+- +-

+- User

Welcome, Guest.
Please login or register.
Forgot your password?

+-Stats ezBlock

Total Members: 138
Latest: DrQuack72
New This Month: 1
New This Week: 0
New Today: 0
Total Posts: 27153
Total Topics: 1194
Most Online Today: 1826
Most Online Ever: 46271
(March 28, 2021, 08:01:47 pm)
Users Online
Members: 0
Guests: 1631
Total: 1631

Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020  (Read 2401 times)

0 Members and 0 Guests are viewing this topic.

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« on: January 06, 2020, 04:58:54 am »


Unexpected Christian Heroes

As a leader of an international prison ministry, I hear stories every day of people inside prison and those released that many would consider unexpected heroes.

Who do you think of when you are asked who is a hero?

You may have responded with the name of a world leader, a movie star, Superman, Captain America, or maybe you thought of a person who saved someone in a crisis such as a police officer.

Some of us may have thought of a family member or friend.

As Christians, our heroes may be those who led us to Christ, our pastor, or others in ministry who are impacting lives. While some of these may be real-life heroes, many of the true heroes are those behind the scenes who are doing courageous acts or operating with noble character.

One such group of unexpected Christian heroes comes from an unexpected location: the prisons. While 2.1 million people are currently incarcerated in the United States, there are ministries and programs that are positively changing the lives of many inmates to become productive citizens.

Many are changing because they have accepted Jesus Christ and are now working to serve the Lord and others. Nationwide, there is a positive Christian movement afoot in the many of the prisons and these men and women are getting out and making a difference in their communities.

We have people coming out from the prison systems who are now determined to make a difference in the lives of others.

Here are a few examples of these unexpected heroes:

A woman, who after her release from prison, wanted to serve God and others so she started a coffee shop. She hires only ex-felons and serves the community by producing robust coffee. She and the staff are sharing what God has done in their lives with the customers and are boldly stepping forward to proclaim what Christ has done for them and what he can do for others.
A man gets out and decides to help other incarcerated men re-enter society. He and others start a re-entry program and now have facilities that house dozens. They help people reconnect with society, gain employment, connect with their family, and get back on their feet, while sharing the love of Christ.

A woman on death row who became a Christian in prison and started speaking into other women’s lives in the prison. She mentored them and led dozens of women to Christ. Often, she spoke to them through the vent system and shared her testimony about who Christ was in her life. Dozens of women were led to Christ by this one woman standing firm in her faith for Christ and realizing she could go and make disciples even though in prison.
A few years after release from prison, a man felt called by God to pastor a church. He went to the inner city, similar to where he grew up, and began to share about Christ. People started gathering as they saw he understood their challenges and the church began. Now he ministers to hundreds every week.
A formerly incarcerated man is now a prison Chaplain serving the inmates daily as an employee for the state. He desires to help people in the same way many volunteers helped him while he was inside the prison and wants to see people come to know Christ.
A former gang leader and incarcerated person, finds Jesus Christ in prison. He changes his behavior, life, thinking, and approach to others. Upon release he becomes a pastor and impacts many with his testimony and behavior change. Now, he also goes back into prison as a volunteer in a ministry to serve and help the incarcerated men change as he did.
The list can go on and on with specific examples of these unexpected heroes.

Men and women are choosing to make a difference in other people lives and positively impact society. In general, they are the people society thought we should be afraid of or not trust.

But as Christians, we know that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, great changes take place in our life. These people are doing great things to impact other people and share how Jesus Christ has changed their life.

As a leader of an international prison ministry, I hear stories every day of people inside prison and those released that many would consider unexpected heroes. People who have committed a crime or done something wrong but have chosen to make changes in their life and who are determined to make a difference in the lives of others.

These formerly incarcerated people have a powerful testimony and as they share how Jesus Christ changed their life they are impacting the lives of many others. What I witness in hearing these stories is 1 Peter 4:10-11 working through the service of these unexpected heroes:

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Isn’t it just like Jesus to use those who are broken, made mistakes, and are rejected by society to be an example to many others, to use their gifts, to serve, and to become unexpected Christian heroes?

Evelyn Lemly is CEO of Kairos Prison Ministry International.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2020, 11:03:11 am by patrick jane »

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2020, 05:03:04 am »


Killing Jesus’ Brothers and Sisters

Why did we turn on the Jews so quickly? And what do we do about it now?

The custom of circumcising the flesh … was given to you [Jews] as a distinguishing mark…. The purpose of this was that you and only you might suffer the afflictions that are now justly yours; that only your land be desolated, and your cities ruined by fire, that the fruits of you land be eaten by strangers before your very eyes.
—Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, A.D. 138–161
We tend to think the birth of Christ was intended to be a blessing for the whole world. No question it eventually was seen as such, and rightly so. “Peace on earth and goodwill to men,” after all. But when the wise men came from the East, they were not looking for the universal savior, but only for the “king of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2).

When the priests and teachers explained to Herod that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, they quoted this verse: “And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah … a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel” (Matt. 2:6, NLT). Not the shepherd of all people. But “for my people Israel.”

The first indication of this was noted by the angel who appeared in a dream to Joseph. After announcing that his betrothed will conceive by the Holy Spirit, the angel says, “And you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Not all people. His people. That is, the Jews.

We might expect all that in Matthew’s gospel, which seems to have been written with a Jewish readership in mind. But not in the Gospel of Luke, who is said to have Gentiles in focus when he wrote his work. Yet we read in Luke 1:16 about an angel announcing to Zechariah the coming birth of John, who “will go on before the Lord,” bringing back “many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.”

When Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive and give birth to a son, he adds, “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever” (Luke 1:32–33).

Later, when Mary and Elizabeth joyfully greet one another, Mary sings praises to God because “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors” (vv. 54–55).

When Zechariah’s tongue is finally loosed, he exclaims, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them…” (v. 68).

There is little indication in the birth narratives that Jesus has come for the sake of the world. Instead he’s come for the most part as the new David, the Messiah of Israel, to redeem not the world or any other people, but only Israel. The arc of the gospel story from beginning almost to the end is this: Jesus came to save his people. Fast forward to the end of Luke’s Gospel to the scene with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. When asked by a stranger what they are talking about, they reply, “About Jesus of Nazareth … We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (24:20–21).

In short, while Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection have repercussions for the whole world, first and foremost, Jesus became “flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth,” for the sake of the Jews.

The question is: Why did we forget this so quickly–to some extent within about a century (note the Justin Martyr quote above), and certainly within three?

Now then, let me strip down for the fight against the Jews themselves, so that the victory may be more glorious—so that you will learn that they are abominable and lawless and murderous and enemies of God. For there is no evidence of wickedness I can proclaim that is equal to this.
—John Chrysostom, from one of eight anti-Jewish sermons given in A.D. 386–387
By this time, the Jews do not seem to be a people deeply loved by God.

One reason we forgot Jesus came for the Jews is that after his conversation with the two disciples on the road, Jesus used the Scriptures to explain himself and universalize his meaning: “The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46–47, emphasis added).

We’ve read about that alongside the Great Commission in Matthew 28, alongside Paul’s adventures in preaching this message around the Mediterranean, and, soon enough, we’re thinking a lot about all nations and not much about the people of Israel. This led to the greatest movement in world history: the spreading of the Christian faith to every nook and cranny of the world. It’s a glorious story, not to be gainsaid.

