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Breaking the 200 Barrier: New Vintage Church in Richland, Washington

By Matt Molt Church seeks to meet the needs of unbelievers in southwest Washington State When we broke the 200 mark for the first time—what a victory! We were sure that full-on revival had broken out in the SW corner of Washington State. At times, my wife and I would crash on the couch at the end of a weekend and wonder, “Where did the all these people come from, and why were they coming to our church?” We did begin to evaluate the “why” people were coming, and how we could keep the momentum going. The key, I was convinced, as the lead pastor was for me to do just that: lead. Andy Stanley’s podcasts in those days helped our thinking so much, when he said that churches didn’t need better pastors, but they needed better leaders. Andy is right—we need to lead better to help our churches grow. Leading well will help you go beyond the invisible 200 barrier. Here are three things we learned about leading well. First, people are judging what we do as much or more than what we preach. Are we kind to our spouse? Do we keep our cool with our kids? Are we inviting people to our church? Do …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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After Trump, Should Evangelical Christians Part Ways?

By Mark Galli The 2016 election has revealed afresh a deep fissure—and a great opportunity. Donald Trump is now the president-elect. This fact is deeply discouraging for some evangelical Christians. Many fear that Trump’s ascendency will only encourage racism and misogyny. Others see his election as a blow to immigration reform. Those concerned about religious liberty for all worry about the future of Muslims in our land. But Clinton’s loss, and by extension, Trump’s win, brings deep relief to other evangelical Christians. Many feared an acceleration of President Obama’s progressive policies, including the use of their tax dollars to make abortion even more accessible. They are weary of being labeled bigots for their views on human sexuality, and being increasingly subject to social and legal penalties for such. Initial reports suggest that four out of five white evangelical Christians voted for Trump, continuing their pattern of support for the Republican candidate in US presidential elections since the 1980s. Not all did so with enthusiasm, and for that matter, Trump received a higher percentage of black and Hispanic votes than did his predecessors, Republican candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain. Still, what makes this election different is how many prominent evangelical leaders—from the Southern Baptist Convention’s …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Let's Kiss Dating Hello

By Nicole Sheets A sociologist reveals her research about “ring by spring” culture on a Christian college campus. At Whitworth University, a Christian liberal arts college in Spokane, Washington, one hears faint echoes of a social expectation that’s common to Christian campuses: “ring by spring.” It’s the idea that college students should have given or received an engagement ring by the spring of their senior year. “Ring by spring” is not encouraged in any official way, and it’s generally invoked with a heavy dose of derision. But as sociology professor Dr. Stacy Keogh George has observed in a recent study, this dismissive humor belies a very real pressure felt by some students to measure success by finding a marriageable partner. According to George, this “not-so-hidden culture” emphasizes engagement instead of “encouraging men and women of faith to live out their individual vocations, which may or may not include marriage.” In the fall of 2014, George gathered some initial data on students’ attitudes about “ring by spring.” The results of her study are forthcoming in Christian Reflection. I had the chance to talk with George about her research, the surprising sticking power of “ring by spring” culture—especially at a time when the age of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Let My People Build

By Jayson Casper After 160 years of suppression, Egypt makes room for new churches. “Long live the crescent and the cross!” shouted Egypt’s parliament in joy. All 39 Christian members joined the two-thirds majority to vote to end a 160-year practice instituted by the Ottomans requiring Christians to get permission from the country’s leader before building churches. The long-awaited reform was promised by the 2014 constitution after the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi. The new law shifts authority into the hands of the governor, who must issue a decision within four months of an application and give detailed reasons for refusals. The law also established a process to retroactively license hundreds of churches erected without a presidential permit. “It is a good step,” said Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, who helped negotiate the draft law with government officials. “If we wanted an agreement to include everything and please everyone, it would have taken 100 years. “This is the best we can get right now.” But even as they celebrated, Christians debated if they failed to fully seize a unique opportunity to pursue equal citizenship. Some wanted a unified law for both churches and mosques. Others noted the presence of loopholes that may …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Evangelism, Without the Weird Aftertaste

