, I was forced to alter my assessment. Not reserved. What is his deal? Halfway through lunch, he had still not so much as looked in my direction when the words “my fiancée” drawled slowly from his mouth. I struggled to hold back a bemused chuckle. Of course! He was engaged! Acknowledging my existence was totally out of the question. As you know, if he had looked me in the eyes or started a conversation with me, I could not have helped myself from falling instantly in love with him. As humorous …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Saturday is for Seminars—and Preaching in Chicago Area Churches

By Ed Stetzer Here are four churches I’ll be preaching at soon. Now that we are Chicago bound, it means a new weekend preaching routine. I will be an occasional guest speaker at Grace Church when I am in Nashville. (I just preached there this week, and the Tennessean had a brief article about my comments concerning #Orlando.) I will remain as teaching pastor of Christ Fellowship in Miami, and will be preaching there several times this summer, and once a month in general. (Yes, I’m hoping a lot of that preaching is in the winter! Then, here are some places I will be in the Chicago area in in the next few weeks. Compass Church, July 3rd, 2016—Naperville and Wheaton, IL Christ Community Church, Aug 6-7, 2016—St. Charles (and all over), IL Moody Church, Sept. 11, 18, 25, 2016—Chicago, IL Chinese Union Church, Oct 2, 2016—Chicago, IL And, don’t forget to register for Amplify, coming soon, June 28-30 at Wheaton. Coming Soon June 28-30, 2016Amplify Conference Wheaton, IL July 18, 2016 Church of God General Assembly Nashville, TN August 12-13, 2016Gideons Global Impact Conference Toronto, Ontario, CA September 9, 2016Capacity Conference Atlanta, GA September 16, 2016American Association of Christian Counselors National Meeting Dallas, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Orthodox Hold Humbled Yet Historic Council in Crete

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Patriarchs disagree over solving centuries of disputes in 10 days. The last time the 14 separate branches of the Orthodox church met, in 787, they hadn’t yet split with the Roman Catholic church. So pulling together a Holy and Great Council meeting of the global representatives of 300 million Orthodox Christians for next week hasn’t been easy—even with the event being discussed since 1961. A number of issues have cropped up in the last 1,000-plus years. The short list includes: the Archbishop of Constantinople’s historical position as “first among equals” despite the Moscow Patriarchate’s superior numbers and wealth; Moscow Patriarch Kirill’s meeting with Pope Francis that angered Orthodox who consider Catholics heretics; and the struggle between the Jerusalem and Antioch Patriarchates over who has jurisdiction over Qatar. The initial list of issues to discuss topped 100 items; Orthodox leaders managed to whittle it down to 6. The goal of council organizer Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I: not to settle centuries of disagreement, but to find consensus by starting small. “Bartholomew is not making this event an end in itself, but the start of a long process for Orthodox renewal,” AsiaNews translated from La Croix, a French newspaper. “This is why he has …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Missional Hymns—An Interview with Keith Getty

By Ed Stetzer Keith and Kristen Getty drive hymnody for the missionary work. Ed Stetzer: Tell us a little bit about how you put together the album in the first place. It’s very diverse. Keith Getty: It all comes out of the Facing a Task Unfinished hymn, written by Frank Houghton, 1931, in the context of mass persecution in China. He writes this hymn as a call to 200 people to come preach. China, the context, was very anti-Christian, the minimizing of Christian rights, the murdering of Christians and indeed worldwide global recession. A lot of things actually quite similar to our own times, but serious persecution. So, he writes this hymn, sends it round as a call to missionary commitment. He gets a response of 204 people to go. ES: Response to go as missionaries? KG: That’s right. He understood—foundationally—that what we sing affects profoundly how we think and how we live. So deep Christian songs, sung by real believers to each other, breeds and helps contribute to breeding deep believers. ES: A lot of church have gone with simpler choruses, rather than hymns, with streamlined music, simple tunes, and a more concert-driven sort of worship. Are they wrong? KG: We have to remember that all of us as individuals are at …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Grieving Together: How Orlando's Hispanic Evangelicals Are Reaching Out

