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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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Gospel-Centered Evangelism for a Multiethnic World

By Derwin Gray So what does high-definition evangelism look like? The vast majority of local churches in America are not growing. This should break our hearts. This statistic means that more and more people in America don’t know the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. This fact will increase divorce, addiction, injustice, greed, sexual immorality, idolatry, oppression, and a multitude of other sins that destroy people’s lives. We need evangelistic local churches, fueled by Christ-followers who see themselves as missionaries. We need “good news” local churches filled with “good news” people. So what does high-definition evangelism look like? Here are three characteristics of gospel-centered evangelism for a multiethnic world: 1) Evangelism must be rooted in a gospel-centered vision. What is the good news? It’s the announcement that Israel’s Messiah has accomplished what He came to do. Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through His sinless life, atoning death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of His father, where He is now our high priest. Jesus now rules His kingdom at the right hand of God the papa. By grace alone, through the Holy Spirit’s power, people who trust in Jesus are swept up into his glorious kingdom. This redeemed, multicolored people become a “chosen …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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California's Religious Liberty Moment—Coming to a State Near You

By Ed Stetzer and Marty Duren On the verge of a precedent that should not be set. The California legislature is poised to consider legislation that could destroy the ability of numerous faith-based colleges and universities to pursue the mission for which they were created. SB 1146, one of two similar bills recently introduced into the California legislature, would essentially restrict fully faith-based education to seminaries. As explained in the Biola University news: If passed as is, this bill would strip California’s faith-based colleges and universities of their religious liberty to educate students according to their faith convictions. The proposed legislation seeks to narrow a religious exemption in California only to those institutions of higher learning that prepare students for pastoral ministry. This functionally eliminates the religious liberty for students of all California faith-based colleges and universities who integrate spiritual life with the entire campus educational experience. Biola is one of the schools potentially affected if SB 1146 is passed into law. Barry Corey, the president of Biola, expressed his concerns to me via email while on his way back from Ethiopia: California’s faith-based colleges and universities make profound contributions to the common good of society, not in spite of but because of our …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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CT Makers: 20 of the Most Creative Christians We Know

By Kate Shellnutt Meet the artists, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists using fresh ideas for common good. “The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes.” This pithy quote is usually attributed to Martin Luther, but in fact, scholars say he never said it. First, no Christian of Luther’s time would have thought to display his faith by “branding” his shoes. Second, Luther’s writings emphasized work done in service of others, not as an end unto itself. Still, as the first theologian to describe non-priestly work as a vocation, Luther directly affirmed the honorable calling of the scribe, the brewer, the tailor, and, yes, the shoemaker. Centuries later, Western Christians continue to serve their neighbors by making shoes. Most famously, TOMS popularized the one-for-one business model by giving away a pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair purchased. In the past decade, TOMS has distributed more than 60 million pairs of shoes in 70 countries, with founder Blake Mycoskie and his company ranking on lists of top innovators and effective social enterprises. Other “social good” companies such as Uganda-based sandal manufacturer Sseko Designs ensure fair wages for employees and ethical …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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3 Challenges in Urban Ministry

By Ed Stetzer Urban ministry engages depravity, longevity and community. While cities are an excellent place for gospel advancement, urban ministry is not without its challenges. Some of these challenges can be better explained by three words: depravity, longevity and community. Depravity is everywhere, not just cities Quite a few Christians view cities as depraved. Undoubtedly depravity seems more evident in a city because there are many people in close proximity. The reality, however, is that sin and brokenness are everywhere. In the midst of the overwhelming evidence of depravity is the opportunity for the gospel to shine forth. When sin abounds, the gospel can abound even more. Cities are fundamental to God’s design and intent for the world, because while he begins his story in the Garden of Eden . In light of this, Christians need to move away from their fear of the city and stop seeing cities as inherently wicked. Instead, they need to see cities as good and full of opportunity. God is at work in the midst of depravity and brokenness. Some of the most vibrant Christian communities are found in cities. The gospel is going forth. Lives are being changed. Christians who love mission should view our world’s cities as great places for …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Let Deuteronomy Awaken Your Inner Child

