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With the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, many have reminded church leaders how they need to be innovating.The words “church” and “innovation” have been lumped together for quite some time. In fact, Ed Stetzer co-authored a book called 11 Innovations in the Local Church over ten years ago. So it’s not new. However, with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, many have reminded church leaders how they need to be innovating.I’m sure that when pastors and church leaders hear the word “church” and “innovation”, they probably resort to one of the following four positions: Apprehensive—because they don’t know how to innovate Indignant—because they don’t think the church needs to be innovative Ecstatic—because they’ve been waiting on an opportunity to innovate Stubborn—because they don’t believe they need to innovateWhen church experts or leading church practitioners encourage churches to innovate, I’m assuming they are telling them to do something new compared to what they’ve been doing. For instance, when churches had to pivot from in-person gatherings to streaming online services, many saw that as innovation. I figure you could call that innovation since Joseph Schumpeter, a seminal thinker on innovation and economics in the early 20thcentury, characterized innovation as: Introduction to a new good Introduction to a new method of production The opening of a new market Access to new sources of raw materials or components The introduction of new forms of organizationSchumpeter’s characteristics give us a broad description to at least understand innovation and define it as “the development of something new.”However, let me be clear: just because a church “innovates” doesn’t make them innovators. ...Continue reading...
As American bishops dedicate this week to religious freedom, including for Muslims in China, polls suggest a cresting of support for the church in need.For the first time, American legislation in defense of international religious freedom has reached into the Chinese Politburo.Last week, President Donald Trump signed into law a bill to authorize sanctions against any officials in China’s top political body responsible for ongoing persecution against the country’s Muslim Uighur minority.Passed by Congress with only one “no” vote, the action follows on the heels of this month’s release of the State Department’s 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom (IRF).During the report’s public release, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lauded the United States’s commitment.“America is not a perfect nation by any means, we always strive towards that more perfect union, trying to improve,” he said.“[But] there is no other nation that cares so deeply about religious freedom.”Such commitment was marked this week by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Each day from June 22–29 highlights an issue of concern, whether domestic or international.Yesterday (June 24) the focus was on China.Last summer, the government-affiliated Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association—representing about half of China’s estimated 12 million Catholics—condemned US criticism after the State Department’s second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom advocated for the 800,000 to 2 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities who have been arbitrarily detained in internment camps.But one month later, the Chinese government permitted the first consecration of a Vatican-ordained bishop—a result of Pope Francis signing a controversial 2018 deal with Chinese authorities in an attempt to unite Rome with ...Continue reading...
All of us are thirsty, longing for something that will satisfy us completely.In J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous series The Lord of the Rings, a creature called Gollum becomes consumed by an obsession with the One Ring. Gollum was originally a hobbit-like creature known as Smeagol, who murdered his friend to take possession of the ring shortly after he discovered it.Smeagol’s family later shunned and exiled him because of his deceitful and disruptive ways when using the ring, which made him invisible. Gollum had an insatiable hunger for the ring and its power. He centered his entire life around owning it and recovering it after he lost it, and it cost him everything.Although our cravings may not be as extreme as Gollum’s addiction, we all have things we desire in life. Children chase after an extra cookie or longer time at recess. Adults desire certain relationships or positions at work. We all tend to place a higher priority on pursuing those things that we believe will satisfy a longing in our hearts. We were created to hunger and strive with the hope of satisfaction; the question is “What will satisfy?”In John 4, Jesus encountered a woman at a well. Although she may not have realized it, this Samaritan woman was needy for a solution to her sin; as with all people today, apart from Christ, we are all enemies of God.Jesus highlighted her need for a permanent solution to her deepest thirst, telling her that she should be begging him for a drink of the water he was able to offer—“living water.”Without new birth in Christ (see John 3), we all have dirty hearts and we are all riddled with sin. Our sinful nature has estranged humanity from God since the fall. In fact, not only are we estranged from God but our sin causes there to be enmity, or hostility, between ...Continue reading...