By Interview by Kate Shellnutt A local pastor shares on-the-ground efforts to pray for, comfort, and serve their LGBT neighbors. For a Latino, Pentecostal megachurch just 10 minutes south of the Orlando nightclub Pulse, the scriptural call to “mourn with those who mourn” has become their heartbreaking reality in the wake of Sunday’s deadly rampage. This week, Iglesia El Calvario prepares to host funerals for victims, offer grief counseling, and conduct ongoing outreach for their city and its LGBT community. The nearly 4,000-person Assemblies of God church prayed, gave blood, and passed out water on Sunday, while death counts climbed from 20 to 30 to 40 to 50. That evening, they heard from Governor Rick Scott and Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera in a citywide vigil held in their sanctuary to remember the lives lost—many of them Hispanic and gay, at the club for Saturday’s Latin night. Gabriel Salguero, a pastor at Iglesia El Calvario and founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, joined his LGBT neighbors in relief efforts. He offered prayers in Spanish and English at an 8,000-person event hosted this week by Equality Florida, a gay advocacy group. When local reporters inevitably asked about the tension between evangelicals and the gay community, he …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Grandparenting Redeemed Our Family

By Erin Wyble Newcomb, guest writer This Father’s Day, I celebrate my parents’ choice to move close to my kids. “We’re playing huckle-buckle-beanstalk!” My six-year-old beamed at me, bouncing on the balls of her feet. My younger daughter skipped around the living room. In the kitchen, my mother pulled a small, plastic princess doll out of the sugar canister and dusted off the toy. “I found her!” she called out, laughing. I stood in the doorway smiling, even though I’d never heard of the game before. My mother walked over to greet me, shrugging her shoulders. “It’s a silly game my sisters and I used to play,” she said. “I don’t remember why we named it that.” My parents recently bought a house in our neighborhood to be close to me, my husband, and our two daughters, their only grandchildren. No longer serving in the “sandwich generation” role of caring for their own aging parents, my parents are exercising their freedom by spending their golden years close to my girls. They’re part of a growing trend. As Harriet Edleson writes in The New York Times, geographic distance is a major factor in family relationships these days. “With families increasingly far-flung,” she writes, “those who want to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Gordon Lewis: Irenic Apologist

By Douglas Groothuis Remembering one of the great early evangelical philosophers. In the mid-1960s, many evangelicals looked askance at higher education and the field of apologetics. The secular world at the time thought evangelicals had nothing to offer. In recent decades, however, apologetics and Christian philosophy have found a footing not only in the church but also the academy. Many pioneers contributed to this advance of God’s kingdom, and one of them was my colleague, Gordon R. Lewis, who entered paradise on June 11, 2016 at the age of 89. Lewis converted when he was 8 years old and remained committed to Christ for 80 years. He studied at Baptist Bible Seminary, Gordon College, Faith Theological Seminary, and Cornell University, and received his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Syracuse, and this at a time when few evangelicals dared enter the secular academy. His dissertation concerned Augustine’s view on faith and reason in The City of God. He began his service at Denver Seminary (then Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary, the fledgling theological flagship for the newly-formed Conservative Baptist denomination) in 1958, having been recruited by the president, Vernon Grounds (1914–2010), who was another groundbreaking evangelical intellectual. He remained faithful to one institution for nearly his …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Gender and the Trinity: From Proxy War to Civil War

By Caleb Lindgren The latest complementarian debate isn’t over women’s subordination—but Christ’s. Last week, a group of evangelical theologians who normally agree on many controversial issues began a heated debate, prompting claims that scholars are getting God’s nature so wrong that they should quit their jobs. The topic: the Trinity. The group: Reformed complementarians, i.e. Christian thinkers who affirm a broadly Calvinist view of theology and are also committed to the view that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, and religious leadership. Debates about the Trinity and how to understand it are not exactly new in the history of Christian theology. But in recent years, such disagreements among evangelicals have usually been divided along the lines of other hot-button theological issues—namely gender roles in the church. So what makes this latest discussion significant—beyond the increasingly fiery rhetoric on blogs and Twitter—is the surprise of seeing theologians who agree on so much (including gender roles) breaking ranks with each other around such a core component of Christian belief. What’s more, the opposing sides are calling into question each other’s commitment to historic Christianity. Accusations of “constructing a new diety” and “reinventing the doctrine of God,” are flying fast and thick, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Cox Killing Shows Why Brexit and Trump-Clinton Need 'Civil' Religion

