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Saturday Is For Seminars: Gideons Gospel Impact Conference and Missio Nexus

By Ed Stetzer Join me at the Gideons Gospel Impact Conference and/or the Missio Nexus annual mission leaders conference. It’s been a whirlwind of a week as the movers brought all of our things up to Wheaton and we are getting settled in. There’s a lot of change for us and I’d value your prayers during this time. Also, please pray for the events below and consider joining me at one of them if they are in your area! Gideons Gospel Impact Conference – August 12-13, 2016 – Toronto, ON Missio Nexus Mission Leaders Conference – September 29 – October 1, 2016 – Louisville, KY If you are a missions, denominational, or church leader I invite you to join us in Louisville in a little over a month. You can register here. Coming Soon September 9, 2016Capacity Conference Atlanta, GA September 16, 2016American Association of Christian Counselors National Meeting Dallas, TX September 30, 2016MissioNexus Louisville, KY October 3, 2016Lutheran Congregations on Mission for Christ Annual Gathering Denver, CO October 4-5, 2016Exponential West Irvine, CA October 6, 2016Summit University Alumni Fall Bible Conference Clarks Summit, PA October 17-18, 2016Centered & Sent Durham, NC October 25, 2016Sojourn Pastors Network Louisville, KY November 2, 2016Mosaix National Conference Dallas, TX November 14-15, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Celebrate Recovery Helped Evangelicals Open Up About Addiction

By Kate Shellnutt Over 25 years, the program has made churches a safer space for recovery. If you’ve heard a sermon, small-group discussion, Sunday school lesson, or testimony that addressed one of those once-taboo topics—alcoholism, drug abuse, anger issues, porn habits—you probably have Celebrate Recovery to thank. “It used to be if someone was an alcoholic or a drug addict or, heaven forbid, they had any kind of issue with anger, then it was hush-hush,” said Huston McComb, a licensed professional counselor who leads Celebrate Recovery at Houston’s First Baptist Church. “We’ve kind of taken that stigma away.” While some of the shame around addiction has faded over the decades, Celebrate Recovery has shifted how evangelicals in particular view “hurts, habits, and hang-ups.” The ministry hosts regular meetings at 29,000 churches and has trained more than 100,000 pastors in the recovery process. Its annual summit this weekend marks 25 years since John Baker founded the program at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, immediately following his own journey to sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous. Like many evangelicals at the time, he had reservations about the generic spirituality of AA, whose 12-step program refers to “a Power greater than ourselves” and “God as we understood him.” Baker saw a need to create …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Celebs from Michael Phelps to Kim Kardashian Want a Purpose-Driven Life

By Kate Shellnutt The bestseller’s buzz has not died down 15 years later. One of the 40 million copies sold of The Purpose Driven Life ended up in the large, paddle-like hands of Michael Phelps. In between winning Olympic golds, Phelps made headlines for very different reasons: repeated DUIs, parties and pot, weight gain and rehab. A couple of years ago, fellow athlete and friend Ray Lewis (aka “God’s linebacker”) gave the champion swimmer Rick Warren’s bestseller. “I basically told him, ‘Okay, everything has a purpose, and now, guess what? It’s time to wake up,’” the former Baltimore Raven said in The Washington Post. In an ESPN special, Phelps said the book “turned me into believing that there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet” and “helped me when I was in a place that I needed the most help.” It spurred him to reconcile with his dad. This summer, the media celebrated 31-year-old Phelps as stronger and more mature than ever; the record-crushing swimmer stayed sober throughout his training and brought along his fiancée and baby son to Olympic competition in Rio. This come-to-Jesus turnaround, as Lewis called it, began with a book that answers the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Interview: Medal-Winning Swimmer Maya DiRado: My Faith Frees Me to Dream Big

