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How to Apply the Biblical Concept of Church Discipline in a Non-Profit EnvironmentAlthough church discipline is reserved for the shepherds of God's people within the church, what about Christian organizations? Should they, like Christian schools or non-profits, exercise church discipline? The short answer is no. However, we believe there are some principles Christian organizations can extrapolate from the biblical purpose, pattern, and practice of church discipline.In this article, we want to highlight three overarching principles (and practices) for how Christian organizations can apply the concept of church discipline to create healthy organizational cultural environments.1. Create covenantal expectations for the organizationRegardless of whether it's Christian or not, every organization should set clear expectations for their employees (or volunteers).[1] This is simply good leadership.We also believe Christian organizations should go a step further and create a covenantal document. This document should highlight the most critical and vital expectations for those working in the organization and ask each employee to read and sign. [2]Here are a few things such a document and practice do: It communicates to the employee your seriousness about these expectations It immediately creates accountability It outlines your expectations for their character, conduct, behavior, and work ethic.In addition to the covenantal expectations, every organization should have a personnel manual or staff handbook that details more expectations of the employee and the organization. The handbook is a living working document providing an overview of policies, procedures, and guidelines. In other words, the handbook offers a framework for protecting both the company's rights and the rights of its employees. [3] The covenantal ...Continue reading...
Latest IRF scorecard grades each member of US Congress, as State Department releases annual report on 200 countries and territories.Secretary of State Antony Blinken called out Saudi Arabia.The Gulf kingdom “remains the only country in the world without a Christian church, though there are more than a million Christians living [there],” he stated yesterday.Such high-level criticism of the key US ally is a departure from the foreign policy of the Trump administration, though the State Department has listed the oil-rich nation as a Country of Particular Concern on international religious freedom (IRF) since 2004.Blinken also highlighted recent violations in Iran, Burma, Russia, Nigeria, and China. Positive developments were noted in Sudan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.“Our promise to the world is that the Biden-Harris administration will protect and defend religious freedom around the world,” stated Blinken, releasing the 23rd annual International Religious Freedom Report, assessing the records of nearly 200 countries and territories.“We will maintain America’s longstanding leadership on this issue, [and] we’re grateful for our partners.”He named several entities, but one is glaring in its absence:The US Congress.Six years ago, 21Wilberforce, a Christian human rights organization, launched the International Religious Freedom Scorecard to hold America’s lawmakers to account.“There is much room for improvement,” Lou Ann Sabatier, director of communication, told CT. “It is a long and arduous process for an IRF bill to become a law, and many do not make it out of committee.”The latest scorecard, grading the two-year term of the 116th Congress, lists 91 legislative efforts in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.Only two became law.The daughter of one of Congress’s ...Continue reading...
Evangelical association names itself as co-defendant to defend religious exemptions.The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) jumped into the legal fray over LGBT rights and religious liberties on Wednesday when it joined a lawsuit against the US Department of Education (DOE) as a codefendant.Thirty-three current and former students from 20-plus religiously affiliated colleges filed the suit against the DOE in March to prevent the agency from granting religious exemptions from federal antidiscrimination laws. Eighteen of the schools are CCCU members, including Dordt Univeristy, Lipscomb Univeristy, Messiah Univeristy, Nyack College, and Toccoa Falls College. The schools all have policies prohibiting student sexual activity and statements about Christian sexual ethics.A newly founded LGBT advocacy group, the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP), says these policies are discriminatory and create abusive and unsafe conditions for LGBT students. REAP is arguing that the religious exemptions to civil rights and federal education laws should be abolished.If the exemption to Title IX is eliminated, religious schools with policies deemed discriminatory would not be eligible for federal funds.CCCU president Shirley Hoogstra said the lawsuit is frivolous and the Christian colleges and universities are clearly eligible for religious exemptions.“CCCU institutions subscribe to sincerely held biblical beliefs,” she said in a statement, “which include specific religious convictions around human sexuality and gender, and are transparent about their policies and behavior guidelines, which students voluntarily agree to when they choose to attend the institution.”The CCCU has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The motion cites multiple US Supreme Court rulings that ...Continue reading...