But along the way, we made a mistake of monumental proportions. We forgot something crucial.

[I swear] to go on this journey only after avenging the blood of the crucified one (Jesus) by shedding Jewish blood and completely eradicating any trace of those bearing the name ‘Jew,’ thus assuaging his own burning wrath.
—Godfrey of Bouillon, Frankish knight of the First Crusade, A.D. 1095–1099
It is uncomfortable to say today that Jesus was killed by the Jews. And for good reason: That has led to the most vile and ugly racism the world has ever known. Theologically, it is crucial to say that we killed Jesus. All of us, Jew and Gentile. But for the sake of this article, let’s be specific and historical: Jesus was killed by his people, the Jews. And here is the marvelous thing, contra Godfrey of Bouillon: He forgave them as he was dying. He did not reject, let alone forget, his people. He not only forgave them, but he told his disciples that his gospel should be preached “beginning in Jerusalem.” Even though his message is universalized, Israel still comes first.

Paul is absolutely clear on this point. He never forgets Israel’s priority place in the heart of God. The gospel is the power of salvation “to everyone who believes,” but “first to the Jew…” (Rom. 1:16).

Paul was never in danger of forgetting this. The fact that most Jews failed to recognize Jesus as Messiah tears him apart. “My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. … They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law” (Rom. 9:1–4, NLT).

Perhaps the linchpin of his understanding comes next: “Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise!”

That’s a marked contrast to Justin Martyr and John Chrysostom, who seem to glory in Jewish suffering, which they chalk up to Jewish rejection of Jesus. They gloat. Paul weeps.

It’s even more of a contrast with Godfrey of Bullion and Martin Luther, who seek revenge.

What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming…. I shall give you my sincere advice:
First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians…. Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. … Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them…. Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb.
—Martin Luther, “The Jews and Their Lies,” A.D. 1543
We rightly stand in awe at the mystery that God become flesh and dwelt among us. We glory in the specificity of his life—sucking on the breast of Mary, learning carpentry from Joseph, living a daily and dusty life in the lost corner of the world called Nazareth, and so on. We often fail to appreciate that God took on Jewish flesh; that God, when he decided to become a man and walk among us, decided to do it as a Jew.

If we celebrate the Incarnation because it esteems the value of our material bodies, we should also celebrate it because it manifests the glory of the Jews, with whom, out of all the peoples on the earth, God decided to dwell. Jesus died on the cross as a Jew—“the King of the Jews” was written on a plaque on the cross in three languages. When Jesus rose bodily from the dead, his body was that of a Jew. And as Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father, he does so as a Jew, the Chosen One of the chosen people.

This is not a new idea. Karl Barth noted it some decades ago:

There is one thing we must emphasize especially. … The Word did not simply become any “flesh.” … It became Jewish flesh. … The Church’s whole doctrine of the incarnation and atonement becomes abstract and valueless and meaningless to the extent that [Jesus’ Jewishness] comes to be regarded as something accidental and incidental (Church Dogmatics 4/1).

If God has invested so much in these Jews and in this one Jew—well, a most blessed and glorious people they must be.

Now the measures of the state towards Judaism in addition stand in a quite special context for the church. The Church of Christ has never lost sight of the thought that the “chosen people,” who nailed the Redeemer of the world to the cross, must bear the curse for its action through a long history of suffering… . But the history of the suffering of this people, loved and punished by God, stands under the sign of the final homecoming of the people of Israel to its God. And this home-coming happens in the conversion of Israel to Christ….This conversion, that is to be the end of the people’s period of suffering.
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Church and the Jewish Question,” 1933
Paul goes on in Romans, yes, to expand the notion of “the chosen people” so that it includes everyone who is not Jewish. But never does he suggest that, because the Jewish people as a whole have rejected Jesus, God now rejects them, or worse, causes their suffering, as Bonhoeffer and nearly every Christian before him believed. No, just the opposite: “God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning” (Rom. 11:2, NLT).

Yes, they have “stumbled,” but not so far as to “fall beyond recovery” (Rom. 11:11). In fact, God is using their transgression as a means to bring salvation to Gentiles—“their rejection brought reconciliation to the world” (v. 15). If that’s what their rejection means, “what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” Paul doesn’t say “if” they accept, but he speaks about their acceptance as if it will happen at some point.

And then he makes absolutely clear the relationship of Jews to Gentiles: Gentiles are like branches grafted on to the roots and the trunk of the tree (Rom. 11:17–18). The main thing is Israel. Israel is the privileged people. The Gentiles are—to not put too fine a point on it—second-class citizens. There is a hierarchy in the scope of salvation, and the Jews are at the top.

It’s as if Paul is saying, “And Gentiles, don’t you forget it.”

But we did forget it. And because we forgot it, the world, especially the Christian world, took note and decided that the Jews should become merely a memory.

We were packed into a closed cattle train. Inside the freight cars it was so dense that it was impossible to move. There was not enough air, many people fainted, others become hysterical…. In an isolated place, the train stopped. Soldiers entered the car and robbed us and even cut off fingers with rings. They claimed that we didn’t need them anymore. These soldiers, who wore German uniforms, spoke Ukrainian. We were disoriented by the long voyage, we thought we were in Ukraine. Days and nights passed. The air inside the car was poisoned by the smell of bodies and excrement. Nobody thought about food, only about water and air. Finally we arrived at Sobibor.
—Ada Lichtman, who was deported to Sobibor and was selected to be one of the few Jews working in the concentration camp and later escaped, 1942.
We not only forgot it, our minds moved in the exact opposite direction. Deriding the Jews. Spitting on Jews. Harassing Jews. Killing Jews. And we taught, by word and example, one of the most cultured Christian nations, thoroughly imbued with Lutheran sensibilities, to do the same. If by your fruits you shall know them—well, what does that say about us? When it comes to the Jews, what does our fruit taste like?

In the morning or noon time we were informed by Wirth, Schwarz, or by Oberhauser that a transport with Jews should arrive soon. … After the disembarkation, the Jews were told that they had come here for transfer and they should go to bath and disinfection.
… My post in the “tube” was close to the undressing barrack. Wirth briefed me that while I was there I should influence the Jews to behave calmly. After leaving the undressing barracks, I had to show the Jews the way to the gas chambers.
I believe that when I showed the Jews the way, they were convinced they were really going to the baths. After the Jews entered the gas chambers, the doors were closed by Hackenholt himself or by the Ukrainian subordinate to him. Then Hackenholt switched on the engine which supplied the gas. After five or seven minutes—and this is only an estimate—someone looked through the small window into the gas chamber to verify whether all inside were dead.
Only then were the outside doors opened and the gas chambers ventilated. After the ventilation of the gas chambers, a Jewish working group under the command of their kapo’s entered and removed the bodies from the chambers….
The corpses were besmirched with mud and urine or with spit. I could see that the lips and tips of the noses were a bluish color. Some of them had their eyes closed, others eyes rolled. The bodies were dragged out of the gas chambers and inspected by a dentist, who removed finger-rings and gold teeth. After this procedure, the corpses were thrown into a big pit.
—Karl Alfred Schluch, describing his experience at the Belzec Concentration Camp, 1942
The Jews to us have not been the apple of God’s eye but a people under a divine curse. They were not beloved for the sake of their ancestor Abraham, but were seen only as Christ-killers. And so we became Jew-killers.

Report No. 51 of Reichsfhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler to Hitler about mass executions in the east, 1942.