By Interview by Dorcas Cheng-Tozun She sets high goals inside and outside the pool, saying there’s more to life than swimming. First-time Olympian Madeline (Maya) DiRado has already earned a trio of medals—gold, silver, and bronze—as part of the US swimming team. She says it’s the “quiet confidence” of her Christian faith that allows her to be a grateful, joyful, and goal-oriented athlete, even at the highest levels of competition. A native of Santa Rosa, California, the 23-year-old has been swimming on the world stage for five years. After she narrowly missed qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, DiRado took this year’s trials by storm when she won three individual events. Her early performances in Rio earned her a spot on a relay as well; that 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay team went on to win gold. DiRado also placed second in the 400-meter individual medley and third in the 200-meter individual medley. She competes in her final event, the 200-meter backstroke, later today. Equally accomplished outside the pool, DiRado skipped second grade, started high school at the age of 13, and entered Stanford University at 17. After graduating with a degree in management science and engineering, she secured a consulting job that she will start soon …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A Conversation with Nate Parker about 'The Birth of a Nation'

By Alissa Wilkinson CT talks to the writer, director, and star of the highly-anticipated film about his faith and race in America. On January 25, I settled into the balcony of the Eccles Theater at the Sundance Film Festival, next to another critic. We’d already seen two movies that day and were getting ready for the third, but before the film even began the crowd gave it a standing ovation. By the time it was over, most of the audience was in tears, and the film received another standing ovation after the credits rolled. We all had a sense that something historic had happened that afternoon. The film was The Birth of a Nation (read my Sundance review), the story of slave preacher Nat Turner and the 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia. In the film, Turner is (illegally) taught to read the Bible as a child by the mistress of the plantation on which he lived as a slave; as an adult, he becomes a preacher, and his study of Scripture as well as his observation of cruelty on the plantations he visits as a preacher leads him toward violent action. (The film has a great deal, thematically, in common with Braveheart.) Nate Parker, who …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Pew: More Sermons Endorse Clinton

By Kate Shellnutt Fewer pastors are politically engaged this election; fewer still are speaking for Trump from the pulpit. The candidate behind the biggest Republican push to allow pastors to back politicians from the pulpit has received fewer sermon endorsements than his presidential opponent, who favors the current ban. According to a new Pew Research survey, 1 percent of churchgoers said their pastor has spoken positively of Donald Trump, compared to 6 percent who heard praise for Hillary Clinton. Trump was also the subject of more pastoral criticism: 7 percent said their leaders spoke against Trump and 4 percent against Clinton. Trump’s religious freedom platform centers around his promise to get rid of the Johnson Amendment, which bars churches and other tax-exempt non-profits from endorsing or disavowing candidates, but still allows them to speak generally about political issues. “After 30 years of the so-called conservative leaders who have been elected by evangelicals, none of them thought to advocate for the repeal of the Johnson amendment, giving evangelical leaders political free speech,” Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty University president and early Trump endorser, toldTime magazine. “ thinks it is going to be a revolution in the Christian world.” Even with the current the ban, which has been part of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Pete's Dragon

By Alissa Wilkinson David Lowery is a great match for reimagining the classic Disney film. Writer and director David Lowery (whom we interviewed after his 2013 film Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) is a great match for this reimagining of the classic Disney children’s story. It’s still got Pete and a dragon named Elliott who can become invisible, but with Lowery’s touch the film is less camp, more wonder. Pete is no longer a runaway; instead, he’s an orphan, his story told in a heartwrenching prelude. The adult characters (played by Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard, Karl Urban, and Wes Bentley) are still largely stock and two-dimensional, but in a way that recalls old live-action Disney films. To understand why Lowery is such a great match for the story, it’s worth revisiting his 2009 film St. Nick, in which a brother and sister run away from home and live in an abandoned house. It’s a work of realism that is still infused with magic: the games of make-believe and the pleasure of playing house is filtered through the children’s eyes. We sympathize with them and grow to see the world through their eyes, which means when reality intrudes, it’s sharper and more stunning. The same …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Meet the Rio Olympians Who Put God Before Gold

By Morgan Lee, with reporting by Dorcas Cheng-Tozun A glimpse of inspiration and testimony from some of Team USA’s Christian athletes. There’s nothing like the pomp and prestige of the Olympics Games to raise the stakes for the world’s top athletes. With millions of viewers watching, more than 10,000 will compete in this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Fans tune in not only for the physical feats, but for stories of triumph. We want to see who achieves the dream of winning gold on a global stage. Competing at this level forces participants to reckon with priorities. Some Christian athletes enter with a perspective that explicitly challenges the idea that Olympic success would be the pinnacle of their lives. Some learn that lesson as they go. Regret over having “failed the world” with her silver medal placement in the 2008 Games eventually led gymnast Shawn Johnson to realize that even if she won “12 more Olympic gold medals…it’s not my purpose in life, and he will always be my greatest reward,” she said in a recent video for I Am Second. The following Christian competitors share how faith inspires and influences their Olympic aspirations, from a shot-putter who leads the team Bible study to a synchronized diver who says …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Leadership Legacies: Why Character Trumps All