Pastors gear up to welcome evangelicals back to the “greater glory” of church life following 14 months of isolation. On Monday, Ireland emerged from one of Europe ’s strictest lockdowns, allowing Christians to return to in-person church services for the first time since December. Members of Solid Rock Drogheda couldn ’t wait until Sunday and met to worship together as soon as the restrictions lifted.The church, located in a town north of Dublin, started praying for Ireland and the end of the pandemic on St. Patrick’s Day 2020 when lockdown kept revelers at home. What started as a 24-hour prayer vigil has continued ever since, and the church has used an online booking system to schedule members to pray continuously, according to Nick Park, Solid Rock ’s pastor and the executive director of Evangelical Alliance Ireland.While the church prayed, the Irish government instituted three separate lockdowns. In the 14 months since the pandemic began, the government has permitted worship on only 14 Sundays and only three times in the past six months. As of May 10, churches can hold services—along with weddings and funerals—with a maximum of 50 people in attendance.This is a long-awaited relief for churchgoers who have spent so much of the pandemic apart. Pastors could leave their homes to conduct an online service or to minister to the sick during the earlier lockdowns, but residents were not permitted to get together socially or for worship, indoors or out.While many businesses and restaurants are still under phased reopening, the Irish are also finally free to travel between counties and meet up with friends and family, per the latest directives from government officials.At times Ireland ’s restrictions were considered among the toughest in the world. Authorities issued fines and threatened to arrest pastors ...Continue reading...
The spiritual discipline of recording our prayers and Bible reading reflections is a practice rooted in Christian tradition.Three crows bickering on a rooftop against the sunrise, reads my journal entry from July 22, 2019. Lord, how obnoxious I am!Aside from a list of prayer requests, that is the entirety of the entry for that day. Out of context, it makes no sense. But reading those two sentences now whisks me back to that sticky summer morning. The trio of argumentative crows on my neighbor’s roof are cawing and fighting, oblivious to the sky painted in lavender and gold behind them. Observing them, I see myself in their behavior, my complaints and natterings stark against the backdrop of God’s extravagant love. I jog home, unsettled, to write about the experience.The practice of writing down my spiritual observations puts me in good company. Christians have been compelled to write about God and to God since the earliest days of the church. Although much of the church’s writing over the years has been to reflect God to the wider world, Christians have also long written to and about God privately.Prayer journaling transcends denomination and background. Throughout history, both ordinary and prominent believers have approached private journaling to God as a matter of great spiritual import. Fiery Puritans Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards used their diaries to chronicle their sins and halting progress in holiness. John Wesley inherited his journaling practice from his devout mother, Susanna. C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed emerged from personal reflections he kept after the loss of his wife.The motivations for this practice varied. Puritans often journaled as an attempt to grow in holiness. John Beadle, an English clergyman in the 1600s, believed that diary-keeping was a way Christians might practice for the account they ...Continue reading...
Church Discipline Does a Body GoodIn Part 1, the practice of church discipline was grounded in God's character and work as the Good Shepherd and how it informs church discipline. Part 2 considered the ultimate goal of church discipline: to redeem and restore the person to the church body. But when the person continues in rebellion, denial, or other ways that contradict the faith, church discipline offers a way to protect the church while still holding forth the hope of repentance.The Pattern of Church DisciplineOne of the most misunderstood, abused, and even unused passages in the New Testament is Matthew 18:15–20. This passage isn't about confronting people who irritate you, or who don't do what you want, or who may have done or said something that offended you. This passage is about a brother or sister who sins against another. This sin could be of omission or commission. Nevertheless, it is about confronting those who engage in wrongdoing—those who live contrary to our all-perfect and all-holy God.Suppose there is noticeable, identifiable, and public sin. In this case, a brother or sister is to go to the individual and point out the fault—where their life isn't following Christ. Jesus then says, "If they listen to you, you have won them over." However, if they ignore your rebuke, "take one or two others along," establishing the testimony of two or three witnesses" (18:16).Again, suppose the person, in persistent sin, doesn't listen to the two or three believer’s admonishment to repent of their sin and thus has a hardened heart. In this case, the small confronting body is to share it with the larger body, the church. If the public acknowledgment of this person's sin doesn't soften ...Continue reading...