Church of the Highlands's expulsion in Birmingham has some pastors worried about growing scrutiny.When Alabama megachurch pastor Chris Hodges liked recent social media posts from conservative commentator Charlie Kirk, he launched a chain of events that led to two of his church’s campuses being expelled from their meeting spaces in Birmingham public schools.Hodges has met with African American leaders at Church of the Highlands and apologized for his engagement with “multiple insensitive social media posts.”As pundits continue to debate whether the city’s expulsion represents viewpoint discrimination—former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it “an attack on both religious liberty and freedom of speech”—some Christian leaders wonder whether the case will draw more scrutiny toward the thousands of congregations who use leased space in public schools.Hodges’ congregation, the Church of the Highlands, began meeting in 2001 in a local high school auditorium. It has since grown to become the biggest church in Alabama, with more than 20 campuses worshiping a mix of their own buildings and rented public spaces. Two of those sites had their leases with Birmingham public schools terminated June 9 following two weeks of controversy over Hodges’ social media activity, which was brought forward by a public school teacher.The Church of the Highlands controversy represents the most high-profile dispute over churches meeting in public schools in recent years. But the religious bias against church plants has been around far longer, according to J. D. Payne, a church planting scholar at Samford University.Religious freedom advocates argue that if public schools open their space to community organizations during off-hours, they cannot discriminate ...Continue reading...
Robert Briggs will oversee the launch of a Philadelphia-based Bible history center and continue to foster partnerships to accelerate global translations.As the new president of the American Bible Society (ABS), Robert Briggs will balance the work of spurring Scriptural engagement in his own country with the ongoing efforts to complete Bible translations around the world.A 20-year veteran of the ABS and a founding member of the steering committee of Every Tribe Every Nation, Briggs—who was announced as president this week—knows these causes well. He succeeds Bible translation veteran Roy Peterson, who came to ABS in 2014 after leading The Seed Company and Wycliffe USA.Under his leadership, the society will launch a landmark historical center in Philadelphia designed to showcase the Bible’s role in the lives of the Founding Fathers and early American history. ABS itself exemplifies these connections, with John Jay, Francis Scott Key, and Elias Boudinot among its early leaders.But its work is not only American. The society partners with national societies in other countries to collaborate toward global goals around speeding up Bible translation and access.“This is deeply embedded in my heart, to be a part of, really unprecedented translation movement that is bringing God’s word in the entire globe,” he said in an interview this week with CT. “We’re watching a revolution happen right before our eyes.”The ministry is also looking at digital packaging, social media, and new platforms to bring a revival of Bible engagement in its own country.After President Donald Trump posed with the book in front of St. John’s Church in Washington D.C., ABS shared a statement about seeing the Bible as more than a symbol and launched a Bible giveaway“Some of those people were getting Bibles for the first time. That’s really ...Continue reading...
From Genesis to Revelation, racism runs counter to everything Scripture teaches.Racial discourse is again part of the national and global conversation due to the recent killings of black people. White Christians especially find themselves trying to wrestle with how to understand, respond to, and engage what many black Christians see as clear examples of racial injustice.Some Christians are asking whether they should affirm the dignity of black lives with the words “black lives matter” since this phrase is associated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization and the BLM organization affirms things that are clearly contrary to Scripture.As a black Christian man who believes the Bible gives us everything we need for eternal life and godliness, I think Christians must begin our opposition to racism with a biblical and theological analysis of the problem and with a biblical and theological presentation of the solution to the problem. Christians must also be rigorous exegetes of both the Bible and of our own social locations, as we use common-grace resources and common sense under the authority of Scripture to eradicate the evil of racism in the power of the Spirit.We must carefully and critically evaluate every idea in any organization in light of Scripture and under the authority of Scripture. We must reject teachings in any organization that are contrary to Scripture. My own theological tradition has an article in our confession of faith stating this very fact (Article XV, Baptist Faith and Message).However, the recent criticisms against Christians who affirm the scriptural truth of black dignity using the words “black lives matter” seem odd to me as a black Christian man in America. After all, the Bible affirms black lives are created in the image of ...Continue reading...
