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What Is the Missional Church (Part 4)?—Shaped By God and His Mission

By Ed Stetzer Mission and missions must work together. We mustn’t have one without the other. The Missional Church is Shaped by God and His Mission In order for the church to recover its missional passion, we must reclaim our lost sense of the glory of God’s mission. While evangelical churches affirm the orthodox doctrine of God, we approach him too often as a God we can use. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction. We have shrunk God down to our size. We have limited the scope of his mission in our minds. We have unwittingly bought into the idea that progress is more important than redemption (Stetzer, 175-179). Our zeal for mission has been undermined by our small view of God. We have simply replaced God’s purpose for the world with our own purpose for the world. Even when we serve and help and give and share, we too often do it from a sense of obligation or a desire to impress. We have become a church that is motivated by a host of things but a singular desire to glorify God. We will not recover the missional vision of the church until we recover the grandeur of a big God, of being …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Three Ways Christians Can Be Like Jesus Amidst a More Polarized Culture

By Ed Stetzer New data from Pew Research Center points to a growing ideological polarization in the U.S., and an opportunity for us to be like Jesus. Yesterday morning, Pew Research Center published a new set of data from a recent study on Americans and religion. You may remember a similar study in May of this year called the “American Religious Landscape” survey. (For my take on those, see articles at CNN, USAToday, the Washington Post, and here on my blog.) The newest data confirms much of what the General Social Survey (the data I used in many of the above articles) shows. America is becoming more secular, but the faithful are remaining devout. There is more than one thing going on, but a big part is that “nominal” Christians, the data shows us, are abandoning the “Christian” label more in the last seven years than they have before. As every single reliable researcher believes: the church isn’t dying. In other words, there’s not a collapse of practicing Christianity, and that’s the headline of almost every story, though some people still won’t believe it. But, take a look at the stories and their headlines such …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Some Perspective on Millennials Serving in Ministry

What are we ought to think about Millennials as future leaders of the ministry? The Millennial generation, the oldest of whom are turning 35 this year, are inarguably the ministry leaders of the future. However, Millennials also have the smallest percentage of church attendance of any generation, leaving many pastors looking for insight and advice on how to reach them. While there are many opinions regarding Millennials and the future they may create, there is very little information regarding the perspectives of Millennials serving in ministry positions. Who Was Surveyed Our team took a qualitative approach to this question and surveyed Millennials serving in ministry, asking about their perspectives on religion, spirituality, and church. We used open-ended questions in order to obtain an expression of their thoughts. As is the nature of qualitative research, the results cannot be extrapolated to Millennials in general or Millennials in ministry in specific. Though still to be fully analyzed, the preliminary results are intriguing. Those in our survey ranged from single, to married, to parents. They also ranged from serving in volunteer positions in churches, to serving in Christian non-profits, to pastors. Overall, the trends demonstrated in this group were strong and personally encouraging. For example, many …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Sarah Bessey: In Praise of Everyday Theologians

By Sarah Bessey, guest writer God-talk isn’t just for academia. It’s for laundry rooms, gyms, hospitals, and everywhere else. Editor’s note: Sarah Bessey’s new book Out of Sorts explores how our faith can change over time. The following excerpt comes from a chapter encouraging readers to not be intimidated to raise questions and study theology as a way to encourage their own spiritual growth and evolution. Robert Farrar Capon writes in The Supper of the Lamb, “There, then, is the role of the amateur: to look the world back to grace.” It’s for this reason that, while I love professional hockey such as the NHL games, nothing gets Canada more excited than the World Junior Ice Hockey Tournament. There’s something about a bunch of kids who play just for the love of the game that is so sweet to us. They’re amateurs, sure, not as skilled as the professionals, but oh, do we love to cheer them on. John Wimber, one of the founders of the Vineyard church movement, used to say, “Everyone gets to play.” He meant that everyone gets to minister, everyone gets to hear from God, everyone has a part to play in this church and in this world, everyone gets …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: Trumbo