By Gary Corwin Good leaders are known for leading, encouraging, and caring for those in their organization. The Apostle Paul wrote, What after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who made things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. (1 Cor. 3:5-8) Whatever else one may say about Paul’s logic, he makes it clear that all the credit and glory for his work belongs to God. Every person in ministry would humbly acknowledge the same truth. And yet, how often do we seek to position ourselves so that when the report, article, or book is written, we will receive significant credit for the breakthrough? We can’t seem to help wanting to take some of what should be God’s glory alone. And the problem is even wider than the scope of the personal example Paul cites. Not only are there those who plant and those who water, …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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France and Nigeria Mourn Clergy Killed by Terrorists

By World Watch Monitor France’s Jacques Hamel wasn’t the only Christian leader killed this summer. Last week, France buried Jacques Hamel, the 85-year-old Catholic priest murdered by Islamist extremists while celebrating mass on July 26. Thousands of people, including journalists from around the world, attended the funeral. Three days earlier, another pastor was buried, also a victim of a terrorist attack. She was the second of two pastors murdered in Nigeria this summer. Their funerals were local; their deaths largely unnoticed by the media. What pushed Hamel’s story onto Europe’s front pages was its location. Since the January 2015 mass shooting at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office in Paris, France has suffered nearly 240 deaths in more than 10 attacks by people claiming allegiance to ISIS. Though Christians were among the victims of those attacks, Hamel’s killing was the first to target Christians specifically, in a church. “This tragic attack, so close to home and following other recent horrors, is another example of the persecution we see all too often in countries around the world,” stated Open Doors UK, the British arm of Open Doors, a global ministry that supports Christians who live under pressure because of their faith. In its World Watch List 2016, Open Doors …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Exclusive Video Premiere: Churches Take on the Billion-Dollar Industry Making the Poor Poorer

When the state government did nothing, Texas churches stepped up to fight for change in their local communities. A new documentary by Deidox Films tells the true story of church communities rising to protect the poor from predatory loans. The Ordinance documents an unprecedented battle in Texas towns to protect their citizens from predatory lenders. In a time when political disillusionment is growing, this story serves as an important example of how the best, and worst, of our political system can unite a community. Christianity Today is proud to partner with Deidox Films to provide this exclusive free debut of this fascinating documentary about the power of the local church to combat injustice and stand for the poor and vulnerable in their communities. When state and local governments stepped aside, Texas churches and faith-based organizations stepped up to defend the vulnerable in their communities from predatory payday loans. You can rent, buy, or purchase a screening kit here. Christianity Today is proud to partner with Deidox Films to provide this exclusive free debut of this fascinating documentary about the power of the local church to combat injustice and stand for the poor and vulnerable in their communities. … …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Can Evangelism Emerge From The Next Generation?

By Hannah Gronowski It’s time to stop expecting millennials to show apathy to the call of evangelism, and train them to rise up to the call. As I sat in a room full of energetic, Christian millennials, our conversation quickly turned to the topic of reaching the community in fresh ways. These passionate men and women were asking the question, “How can we engage with people who are far from God and invite them to ask questions about a relationship with Jesus?” Although it may come as a surprise, the suggestions proposed did not include tent revivals, evangelism tracts, or hiring a traveling evangelist. Instead, these vivacious millennials were suggesting we must go where people far from God hang out and simply be present with them. One man shared his belief that the best place for ministry is a bar. He determined if he went to a bar and only had one beer, while the other bar-goers threw back four or five, the crowd would naturally become curious, and would ask this guy why he was different. There would be no need for him to start a conversation about Jesus because his radical actions would speak for themselves. My eyes shifted to each of the faces around the room …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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For Black Women, Looking Tough Takes a Toll