Trustees release a summary of findings from an internal investigation, while a pastor who oversaw the restoration process resigns.Cedarville University president Thomas White has been reinstated despite an internal investigation concluding that he kept the university from knowing the “specific nature” of a former professor’s abusive past.Two members of the board of trustees have resigned in protest, saying the investigation’s findings were “extreme troubling.” Some of the Cedarville faculty say they have lost trust in the school’s leader.White was put on leave May 1, a week after he fired Anthony Moore. Moore was three years into a five-year “restoration plan” as an employee at the Baptist school when White said he learned “additional information related to [his] past” and ended his employment at the university, where he had taught theology, helped coach basketball, and served as a special advisor on diversity.While White knew about the behavior that cost Moore his previous job as pastor at The Village Church in Fort Worth, White said he didn’t realize the extent of the misconduct, that Moore had reportedly filmed a subordinate in the shower multiple times over months, not just one or two times. CT reported that Moore’s Cedarville colleagues, fellow professors and basketball coaches, said they were not informed that his sinful past involved abuse.According to a statement released by Cedarville trustees Friday afternoon, an internal investigation by the legal firm Husch Blackwell LLP found no evidence of sexual misconduct by Moore while he was employed at Cedarville.The report acknowledged White’s “benevolent motivation” in hiring Moore under a plan to counsel and restore him, but said “it is reasonable to infer… President ...Continue reading...
As we re-emerge from COVID-19's initial impact, how will we find joy in sharing the simple gospel again?If there’s anything COVID-19 has achieved, it is the amplification of our feelings of isolation, fear, anxiety, and rampant uncertainty. Why would we not feel this way when the foundations of our lives have been shaken and the roots of our idolatrous worship have been left exposed?In Matthew 12:34, Jesus reminds us that out of the overflow of our hearts, our mouth speaks. What have you heard or spoken during this uncertain time? If you’re anything like me, your words have most likely been laced with fear, full of anxiety, and not as life-giving as you’d expect.As we re-emerge from COVID-19’s initial impact, how will we find joy in sharing the simple gospel again?The simple joy of sharing good newsChallenging times can sometimes rob you of your joy, yet our joy should be fueling our mission now more than ever. In Romans 15:11, Paul reminds us that there’s something infinitely and magnificently great about God that evokes worship for people from diverse settings all around the world.There’s nothing greater that evokes joy and stokes the embers of joy in our heart than sharing the gospel with those in great need around us. Jeremiah 15:16 remind us to take courage in the gospel: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”Why is it that we’re feeling anxious and somewhat discombobulated? Could it be that God’s exposing something else in our hearts—counterfeit gods that have rallied for our attention and worship?In Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller reminds us that these idols or counterfeit gods are anything so central and essential to your life that, should ...Continue reading...
After reading Rebecca Manley Pippert's follow-up to “Out of the Saltshaker,” I've never been more excited to talk about Jesus.As a preacher and evangelist, I like to say that the application for any sermon—no matter the Bible passage—should be: “Tell your friends about Jesus.” It’s a joke, of course. Because that’s a lazy application—one guaranteed to get guilty looks from the congregation.But why are we so bad at telling our friends about Jesus? In part, because in today’s post-Christian Western world, we’re told to keep our beliefs to ourselves. Our faith is supposed to be private, not public. In this environment, talking about Jesus is seen as judgmental, intolerant, and oppressive.Last year, an article in Christianity Today carried a revealing headline: “Half of Millennial Christians Say It’s Wrong to Evangelize.” Evidently, evangelism is hated by significant numbers of both Christians and non-Christians! Who would have thought that a mutual dislike for evangelism would unite us all?And yet, a desire to share the gospel with friends runs—or at least should run—through the DNA of every Christian. So how can we start talking about Jesus again?This is the question at the heart of Rebecca Manley Pippert’s latest book , Stay Salt. Pippert, of course, is best known for her classic book on evangelism, Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World: Evangelism as a Way of Life. First published in 1979, Out of the Saltshaker was written to equip believers for evangelism in a culture that was drifting in post-Christian directions. Four decades later, those forces have only accelerated, but Pippert hasn’t lost any confidence that the gospel message can break through walls of hostility and indifference, even in the context of everyday conversations. As the subtitle ...Continue reading...
Black Christians overwhelmingly say police treatment is biased against them. Why don't white evangelicals believe them?Do police officers generally treat black and white Americans alike?White evangelicals are more likely to say “yes” than any other major religious demographic in the United States. Black Protestants are most likely to disagree.This rift has appeared repeatedly in surveys on American policing over the past five years, as have disparities in how these two groups understand high-profile police killings of black men and in how police make them feel. The numbers are striking: A 2015 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found white evangelical Protestants were the only major religious group in which a majority (62%) said police generally treat white and black people equally. Only 20 percent of minority Protestants agreed. Survey data from Pew Research Center and the Baylor Religion Survey in 2017 showed that gap between white evangelicals and black Protestants was intact two years later. The same 2015 PRRI poll found 6 in 10 white evangelicals called high-profile police killings of black men isolated incidents; 7 in 10 minority Protestants said they see a broader pattern. In a 2018 poll by PRRI, the isolated incident vs. broader pattern contrast was starker: Now 7 in 10 white evangelicals said the deaths were isolated incidents, while 84 percent of black Protestants said there’s a pattern. And the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey showed white evangelicals and black Protestants were, of 16 religious demographics, furthest apart on whether the police make them feel safe or unsafe.The latest of these polls (the most recent I’ve found) is two years old, and it’s possible opinions have shifted some, especially over the past few weeks, as the police killing of George Floyd in ...Continue reading...