The heart of church discipline is restoration. As we noted in Part 1, God compares himself to a shepherd and promises to seek the lost, heal the broken, judge between his sheep (Ezekiel 34:10–22). Despite thwarting God's authority as Shepherd and harming other sheep around them (Ezekiel 34:17–22), God earnestly seeks out sheep who've strayed from his flock and desires to restore them to his care (Ezekiel 34:11, 22).We see the culmination of this promise to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) in Jesus Christ, who is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11–16) and will leave the ninety-nine sheep to bring one lost sheep back into his care (Luke 15:1–7).We also noted in Part 1 that God appoints leaders over his people and expects them to shepherd his people as he does and under his authority (Ezekiel 34:1–10; 1 Peter 5:2–4). To shepherd the people of God well, leaders need to "judge" between sheep—or in New Testament wording, practice church discipline. Therefore, we want to highlight the New Testament purpose, pattern, and practice of church discipline. For those churches that embrace the purpose, follow the pattern, and implement the practice of church discipline, they will do their bodies good.Church Discipline: Purposeful and MercifulIn 1 Corinthians 5, Paul exhorts the church in Corinth to expel the wicked man (5:12) who had been sleeping with his father's wife (5:1). In this passage, Paul writes, "So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of the Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh…" (5:4,5).Paul also, in writing to Timothy, alludes to two people he handed over to Satan. Paul shared that he handed Hymenaeus and Alexander ...Continue reading...
Instructions for publishers.Dear Publisher,Each year, Christianity Today honors a set of outstanding books encompassing a variety of subjects and genres. The CT Book Awards, along with our Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year, will be announced in December at christianitytoday.com. They also will be featured prominently in the January/February 2022 issue of CT and promoted in several CT newsletters. (In addition, publishers will have the opportunity to participate in a marketing promotion organized by CT’s marketing team, complete with site banners and paid Facebook promotion.)Awards Categories:1. Apologetics/Evangelism2. Biblical Studies3. Children and Youth4. Christian Living/Discipleship5. The Church/Pastoral Leadership6. Culture and the Arts7. Fiction8. History/Biography9. Marriage and Family10. Missions/Global Church11. Politics and Public Life12. Spiritual Formation13. Theology/Ethics14. The Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year**Beautiful Orthodoxy is the core philosophy guiding CT’s ministry. It describes a mission, across all our publications, to proclaim the truth, beauty, and goodness of the gospel in a gracious, non-antagonistic tone. Learn more about our cause of Beautiful Orthodoxy here and here.Nominations:To be eligible for nomination, a book must be published between November 1, 2020 and October 31, 2021. We are looking for scholarly and popular-level works, and everything in between. A diverse panel of scholars, pastors, and other informed readers will evaluate the books.Publishers can nominate as many books as they wish, and each nominee can be submitted in multiple categories. To enter your nominations, you will fill out and submit a nomination form, listing each book you are nominating and the categories for whey they ...Continue reading...
As a priest, I'm tired of a political battle that distracts from the gospel.Rick Warren’s Saddleback church recently made headlines by ordaining three female leaders. I was grateful to see these women recognized and lent both the public authority and institutional accountability that comes from ordination. But when I read the news, I also thought with a heavy sigh, “Oh, here we go again.” I knew the debate about women’s roles in the church would dominate conversation all week, and I could already predict the rutted arguments I’d hear recited over and over.Here’s an open secret: You know who hates talking about women’s ordination? Female pastors. Not all of us, of course. Some women have a special unction to debate this topic, and honestly, more power to them.But the reality is that few of us become pastors in order to talk about women’s ordination. We get ordained because the gospel has captured our imaginations. We get ordained to witness to the beauty and truth of Jesus. We get ordained to serve the church in the ministry of Word and sacrament. (And, for the record, don’t get ordained for any “cause” other than the ministry of Word and sacrament. Nothing else is worth it.)I wasn’t always in favor of women’s ordination. Until my 30s, I was a so-called soft complementarian. But I was also a woman in ministry. People in my church assumed that I’d eventually marry a pastor (as an unofficial way “in” to vocational ministry for laywomen). I interned at a Southern Baptist church in its youth group and a PCA church in “mercy ministries,” working among immigrants, the homeless, and the poor. Then I went to seminary, discovered I loved and had a knack for theological study, and eventually worked ...Continue reading...