By Daniel Webster Disagreement without division must be possible in UK and US politics. Christians can get us there. I have been involved in British politics for more than a decade. Suddenly, everything has changed. One week before the United Kingdom votes whether to continue its membership in the European Union (EU), Jo Cox, a Labor member of Parliament (MP) representing a constituency in Northern England, died after being stabbed and shot in the street in Birstall, West Yorkshire. I’ve worked in parliament, been a lobbyist, and now help evangelical Christians engage in politics. I’ve never known anything like these past few months as the UK prepares to vote in the EU referendum, popularly called “Brexit.” The wrangling of recent weeks pales into insignificance in the wake of the death of a public servant who was doing what MPs regularly do: meeting with constituents to hear their concerns. These one-on-one meetings, which take place up and down the country in offices, town halls, and local libraries, are the front line of politics. Political systems where a single person represents a constituency foster this sort of connection. But alongside the value, it brings incredible vulnerability. Michael Deacon, paid to write political sketches for the Daily Telegraph, gave one …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Genius

By Alissa Wilkinson Great American writers get an interminably dull film. On paper this film should be custom-made for book lovers: it’s the story of Max Perkins (Colin Firth), the famous book editor whose authors included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, among others. Those three are all in the film (played by Guy Pearce, Dominic West, and Jude Law), but the film’s focus is the unruly Wolfe, whose logorrhea threatens to take over Perkins’ life. The two men work together. They learn from each other. Things go sour, and so on. Alas: the film is dull as tombs, partly because it’s very hard to make the work of actually writing and editing look fun or even just interesting (I speak here from some knowledge). Part of the problem is a hamfisted script; for instance, Wolfe and Perkins going to an underground jazz club, the only white guys there, to have an epiphany, which has to be most tired and possibly retrograde trope a so-called prestige historical drama can dredge up. Or there’s Nicole Kidman as Wolfe’s neglected mistress delivering the line, “I’ve been . . . edited!” In fact the women—all of whom are fascinating creatures in their own right—appear only to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Finding Dory

By Alissa Wilkinson Everyone’s favorite forgetful fish is back – in a quietly subversive tale. Pixar historically does well by their sequels, defying most of Hollywood: the Toy Story franchise actually got better as it went along, and Monsters University was a fun, imaginative romp as well. (Cars 2 had the misfortune of being a sequel to Cars.) And yet it was anyone’s guess if Finding Dory would be good—or even could be good. Its predecessor, released 13 years ago, told the story of a father on a journey across the ocean to find his lost son. But wouldn’t repeating that formula feel a bit . . . formulaic? Nope. Finding Dory, directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Toy Story) is flat-out terrific, even a little subversive. It’s hardly a spoiler to say that this movie is about how Dory was lost, and how she gets found, and by whom. It’s not even necessary to give the rest away, but it means we get some adorable scenes from Dory’s young fish-hood. (Side note: this movie has noted our collective obsession with cute baby animals and milks it for all it’s worth, to great effect.) Marlin and Nemo are back in a more minor role, as …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evenly Split, Southern Baptists Pick President after Candidate Quits

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra J. D. Greear withdraws from unusually tight SBC election, making Steve Gaines the next leader. In an unusually contested race, Southern Baptist messengers elected Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines as their next president this morning. Gaines replaces Ronnie Floyd, who has served the maximum two consecutive terms. SBC presidents are elected one year at a time; the post is largely honorific, except for its ability to fill certain leadership positions. The SBC actually meant to elect a new president yesterday. But a rare tight race between the top two out of three candidates—North Carolina pastor J. D. Greear (45%) and Gaines (44%)—led to a runoff vote. (A candidate must receive just over 50 percent of the vote to win.) Yesterday’s runoff vote was also too close to call, with Gaines receiving 49.96 percent of the votes and Greear receiving 47.8 percent. (More than 100 ballots were disqualified, yet were included in the determination of the total number of votes needed for a victory.) This morning, in a surprise move, Greear pulled out. “I spent a good amount of time last night praying, and believe that for the sake of our convention and our mission we need to leave St. Louis united,” he …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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As SBC Backs Refugee Resettlement, World Relief Leader Resigns