Armenian patriarch surprisingly backs President Erdoğan's position, asking also for Christian prayer at famous former church.After 85 years as a museum, the Hagia Sophia is poised to once again become a mosque. Might it also again become a church?A Turkish court is scheduled to rule on July 2 if the iconic Byzantine basilica can be opened for Muslim worship.Built in 537 by Emperor Justinian, in 1453 the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II converted the Hagia Sophia into a mosque. Five centuries later, the secularizing founder of modern Turkey, Kamal Ataturk, turned it into a museum.UNESCO designated the Hagia Sophia as a World Heritage Site in 1985.President Recep Erdogan has long stated his desire that the building would welcome prayer. In March, he led guests in silent Quranic recitation on the 567th anniversary of the conquest of Constantinople, dedicating the prayer to Mehmet II.Last week, Erdogan found an unlikely supporter.“I believe that believers’ praying suits better the spirit of the temple than curious tourists running around to take pictures,” tweeted Armenian Patriarch Sahak II, resident in Istanbul.“The site is large enough to allocate a space for Christians, [so that] the world can applaud our religious peace and maturity.”The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church represents the largest Christian community remaining in Turkey, with an estimated 90,000 members. The Hagia Sophia used to serve as the cathedral for the Greek Orthodox Church, whose members have dwindled to an estimated 2,500.Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, also resident in Istanbul, expressed his concern over the possible conversion.“Instead of uniting, a 1,500-year-old heritage is dividing us,” said the Greek patriarch, who leads 300 million Orthodox worldwide.“I am saddened and shaken.”Condemnation also came from UNESCO, ...Continue reading...
John Roberts joins liberal justices, citing precedent.The Supreme Court has ruled that a Louisiana law regulating abortion puts an unacceptable obstacle in the path of women who want an abortion.Pro-life advocates had hoped that the two new conservative justices would swing the court in a different direction than its 2016 ruling on a similar case. Instead, the 5–4 decision solidifies the court’s definition of “undue burden” on women seeking the procedure and further limits states’ abilities to regulate abortion.“This decision is disappointing and wrong-headed,” said Russell Moore, president of the the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “The Louisiana law was directed toward the simple goal of protecting women from danger by placing the most minimal restrictions possible on an abortion industry that insists on laissez-faire for itself and its profits.”The Louisiana law required abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. Legislators said the requirement would improve the level of care that clinics provide for women. Abortion regulations in Louisiana and other conservative states have resulted in clinic closures and corresponded with falling abortion rates nationwide.The court struck down similar requirements in Texas in 2016, ruling that the regulation would have no positive effect on the level of treatment women received but would likely cause some clinics to close. The regulation was unconstitutional because it placed an “undue burden” on women’s access to abortion.On Monday, four liberal justices—Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonya Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan—decided in June Medical Services vs. Ruso that the Louisiana ...Continue reading...
The president's executive order elevates its priority in US foreign policy. Nine experts assess the strategy's longevity.On June 2, as protests over the death of George Floyd raged across the United States, President Donald Trump elevated the stature of religious freedom within the State Department.“Religious freedom for all people worldwide is a foreign policy priority,” read the executive order (EO) he signed, “and the United States will respect and vigorously promote this freedom.”It received almost no media attention.The provisions—long called for by many advocates of international religious freedom (IRF)—could overhaul a US foreign policy that has historically sidelined support for America’s “first freedom.”That is, if the order survives a potential Joe Biden administration.It is common for a new president to reverse EOs issued by their predecessor. In his eight years in office, President Obama issued 30 to amend or rescind Bush-era policies. In his first year in office, Trump issued 17 directed at Obama-era policies.While IRF has typically enjoyed bipartisan support, current political polarization leaves few sacred cows.Trump signed the EO after a visit to the Pope John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, DC. It was previously scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of the Polish-born pope’s 1979 return to his home nation, which set off a political and spiritual revolution that defied the Soviet Union and eventually ended the Cold War.However, Washington’s Catholic archbishop called it “baffling and reprehensible” the facility would allow itself to be manipulated one day after Trump lifted a Bible in front of St. John’s Anglican Church across from the White House in the wake of the aggressive dispersal of protesters opposing police brutality and ...Continue reading...