Prisoners executed after interrogation





Accomplices of guerrilla and guerrilla suspects executed





Jews executed





Villages and localities burned down or destroyed





To put it another way, over the centuries, the Jews became the mirror image of Jesus: “He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with the deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care” (Isa. 53:3, NLT).

Can we not see that in rejecting the Jews, we have in some sense rejected our Lord?

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me (Matt. 25:42–43).

Perhaps it is the Jews—who were ethnically, culturally, religiously his brothers and sisters—whom Jesus also had in mind when he told this parable. If that is the case, woe to us Christians who have not merely forgotten these least among us but have put them in prison and taken away their clothes and let them starve. And if that was not enough, we set such an example of hate that nation after nation steeped in Christian faith—Germany, France, Poland, and on it goes—thought nothing of harassing and killing the least of these.

Yes, there has always been a small minority of noble and brave Christians who have stood up for the least of these. Some of them commoners, some kings and popes. But always a small minority.

I hear, “Oh, but they weren’t evangelical Christians, they were not real Christians. If we had been the major expression of Christianity, we would have never done something so horrible.” Except when we were the main expression of American Christianity, we enslaved Africans by the millions, treating them with a cruelty that can only be compared to the Holocaust. No, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of the God of the Jews.

But why? Why have we spent two millennia participating in such cruelty? What was that all about? How could we be so obtuse? Not to put too fine a point on it—how could we be so evil?

The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth. Thus the words of the Psalm: “We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter” were fulfilled in a terrifying way. Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people, wanted to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid. If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God who spoke to humanity and took us to himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone.”
—Pope Benedict XVI, speaking at Auschwitz, 2006
Let’s not try to weasel out of this by saying, no, we were not members, let alone rulers, of the Third Reich. Let us not pretend that there is no evidence that Christians have, certainly at times, wished “to cancel [the Jewish people] from the register of the peoples of the earth.” History shows that Christians were only too willing to go along with the Third Reich, sometimes egging it on, sometimes guiltily looking the other way.

This sounds horrid, and it is. Then again, our participation in this sin against the Jews is as old as history, and is the same as that of Adam and Eve—the yearning to be free from God that we might be like gods. Our sin against the Jews is the same as the hard-heartedness with which all of us put Jesus on the cross. At base, we do not want to be ruled by God.

The Roman Catholic and Anglican churches teach that at the Eucharist, Christ’s death on the cross is re-presented. He is not sacrificed again, but his death is presented to our eyes and bodies and souls afresh. One does not have to buy into the doctrine of transubstantiation or even real presence to see the value of thinking about the Lord’s Supper in this way.

But this re-presenting has not just happened at each and every Eucharist, but also at each and every pogrom, at each and every slanderous word spoken against the chosen people, at each and every man, woman, and child who suffocated in jammed box cars or who inhaled deadly gas in a barren and cold “shower room.” As we have sinned against the least of these, we have re-presented Christ on the cross, and the chosen people were re-presented, collapsed into the body of the Chosen One, pressed with divine force into him, in a fusion of judgment and mercy, of sinner and redeemed, of this age and the next.

And what he prayed on the cross he has prayed ever since, year after year, century after century, pogrom after pogrom, train car after train car, crematory after crematory: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

My Jewish readers are surely not happy at this point—if after five years of interfaith dialogue I understand them. If there was ever a statement that seems like cheap grace, this is it—that Jesus forgives the most heinous sins in history. Just like that. With a mere breath of words.

To many of my Jewish friends, forgiveness for such a sin would be immoral. (I’m thinking especially of the powerful essay by Meir Y. Soleveichik, “The Virtue of Hate.”) And even if this impossibility were to become possible somehow, many Jews would demand that forgiveness must be preceded by a desperate repentance and heroic effort at atonement.

For the Christian, it works in just the opposite fashion.

First comes the forgiveness.

Then comes the atonement.

Then comes the repentance.

Jesus forgives our sin while on the cross, and then dies to atone for our sin. And now he calls us to repentance. I grant that this whole business is more theologically complex than this simple summary. But it’s still not a bad summary of how things work. We don’t earn our salvation, but we certainly work it out in fear and trembling.

To put it another way, Jesus’ word of forgiveness and his work of atonement do not give us a free pass. Repentance is not a one-time event but a lifelong journey. Martin Luther’s first thesis of 95 put it like this: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

No, the Cross is not a free pass as much as it is a work permit. And the work permit in this case says this:

The bearer of these divine gifts is entitled and commanded the following: Love your Jewish brothers and sisters like you’ve never loved them before. Love them year after year, century after century, maybe for two millennia. Show them what repentance looks like. And then, maybe, when you tell them about the forgiveness of Jesus, then, maybe, they might be willing to listen. And then, maybe, they also might forgive you.

Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today.

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2020, 05:06:03 am »


Todd Bentley Investigation Finds ‘Steady Pattern’ of Immoral Conduct

The edgy Canadian preacher was declared unfit for ministry due to credible allegations of adultery, sexting, and substance abuse spanning the past 15 years.

Todd Bentley, a bearded, tattooed Canadian charismatic preacher who once claimed to heal people by punching and kicking them at a Florida revival, is no longer fit for ministry, a group of Charismatic ministers announced this week.

“Based on our careful review of numerous first-hand reports, some of them dating back to 2004, we state our theological opinion and can say with one voice that, without a doubt, Todd is not qualified to serve in leadership or ministry today,” the group said in a statement posted online Thursday.

Bentley had been accused of “ungodly and immoral conduct,” including adultery, substance abuse, and sexting, according to the panel.

The group of pastors, which included James W. Goll, Jane Hamon, Bishop Harry Jackson, and Nashville minister Don Finto, also recommended that Bentley’s ordination be rescinded. Their statement was posted online by author and professor Michael Brown of the FIRE School of Ministry, who oversaw the process of evaluating concerns about Bentley’s conduct.

According to the statement, panel members reviewed what they called credible allegations against Bentley, dating back to 2004. Those allegations were reviewed by an independent investigator.

Earlier this year, a former associate of Bentley’s accused him of inappropriate conduct with interns and others under his supervision.

“In our view, this disqualifies Todd from public ministry until such time that he has demonstrated true, lasting fruits of repentance, which would include: the breaking of these long-term, sinful habits; public acknowledgment of his sin, without equivocation, including asking forgiveness of those he sinned against; and submission to local church leadership until trust had been rebuilt,” the statement read.

Bentley, who denounced the panel as unbiblical, said he has sought God’s forgiveness for any past wrongdoing. In early December, he said in a video on his Facebook page that he has left the ministry to focus on his new beard care company but this week announced on social media that he will start a new school of ministry.

Bentley did not respond to a request for comment.

The evangelist and founder of a ministry called Fresh Fire USA first gained national attention in 2007 and 2008 after holding a series of revival meetings in Lakeland, Florida, that drew huge crowds. He told crowds that God instructed him to knee a man in the gut to cure colon cancer and to hit other people so they could experience God’s power.

Among his claimed miracles was a “Grandma slapping healing,” where he said God told him to slap an elderly woman in the face. He recounted that incident in a documentary about the revivals.

Bentley ended the revivals after other charismatic and Pentecostal leaders began to question Bentley’s methods and claims about healings.

Soon afterward, Bentley and his wife separated and eventually divorced. Fresh Fire later announced that Bentley had “entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff.”