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Southern Baptist vote comes hours before Stephan Bauman reveals next move. Southern Baptists adopted a resolution this morning encouraging fellow Christians to offer “care, compassion, and the gospel” to refugees resettled in the United States, while at the same time calling on the American government to “implement the strictest security measures possible in the refugee screening and selection process.” While on the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, Resolution 12 on “refugee ministry” was amended to encourage Southern Baptists “to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His Throne.” “We’re of course very encouraged by this,” Matthew Soerens, US director of church mobilization for World Relief, told CT. “One of World Relief’s core programs is helping local churches (including many Southern Baptist congregations) welcome refugees.” (Last year, CT reported why World Relief disagreed with half of US governors after the Paris attacks changed how Americans view refugees and US churches became twice as likely to fear refugees as to help them.) Hours later, World Relief had an announcement of its …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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BAMCinemafest 2016 Round-Up

By Alissa Wilkinson Five films worth looking for. At Christianity Today we try to cover festivals all over, as much as we can manage. Just in the last year, we’ve reported extensively from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah; the Berlin International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany; True/False in Columbia, Missouri; South by Southwest in Austin, Texas; the New York Film Festival in upper Manhattan; and the Tribeca Film Festival in downtown Manhattan. We believe film festivals are a vital place to take the pulse of our culture and to sample the broad spectrum of creativity, imagination, and earnest questioning on offer. They’re a great place to develop your palate as a discerning filmgoer while also supporting artists, many of whom poured years of their lives and their savings into their film. They’re also an important place for aspiring filmmakers and critics to begin joining the “guild,” so to speak—to see the breadth of filmmaking that goes way beyond the Hollywood genre-movie factory and develop an imagination and a community. (Plus a lot of these movies will make their way to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Amplifying Evangelism—Why Preparation for Evangelism Is More Important than Evangelism

By Laurie Nichols As God nurtures us, we are ever ready to share the gospel. Two nights ago, as I was getting kids ready for bed, I received a phone call from a sweet woman who has been a victim of sexual exploitation for years, perhaps decades. I met her in a bar a few years ago and felt an instant bond with her. “Laurie,” her message began, “I would like to see you.” My friend had just discovered she needed a liver transplant after having suffered quite a bit over the past few months with issues related to a number of organs. “It’s going downhill quickly,” she said. My heart raced as I listened to her message. Overlaying her words were God’s, telling me I needed to see her. As I texted with her last night I tried to contextualize the gospel message as best I could through my knowledge of her, my understanding of her situation, and the technology I had. I would perhaps best describe my texts as a stream of living thoughts seeking to be the seed that plants itself on good soil (yes, I had just read Mark 4 the night before). At worst, they were a cacophony which beated …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Amid ‘Evangelism Crisis,’ Southern Baptists Bring In $400 Million More

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra While the No. 1 evangelical denomination reports the highs and lows of 2015, America’s No. 3 reports just highs. Over the past year, Southern Baptists went to church less, gave less to missions, and baptized fewer people. Yet new churches continued to open, and the people actually in the pews donated more dollars. These are among the mixed findings of the 2015 Annual Church Profile (ACP) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The report is released each year in advance of the 15-million-member denomination’s annual meeting. Last year, the SBC immersed about 295,000 people, down from about 305,000 baptisms in 2014. At the same time, SBC pastors planted almost 300 new churches, bringing the total number of SBC churches to about 46,800. Church membership dropped by about 204,000 people to 15.3 million, and average weekly attendance dropped by about 97,000 people to 5.6 million. In contrast, undesignated giving increased more than $406 million to surpass $9 billion. Giving to Great Commission ministry programs was down by about $24 million to $613 million, but since October, giving to North American and international ministries has been rebounding, SBC president Ronnie Floyd noted in his reaction to the report. Last year, budget constraints forced the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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3 Ways Suffering Produces Sanctification

By Ed Stetzer Suffering for the believer is never without purpose. “Why?” is the question many of us ask of the Lord when something tragic happens in our lives or in the life of someone we know. There’s story after story of suffering in the Bible, but very seldom do we know why the people suffered. On this topic Paul wrote: We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance products proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5 Rejoicing in the midst of suffering focuses our attention on the knowledge of what the Spirit produces in us through that suffering. The result is threefold: suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Suffering Unleashes Endurance Endurance in the Bible means steadfast adherence to a course of action in spite of difficulties and testing. As we go through trials, we develop greater perseverance to deal with increased challenges. Consider James’s words on the subject: Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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