By Alissa Wilkinson The story of the celebrated and blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter boasts a star-studded cast but a half-baked script. mpaa rating:R (For language including some sexual references.) Genre:Comedy, Drama Theatre Release:November 06, 2015 by Bleecker Street Media “You write every scene brilliantly,” Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) half-jokes to Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) on the porch of his house, where they’ve been working on the script of the 1960 film Exodus. “And I will direct unevenly.” The quip would function almost too well as a cipher for what happened with Trumbo, except the screenplay isn’t brilliant, either. It has its moments. Once in a while, it’s fantastic. But Trumbo mostly suffers from the now agreed-upon affliction we might call Important Biopic Syndrome, in which all the material that makes for a good movie gets vacuumed up by the things which the movie must signal to us are Important (lest we miss them) via musical cues and circular pans. Moments of political courage, for instance. Especially regarding the First Amendment. Arguments with the family. Epiphanies. Stupidities. One-ups. Sometimes, unfortunately, even jokes. The movie tells the story of Dalton Trumbo, which is both interesting and historically important, especially if that name means nothing to you. Trumbo …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Pew: Rich in Faith Get Richer While Poor Get Poorer in America

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Second half of landmark survey finds evangelicals remained devout from 2007 to 2014. While America’s “nones” keep losing their faith, a significant study finds that religious Americans are staying stable—and by some measures, even growing—in theirs. “Among the roughly three-quarters of US adults who do claim a religion, there has been no discernible drop in most measures of religious commitment,” concludes the Pew Research Center in its latest report. “Indeed, by some conventional measures religiously affiliated Americans are, on average, even more devout than they were a few years ago.” The report is the second half of the 2014 US Religious Landscape Study, an attempt by Pew to address the problem that the main methods for measuring American faith are flawed. The seven-year study was designed to “fill the gap” left by the United States census (no questions on religion), the self-reporting of denominations (“widely differing criteria”), and smaller surveys (too few questions or people). While most surveys rely on sample sizes of 1,000 or 2,000 people, Pew interviewed 35,000 adults in English and Spanish in 2007 and again in 2014 for the landscape study. CT covered the first half of the results in May, which found that <a target="_blank" …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Optimism in the Face of My Pessimism

By John Huffman Seven biblical qualities that can nurture hope in today’s church. A few years ago, the late communitarian Robert Bellah and his colleagues identified how radical individualism has taken a toll on our communal well-being. In Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life,they wrote about the religion of “Sheilaism.” They were referring to a woman by that name who put in a little bit of religion here and philosophy there to create her own religion, unique in its specifics to her and no one else. Habits was long on description of problems and short on prescription of solutions. Yet toward the end of the book, Bellah wrote about a small Episcopal church in the San Francisco area. With wistful words, he described how this little group of people committed to Jesus Christ met together regularly to worship, to sing hymns, to pray, to hear sermons, to celebrate Communion. From there, they went out into the surrounding community in the name of Jesus Christ, feeding the hungry, ministering to youth, helping abused women, and caring for the mentally and physically ill. In short, says Bellah, “ seems to be able to combine a sense of continuity with the past and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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News: Why Guatemala Elected an Evangelical Entertainer as Its New President

By Steve Sywulka in Guatemala City Voters hope Jimmy Morales will do better than the last two times they gave evangelicals the top job. On October 25th, a bizarre year in Guatemalan politics took another unexpected twist with the overwhelming victory of avowed evangelical Jimmy Morales. The dark horse, under-funded candidate had come from behind in a field of 14 aspirants to lead in the first round, and demolished former first lady Sandra Torres (68% to 32%) in the run-off vote for the Central American nation’s next president. In the months leading up to the elections, the previous president and vice president resigned and were jailed on corruption charges, along with dozens of other government officials. At least 10 members of the Congress of Guatemala and several judges are under investigation. Morales, best known in the past as a TV entertainer, has been characterized as a “comedian.” But it would be more accurate to call him a media personality, actor, producer, and businessman. He has an MBA, a master’s degree in media and communications administration, and a master’s in high level strategic studies on security and defense. He also holds a degree in theology from the Baptist seminary in Guatemala City. He has been a university professor and founded several businesses. In …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Learning to Love My Haters