By Interview by Joshua Ryan Butler How to share the gospel without making other people—or ourselves—so uncomfortable. Mark Teasdale began life in a “maverick” United Methodist church that emphasized evangelism more than most mainline brethren. When he grew up and moved away, he was shocked to find that many fellow Methodists thought of verbally sharing their faith as a foreign experience. Now, as a professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (a Methodist school on the campus of Northwestern University), Teasdale teaches a required evangelism course to students who are often wary, if not opposed outright, to the very idea that evangelism is valuable. Pastor and author Joshua Ryan Butler spoke with Teasdale about his book Evangelism for Non-Evangelists: Sharing the Gospel Authentically (IVP Academic). What are some key stereotypes about evangelism that make some Christians uncomfortable sharing their faith? Stephen Gunter, who teaches at Duke Divinity School, likes to joke that “for most Methodists, evangelism is that which we did not like having done unto us, which we feel obliged to do unto others.” I start all my classes asking, “What was your worst experience with evangelism?” I’ve never had anyone say, “It’s always been great!” The negative experience has almost always been somebody preaching at them with a set of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview with Kent Shaw, Executive Director of Harvest Bible Fellowship

By Ed Stetzer “We want to plant 1,000 churches in our lifetime.” Kent, how would you describe what you’re doing? What’s the Harvest Bible Fellowship “way” of church planting? We want to plant vertical churches. A vertical church is, as you know, based on James’s book. We’re looking to plant churches that have the same DNA distinctives that we do. Basically those are the four pillars of: proclaiming the authority of God’s word without apology, lifting high the name of the Lord Jesus in worship, sharing the good news of Jesus with boldness, and a firm belief in the power of prayer. We’re looking to plant churches wherever God opens doors for us. First we thought around the country, but now around the world. How many churches have been planted through the movement, and how many are in the network? We have planted 150 churches, we probably have about 170 churches that would be included in the network that have affiliated with us. We have about 100 in the States and about 50 internationally. We’re at Harvest University today, you have 40 residents training here, so tell me about the residency, and then tell me about Harvest University. How do those two relate? Our residency program is our beginning, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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I Saw Myself in ‘This Is Us’

By J. Nicole Morgan The popular new dramedy puts viewers in the messy middle. When I watched previews for NBC’s new drama This is Us over the summer, it was immediately apparent that I would be able to see myself, or at least a version of me, in this story line. Actress Chrissy Metz plays one of the show’s leads, and the initial clips showed her teetering on the bathroom scale, crying and arguing about her body, and resisting the birthday cake in the fridge. Metz’s body type looks more like mine than anyone I’d seen on screen before. She wasn’t just overweight compared to typical Hollywood sizes—she was big enough to probably have trouble finding clothes even at a place like Lane Bryant. This kind of representation was enough to get excited about; however, I wonder, “Does the fat character have to be obsessed with losing weight?” We see Metz’s character—Kate Pearson—at different stages through her life, and scene by scene, my initial criticism started to loosen. Even at eight, Kate’s already navigating her chubby size and trying to figure out thinness. Oh, that was me. Adult Kate resists flirting, thinking it’s impossible that someone is attracted to her. That is me too. When …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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I Found the Gospel in Communist Romania

By Virginia Prodan And then I shared it with the man the government sent to kill me. Like most people, I was born with a hunger for truth and freedom. Unfortunately, I was born in Communist Romania under the brutal totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. Ceausescu’s Romania was a land of lies, where simply questioning a government directive could lead to imprisonment, physical torture, and—in some cases—death. Needless to say, we lived in a constant state of anxiety and mistrust. Anyone could arbitrarily denounce a neighbor, classmate, or family member for making “anti-government” statements. The government even had spies planted in the churches. The best way to avoid trouble was to remain silent, question nothing, and try to blend in. For years, I watched my parents and relatives play the part of “good citizens” while privately whispering their contempt for the government. I wondered, Why do people always speak in whispers? Why are they so afraid to speak the truth? ‘Do you go to church?’ The more fear battered those around me into silence, the more obsessed I became with finding the truth. After graduation, I went to law school and became an attorney. But my job—assigned by the government—consisted of little more than rubber-stamping newly-created communist rules …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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God Is Not Out to Get You