GOD TV argues application for new Shelanu channel in Hebrew was forthright, decries decision as political.Israeli regulators on Sunday announced they ordered a US-based evangelical broadcaster taken off the air, saying the channel hid its missionary agenda when it applied for a license.In his decision, Asher Biton, chairman of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council, said he had informed GOD TV on Thursday last week that it had seven days to stop broadcasting its new Shelanu channel.“The channel appeals to Jews with Christian content,” he wrote. “Its original request,” he said, stated that it was a “station targeting the Christian population.”The decision was first reported by the Haaretz daily.And today, Shelanu announced that its satellite provider, HOT, has dropped the channel altogether—likely due to Israeli pressure.“In a free and democratic society such as Israel, we would have received approval for our new license, and if not, we would have won in court,” stated Ron Cantor, Shelanu’s Israeli spokesman, in a press release. “The only thing that could have stopped our channel from being aired was if HOT broke our relationship.”If there is no public apology and clarification, Shelanu plans to sue Biton.The channel said its existing license “stated unequivocally” that it would broadcast its content in Hebrew to the Israeli public. Most Christians in the Holy Land speak Arabic.“Therefore it is not at all clear what was wrong beyond political considerations,” it said.According to a copy of its original application and approval, obtained by CT, Shelanu identified itself as “a Christian religion channel broadcasting Christian content … for the audience of Israeli viewers ... [in] Hebrew and English.”Nowhere did ...Continue reading...
President of CNEF and COVID-19 survivor explains his renewed confidence to defend the faith and French evangelical churches, as well as why his mother now calls him “Lazarus.”After spending three weeks in intensive care, Christian Blanc, president of the National Council of French Evangelicals (CNEF), shared his testimony of healing from COVID-19 in a cover story for French magazine La Vie.CT interviewed Blanc on how the experience has “incarnated” the Bible’s teachings in his life and his advice for how churches can better serve the sick.Summarize your medical journey, including why your mother renamed you “Lazarus.”During February and March, my responsibilities as CNEF president meant I had to make several trips to Paris by train and plane and used public transit to move around, and it was during one of these trips that I contracted the COVID-19 virus. When the first symptoms appeared (dry cough and fever), I stayed home thinking that my condition would improve quickly. But it got so bad that I was in respiratory distress and had to be hospitalized. I ended up in the intensive care unit, where everything got so complicated in the following days that the medical staff were rather pessimistic about my future. A doctor even phoned my wife and told her that I was probably going to die during the night.However, the very next day he called to say that everything was starting to work again, so there was hope. From then on, my recovery began and continued during the weeks that followed. When I came out of the ICU, I phoned my mother—also an evangelical—who was 300 miles away and thinking she would never see me again. When she heard my voice, she thought someone was playing a bad joke on her. I had to insist that I was indeed her son, Christian, whose health was improving. She replied: “I will no longer call you Christian but Lazarus. It’s as if ...Continue reading...
Despite the ongoing debates over gender roles, surveys show significant agreement in favor of female Sunday school teachers, worship leaders, speakers, and preachers.In evangelical discourse, there are several issues that you can count on to stir up a heated debate. One is the role of women in the life of the church.Take last year’s spat over Beth Moore speaking at a church on Mother’s Day, which came up again months later with John MacArthur’s viral “go home” line. Or the more recent discussion around author Aimee Byrd and Reformed complementarians’ pushback on social media.Yet for all the debates around gender and leadership roles, for years researchers have found less of a divide on the topic among the people in the pews. The results of a recent survey once again indicate that most evangelical Protestants are in favor of seeing women take on more prominent positions in the church.In a survey I fielded along with political scientists Paul Djupe and Hannah Smothers back in March, 8 in 10 self-identified evangelicals said they agree with women teaching Sunday school, leading worship at church services, and preaching during women’s conferences or retreats.Slightly fewer endorsed women preaching during church services, but 7 in 10 were in favor, according to the research, conducted by a team of political scientists in March 2020.This new research follows an analysis of 2011 survey data I published last year, which showed that significant majorities of major Christian traditions—including Southern Baptists—would support women as pastors.Some commentators pushed back saying both that the 2011 data was dated and that the questions weren’t explicit enough about the types of roles for women in the church. The March 2020 survey was designed to allow respondents to indicate what kinds of leadership roles they are comfortable with women ...Continue reading...