By D. L. Mayfield, guest writer How even the harshest criticism makes us better writers. Author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat Pray Love fame) recently posted on Facebook a reflection on how she deals with criticism. To sum it up: she doesn’t. Her words of wisdom reappeared on my feed, shared by writer friends who seemed to agree. As Gilbert puts it, reading criticism of her work is “doing violence to herself.” She recognizes criticism’s established place in the creative landscape, but says it is not a critic’s job to make an author emotionally honest—that is left up to the author herself. Gilbert also notes that she reads positive reviews with relish (“because it’s really nice to hear people say nice things about your work!”) and that she has a core group of trusted individuals that she leans on for feedback—on a certain timeline (“after the book is published THERE IS NOTHING MORE THAT I CAN DO ABOUT IT”). At first, I thought I agreed. Writing for the web, I know what it’s like to be the receiving end of bizarrely personal, speculative, misogynist, ill-informed, and all-around angry comments. I identify with being too thin-skinned for this public world, where it’s easy to nurse the wounds while waving away the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Laughing At, Or Laughing With?

By Asher Gelzer-Govatos When is it okay to laugh at characters in a documentary – and when does that laughter cross a line? Of all the adjectives people might use to describe documentary films–important, artsy, difficult–one that does not spring immediately to mind is fun. But the new documentary Finders Keepers challenges this preconception of nonfiction films as hard work, offering a wild tale full of severed limbs, courtroom drama, and plenty of salty humor. In the midst of the many belly laughs the film offers, though, it also poses a key question for sensitive viewers of documentaries: when is it okay to laugh at the people onscreen? The story revolves around a legal dispute between two men over a preserved, amputated leg. When irrepressible showboat Shannon Whisnant finds the leg in a grill he purchases at auction, he sets out to do the American thing and make some money off the spectacle. John Wood, the leg’s original owner, demands its return. Whisnant refuses to budge. The two men trade words and eventually take each other to court. Filmmakers Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel keep their focus tight on the two characters, and Whisnant especially fills up the screen with his charisma and homebrewed witticisms. As …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How a PTSD Diagnosis Can Help, and Harm

By Warren Kinghorn Psychological diagnoses can tell someone they are not alone. They can also be used to alienate even further. This June, CT drew attention to veterans’ experience in the cover story “Formed by War.” To continue the discourse sparked by that story, alongside the Centurions Guild, CT is hosting an online series called Ponder Christian Soldiers. The following essay is from Warren Kinghorn, associate professor of psychiatry and pastoral and moral theology at Duke Divinity School. Ray sat in my examination room, tense and uncomfortable. A Vietnam combat veteran with a wiry build and a gray, frizzled beard, he was sitting in a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital for the first time in 38 years. He had visited once in the 1970s and had left angrily, vowing never to return. But his wife had recently told him that she was leaving for good if he didn’t get help. So he was back, sitting in my office. After hearing Ray’s story, I asked him a set of standard clinical questions: Do you have trouble sleeping? Yes—four or fewer hours per night, since Vietnam. Frequent nightmares? Yes—at least twice weekly, usually of experiences in Vietnam that he doesn’t want to talk about now. Do you avoid …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Do Americans See Sacred Texts? New Data From LifeWay Research

By Ed Stetzer Americans see the Christian Bible and the Muslim Quran in very different ways. Last week, we released a study on how people view sacred texts. Click here to see the LifeWay Research report. It also in the November 2015 issue of WORLD Magazine. Below are some of the most notable data points from the survey. How Do Americans See the Bible? As one may imagine, generally speaking, Americans tend to see the Bible in a more positive light than a book like the Quran. Of course, we don’t want to miss the obvious fact that the United States is home to many more Christians than it is home to Muslims. What is fascinating about this data is that it shows 80% of Americans agree that following the Bible’s teachings would be good for American society. This is a remarkable statistic, but we must remember, as we look at graphs such as these, that while 80% of Americans agree that following the Bible would be good for America, there are probably at least 80 different views among that 80% as to how “following the Bible’s teachings” actually looks in the practical outworking of American life. This next, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Christians Can Flourish in a Same-Sex-Marriage World

By Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner By many accounts, orthodox Christians have lost the culture wars. How they can live well—not vanish—in a time of retreat. The Supreme Court’s decision that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage was a landmark moment in US history. The sweeping language of the majority opinion placed gay rights firmly within the moral tradition of the civil rights movement. And like a boulder thrown into a pond, it will have public consequences for decades. For many evangelicals, the psychological effects were immediate. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said that Obergefell v. Hodges will be “the downfall of America.” Christian friends reported to us they felt incredulous and alienated from America’s legal and cultural order. Those who felt ambushed by the decision haven’t been paying enough attention. The ruling was the result of cultural trends that emerged in the context of heterosexual, not homosexual, relationships. During the 1960s and 1970s, America saw a concentrated cultural revolution: the triumph of radical individualism, particularly in sexual ethics. Since then, we have seen the outworking of this shift in attitudes, behavior, and laws: on divorce, abortion, cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births, gender roles, and now, decisively, same-sex marriage. Marriage was not redefined only by the Supreme …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Effort, Power, and Trusting the Lord

God will work through us, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to work hard! We keep rubber bands around the house for everything. They substitute for garbage ties, potato bag clips, paper clips, and even glue at our house. If you think about rubber bands, by their very nature they exist to create tension. If a rubber band loses its tension, it’s useless. If it’s stretched too tightly, it eventually breaks! I share that with you as a picture of the tension that exists every day in our ministries. The Holy Spirit was placed in these jars of clay, our imperfect bodies, so we would rely on His power, not our strength and effort alone. However, this creates tension. Without human effort, God says we’re a sluggard, a fool, a lazy person! Without effort we’re disobedient to the Great Commission! Without God’s power, our efforts are useless. And I would suggest we will eventually break! One of my favorite verses about the tension between effort and power is found in the book of Proverbs: “A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes from the Lord.” Proverbs 21:31 (HCSB) In Biblical times, oxen and donkeys were used primarily for …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Does Halloween Scare Off Americans? New Data from LifeWay Research

By Ed Stetzer How do you view the holiday? Share your thoughts in the comments. Earlier this week, LifeWay Research released data from a recent survey gauging American views on Halloween. The holiday is one of the more controversial of the most popular American holidays because of it’s relationship with witchcraft, paganism, and other “dark” elements. Historically, many people in varied strands of Christianity have opted out of the holiday in favor of more neutral “fall” or “harvest” themed celebrations. Where Americans Stand Our survey told us that a third of Americans avoid Halloween or its pagan elements. Here’s a fun graph depicting the data: As you can see, well over half of Americans see Halloween as being all in good fun, acknowledging the reality that most people who celebrate Halloween are not worshiping Satan or sacrificing animals in the name of false pagan gods. Still, though, as Carol Pipes reports for LifeWay Research, about one third of Americans avoid the holiday, or just the pagan elements: Although 3 in 5 Americans told LifeWay Research Halloween is “all in good fun,” 21 percent avoid the holiday completely and another 14 percent avoid the pagan elements. Halloween has been known in North America since colonial …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Did Matthew Think Peter Was a False Disciple?

By Kevin P. Emmert A new book from a top evangelical scholar makes the case. A leading evangelical scholar says Matthew thought Peter was as bad as Judas. Robert Gundry, scholar-in-residence and professor emeritus of New Testament and Greek at Westmont College, argues in his most recent book, Peter – False Disciple and Apostate according to Saint Matthew (Eerdmans), that “Matthew portrays Peter as a false disciple of Jesus, a disciple who went so far as to apostatize.” He believes Matthew does so to warn Christians “against the loss of salvation through falsity-exposing apostasy” and against the “ongoing presence of false disciples in the church.” “The good news about Christ needed to be tailored to Matthew’s, Mark’s, Luke’s, and John’s audiences,” Gundry told CT. “Hence the differences between the four Gospels. We have the good news according to Matthew, and so on. We have different versions of the good news suited to different needs and circumstances.” In the case of Matthew’s portrayal of Peter, Gundry believes Matthew revised, added to, and subtracted from Mark’s narrative in order to present Peter unfavorably. Matthew’s audience, he says, faced a more significant threat of persecution and needed warning against apostasy. Unlike the other Gospels, Matthew does not include an account …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Are Our Cravings a Trick or Treat?