Bentley later returned to ministry after being counseled by other pastors.

In the video posted in early December, Bentley admitted that he had struggled with brokenness and sexual sins and said that his wife knows about all his struggles.

“I am not here to pretend that I haven’t struggled,” he said. “I am just here to say so much of what is being (said) out there now is old, some of it six, seven, ten, fifteen years. And I am actually here to say, where’s the power of the cross for me now?”

Bentley said in the video interview that he is in counseling and is trying to “get right with God.”

He also compared himself to “Mary the prostitute” and said that God had shown him grace despite his flaws and that the same forgiveness is offered to church people who struggle. Bentley said he was willing to be a “poster boy for helping people realize you can confess your faults to one another and pray for one another and be healed.”

Bentley was interviewed for the Facebook video in early December by author and speaker Michael Fickess, who said Bentley’s accusers hadn’t followed a biblical protocol. He compared the investigation into Bentley to the hearings over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the recent impeachment of President Trump.

“It was a witch trial,” he said. “It was a classic fishing expedition, witch trial.”

Bentley added that the investigation was “evil.” He also said his ministry was “over.”

“I have lost it all,” he said. “... I don’t have any ministry left. I had 15 people in church Sunday.”

The interview ended with Fickess promoting Bentley’s new beard care and body wash products sold by his Magnificent Man company.

In a video posted on Bentley’s Facebook page Thursday, Fickess said that he rejected the panel’s methods and findings. He said that Bentley was never allowed to face his accusers.

“This is not the way God intended us to operate as the Body of Christ,” he said.

In a statement Friday, Brown, who oversaw the review of Bentley’s conduct, outlined the steps used to evaluate concerns about Bentley and said he was committed to a “fair and impartial process” for Bentley.

“I wanted everything to come to light,” Brown said.

Brown said that he met with Bentley, who initially agreed to cooperate with the inquiry. Later, Bentley’s lawyer sent a cease and desist letter to Brown, asking him to stop the investigation. Brown said he sent questions to Bentley’s lawyer but received no answer.

He said that the investigation was handled in a legal, ethical, and biblical manner. Brown dismissed the idea that the panel had been on a witch hunt, saying that instead, panel members invested hundreds of hours in their work.

Brown also said that Bentley refused to meet face to face with his accusers. And while sin should be confessed privately, he told RNS, “when a leader, over a period of many years, and repeatedly, violates biblical standards, public accountability is called for.”

“Even if Todd has been forgiven, this pattern would still disqualify him from leadership, at least for a substantial period of time, until he made things right with those he sinned against and proved himself to be above reproach,” Brown told RNS.

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2020, 05:10:23 am »


Gospel Fluency in a World of Improv

What is it that you long for as a pastor, evangelist, or Christian leader?

What is it that you long for as a pastor, evangelist, or Christian leader?

My heart desires to see zealous followers of Jesus among all peoples. I would love for all believers to live out the abundant life (John 10:10) provided by Jesus as evidenced by the inner transformation (2 Cor. 5:17) made possible by the gospel (Acts 3:19; Joel 2:13) and the resultant good deeds that proceed from a life surrendered to Jesus (Heb. 13:16; James 2).

I long for a day when cultural Christianity will give way to a gospel-fluent Christian life as evidenced by both immersion and fluency in the gospel as the norm.

In 2017, Jeff Vanderstelt published a challenging book called Gospel Fluency, in which he wrote very practically about speaking the truths of Jesus into everyday life.

As simple as this appears, it is not an easy task for Christians to apply the gospel to their everyday lives. Jeff states that God wants us as believers to be able to translate the world around us and the world inside of us through the lens of the gospel—the truths of God revealed in the person and work of Jesus. “Gospel-fluent people think, feel, and perceive everything in light of what has been accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ” (Vanderstelt 2017).

Immersing Yourself in the Gospel

In 2007, my wife Lara and I accepted a call to Open Baptist Church in Gaborone, Botswana, where we served for four and a half years alongside a wonderful pastoral team.

This was an exciting time in our lives, yet we had much to learn.

Lara had grown up in one home her whole life and now in her second year of marriage was making a cross-cultural move to the beautiful (and hot) country of Botswana, far away from all she had known and from all our friends and family.

We ministered in an international church comprised of people from over 48 nations most Sundays. It was a wonderful experience for us as we threw ourselves into ministry and into loving the people from these various cultures from around the world.

We quickly realized that if we were to be effective in our ministry there, we needed to immerse ourselves in the cultures around us. We needed to surrender our own cultural biases and assumptions to embrace those around us more freely and share the gospel with them.

I started to learn Setswana (local language) and greetings in various other African languages, and we became more intentional about our posture toward people, cultural practices, beliefs and values.

I wonder what our world would look like if Christians thought more along these lines when it comes to showing and sharing the Good News.

It sometimes feels like we’ve become masters of improv when it comes to showing and sharing the Good News as Christians when we should focus on the art and discipline of becoming fluent in the gospel and its implications for our world.

Perhaps there’s no better time to think through this than at the new year and just having celebrated Christmas. John 1:14 reminds us that Jesus became a man (yet without sin) and made his dwelling among us. I love the way Eugene Peterson phrases this:

The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

What would it look like if we embrace this kind of gospel fluency instead of some version of Christian improv?

When the Gospel Became Improv

In what way have many Christians embraced gospel improv over gospel fluency? The art of improvisation in live performance is spontaneous, fun, and somewhat entertaining.

Don’t get me wrong, I love experiencing the humor and candor that emerge from improv, yet when it comes to showing and sharing the Good News, Christians cannot improvise.

There is a sense in which we have abandoned gospel fluency for a relevant, fun, and light-hearted gospel that appeals to the culture around us.

Postures Toward Gospel Fluency this New Year

What would it look like for you and I to take a step toward showing and sharing the gospel this new year? Below are a few thoughts.

Saturate yourself in the biblical text and commit to reading through the Bible throughout this year. The gospel is not heavenly improv; it is eternally scripted, and we need to become increasingly fluent in this area.

Biblical convictions about what we’re celebrating are very important, but we must remember to embrace a humble spirit and use this opportunity to advocate for the real gospel. Perhaps use this time to hear the stories of others and learn about their lives as you share of your own.

As a Christian, be spiritually discerning and allow God to lead you to those in need. Where is God at work? If we truly believe the gospel has the power to transform, we should ask that God would lead us to those who need it the most. Pray for opportunities and boldness.

Be prepared to share personally how Jesus has changed your life and how his coming his made a difference in your world. Perhaps see this happening in more relational ways with your neighbors and friends than shouting it from the street corners.

Be preoccupied with love rather than outrage or busyness. Remember the truth of John 3:16 which so many people are able to recite from memory. God loves us. God gave his son. Let’s be defined by love in a broken and outraged world.

Let’s use this year for great gospel fluency that can change our world. If you are a committed evangelist in North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe, or the UK, we would love for you to sign up here and be encouraged as you proclaim the Good News in the many ways the Lord leads you. If you’re interested in exploring the concept of an evangelism team contact us here.

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2020, 05:14:31 am »


My New Year’s Resolution: To Call Myself Christian in Public

After years of “playing it cool” with my unbelieving friends, I can tell you: It only gets weirder to talk about faith the longer you wait.