By Jeremy Treat The Lord delights in you and sings over you. Can you believe it? My high-school basketball coach was a classic, old-school screamer who motivated with fear and shame. His voice was powerful, but I heard it only when I did something wrong. If I turned the ball over on offense or blew my assignment on defense, practice would stop, and the shaming would begin. Red in the cheeks and foaming at the mouth, he would scream until I had to wipe the spit off the side of my face. I never really knew him outside of basketball practice, but I know he was an angry man. Many people have a similar view of God. They believe he’s a grumpy old man who has to get his way, and that when he doesn’t, he will shame, guilt, and scare people to get them in line. Although most wouldn’t say it out loud, deep down even many believers think of God as “the God who is out to get me,” that he is waiting for us to mess up so he can meet his divine quota for punishing sin. Perhaps this comes from a particular teaching or from a bad experience with a church …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Cradle Christians: Protestants Keep the Faith Better Than Catholics or Nones

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Pew examines which parents successfully pass their religion to their kids—and whether mom or dad mattered most. American Protestants are keeping their children in the faith at a higher rate than Catholics or the unaffiliated, according to the latest study from the Pew Research Center. Four out of five children raised by two Protestant parents remained Protestant into adulthood. For those raised in Protestant homes where religion was very important or often discussed, the retention rate jumps even higher (85% and 89%, respectively). For those raised by a single parent who was Protestant, the retention rate doesn’t dip much. Three-quarters of American adults who had a Protestant single parent still identify as Protestant. Those raised by two Catholic or unaffiliated parents, on the other hand, were equally less likely (62%) to remain in their parents’ religion—or lack thereof. Protestantism is also gaining a larger percentage of adherents from Catholicism or the ranks of the unaffiliated than its losing to both groups. (However, given US Protestantism’s larger base—about 45 percent of American adults—losing a smaller percent still means losing a larger number of members.) Among Americans with an exclusively Catholic background, 16 percent are now Protestant. Meanwhile, just 3 percent of those raised in an exclusively …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Gleanings: November 2016

By CT Staff Important developments in the church and the world (as they appeared in our November issue). Our Favorite Heresies LifeWay Research and Ligonier Ministries have once again examined the theological awareness, or lack thereof, of American evangelicals. This time, instead of defining “evangelical” by whether participants identify as such, they used a four-part definition endorsed by the National Association of Evangelicals. Below are the 12 areas where believers have most gone astray in their theology: Note: Evangelicals are defined as those who strongly agree that the Bible is the highest authority; evangelism is very important; sin can only be removed by Jesus’ death; and salvation comes only through trusting in Jesus as Savior. Red tape tightens against Chinese Christians China has planned a number of new restrictions on religious activity this fall. The Communist government’s rising red tape includes prohibitions on online religious services, religious events in schools, and organizing people to leave the country to attend religious training or conferences. In addition, religious groups will no longer be allowed to make certain financial investments; foreign donations will be more tightly monitored; and churches operating unofficially could be charged with financial fraud and evading taxes. The rules are part of revisions to China’s 2005 …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Does Protestantism Need to Die?

By Fred Sanders Or to recover its riches? Two Protestant luminaries look at the legacy of the Reformation, 500 years later. Now and then, Protestants are stirred to ask whether the Reformation might be bad for the church and the world. Five centuries downstream from 1517, old objections come with the burden of knowing where things occasionally went wrong. As Reformation heirs prepare to celebrate our 500th anniversary, we do so with a remarkable capacity for self-criticism. At its worst, Protestant self-critique can be a tiresome self-flagellation, a dreary round of virtue-signaling and posturing over the sins of others. But at its best, it can be a time for soul-searching, a source of insight, and a promise of revival. Two new books show the range covered by the best Protestant self-critique. Peter Leithart’s The End of Protestantism: Pursuing Unity in a Fragmented Church (Brazos) and Kevin Vanhoozer’s Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity (Brazos) come to the task from very different angles. Vanhoozer comes to the conversation from a deep dive into the depths of the gospel. Leithart comes back to it from the future. Future Church The End of Protestantism is the long-awaited expansion of the provocative shorter remarks …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Died: Jack Chick, Cartoonist Whose Controversial Tracts Became Cult Hits