His latest book leans on the Reformed tradition while speaking to 21st-century questions.As a pastor and author, John Piper has long been known for singing the song of God’s glory with uncommon passion. His newest book, the massive Providence—written more than three decades after his signature volume Desiring God—confirms that Piper has even more Scripture-soaked verses to belt out.At this stage of his ministry, it might be helpful to imagine Piper playing the role of C. S. Lewis’s character Digory Kirke from The Chronicles of Narnia. Piper, though, is Kirke at the age of his greatest influence, when he has grown from the boy Digory to the aged professor who welcomes the Pevensie children to stay at his estate to find in his wardrobe a portal to a new world.Professor Kirke, the reader discovers in later volumes, has been to Narnia before and knows of the other world the children discover. Upon their return, he is eager to hear about their travels and point them “further up and further in,” so they can better see and understand that world and its maker. Piper, like Kirke, shows today’s reader just how much he has seen of God’s glory—and how much comfort and transforming truth there is to be had in the doctrine of providence.A divine “seeing to it”In the introduction, Piper opens the door to see God and his world anew, offering four invitations to study God’s providence. These are invitations to worship and know the God who “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all,” and to find assurance that through his providence he will “graciously give us all things,” very much including Christ himself (Rom. 8:32). What follows are 700 pages divided into 45 chapters, grouped in three parts.The first part gives definition ...Continue reading...
Church discipline is an essential, often overlooked, and frequently misunderstood part of healthy congregational life. Church discipline.Those two words can bring a multitude of feelings and images to the reader who has had any experience with it. Frequently, people associate church discipline with "church hurt," evoking negative emotions of harsh, judgmental treatment which can cause division and church splits. On the other side, believers see discipline as something that Scripture speaks about, yet it is mainly absent from their local congregation in actual practice.To the everyday Christian, "discipline" seems harmful and unnecessary when we worship a God who is full of grace and love (Eph 2:8-9; 1 Pet 5:10; 1 Jn 4:8). To push someone out of the church could seem the opposite of what God wants to do, bringing all people to himself (Col 1:20).However, Jesus in the Gospel of Luke paints a different picture for us to consider, the image of a shepherd.Responding to the accusation that He enjoys the company of sinful people; Jesus tells a parable about a shepherd who leaves ninety-nine sheep to bring one sheep back to its fold (Luke 15:1–7). When the shepherd finds his stray sheep, he calls all his friends together and says, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost!" Jesus then explains that this parable portrays God's joy in repentance and restoration.This parable isn't the first time the Bible depicts God as a shepherd, however. Jesus is elaborating on a foundational depiction of the character of God. Throughout the Psalms (23; 80) and the prophets (Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11–24), we see God as a shepherd. This image so vividly captures who God is and what God does that Jesus also asserts that he is the Good Shepherd who lays his life down for His sheep (John 10:11–16). ...Continue reading...
These biblical commands rightly remind us about the significance of our bodies.In his best-selling book, The Year of Living Biblically, secular Jew A. J. Jacobs endeavors to follow biblical laws literally for a year. His escapades with mixed fabrics, stoning Sabbath-breakers, handling serpents, and honoring widows are enthralling and often sidesplitting, and they led to a CBS sitcom spinoff.In one entry, he explains his attempt to avoid the ritual impurity associated with genital discharges while his wife is menstruating (Lev. 15:19–23). Unamused, she makes it a point to sit in every chair in the house before he returns home. Ultimately, he opts for a portable Handy Seat, because really, who can be sure who might have just sat in any particular subway seat or restaurant booth? (Rachel Held Evans completed a similar tongue-in-cheek challenge in her 2012 book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood.)Part of the reason this story is so humorous is its utter absurdity, especially as seen through our modern Western lens, which unwittingly informs our interpretation of Scripture. We find it awkward or wildly inappropriate to act differently—let alone to ask—if a woman is menstruating, and therefore the notion of a biblical regulation or restriction over a woman’s time of the month seems preposterous.It is easy to overlook or disregard that, in the Bible, issues of ritual purity matter. Far from being some legalistic and archaic Old Testament oddity, engaging impurity deeply mattered to Jesus as well.The ritual purity system is a cornerstone of second-temple Jewish life, and Jesus’ actions reveal that he embodies a kind of contagious holiness, which overcomes the sources of impurity that contaminate God’s people. Without understanding how the ritual purity system works, and ...Continue reading...