Update: Could a Montana school choice case be the end of Blaine amendments? Update (June 30): Montana violated the First Amendment when it barred religious schools from a state scholarship program, the US Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, in a case school choice advocates hope will open the door for more education voucher programs.The state’s “no aid provision,” categorically banning any type of aid to religious schools, represents an overly sweeping effort at church-state separation that results in religious discrimination against religious schools and adherents, wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the 5–4 Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue decision.“The prohibition before us today burdens not only religious schools but also the families whose children attend or hope to attend them,” the opinion read. “They are ‘member[s] of the community too,’ and their exclusion from the scholarship program here is ‘odious to our Constitution’ and ‘cannot stand.’”Roberts said that states do not need to subsidize private education, but if they do, they cannot disqualify some private schools just for being religious.“For many families, Espinoza not only provides the potential for expanded opportunities for them to educate their children, including the choice of religious education, but also the right to decide what they believe is the most effective way to do so,” said Jeanne Allen, the founder of the Center for Education Reform.-----When a Montana tax credit program for private school scholarships was accused of being discriminatory because religious schools were not eligible, the state eliminated the program outright rather than fight the case.But now, the state has ended up at the US Supreme Court anyway, with ...Continue reading...
The missiological strategies developed a generation ago should now be acted on if they still apply, updated if they do not, or put away if they are hindering mission in our time.Back in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic was just underway in North America, some warned us to expect it to be around longer than we initially thought and that we were entering into a season that was more like a winter, and less like a blizzard. Four months later, it appears that we have entered a little ice age as the pandemic does not seem to be going away quickly.The most important structures of our lives are being challenged, and in some cases even questioned, including our way of doing church and mission.And while the why of mission remains the same, the what and how of mission seems much more fluid these days, especially as it pertains to leading and launching new churches. The pauses and the causes we are seeing arise in the midst of 2020 have forced a disruption that may either slow down our missional engagement, especially if we only white-knuckle our way through it, or accelerate it if we pay attention to what is really happening.The pandemic has brought great tragedy, including a climbing death toll and an economy struggling to stabilize. Amid everything, we are seeing racial tensions in America escalate, with both the political and theological polarities widening.The combination of these challenges create a unique circumstance we have never seen before in our lifetime. And while this is not a time to exploit the vulnerability and fragility of our culture, it is indeed the right time to think about how the gospel is still the power of God that brings salvation to everyone, and how Christians can better partner with the ways in which his Spirit is at work at this exact moment in history.The missiological strategies developed a generation ago should now be acted on if they still apply, updated if they do not, or ...Continue reading...
How congregations in the former Soviet Union are responding to the coronavirus challenge can help the global church think better about buildings, young professionals, and persecution.For many Western Christians, Eurasia is uncharted territory, and no less so amid this pandemic. In the midst of troubling COVID-19 tallies from the US and Europe, little is heard about what is happening in this strategically important region, situated with Europe to its west, China to its southeast, and the Muslim world to its south.Yet the way local evangelical churches are responding to coronavirus challenges speaks volumes about their way of life and ministry, as well as their future missions potential.National church leaders testify that the situation in Russia—with more than 640,000 confirmed cases, the third-worst reported outbreak in the world after the US and Brazil—and other Eurasian nations is alarming. Health systems, economies, transportation, and security systems are on the verge of collapse. Mass testing for COVID-19 is not happening. Governments deny access to reliable information. And all the while the war in Ukraine continues, and restrictions on religious freedom and human rights increase in Russia, Belarus, and Central Asia.The former Soviet Union is a gray zone where hybrid systems have emerged which imitate the developed world while using talk of democracy, free markets, rule of law, independent media, freedom, and human rights to mask their absence. Given these circumstances, evangelical churches are under constant pressure both from government authorities and wider society, which are dominated by either aggressive Orthodoxy, Islamism, or a secular Soviet mindset.However, the challenge of the pandemic has lit a spark which casts light on the little-noticed but active and essential role of evangelical churches in this gray zone. Based on my extensive conversations with local leaders, here ...Continue reading...