By Interview by Sarah Arthur Emotional strength can only hide heartbreak for so long, says pyschologist and theologian Chanequa Walker-Barnes You’ve seen her in the news: the calm African American woman reacting with dignity to a high-stress, traumatic situation. Her voice and face are steady. She stuffs down her emotions. No one will see her fall apart. She is the Strong Black Woman. I first heard that phrase in a sermon by Chanequa Walker-Barnes—theologian, clinical psychologist, fellow graduate of Duke Divinity School. Strong Black Woman Syndrome, something she saw regularly in her clinical practice, emerges out of the expectation that black women be “super capable, to take care of others, to be stoic—emotionally strong to the point of stoicism—and radically independent.” And I immediately thought, “I know this stereotype. I remember it from my childhood in the ‘80s. It’s Clair Huxtable.” It’s a cultural stereotype that’s enforced in the media, in popular culture, even in churches, by blacks and whites alike. But Walker-Barnes points out, this pressure isn’t sustainable. Many black women are falling apart physically and psychologically, as she recounts in her book Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength (Wipf and Stock). Picture Diamond Reynolds calmly recording the aftermath of her boyfriend Philando Castile’s …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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California Lawmaker Drops Controversial Proposal to Regulate Religious Colleges

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra SB 1146 won’t be the religious liberty threat many Christians feared. A day after religious leaders released an open letter calling on California to protect religious liberty in higher education, the lawmaker behind a controversial bill dropped the proposal in question, allowing religious schools to keep exemptions to anti-discrimination laws related to sexuality. Under state Senator Ricardo Lara’s amended bill, schools must “disclose if they have an exemption and report to the state when students are expelled for violating morality codes,” the Los Angeles Timesreported. “HUGE NEWS! Sponsor of #SB1146 is amending bill to keep exemptions in place,” tweeted Andrew Walker, director of policy studies at the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “#SB1146 is still bad, because it has the disclosure (public shaming) element, but this, for now, is good.” Earlier versions of Senate Bill 1146 would have prevented colleges that received state funds from enforcing codes of student conduct reflecting a college’s religious beliefs about sexual identity, including teaching that marriage is between a man and woman and limiting bathrooms to biological gender. Traditionally, California’s religious schools have received a religious exemption from non-discrimination laws. This bill would have limited it to students who were preparing …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Clergy Working Fewer Hours, Getting Paid More

By David Brigg Counting the cost is getting easier. The wages of battling sin are getting better for men and women of the cloth. Non-Catholic clergy have experienced significant increases in income even as their work weeks declined by more than 15 percent in recent decades, according to a major new study of clergy compensation published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. (While the non-Catholic category was primarily Protestant, it did include a small number of non-Christian clergy, the study said.) The study is believed to be the first to take into account the benefits clergy receive in the form of housing allowances or living in church-provided residences, which usually cause difficulty in any wage comparison of clergy to the general public. Overall, in inflation-adjusted wages, non-Catholic clergy made $4.37 more per hour in 2013 than they did in 1983. That figure is more than double the wage increase of the average worker with a college degree. In 2013, the average American made $49,225; non-Catholic clergy earned $46,216. Put another way, the general population averaged $21.20 an hour, while church clergy pulled in $18.85 an hour. (Clergy that worked elsewhere, like in hospitals or administration, earned $21.79 an hour.) Like most everyone else in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Are Young Evangelicals More Liberal Than Their Parents?

By Ed Stetzer There is a common idea today that young evangelicals are liberating themselves from conservatism, but is that true? The young, restless, and… liberal? Are younger evangelicals really more left-leaning than their parents? The easy answer is, “Of course they are! Look at how many of them are voting for pot legalization and driving those tiny cars!” But not so fast—the swerve into liberalism may not be as drastic as we think, according to a study from 2010 conducted by Buster Smith and Byron Johnson of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. Smith and Johnson began their research with a couple of hypotheses: Young (18-29 year old) evangelicals are less likely to associate with the Republican Party than older evangelicals and young evangelicals are more likely to self-identify as liberal than older evangelicals. They found some fascinating data that shows young evangelicals may not be as liberal as we think. Are Young Evangelicals Less Likely to Associate with the Republican Party? As we stated above, the first hypothesis Smith and Johnson had was that young evangelicals were less likely to associate with the Republican Party. Is that true? Not really, no. Here are some key stats: 55% of young evangelicals identify with the Republican Party, 24% …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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'Hillbilly Elegy' Hits Close To Home