Once considered a beacon of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, the West African nation has been embroiled in unprecedented extremist violence.In the more than 15 years Salomon Tibiri has been offering spiritual succor as a military pastor in Burkina Faso, he’s never fielded so many calls from anxious soldiers and their relatives as in recent years, when the army found itself under attack by Islamic extremist fighters.“Before the crisis there was more stability,” Tibiri said, seated in a military camp church in the city of Kaya, in the hard-hit Center-North region. “Now (the soldiers) are busier, and when you approach them you feel their stress—much more stress.”Once considered a beacon of peace and religious coexistence in the region, the West African nation has been embroiled in unprecedented violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State since 2016.[Editor’s note: A series of terrorist attacks on churches led Open Doors to add Burkina Faso to its persecution watch list in 2020 for the first time, and to rank it No. 32 out of the 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian in 2021. Meanwhile, Burkinabe Christians have debated whether or not to join civilian militias in response.]The attacks have thrown an ill-equipped and undertrained army into disarray—and overwhelming the chaplains tasked with supporting them.In interviews in the Center-North and in Ouagadougou, the capital, military chaplains told The Associated Press that they are stretched thin by the unprecedented conflict and what assistance they are able to provide through phone calls and prayer services is insufficient.Just seven chaplains, hailing from Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim faiths, are charged with spiritually advising some 11,000 soldiers and helping maintain their morale. The army has not devoted what little resources it has ...Continue reading...
US ambassador meets with Abune Mathias in Addis Ababa after provocative video released.The head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in his first public comments on the war in his country’s Tigray region is sharply criticizing Ethiopia’s federal government, saying he believes its actions constitute genocide: “They want to destroy the people of Tigray.”The United States ambassador hosted him today to learn more.In a video shot last month on a mobile phone and carried out of Ethiopia, the elderly Patriarch Abune Mathias addresses the church’s scores of millions of followers and the international community, saying his previous attempts to speak out were blocked. He is ethnic Tigrayan.The video comes as the conflict in Tigray marks six months. Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting between Ethiopian and allied forces and Tigray ones, the result of a political struggle that turned deadly in November. Dozens of witnesses have told the AP that civilians are targeted.“I am not clear why they want to declare genocide on the people of Tigray,” Mathias says, speaking in Amharic and listing alleged atrocities including the destruction of churches, massacres, forced starvation, and looting.“It is not the fault of the Tigray people. The whole world should know it.”He calls for strength, adding that “this bad season might pass away.” And he urges the world to act.The comments are a striking denunciation from someone so senior inside Ethiopia, where state media reflect the government’s narrative and both independent journalists and Tigrayans have been intimidated and harassed. The video also comes as Ethiopia, facing multiple crises of sometimes deadly ethnic tensions, faces a national election on June 5.Dennis Wadley, who runs the US-based ...Continue reading...
What does it mean for 21st century people to engage in evangelism?In Act II, Scene II of the classic work, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, there is a famous conversation between the couple. They love each other and want to be together, but they carry the burden of their surnames, and this means that they will be apart forever. In the midst of this complicated mix of feelings and emotions, Juliet uses a metaphor to persuade Romeo that their names do not matter; she says that if a rose had another name, it would still produce the same perfume. I believe that evangelism has a similar dynamic, because although the name comes with a full range of feelings, pre-concepts, fears and worldviews, it’s true nature, motivations and purpose, go beyond any word that we can use to name it.It is time for people to understand what evangelism is, and what it means for the church of the 21st Century to engage in evangelism. So, to begin to ‘stir this pot’ I would like to introduce 10 things that evangelism is not.1. Evangelism is not supposed to be complicated.One of the first things that comes to people’s minds when they hear the “E” word, is “it’s complicated”, but the fact is that this is not true. Evangelism is not complicated; it is simply to share with the world the life that you have found in Jesus.There are three people who, in a very natural way, carried out evangelism in the New Testament, but who many people don’t recognise as engaging in evangelism. They are the blind man, the demon-possessed man of Gadarene, and the Samaritan women. None of them knew Jesus for a long time, or had much, if any, training. But they were willing to share the difference that Jesus had made in their lives and that is what it is to evangelise - to share who ...Continue reading...
Inspired by Makoto Fujimura, an American evangelical partners with Lebanese art institute to equally dignify every death.Nine months later, Brady Black was fed up—and inspired.Last August, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history leveled Lebanon’s main port and thousands of homes.Charities and churches scrambled to help, as 204 people were killed.The government has done next to nothing.But now, each victim has a portrait across from Beirut’s famed Martyrs Square.“Families were protesting, holding up pictures of their relatives as they demanded justice,” said Black.“They wanted them to be seen. So we made it loud.”An American street artist resident in Lebanon since 2015, Black teamed up with Art of Change to illegally create the capital city’s largest informal portrait gallery. Run by a secular British artist and a Lebanese Muslim from the heterodox Druze sect, the art institute co-founders sponsored Black’s evangelical idea for “good mischief.”Scouring the internet for every name and image that could be found, Black digitally drew each face with the utmost care—with one caveat. No matter the importance of the victim or the degree of fame achieved in their death, each was limited to one hour of his creativity.An hour he bathed in prayer for the surviving family.“People come up to me, frantically asking, ‘Where is my son?’” said Black of his installation.“‘Come with me,’ I tell them. ‘I know exactly where he is.’”Each victim’s portrait is about 10 square feet in size. Arranged side-by-side, the images span the equivalent of three football fields, covering three-quarters of a city block on one of Beirut’s busiest downtown intersections.Black was especially keen on the eyes.Mona Lisa-like, ...Continue reading...