Last January, I made an unusual resolution. On New Year’s Day, like many people, I peel the plastic off a new planner and imagine its pages filled with earnest but unlikely ambitions, from reading the Bible cover to cover to praying the Examen every night. But last year, instead of changing a daily practice, I set out to change a pattern: I would begin to speak openly about my Christian faith. Doing so would require revealing my relationship with Jesus to many people outside of my church community for the first time.

I’m a resident of the “None Zone,” a title the Pacific Northwest was given nearly two decades ago thanks to a high percentage of residents that claim no affiliation with any religion. In a 2017 Gallup poll of Washington state, 47% of American adults identified as not religious compared to 33% of the general population. Seattle, in particular, is one of many progressive American cities where the cultural narrative says Christians are an anomaly at best or anti-intellectual and backward at worst.

When I made my New Year’s resolution, I had been living in Seattle for 15 years. I knew how to walk the line. If I met a non-Christian, I’d carefully consider when to reveal that I attend church. More likely than not, I wouldn’t mention it at all. When I was in grad school during that time, a friend was flummoxed to discover my Christian faith through a blog post I’d written, since I’d only talked about my Jewish family. When I did mention my faith, I would do all I could to let people know that I’m a Christian but not that kind of Christian—one that fits an urbanite’s “straw man” stereotype of evangelicals. I wanted to be the sort of believer you could invite to your party.

Over time, the strategy of withholding my relationship with Jesus began to backfire, and I started to wither inside. It takes time and energy to present different sides of yourself to different people; no one can be their own PR manager forever. I was swimming in murky and lukewarm waters in both my online and real lives, and I’d become disingenuous and detached. The vibrancy of my faith was suffering, too.

After decades of “playing it cool” in hopes that I’d pass an imaginary litmus test from my many agnostic and spiritual-but-not-religious friends, let me tell you: It only gets weirder to talk about faith the longer you wait.

I was well aware of the risks of opening up. I knew what it looked like when conversations with non-Christian friends went south, because it had happened to me several times over the years. These scenarios didn’t end in confrontation but in ghosting. Once, sitting outside a cafe in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, I told a public radio producer about my faith life and church attendance. The heavy weight of silence after I spoke was palpable. We finished our coffee, shuffled through a few more minutes of awkward conversation, and then bussed the table. I never heard from him again.

A similar scenario played out with an acquaintance I met in a writing class. Over pizza at a restaurant near downtown, I told her about my family of origin and talked about how my faith impacts my ethical framework. Instead of inquiring further, the conversation flatlined. We finished a final slice and parted ways.

I spent the next several years playing out in my head (and then avoiding) similar scenes with other acquaintances. But then the Spirit began to convict me in prayer to move past the shame I’d attached to the gospel. Slowly, God revealed the paradox I had created: The thing I most value, life with God, was the thing I’d hidden for fear of judgment.

During this past year of practicing a more public witness, I’ve learned a few things.

First, when we withhold our identities as Christians, we tacitly participate in the cultural narrative that we can manage how we message ourselves. The need for peer acceptance becomes an idol. But the Christian story reminds us that we can’t predict the outcome of our lives, nor can we control how others perceive or receive us. The Christian life resists the category of “personal branding.” Instead, it is generative and others-facing.

Second, I’ve learned that if you have a fear of talking about Jesus for whatever reason—maybe for what seem like good reasons—remember: The people you think are against you might actually be for you. Although I have been ghosted, the opposite has also happened. In the past year, I’ve had coffee with people from my past who are genuinely curious about my faith experience. These moments have been a gift. I’ve been able to deeply listen to and better understand the experiences of friends who identify as spiritual but not religious. Conversely, I’ve been given the space to speak candidly about Jesus.

Finally, I’ve re-learned what I know already but keep forgetting: I don’t sit at the center of the story—God does. As Christians, we believe that our lives are hidden with God and held by him, and that’s immensely liberating. By contrast, it’s tiring to exert anxious energy skirting around that reality.

I’ve seen this truth play out in my writing life as well. Last year, I started writing more publicly about faith and culture, but before I did, I pictured a couch with my critics seated in a row. I started to name them in my head—not just particular people from my past but also my own fears. Then I pictured each person or each fear getting up from the couch, one by one. Slowly, my fear was replaced with levity.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers an admonition that could have been written to American Christians in 2020. We’re counseled not to become like salt that loses its saltiness (Matt. 5:13) or a lamp hidden under a bowl (Matt. 5:15). Maybe in recent years, we’ve had the wrong idea of what it means to be salty. Instead of an in-your-face bumper sticker or another politically charged Facebook post, we are called to a much simpler practice: being present and transparent with our neighbors.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others,” Jesus says, “that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). We learn this passage as kids in Sunday School, and we sing it, too: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna to let it shine.” It’s an invitation intuited by children and easily muffled by adults.

Instead of speaking about our faith ironically or with a carefully chosen filter, let’s speak with transparency and boldness. Even better, let’s not go it alone. Let’s also speak with confidence about how God’s goodness changes us and changes our communities. We’re never going to reverse the tide of people leaving the church if we don’t speak plainly about who we are as the church body and what motivates us to pursue Jesus.

Yes, our lives might seem strange and even off-putting to some secular friends. But when we live honestly and openly, we become co-laborers with Christ and bear witness to the fact that it’s not about us in the first place.

Sara Billups is a Seattle-based writer exploring faith and culture and the co-host of the Ebenezer Podcast. Read more on her website and Instagram and in her occasional newsletter, Bitter Scroll.

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2020, 10:27:45 pm »

Non-Traditional Seminary Students Are Changing the Church

A new class of seminarians emerges.

Misty Hedrick, a real estate and hospitality professional turned writer and stay-at-home-mom, wanted more from her study of the Bible.

“I had a good grasp on the who, what, when, where of Scripture,” she told Christianity Today. “I just needed to back that up with the why and how.”

As a Bible study teacher and lay ministry leader, Hedrick took her kingdom work seriously. “Conveying biblical truths to equip others deserves every effort,” she said. “There’s no higher task than making disciples.”

Hedrick enrolled at Dallas Theological Seminary. Now, she wedges online classes into her already full schedule, but she does so with joy—she’s finally getting to develop the skills and understanding she’s wanted for a long time.

Volunteer leaders like Hedrick, the kind who can’t stop asking questions in Bible study until it’s past time to pick up their kids from childcare or who read Augustine on their lunch breaks, might have long assumed that there was nothing more for them in terms of theological formation. Bible studies and sermons, the thought has been, need to be accessible for everyone, so the church isn’t a place for intense theological study or debate. And seminaries were for training “the professionals”—pastors who preached on Sundays and led the church full-time as their occupation.

The New Seminarians

But times are changing. According to the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), one-third of 2017 graduates planned to enter bivocational minis­try, with 57% of black/non-Hispanic and 41% of Hispanic/Latino gradu­ates declaring bivocational intention. Additionally, in a survey of over 5,000 seminary students, ATS found almost 40% of them intended to use their degrees to serve in contexts outside of the local church.

The boundaries delineating who is a minister and who is not have blurred. “Being a church leader, raising children, and being an active community partic­ipant began to raise so many weighty questions, and I was looking for some direction as to how to respond well,” said Fresno Pacific Bible Seminary student Mary Judith. So, in the narrow mar­gins of life between raising six children and volunteering, she enrolled in a pro­gram composed of online classes and an annual in-person week of learning.