By Lore Ferguson What J.D. Vance’s book taught me about my own painful childhood in rural Appalachia. J. D. Vance’s new book, Hillbilly Elegy, has hit a national nerve for people on both sides of the political aisle. Rod Dreher’s recent interview with Vance was so popular that the site crashed. “It has become by far the most-read piece ever on TAC (The American Conservative),” according to Dreher. In the interview, Vance talks openly about growing up in rural Appalachia, recognizing moral agency among the poor, and, in Dreher’s words, the need for “more honest dialogue about poverty and dysfunction in America.” Vance also explores a question that many of us are asking: Why are so many people voting for Donald Trump? My own story has something to do with it. I grew up in a 3,000-square foot home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. When I was young, my mother subscribed to colonial home decorating magazines and our county was almost always highlighted in them. We were not allowed to watch sitcoms, but when I caught a glimpse, I couldn’t see the charm—that was my life every day. We were a normal, white, upper-middle-class, large, conservative family. When I was 18, though, my family uprooted …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Our Priorities Are Off When Family Is More Important Than Church

By Joseph Hellerman Jesus’ focus was on the family of God, not the biological family. For several years, I served in a church that was known for its commitment to world missions. Many of our college kids were called into full-time cross-cultural ministry, including a bright young man named Bill. The reaction of his parents, however, caught Bill by surprise. His family had supported missionaries financially, prayed for them, and even fed them Sunday lunch when they were on furlough from the field. But the idea of their son giving his life to overseas missions was too much for Bill’s parents. They wanted Bill to find steady employment and raise a nice Christian family—one that supports missions, of course—like they had. Bill’s parents are hardly unique. American adults, according to a recent Barna study, are “most likely to point to their family as making up a significant part their personal identity.” Country and God come next. Christians are no exception; natural family has usurped God and his family as the primary identity marker for most church-goers. Most of us prioritize our commitment to family above our commitment to the church. This is unfortunate, because the Bible offers us a different set of relational priorities. Jesus: Pro- …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Our Priorities Are Off When Family Is More Important Than Church

By Joseph Hellerman Jesus’ focus was on the family of God, not the biological family. For several years, I served in a church that was known for its commitment to world missions. Many of our college kids were called into full-time cross-cultural ministry, including a bright young man named Bill. The reaction of his parents, however, caught Bill by surprise. His family had supported missionaries financially, prayed for them, and even fed them Sunday lunch when they were on furlough from the field. But the idea of their son giving his life to overseas missions was too much for Bill’s parents. They wanted Bill to find steady employment and raise a nice Christian family—one that supports missions, of course—like they had. Bill’s parents are hardly unique. American adults, according to a recent Barna study, are “most likely to point to their family as making up a significant part their personal identity.” Country and God come next. Christians are no exception; natural family has usurped God and his family as the primary identity marker for most church-goers. Most of us prioritize our commitment to family above our commitment to the church. This is unfortunate, because the Bible offers us a different set of relational priorities. Jesus: Pro- …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How a Chicago Pastor Helped Rival Gangs Make Peace

By Interview by Morgan Lee After a neighborhood shooting left a toddler paralyzed, Corey Brooks knew it was time for the church to take action. When a six-month-old baby was shot and killed in gang-related violence in the Chicago neighborhood of Woodlawn three years ago, Corey Brooks and his New Beginnings Church ministered to the grieving family. This June, however, when another child—this time, a toddler—was paralyzed in a similar shooting on Father’s Day, Brooks decided to go further, inviting more than 100 gang members together so he could broker a truce that’s still going strong. Brooks recently spoke with Christianity Today assistant editor Morgan Lee about how he built rapport with gang members, his reputation in the neighborhood, and how he hopes other Chicago churches will support his work: How long have you been trying to broker this truce? We’ve been talking about it for over a year now. We had difficulties getting everyone to agree. Finally, we were able to get everyone to come to the table and at least discuss the potential of a truce. What did you address in your meeting? I talked about the pain that everyone has experienced as a result of these shootings. A lot of the individuals there had been …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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