The LGBT movement was shaped by the animosity of populist evangelical rhetoric and tactics.Over the past decade, significant pillars of the evangelical community have wavered in their convictions about marriage and human sexuality. In 2014, World Vision announced it would hire Christians in same-sex relationships—only to reverse course after a backlash threatened donations.Things have gone differently for Bethany Christian Services, one of the country’s leading adoption providers, which recently disclosed its plan to place children with same-sex couples. While the organization stressed that “discussions about doctrine are important,” the decision effectively severs a Christian doctrine of marriage from the practice of adoption.Conservative evangelicals have reacted by trying to purify the ranks of the faithful. In 2017, the Nashville Statement, put out by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, responded to weakening evangelical adherence to Christian teachings on sexuality. The ill-fated effort did little to build evangelicals’ confidence that their witness on sexual ethics would be simultaneously orthodox and also welcoming toward LGBT individuals.Nonetheless, there is reason to be seriously concerned about the future of evangelical communities in an increasingly post-Christian America. The Supreme Court’s decisions in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized and legitimized same-sex marriage, and Bostock v. Clayton County, which extended nondiscrimination protections to LGBT individuals, have ratified the long reshaping of America’s norms on marriage and sexuality.They have also raised serious questions about the rights of faith communities. Despite enjoying unprecedented access to the White House during the Trump administration, evangelicals secured few religious ...Continue reading...
Ten writers on the discipleship practices that shaped their families this year.“America’s Mothers Are in Crisis” blared a February New York Times headline for an article arguing that mothers are “breaking” nationwide. Expected to do it all—work, homeschool, keep house, care for their families—many women left the workforce or hit a mental breaking point during 2020. But within the chaos, many Christian mothers are figuring out how to lean on their faith in new ways. Some moms are praying in new ways for and with their children or discovering spiritual formation habits inspired by staying at home during the pandemic. We asked ten mothers about what pandemic-inspired family discipleship habits they were hoping to cultivate or leave behind in the coming months and years.Devi Abraham, Melbourne, Australia, writer and host of Where Do We Go from Here?, a podcast about sexual ethicsFor our pandemic year, our sons studied at home and my husband worked from home, so we ate most of our meals together for the first time. Dining with two boys, seven and nine, ranged from the funny chaos of fart noises to deeper conversations about faith and mortality thanks to COVID-19. We prayed for our family in Germany, Sri Lanka, and Australia. We prayed for my sisters, both pregnant. We prayed that God would take the virus away.Today, our lives in Melbourne are back to normal, but we keep meeting each other at the meal table. It is a practice that endures even when dinner is a bowl of two-minute noodles. It is impossible to ignore the climate in which we live, one where it seems as though the powerful can get away with anything and where the sounds of survivors are all around us, longing to be heard. I pray daily that my sons will recognize their weaknesses, that God will form in ...Continue reading...
Advocates say more subtle approaches and one-on-one engagement may actually do more to inform the unvaccinated without further dividing the faithful.As COVID-19 vaccination rates slowed this spring, Americans’ attention turned toward the groups less likely to get the shot, including white evangelicals.Black Protestants were initially among the most skeptical toward the vaccine, but they grew significantly more open to it during the first few months of the year, while white evangelicals’ hesitancy held steady.With African Americans, many credit robust campaigns targeting Black neighborhoods, launching vaccination clinics in Black churches, and convening discussions featuring prominent Black Christian voices for reducing rates of hesitancy. So for those eager to see higher levels of vaccination, the question became: Are white evangelical leaders doing enough to engage their own?The latest poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research organization focused on health issues, found that as of the end of April, white evangelicals (54%) were about as likely to have received the COVID-19 vaccine as the country overall (56%).The difference comes with the attitudes among the unvaccinated. White evangelicals are half as likely as Americans overall to say they plan to get the shot ASAP, and 20 percent say they definitely won’t be getting the shot, 7 percentage points lower than the rest of the country.Most evangelical churches in the country span a range of perspectives on vaccination, which makes it difficult for pastors to know when or how to address the topic.“I know pastors who won’t even mention masks because people would leave. I’d say vaccines are even more sensitive,” said Dan DeWitt, who directs the Center for Biblical Apologetics and Public Christianity at Cedarville University. “Pastors ...Continue reading...