The layperson like Judith who is ravenous for the Scriptures and their application to daily life finds herself presented with new choices. Almost half of theological schools now offer degree programs completely online. “We can distinguish between what we call embedded and uprooted students,” said Scott Cormode, Hugh De Pree Pro­fessor of Leadership Development at Fuller Seminary. “The old model of edu­cation uprooted students from their communities and asked them to move to the site of the seminary. The current student remains, instead, embedded in her community. And that allows me as a professor to create assignments that keep the students’ learning grounded in their specific context.”

Greater access to biblical and theo­logical education seems like an obvi­ous win for evangelical Christians who have staked their eternal lives on what the Bible says. But could the rise of the non-traditional seminary student indi­cate something about the state of disci­pleship in our churches?

Experts and Amateurs
If you ask Jen Wilkin, director of classes and curriculum at The Village Church and author of Women of the Word and None Like Him, she’ll tell you that it speaks to a static division in the church.

As Wilkin describes it, “the average churchgoer believes the person who is on the platform is the expert. And the person in the pew is an amateur. They believe it’s not their role to have mastery or owner­ship over the content. It’s their role to pas­sively receive what the expert gives them.”

For those who have no professional ministry ambition but find themselves burning with the desire to learn more, the path to deeper knowledge isn’t always clear. If finances and time allow, they can enroll in seminary. Church leaders who have grown accustomed to a clear divide between the theologically educated and the laypeople might feel intimidated by this new wave of “amateurs” who are well versed in church history, epistemology, and biblical languages. But this expert/amateur paradigm, Wilkin and others say, isn’t one we should maintain.

Rather, we need to reclaim the local church as a place for theological for­mation and cultivate a collective imag­ination for how seminaries support that mission. We need to shift away from educational divides and Scrip­ture engagement that either renders the Bible a guidebook or an academic text. We need to, in many ways, learn from students like Hedrick who simply couldn’t be satisfied by the basic facts of Scripture and longed for true formation. We need to observe their passion for the Word and ask ourselves if we share it.

Perhaps we should begin by not sim­ply eschewing the lenses of expert/ama­teur and guidebook/textbook but by dusting off an old practice, the one that drove Misty Hedrick to enroll at Dallas Theological Seminary and fuels Wilkin in her ministry: discipleship.

“There’s a disbelief that the Bible does what it said it will do,” said Wilkin. “I’ve been in contexts where the phrase ‘useless Bible knowledge’ was bandied about. One of the biggest things we have to do is give people a good, working defi­nition of discipleship. What does it mean to be a disciple? A disciple is a learner. A disciple is someone who is being formed by what they’re learning.”

Wayne Johnson, associate dean and associate professor of biblical and pas­toral theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, echoes Wilkin’s call for a return to a more rigorous understand­ing of discipleship.

“We’ve lost the educational mandate that is part of Christian discipleship. There are going to be people who are gifted for that and take it and run with it. But I think it’s a call for all of us. And it’s part of our call together—churches and seminaries together—to better figure out how to fan the passion for Christian learning, Christian education, and thus Christian living and thinking.”

Rooted in Community
There are real barriers to this vision com­ing together. The thought of cultivating partnerships between churches and sem­inaries can be scary for seminaries for a pragmatic reason: If people are becoming better equipped by their churches, they may not feel the need to spend the money on seminary tuition. And, for churches, in an era when strategy, efficiency, and growth are highly valued by church lead­ers and congregants alike, the slow, quali­tative work of theological formation may feel like adding yet another uphill climb to the hard work of ministry.

But according to Matthew Hall, pro­vost and senior vice president of aca­demic administration at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, our pres­ent moment can and should be seen as a hopeful time.

For example, he believes the tool of online education can be used to bridge the gap between churches and seminar­ies. With online seminary classes, “what gets lost is that sense of place and com­munity,” said Hall. “So how can the sem­inary, through online delivery, partner with churches on the ground to create a sense of place?”

There are benefits to attending seminary in person that the local church can help provide for online students. When attending online, “it’s hard to have a conversation with the professor after the lecture in the hallway or while you’re walking down to chapel,” he said. “So, we have to work with churches to figure out how we can create structures and models … that at least provide community and rootedness in a place where education is not just content in an online platform.”

JT English, co-executive director of discipleship at The Village Insti­tute alongside Jen Wilkin, said that the church isn’t merely a place where community can happen around theological formation. It’s where, for all people, it should happen. The question is not if the seminary should exist—it should—and it’s not even necessarily a question of gatekeeping. It’s a question of what it could and should look like to democratize theo­logical and biblical education in such a way that people find belonging in and around God’s Word.

While seminaries are more accessible than ever, they still require students to commit a considerable amount of time and money. For those who plan to spend a lifetime in professional ministry, it’s perhaps fair to argue that they should— the same way we might argue that a doc­tor must go to medical school or a lawyer must go to law school. But for those who simply want to hide God’s Word in their hearts and understand who Tertullian is, is seminary a viable option?

Seek and Find
Matt Van Zandt attended Southern Sem­inary to enhance his understanding of the Scriptures and more effectively min­ister in his job and local church. “The working out of what I was learning [in seminary] took place in everyday rela­tionships ... within the church.”

Briana McCarthy, an online stu­dent at Fuller Seminary, applies what she’s learning to her lay ministry. “I believe that my education and experi­ence are equipping me first for service in my local church,” she said. “God has called me there and I must be willing to share what I am learning with my local congregation. I also believe that semi­nary is providing me with ‘book smarts’ while serving in my local church gives me hands-on experience.”

Daniel Attaway, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and discipleship pastor at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood, Texas, wanted to bring theological education and practical min­istry into the same room. He started Cog­gin U, a two-semester program that costs $80 and includes two hours of worship, teaching, discussion, and spiritual for­mation exercises on Sunday evenings. Similar to The Village Church Institute, students sit at assigned round tables with other students who become their cohort members. They listen to lectures, but they also discuss what they’re learn­ing and, as Wilkin puts it, “learn out loud” in a context that pastors and staff attempt to make as simultaneously safe and robust as possible.

The primary forms of compe­tition inherent to the seminary classroom—vying for internships, jobs, or a professor’s attention that can turn into a recommendation letter—all fall away in a church-based theological edu­cation environment. Sure, there are still problems with heavily invested students talking over those who are soft spoken, but these issues can now be addressed in the context of a church family made of mem­bers who have committed themselves to one another and with the oversight and guidance of pastors and shepherds.

Seminaries have played a defining role in both The Village Church Insti­tute and Coggin U. English and Attaway have seminary degrees, and they draw heavily upon the educations, libraries, and perspectives they acquired during their time in seminary. At times, semi­naries also play a direct role in the pro­grams, like when Attaway asks fellow Dallas Theological Seminary alumni to teach at Coggin U or when The Village Church Institute established a partner­ship with Southern Seminary.

“We are pivoting from a stance that has been oriented toward the invita­tion Come and be a part of us here to one of offering How can we join you there,” said Britt Vaughan, director of commu­nications at Fuller Seminary. “We are reimagining and adjusting our programs to unlock the doors of the academy to individuals and groups, students and learners, churches and organizations across the globe.”

Sam Morris, director of admissions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Sem­inary, doesn’t see nonvocational sem­inary attendance as a sign the church is lacking, but rather that the church is succeeding at instilling a sense of mis­sion in its lay leaders.

“The rural churches all across America that work hard to raise up godly men and women and send them to us are the back­bone of our seminary,” he said. “Because of their diligence in passing on what they have received to trustworthy and faithful men and women, we have the opportunity to carry on what they have started.”