By Liuan Huska God redeems our physical desires too. Halloween begins our annual end-of-the-year overindulgence marathon, which runs from trick-or-treating to the Thanksgiving table and the string of Christmas parties, all the way up to our New Year’s resolutions. From pumpkin spice muffins to fun-size candy bars, there’s always a yummy snack within reach, and it’s hard to say no. It’s in our nature: Humans are flavor-seeking creatures, so we crave what tastes good. For much of history, this was a win-win. We went after food that tasted good because in nature, that was the food with the most nutritional content. But on today’s grocery store shelves, and even in the produce displays, that’s not necessarily the case anymore. We’ve lost our bodies’ “nutritional wisdom,” and as a result we’re grasping at the latest diet fads and seeking out solutions to new health problems, writes Mark Schatzker, journalist and author of The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth about Food and Flavor. Our bodies are programmed to crave food that meets our nutritional needs. Schatzker marshals evidence of goats, calves, and even human babies who choose the naturally occurring foods that keep them in optimal health. Even during illness, these instincts are strong: for example, a …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Your Husband’s Infidelity Is Not Your Fault

By Julie Roys, guest writer Adultery comes from a greedy heart, not an insufficient wife. Though in many ways polar opposites, reality TV stars Khloe Kardashian and Anna Duggar are receiving similar messages about their husbands’ infidelity from two radically different sources: a pimp and a Christian matriarch. For Kardashian, the message came from Dennis Hof, owner of the brothel where her estranged husband, former NBA standout Lamar Odom, was found unconscious last week after ingesting cocaine, alcohol, and herbal sexual stimulants. “If she really cared about this man,” Hof said, “he wouldn’t be at my place with my girls.” This, even though Odom’s relationship with drugs and prostitutes predates his relationship with Khloe Kardashian. For Duggar, the remarks weren’t as direct. Following the Ashley Madison leak, her husband, Josh, admitted to several affairs and a porn addiction. Then, the Duggars’ family pastor in Arkansas addressed the leak in a sermon on infidelity. “If a husband or wife fails to keep his or her partner happy sexually they are opening themselves up to the attack of the enemy,” he said. “And that enemy is going to take your spouse away from you.” A recent blog post from Anna Duggar’s mother-in-law Michelle carries that implication. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why The New ‘Feminist’ Rom-Com is a Lie

By Alicia Cohn It’s no good to deny that we’re both emotional and sexual beings. If you wanted to see a romantic comedy this year, you were in luck—especially if you wanted to see the old formula flipped on its head. A new wave of “feminist” romantic comedies attempted to empower women within the traditional meet-cute to happily-ever-after relationship story arc. Trainwreck, starring comedian Amy Schumer, is perhaps the most talked-about example, but others include 50 Shades of Grey—lauded by some for its female-centric portrayal of sex, though not for its gender dynamics—and the Alison Brie-led Sleeping With Other People, about a woman who can only develop a healthy, balanced relationship with a man once the pair agrees to not have sex. Those who argue that these films are empowering say something like this: The women in these movies are fully in touch with their own sexuality and unabashed about asking for what they want. They are not princesses waiting to be rescued nor incomplete without a man. These women are fully capable of walking away, no matter the man’s charm or wealth or persuasive ways. You could dismiss these movies as superficial illustrations that “modern women like sex and that’s okay,” but they actually illustrate something …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Pastors Can't Spot Churchgoing Couples Headed for Divorce

By Lisa Cannon Green – Facts & Trends Focus on the Family and LifeWay Research survey compares the happily and unhappily married. Before a divorce, churchgoers in troubled marriages look a lot like their happily married counterparts at church—participating, serving, and leading at similar rates. After a divorce, the differences can be stark. Twenty percent have dropped out of church entirely. In many cases, their children have stopped attending too. A third give less to the church than they did before. Their churches report leadership voids and fractured relationships. Yet pastors may have difficulty helping couples save their marriages, because churchgoers on the brink of separation often keep quiet at church about their marital woes. Those are among the findings of new research by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The study, sponsored by Focus on the Family, surveyed Protestant pastors, churchgoing Americans in healthy marriages, and churchgoing Americans who divorced in the past five years. The research points to a problem with church culture, said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research. If couples are unwilling to discuss marital struggles at church, they don’t get the help they need. Many couples also may not realize help is available. While most pastors say their churches offer counseling referrals and other marriage aids, fewer churchgoers agree. “Either pastors are …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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