My interview with John C. Richards Jr. on how we are doing with race and justice today.Ed: Tell us a bit about what you are up to in fighting for racial justice. John: I'm from Brunswick, Georgia. My hometown is there, born and raised there 18 years, spent 18 years of my life in Brunswick. This is where the Ahmaud Arbery murder happened in February. Folks from my hometown reached out to me and wanted to talk about what they could do to get the case on the national radar. The McMichaels had been not arrested for at least 60 days around that time. A lot of folks locally were asking a lot of questions.In my background as a lawyer, I gave them some peaceful action steps. I am an advocate of nonviolent demonstration. One of the things that you can do is advocate for victims when they don't have voices. One of the things I asked them to do was call local authorities to get it on the national radar.Thirty days later, it became a national story. A lot of people saw the video. That's when the Georgia Bureau of Investigation came in—when local authorities did not arrest them.As soon as they came to the scene, the third gentlemen had the video and showed it to them. Even based on that evidence, they refused to make an arrest. I've been involved in that since March when we were trying to get this on the national radar. I think one of my good friends put it well when he said, "Brunswick, Georgia was the match and Minneapolis was the gasoline," and we're all seeing that social fire burn right now.Ed: Why are you concerned about white pastors not speaking up on some of these issues? John: Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my heroes in the faith in terms of him making and effecting real change. During his time, there was a dichotomy in the black community. You either had the Martin Luther ...Continue reading...
With her husband Arlin, she rejected secular education and pioneered an alternative that started with student discipline.Beka Horton, the “Beka” of A Beka Book and the cofounder of Pensacola Christian Academy and Pensacola Christian College, died on June 27 at the age of 90. Over the course of 50 years, Horton and her husband Arlin translated conservative Baptist beliefs about authority, discipline, sin, and salvation into a pedagogical package they promoted as traditional, biblical education. Their work shaped much of the Christian school and homeschool movements.When Horton retired in 2012, her curriculum company brought in annual revenue of about $2 million, publishing the textbooks and readers used in 10,000 Christian schools and by more than 100,000 homeschool students, according to internal estimates. Rebranded as Abeka in 2017, the company, along with Bob Jones University, is one of the two major producers of Christian school curricula.The couple never planned on building an education empire, according to Horton. They were only trying to reject what they saw as the secular and anti-Christian influences on mainstream educational philosophy and stay true to their commitment to be separate from the world.“Our business is to be faithful. This is God’s work, not ours,” she said. “We didn’t want to live in disobedience, so we’d have to do what God wanted us to do.”Horton was born in East Tennessee in 1929 and became a Christian as a teenager at a local Baptist church. Her newfound faith soon put her in conflict with her mother, as the young Beka Hall struggled with submission to authority. Her mother forbade her from going to Sunday night youth group, because she’d have to return home after dark on a bus, and it didn’t seem safe.“My mother was very strict,” Horton ...Continue reading...
Four practical ways teachers can keep impacting their students as they teach through a screen.For millions of Americans, the school year has already ended—good news for Zoom-weary students, parents, and educators alike. But even as families are figuring out how to entertain their children all summer long, teachers will have to regroup and figure out what distance learning might look like at the start of the school year. After all, choosing when to reopen schools isn’t a simple process. While some governors have said that schools will reopen this fall, last month, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the US Senate that remote learning is likely to continue into the next school year. While the CDC provided recommendations for reopening schools, there is doubt from both parents and members of Congress alike. As an educator and parent, I share these concerns .Although we’re in the middle of the summer, teachers must begin to prepare for delivering academic instruction. While teachers can look to their districts and colleagues for resources and support, educators of faith have an additional source of wisdom: Jesus.Yes, much of Jesus’ teaching came in person. Though he sometimes addressed people from hundreds of feet away—from a boat while they stayed on land, for example—many of the stories found in the gospels portray a person who enjoyed being close to others. Yet despite the incarnational nature of Christ’s ministry, there were moments when Christ ministered through lessons and healing at a distance.Here are four Christ-inspired techniques critical for Christian teachers, and all educators, to add to their teaching toolbelt for the fall:1. Identify ways to be a blessing for students at a distance.Jesus never let his ...Continue reading...