Buffeted by Russia, corruption, and culture war pressures, believers surge in national elections.Like many in America, evangelicals in Ukraine feel under siege.It may be why people are starting to elect them—in record numbers.“Ukraine has become the epicenter of a global spiritual battle,” said Pavel Unguryan, coordinator of Ukraine’s National Prayer Breakfast.“Today, as never before, our nation needs unity, peace, and the authority of God’s Word.”Their perceived threats are coming from all directions.From the east, Russia recently amassed 100,000 soldiers on the border.From the west, the European Union pushes LGBT ideology.And from within, corruption is rampant.On each issue, evangelicals align well with Ukrainian voters.“The shortage of good leaders is so intense, parties are starting to recruit in the churches,” said Unguryan. “Honest and responsible politicians are easiest to find there.”Last October, more than 500 evangelicals were elected to all levels of government. One even heads a major city—Rivne, in western Ukraine—as mayor.With evangelicals comprising only 2 percent of Ukraine’s 40 million people, it is a significant achievement.Two-thirds (65%) of the population identify as Orthodox Christians (split across three groups), 10 percent as Greek Catholic, and a further 8 percent as “simply a Christian.”But the piety does not translate to politics. Ukraine ranks 117th out of 180 nations in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index—the second-lowest ranking in Europe.As a result, 78 percent of Ukrainians distrust state officials, and 71 percent distrust politicians, according to a 2020 poll by the Razumkov Center.But the church is trusted by 63 percent, second only to the army, trusted by ...Continue reading...
Severe oxygen shortage one of many challenges as India suffers the world's worst surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths.With life-saving oxygen in short supply, families are left on their own to ferry people sick with COVID-19 from hospital to hospital in search of treatment as India is engulfed in a devastating surge of infections. Too often, their efforts end in mourning.On social media and in television footage, desperate relatives plead for oxygen outside hospitals or weep in the street for loved ones who died waiting for treatment.India has been setting global daily records of new coronavirus infections, spurred by an insidious new variant that emerged here.On Thursday, the number of new confirmed cases breached 400,000 for the second time since the devastating surge began last month. The 412,262 new cases pushed India’s official tally to more than 21 million, behind only the United States.The Health Ministry also reported 3,980 new deaths on Thursday, bringing the confirmed total to 230,168 (behind only the US and Brazil). Health experts believe both figures are an undercount.Leaders of Christian churches and ministries in India have been overwhelmed by cases and deaths among their staff and congregants amid the unavailability of treatment. In response, Friday was jointly declared a day of prayer and fasting by the leaders of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).The current crisis is one of the darkest times in the history of the nation, according to Prabhu Singh, principal of the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS), an evangelical research institution in Bengaluru.“One of the heartbreaking results of this intense second wave in the country is the tragic loss of senior leaders of Christian ...Continue reading...
Article 3 in a series of articles based upon the Lausanne North America Listening CallQuestion 3: What promising breakthroughs or innovations do you see that can accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission?We live in an age of constant innovation and breakthroughs in science, medicine, and technology.Just so we are on the same page, let me define innovation and breakthroughs. I’m borrowing from Ted Esler’s innovation definition where he writes, “Innovation is the use of something new to create solutions. It can include invention, the creation of something new, or it can be a mixing of existing things to create something new. It might be technological, but it is not limited to technology. It is about products, services, processes, and ideas. Breakthroughs are related to innovation as they are a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development that helps to improve a situation, provide a solution, or solve a problem.The Church has been seen (in general) more as a Luddite than a technophile. However, what we have witnessed over the last several decades is an increasing number of church leaders, churches, non-profit, and Christian organizations leveraging innovation and breakthroughs for greater gospel impact. In our listening call, the leaders provided dozens of innovations and breakthroughs they see that are helping to (or can help) accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission.In this post, I want to present the top three.Social MediaThere are variations of social media.Social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Snapchat are one variant of social media. These platforms allow people to network with one another sharing personal updates, thoughts, experiences, photos, and videos. Another variant to social media is bookmarking sites like Pinterest ...Continue reading...