By Myrto Theocharous The Israelites needed a little less grown-up good sense, and a little more childlike wonder. So do we. W hen I am around children, I enjoy asking what they want to be when they grow up. This exercise fascinates me. It offers a rare opportunity in life: the freedom to spell out whatever the imagination dares to dream, uninhibited by other people’s expectations or fears. Usual replies include, “I want to become a ballerina,” “I want to be an astronaut,” and my favorite, “I want to be a princess!” The purity of these moments has the brevity of the morning dew, before “reality” rises with its harsh interrogating light to dry up each trace of these jewel-like droplets. “Let’s get serious now,” says reality, clearing her throat like a strict governess with no time for silly games that deliver no tangible returns. I remember my shock a few years ago when I put this question to a ten-year-old boy, and he declared boldly: “an actuarial analyst.” I had no idea what that was, and I doubted whether he did either. Now, I have nothing against actuarial analysts, and I am sure they perform an important service, but it requires little effort to see this …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single

By Sarah Thebarge, guest writer The church can model a more inclusive community, one that doesn’t divide over marital status. Here’s a new wedding tradition I recently heard about: Instead of tossing their bouquets, Christian brides give each single woman at their reception a flower from the bunch and pray individually for them to find a husband. Compared to the ritual of competing to catch the bouquet, this approach was “sweet,” “thoughtful,” and “selfless” according to the women I saw discussing the idea on Facebook—plus a unique addition for brides eager to do something new and memorable at their weddings. As a single woman, I immediately thought, No way. I tried to imagine attending a wedding where the bride tried to do that to me. I can only picture myself declining the flower and leaving the event altogether. It’s a well-intentioned but condescending gesture. It’s pretty presumptive to assume that all the single women you know would want a husband right now. Just because you did doesn’t mean I do. This new ritual got me thinking about what it means to be single, specifically a single Christian woman, during wedding season. Never am I more aware of my singleness than in the summertime, when my calendar is dotted with …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Bill Gothard, 'The Fits,' and Me

By Alissa Wilkinson Sometimes a movie can give you a kinder way to remember difficult things about yourself. This week, Bryan Smith wrote in Chicago magazine about the scandals surrounding Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles. (We have covered these same scandals, as have other outlets, including The Washington Post.) Gothard grounded his popular ministry in a stripe of fundamentalist Christianity and on a set of “principles for successful living” he said he’d drawn from the Bible, ranging from how to relate to your family to what to wear, eat, and listen to. It was all particularly attractive to families in the 1960s and 70s looking for a faith-filled, foolproof way to shield their children from the hippie counterculture—and from there into the nihilistic, hedonistic 1980s and 90s. Gothard’s ministry grew into an enormously successful organization that included a homeschool program called the Advanced Training Institute of America (ATIA). It counts among its allies the now scandal-ridden Duggars, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and others. But the ministry has shrunk over the past decade, and the legal action brought against Gothard allege emotional and sexual abuse of underage women. To most young people familiar with Gothard’s orbit, the allegations were a …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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As UK Votes 'In' or 'Out' on EU, Christians Have Two Tasks

By Daniel Webster Today, the United Kingdom decides on its European Union membership. Tomorrow, the most important role of Christians begins. Editor’s note: Last week, the EAUK’s Daniel Webster explored why Christians must show that disagreement without division is possible in both UK and US politics. Today, he explores the two roles that Christians must play during and after closely divided votes, whether “Brexit” today or Trump v. Clinton in November. Today the United Kingdom finally votes on whether to remain in the European Union (EU), or to leave it. After a couple days of respite after the shocking murder of politician Jo Cox, campaigning resumed at a frenzied pace. Having led in the polls since the start of the campaign, the #Bremain camp slipped behind the #Brexit camp over the last couple of weeks. But the trend may have shifted direction once again in the final few days. The tight finish suits both campaigns. It energizes activists, and it gives voters a reason to get out and vote. It’s always heartening to hear people want to talk politics. It’s encouraging that churches provide space to debate vital issues, and it’s crucial that Christian leaders speak into the public sphere. There is a lot of good in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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