As the hit Broadway musical makes its screen debut in a time of social unrest, its themes of hope and redemption resound all the louder.If not for the outbreak of COVID-19, the wildly successful Broadway musical Hamilton would embark on its fourth tour this fall. Instead—to the delight of fans and penny-pinching show-goers—a planned film version, featuring the original cast members, will begin streaming this week on Disney+, over a year ahead of its original theater release date. What was once available only with access to an urban center and extra cash is now coming to a screen near you.Hamilton’s screen debut is also noteworthy in that it comes at a time of elevated social unrest in America. Many people are anxious or angry about racial injustice, police brutality, and hyper-polarized politics. For pastor and church planter Kevin Cloud, the show—with its moral vision and artistic innovations—offers an invaluable lens on both our current moment and our Christian responsibilities within it. Cloud, the author of God and Hamilton: Spiritual Themes from the Life of Alexander Hamilton and the Broadway Musical He Inspired, leads workshops on faith and creativity around the country, drawing on his book. Writer Sarah Arthur corresponded with Cloud about using Hamilton to explore the intersection of faith, the arts, and social change.Why has this story about a distant historical figure struck such a chord?I don’t think anyone could’ve imagined how this musical would catapult Alexander Hamilton from a forgotten Founding Father into a cultural icon. A number of different dynamics have worked together, creating a deep resonance within our culture.First and foremost, Hamilton is an extraordinary work of art. It won 11 Tony Awards in 2016, including best musical, and a Pulitzer Prize for drama. I agree with Michelle Obama, who ...Continue reading...
With her husband Arlin, she rejected secular education and pioneered an alternative that started with student discipline.Beka Horton, the “Beka” of A Beka Book and the cofounder of Pensacola Christian Academy and Pensacola Christian College, died on June 27 at the age of 90. Over the course of 50 years, Horton and her husband, Arlin, translated conservative Baptist beliefs about authority, discipline, sin, and salvation into a pedagogical package they promoted as traditional, biblical education. Their work shaped much of the Christian school and homeschool movements.When Horton retired in 2012, her curriculum company brought in annual revenue of about $2 million, publishing the textbooks and readers used in 10,000 Christian schools and by more than 100,000 homeschool students, according to internal estimates. Rebranded as Abeka in 2017, the company, along with Bob Jones University, is one of the two major producers of Christian school curricula.The couple never planned on building an education empire, according to Horton. They were only trying to reject what they saw as the secular and anti-Christian influences on mainstream educational philosophy and stay true to their commitment to be separate from the world.“Our business is to be faithful. This is God’s work, not ours,” she said. “We didn’t want to live in disobedience, so we’d have to do what God wanted us to do.”Horton was born in East Tennessee in 1929 and became a Christian as a teenager at a local Baptist church. Her newfound faith soon put her in conflict with her mother, as the young Beka Hall struggled with submission to authority. Her mother forbade her from going to Sunday night youth group, because she’d have to return home after dark on a bus, and it didn’t seem safe.“My mother was very strict,” Horton ...Continue reading...
The social media saga involving Aimee Byrd and Genevan Commons calls for discipline, justice, and restoration beyond “cancel culture.”In an era when swift social media reactions and public repudiations offer an instantaneous form of rebuke and discipline, what role does the church have in holding its leaders and members accountable for online speech?Aimee Byrd has found herself at the center of this question. The author of Why Can’t We Be Friends?, Byrd has come under fire from some within her Reformed theological tradition for her latest book, Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The fight has largely played out on blogs and in private online discussions, but also has Byrd and her critics each calling for Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) sessions (church elders) to take action.Two weeks ago, screenshots from a private Facebook group called Genevan Commons were posted on an anonymous website that describes itself as an “archive of reviling, cyberbullying, harassment, sexism, and racism among church officers and laypeople.”Byrd’s supporters have challenged the harsh comments within the Facebook group’s threads, including remarks that address her motives, appearance, and relationship with her husband. They’ve asked whether the leaders responsible will be held accountable for the remarks.“We are greatly concerned that officers of the church, who have sworn to be accountable to ‘their brethren in the Lord’ would attempt to hide behind a group that pledges itself to secrecy, as if ‘locker room talk’ could somehow be exempted from the accountability of the church on the basis of an alleged right to privacy,” read a statement signed by several dozen OPC pastors and elders.Byrd was well known for blogging as “The Housewife Theologian” at the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals ...Continue reading...

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