Morris’s perspective may seem to con­flict with that of Wilkin or Johnson, but perhaps these things can be true at the same time—that as the days of cultural Christianity and the Moral Majority become increasingly obso­lete, faithful churches are producing disciples hungry for the Word, and individuals who have not found discipleship in the church are going to do what they have to do to find it.

Learning in the Local Church
When Feleda Keene, a student at New Orleans Baptist Theo­logical Seminary, spoke to her former pastor about her desire for theological education, he told her that she’d never be paid in ministry, questioned why she needed the education, and told her that if she did decide to go, she needed to ensure she didn’t become prideful. The conversation crushed Keene, who delayed enrolling in seminary for several years after the conversation.

“I let a man’s words in a prominent position in the church keep me from fulfilling my calling,” she lamented. “My biggest regret is not starting sooner. If I could share anything with another woman it is this: Do not let another person stop you from fulfilling your purpose for his kingdom (even a pastor)!”

That such a thing would even need to be said—don’t let your pastor discourage you from in-depth study of the Scriptures—is grievous and far too common. One student shared that instead of feeling like her church sees her theological education as a gift, she feels like they find it to be “an annoyance at best and a threat at worst.”

Keene's church is now led by a pastor who supports and encourages her in her seminary education. Many other students who didn’t enter seminary with voca­tional intentions innovate new forms of ministry in their local churches as an outcome of what they’re learning.

“The work I am doing at seminary is shaping me and my beliefs, and this naturally overflows into the work that I do in our local church,” Judith said. “Two years ago, I wouldn’t have attempted writing a kids’ play explaining the difference between a Hebraic and Western understanding of justice while offering a new look at atonement theories.”

As students grow in their understanding of the Bible, doc­trine, and church history, they naturally want to share it with those in their immediate context—the local church. Perhaps one way to create a stronger sense of belonging for that theol­ogy-thirsty congregant, as well as for those whose eyes glaze over at the word Trinity, is to put them in the same room with a simple resource.

For example, Fuller Seminary offers an “In the Room With” video series in which scholars discuss various topics of the day through a theological lens. Dallas Theological Seminary offers free online courses like “The Story of Scripture,” “Understand­ing God’s Covenants,” and “The Book of Hebrews.” While the goal over time should perhaps be for ministry leaders in local churches to articulate the Scriptures in such a way that reliance on videos from a seminary isn’t necessary, these resources provide a good starting point for churches of all sizes. All they need is an internet connection, a time and place to meet, and hearts—whether 2 or 200—ready to learn.

“People think that only a big church with a lot of resources can do this, but we believe it’s scalable,” Wilkin said. “You might have less of a lecture format in a large room and more of a discussion format in a living room.”

At Denver Seminary, this adaptability looks like a rich mentoring program in which students enter into a contract with a mentor, often someone from a local church who is not part of the seminary, who will disciple the student throughout their time in seminary.

“If seminaries and local churches don’t view themselves through the lens of complementarity, then they’re missing a tremendous opportunity in which the strength of one sup­plements and comes alongside the strength of the other,” said Mark Young, president of Denver Seminary.

John Dyer, dean of enrollment services and educational technology at Dallas Theological Seminary, said seminar­ies like his have created a “joint-degree program where the seminary provides the biblical and theological education, and the church provides more of the hands-on training and discipleship.”

Whether the steps are large or small, programmatic or around a coffee table, one thing seems to be clear: redeeming a vision for Christian education as a component of holistic discipleship is neither a solely pastoral or solely academic task. It’s a task for the people of God to undertake together— the single mom with her nose in a systematic theology text­book and the college student who comes to small group for the snacks.

The point is not for all believers to become studious aca­demic types who can read Hebrew and quote paragraphs of Justin Martyr any more than it is to cast aside the hard work of exegesis for the sake of avoiding discomfort or debate. Rather, the opportunity seminaries and churches have before them is one of glorious potential—one that rings of the Ephesians 4 call to equip the saints—not just the professionals, not just the academics, not just the zealots, but every single saint—for the work of ministry and the glory of God. And perhaps, then, the non-traditional student isn’t just a go-getter; she’s a witness bearer to a calling that belongs to us all.

Abby Perry is a freelance writer with work in Sojourners, Nations Media, The Curator, and Christianity Today. Her recent Prophetic Survivors series at Fathom Magazine featured profiles of survivors of #ChurchToo sexual abuse. She lives in Texas with her husband and two sons. Find more of her stories at abbyjperry.com and tweets @abbyjperry.

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2020, 09:29:49 pm »


Scam Lures Speakers to Fake UK Church Conferences

Hundreds of American Christian leaders have been invited to Anglican events—then asked to pay up.

Late last year, writer Jonathan Merritt was offered the keynote spot at a church conference in Scotland. The cathedral provost emailed him, saying, “we received the Lords direction to invite you to speak in this event.” He detailed the tradition of annual lectures at St. Andrew’s in Aberdeen—this year’s theme “carefully chosen by the Lords’ inspiration due to the backdrop of the present situation in the United Kingdom”—and offered to pay Merritt a speaking fee and cover his travel expenses.

It took a few more email exchanges before Merritt and his assistant realized that these messages weren’t really from Provost Isaac Poobalan at all—typos and clunky language began to tip them off—and that the supposedly 600-person conference scheduled to take place at the church later this month wasn’t even happening.

“I almost flew to the UK in 2 weeks for a FAKE event!” the author of Learning to Speak God from Scratch tweeted last week. “In Nov 2019, someone impersonated a real religious leader to invite me to speak. I thankfully caught it last min, but some creepy European out there wants a Jonathan Merritt flesh-coat baaaadly, and I’m not even kidding.”

This email scheme has become the “Nigerian prince” offer of the Christian speaking circuit, with hundreds of US Christian leaders invited to events at UK churches by scammers who hope to collect hundreds of dollars in visa fees ahead of the purported conferences.

The real administrator at St. Andrew’s, Lynda Johnston, says at least 30 Americans targeted by the scam have contacted the cathedral, including a number of “very interesting and potentially well-off individuals.” The church had to put up a notice on its website saying, “no such conference happening here at the Cathedral, and no emails were sent by Provost Poobalan.”

Over the past year, invitations have been sent out for a conference called “Big Things: How to start small” under the guise of more than a dozen unsuspecting Anglican churches. Some version of the scam dates back to at least 2012. Several Christians—including Michael Wear, Carlos Whittaker, Philip Nation, Larry Crudup, and Megan Alexander—replied to Merritt to say they’d also received similar invites.

According to Johnston, the emails coming from a Gmail account set up in Poobalan’s name (not an official church account) originated from an IP address in Nairobi, Kenya. The messages use real names and addresses of UK churches and leaders, often with a Bible verse in the email signature.

Alexander, an Inside Edition correspondent and Christian author, this week received a second identical invitation to an upcoming “Big Things” conference, just with the names and location changed to another parish. She told CT she had initially been interested in the Aberdeen event since its theme happened to line up with her book Faith in the Spotlight, but her speaking agent confirmed it was a fraud after contacting the church directly.

“The scam is not immediately obvious in that it does not request money or (ask) you to click on any links,” said Adam Kelk, operations manager for St. Botolph’s Church in Boston, England, which has been named as the location for the conference twice, including a current iteration of the scheme mentioning a March 2020 event. “We have been informed that upon replying the scammers then send out a second email which requests money to cover expenses/visas, etc. The emails have been sent mainly to people who are in America, hence the request for expenses.”