By Kate Shellnutt This was his life! Jack Chick, the cartoonist who wanted to save your soul from hell, died Sunday at age 92. The biggest name in tract evangelism, Chick distributed more than 500 million pamphlets, nicknamed “chicklets,” over five decades. His signature black-and-white panel comics warned against the dangers of everything from the occult to Family Guy. Chick’s messages were controversial—including among evangelicals—but his work enjoyed a global reach. His most popular tract, This Was Your Life!, was translated into more than 60 languages. Chick came to faith shortly after World War II through Charles E. Fuller’s radio show, “Old Fashioned Revival Hour.” The former technical illustrator began drawing and funding his first comic books and pocket-sized tracks in the early 1960s, according to Christian Comics International. Chick Publications grew to start its own print shop, and took off in the ’70s. His evangelistic furor was inspired by sermons from revivalist Charles Finney, whose theology continues to underline Chick’s tracks, according to researcher Daniel Sillman. He quotes Chick as saying, “When everything is caving in, and when the world laughs at the church, that’s when we need revival…. Christians are self-satisfied and complacent. God’s got a handful of people out there who really mean …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Before You Vote, Watch ‘Vertigo’

By Jeffrey Overstreet What Hitchcock’s thriller can teach us about sexism, nostalgia, and the gospel’s call to justice. As I write this, we’re less than 20 days from Election Day 2016. A great deal is at stake. It matters, doesn’t it, what we do with our minds and our hearts during this time? So why bother with movies? What film could possibly make a difference? Last week, I invited readers to watch a documentary that does, I believe, matter. This week, my recommendation is a murder mystery—one that a 2012 survey of film critics declared to be “the greatest film of all time.” Vertigo? That creepy Alfred Hitchcock movie? The one that makes us so uncomfortable we want to throw things at the screen? Hear me out. Vertigo seems familiar at first: A suave and sexy detective on the verge of retirement is persuaded to investigate “one last case.” Detective Ferguson begins following a mysterious and meandering woman to answer her husband’s questions. Madeline becomes his most confounding mystery. The more he shadows her around San Francisco, the more obsessed he becomes. And as her mysteries prove unsolvable, he grows desperate to possess and control her. Then, he loses her. Devastated, his ego shaken, his appetites unsatisfied, Ferguson …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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An Evangelical’s Guide to the Enneagram

By John Starke What’s behind the popular self-assessment tool making its way to your church. Tools are fashioned in the image of their user. Hammers are productive in the hands of carpenters and malignant in the hands of an angry mob. Spiritual tools are a little more complicated than material tools, because souls are complicated. Prayer walking, guided meditation, and lectio divina can wield wonders in the hands of a mature Christian, counselor, or spiritual director. They can also wield destruction in the hands of someone who has only read a pamphlet or written a blog post. Like every tool, a popular self-assessment test known as the Enneagram has the capacity to heal or to harm, depending on how it’s used. In the first Enneagram resource from an evangelical publisher, InterVarsity Press’s new release The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, coauthor Ian Morgan Cron calls new Enneagram fans “number thumpers.” They “run around typing people and pets, hacking off family members, and alienating people who have no idea what they’re jabbering about,” he writes. The Enneagram is not a spiritual tool, per se, but it is increasingly being used as one in church classes and faith-based counseling settings. Its origins are obscure. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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1,180 Churches Help World Relief Resettle Refugees at Record Rate

By Timothy C. Morgan Highest total since 1999 comes as federal judges rule against state attempts to ban Syrian refugees. Last month, World Relief nearly doubled the number of refugees it resettles in the United States in a typical month. In the past 12 months, the evangelical agency handled a caseload of 9,759 refugees—its largest total since 1999. “The task set before us last month was nothing short of monumental,” stated president Scott Arbeiter. “But the work our dedicated staff and volunteers have accomplished has been equally impressive.” The milestone comes at the same time as major setbacks to the effort to ban Syrian refugee resettlement in Indiana and Texas. Earlier this month, a federal appeals court found the Syrian refugee ban by Indiana governor and GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was based on a “nightmare scenario” of Syrian terrorists posing as refugees to gain US entry. “No evidence of this belief has been presented,” wrote judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Four days later, Texas’s attorney general dropped the state’s appeal of a federal court decision, preventing Texas from banning resettlement of refugees from Syria inside state borders. Through its 26 offices and its local church networks, World Relief resettled 1,400 refugees in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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‘13th’ Introduces America to the Dark History of Our Criminal Justice System