Why scientists struggle to put this spiritual practice under the microscope.Praying can be easy. A prayer can be a thought, a word, a heavenward plea from someone in need, a few lines said spontaneously or recited from a book, or even just a groan. Understanding what a prayer does after it leaves your lips is a little more difficult. Christian theologians have long debated how prayer works, and what it means to say it “works.” So have scientists.Psychologist Kevin L. Ladd, a professor at Indiana University South Bend, recently examined some of the extensive recent research on prayer for the John Templeton Foundation. Looking at more than 40 psychological studies finished in the past few years on the impact of prayer on intimate relationships, Ladd found there is some evidence of positive correlations between prayer and improved relationships. “It may,” he writes, “be useful to encourage people to engage some forms of prayer as coping tools.”But in study after study, Ladd, author of The Psychology of Prayer: A Scientific Approach, also found that researches hadn’t thought very carefully about what prayer is. In a sense, they kept pointing their telescopes in the wrong direction.Ladd spoke to CT about the limits of prayer research.Why is it hard to study prayer scientifically?If you’re not familiar with the practice of prayer and why people pray, it’s very easy to look at it as though somebody is making a definitive statement or doing something over which they would claim to have full control. The twist with prayer is that you can be saying things that sound very active and assertive about what you want to happen in the world and also at the same moment you are relinquishing control. You’re saying, “I am surrendering this concern.” ...Continue reading...
Her teachings pushed us beyond worship wars and individualism with keen observations, a generous spirit, and an otherworldly devotion to Jesus.When a mentor saw me struggling with worship in our fledging church plant, he handed me a copy of Marva Dawn’s Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship in this Urgent Time. I wondered what a Lutheran and a lover of historic worship practices would have to say to a congregation whose traditions came more from indie rock shows than any church.It turns out that the work of Marva Dawn—who died last month at age 72—was life-giving. Like many in my generation, I began ministry with a sense that there was something unsatisfying about the experiences I’d grown up with, and Dawn invited us to reconsider much that had been laid aside in the decades before.I have no doubt that some of the credit for the renewed interest in hymnody and liturgy of the past two decades is owed to Dawn’s response to the church trends of the 1980s and 1990s, including the praise and worship movement coming out of places like The Vineyard and the “seeker-sensitive” movement led by Willow Creek.Dawn wrote in Reaching Out that many of the changes the church was adopting—aesthetically, stylistically, and technologically—were being made uncritically. She could see that these shifts in the culture of the church were also shifts in the nature of the church, as congregations turned into “mega-businesses instead of Christian communities.”At the height of the worship wars, churches were battling out the transition from choirs, organs, and hymnals to praise bands and overhead projectors. Advocates of contemporary worship beat the drum of evangelistic opportunity, while traditionalists fought for the church’s connection to church history and the riches of the hymnal.But Dawn sought ...Continue reading...
Ministries offer tips for how to give heartbreaking headlines over to God.Over the past year, the news has been enough to drive us to despair. Or prayer. Or both.As people have been bombarded with headlines about the global pandemic, civil unrest, natural disasters, and religious persecution, some ministry leaders and Christian media outlets have been offering resources to help believers pray through the news.Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the UK outlet Premier Christian News had redesigned its website to include prayer prompts at the end of every news story. The site saw more than 175,000 readers click to pray in 2020.“We wanted to inform Christians about the news going on around the world but also equip them,” said Marcus Jones, Premier’s director of news and digital.During some grim news cycles—Brexit, terrorist attacks, and then the pandemic—journalists and audiences alike can become desensitized to the headlines. “It is healthy to take a step back and say this is a real-life situation God can intervene in,” said Jones.The writers at Premier Christian News compose or compile relevant prayers, usually just a few lines long, to run at the end of their articles. A tracker tallies how many readers have clicked the praying hands icon to indicate they are praying.A majority of Premier readers come from the UK, where a third of people say the pandemic has affected their prayer life, according to a Savanta ComRes survey. They’re just as likely to say it’s made them pray less (15%) as to say it’s made them pray more (16%).Still, Jones said the team has been impressed with how much engagement they’ve gotten from the feature. The most-prayed-for stories are usually the most-read, but coverage of persecution and ...Continue reading...

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