By Jeffrey Overstreet The new Netflix documentary makes the case that to save the future, we need to stop defending the past. “Defend the past. Save the future.” Those words are lighting up TV screens this week, promoting the new NBC time-travel adventure series Timeless. But really, it’s ridiculous. No matter how many people want to go back and “kill Hitler,” the past cannot be changed. Right? Right? I don’t know. Last night, director Ava DuVernay took me back to familiar figures from my childhood. She didn’t “defend the past.” She revealed politicians I remember as heroes to be complicit in things I find difficult to accept. And if you take that journey with me, we might yet become a church that helps “save the future” by refusing to defend our past. DuVernay, who directed Selma—a gripping historical drama that has the gospel blazing through its veins—has just delivered a brilliant lesson in time travel, and its streaming now on Netflix. It’s called 13th. With startling interviews, ugly statistics, kinetically charged animation, and shocking man-on-the-street footage of American history, 13th reintroduces Americans to their very own criminal justice system. I say “reintroduces” because DuVernay films through lenses that reveal a cancer running unchecked. Full disclosure: Despite Jesus’s call for …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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You Are the Manure of the Earth

By Anthony B. Bradley Jesus’ metaphor about salt was actually about fertilizer. My first job after graduating from Clemson University was as a quality control chemist at a small pharmaceutical company in Atlanta. It was a great job, but I was far too extroverted to enjoy a career in a lab. Initially, I had enrolled in college with the intention of becoming a physician, but after a spiritual awakening during my senior year, I made a decision to attend seminary instead of medical school. As a consequence, I learned the Bible with the sciences in mind—which has been a continual source of insight into my reading of Scripture. For example, I was recently doing some research for a lecture on Luke 14:34–35. When I read Jesus’ words—“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?”— I decided to look into what Jesus’ original audience might have understood about salt when Jesus taught them to be “the salt of the earth.” When I discovered that salt was used as a fertilizer in Palestine, it permanently changed how I viewed the command to love my neighbor. What previously had been a somewhat strange charge by Jesus to be “salty” became a …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Where Kids Get Their Political Views

By Jen Wilkin In a heated election, Christian parents can model a measured response. “Clinton is a worthless liar. America needs a better president or our country is going to fall apart.” The Sunday after Election Day in 1996, I listened to girls in a seventh-grade Sunday school class offer their commentary on the winner. A new parent who had only been teaching the class for a few weeks, I was ill prepared for a room full of terrified, politically minded tweens. Where was this coming from? Decades later, I know the answer. Young children don’t get their opinions from CNN or Fox News. They don’t study exit polls or approval ratings. They do not learn fear and vitriol in social studies. They learn it from their parents. Recognizing this sobering truth shifted the way my husband and I discussed politics with our own kids. We model a response for our children, and yet, we often underestimate how much they care. Developmentally speaking, children live “in the moment” and tend to overvalue the good and the bad they encounter. If we act like the sky is falling because our candidate is not elected, our child will feel exaggerated fear. If we act like the kingdom of heaven has …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Church and the Huddled Masses

By Matthew Soerens Throughout US history, the church has had a complicated relationship with the “homeless, tempest-tost” looking for a better life. I wince at the image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, washed ashore on a Turkish beach one year ago. Or of five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, bloodied and dusty after surviving a bombing in Aleppo. I think of my own one-year-old son—he wears little Velcro shoes like Alan’s and has mop-like hair like Omran’s—and my heart breaks. Then I begin to contemplate the terror that forces people to flee, and I am struck by a sense of fear, resolved not to let such violence reach my country—and my child. A Conflicted Country The United States, as a nation, has likewise been driven variously by both compassion and fear in its response to immigrants. There have always been voices insisting that the United States was a nation of immigrants ready to welcome others, even while others believed that the arrival of new immigrants was a menace threatening the country—with the center of public sentiment vacillating between these two competing narratives. These debates go back to the colonial era: Benjamin Franklin once fretted that the German immigrants arriving in Pennsylvania would “never adopt our …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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