Many Christian personalities at all levels—from first-time authors to celebrities like Tim Tebow and Sadie Robertson—speak at conferences and events as a way to spread their messages and earn income. (One major agency, Premiere Speakers Bureau, lists more than 200 Christian speakers across many fields, with fees starting at a few thousand dollars.) It’s not unusual for a church they’ve never heard of to reach out with a speaking opportunity. With the “Big Things” scam, most were contacted through forms on their websites or through their speaking agents.

Joy Eggrichs Reed, founder of Punchline Speakers, said the agency and several of its clients were invited to the same conference as Merritt and Alexander. Reed warns speakers to watch out for when event coordinators “fail to answer the simple questions sent in response,” as it could be a sign of a scam.

“In our case it was asking which speakers they were interested in, discussions of budget, and logistics,” she said. “They just continued to reply with what felt like auto-responses filled with somewhat nonsensical theological sentences that seemed to be done in Google translate: Sending out the invitation to you is by virtue of Gods bearing plus human recommendation, We need you to use your wealth of experience to sensitize the congregation.”

Luckily, most who expressed interest in the fake conferences stopped short of paying to go. Author Anna LeBaron—who wrote The Polygamist’s Daughter: A Memoir and shared her testimony in CT in 2017—was on board with the Big Things conference “scheduled” for September 2019 at St. Luke’s Church in West Norwood, London, until she received a request to wire-transfer the charges for her work permit.

“This is when my assistant and I began to feel that something wasn't quite right,” she said.

Patrick Schwerdtfeger posted back in 2012 about the “UK Work Permit Church Scam for Speakers,” warning that he had paid over $1,000 in a wire transfer after exchanging over 50 emails with scammers posing as leaders at an evangelical church in Wales.

In recent months, commenters have visited Schwerdtfeger’s blog to report further scam emails sent out last year, claiming to be from multiple churches in London, Manchester, Cardiff, Norwich, and Worcestershire, in addition to St. Andrew’s in Aberdeen.

While the church is not actually hosting a conference in mid-January, St. Andrew’s still hopes Americans come visit (no shady wire transfers needed), since the cathedral holds a special connection with the States. The church is the site of the 1784 consecration of the first American Episcopal bishop, Samuel Seabury. Seabury wrote “Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress” and is featured as a character in the Hamilton musical (see “Farmer Refuted”). In his honor, St. Andrew’s historic sanctuary displays a stained glass with an angel carrying the “stars and stripes,” said Johnston.

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2020, 10:21:18 pm »


Bryan Stevenson Wants to Liberate People from the Lie That Their Life Doesn’t Matter

The author of the book behind the new film ‘Just Mercy’ shows the church a way forward.

Since 1973, 166 people in the US have been exonerated from death row. In 2018 alone, wrongly convicted people lost more than 1,600 years of their lives behind bars. Many exonerated individuals never received any form of reparations. One man, Anthony Ray Hinton, spent 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. Though he was exonerated with the help of the Equal Justice Initiative in 2015, Hinton has not received an apology from the state, or from anyone involved in his prosecution, for the years stolen from him.

The film Just Mercy, which releases January 10, provocatively beckons all—especially the US church—to confront the unjust nature of our nation’s criminal justice system. The film provides a sobering glimpse into how race, class, and systemic sin inform culpability and judicial verdicts. Revolving around the faith-rooted activism of Bryan Stevenson (played by Michal B. Jordan) and the creation of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), Just Mercy recounts the tragic story of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx). McMillian, or Johnny D., was an African American who owned a lumber company in a small Alabama town and was framed for the murder of Ronda Morrison—an 18-year-old white girl.

The film chronicles Stevenson’s graduation from Harvard Law School and move to Montgomery, Alabama, where he opens a law firm that provides legal defense for those awaiting execution on death row. McMillian’s case was one of the first, and most difficult, cases of Stevenson’s career. Just Mercy illuminates Stevenson’s relentless pursuit of truth and justice, commitments that led Archbishop Desmond Tutu to knight Stevenson as “America’s Nelson Mandela” and enabled EJI to successfully challenge more than 125 death row convictions since 1989.

The US not only has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, we also have more people locked up than any other country in the history of the world. We also have more jails and prisons than degree-granting colleges and universities. In some areas of the country, there are more people living behind bars than on college campuses. Native Americans, Africans, Hispanics, and Southeast Asians are all grossly overrepresented within our justice system. EJI found that for every nine people executed on death row, one is found innocent and released.

US Christians must lament how the politics of fear and anger have tamed our witness in the world. Stevenson points out in his documentary True Justice that everybody imagines that, if they were in Alabama in the 1960s, they would have been marching with Martin Luther King Jr. “And, the truth of it is,” he says, “I don’t think you can claim that if today you are watching these systems be created that are incarcerating millions of people throwing away the lives of millions of people, destroying communities, and you’re doing nothing.”

Amid these lamentations, Stevenson remains a man of hope, love, and conviction. The true measure of our character, he is convinced, is proved through how we treat the poor, disfavored, incarcerated, and condemned.

Christianity Today asked Dominique DuBois Gilliard, director of racial righteousness and reconciliation for the Evangelical Covenant Church and author of Rethinking Incarceration, to talk to Bryan Stevenson about his work and hopes for the film. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the significance of the timing of the film’s release?

This is a critical time in our nation’s history. We’ve been so divided by the politics of fear and anger that it’s easy to stop caring about things we should care about. It’s easy to tolerate things we shouldn’t tolerate. And the way you combat that is to get people closer to inequality, to injustice, to things that are unfair. And that’s what story-making can do. That’s what films can do.

I’ve always loved the power of cinema to draw you into someone else’s life, someone else’s experience, and open your eyes and your heart to things that you need to see and feel. And that’s what I’m hoping to happen with this movie.

We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. We have an incredibly extreme and harsh carceral system that treats a lot of people unfairly. A lot of people are vulnerable or exploited and abused. And I’d love to see that change, but it won’t change until people understand the cost of that. I’m hoping that the film will create an opportunity for them to feel the pain of inequality and injustice, but also the triumph of what can happen when we fight and we work. I am really thrilled that it’s happening at this moment when I think we are desperately in need of increasing the justice quotient in our nation.

There were two quotes that were really jarring for me in the film. One is when the other lawyer says, “If you go digging into those wounds, you’re going to make a lot of people very angry.” And, “When people care about a thing that much, they’re willing to do anything to get what they want.” What does it take to have the courage to pursue truth in a climate of fear, especially when you understand the cost of your choice?

The good news is that it’s not a new struggle. People of faith and people of conviction have always had to stand up when other people say sit down and to speak when other people say to be quiet. And you get oriented to live like that, to think like that, to believe like that.

I’m a product of a community where people were marginalized, poor, excluded. We had to learn to believe things we hadn’t seen, and my faith reinforced that. People don’t like when they are forced to confront things that aren’t pleasant, that are unhappy. But we have to do that. And I actually think people of faith have a critical role at that. We understand that if we want to get to a better place, if we want redemption, if we want restoration, that there has to be confession, there has to be repentance. We cannot be afraid to acknowledge wrongdoing, mistakes we’ve made—we understand that personally. We seem to understand it in our places of worship, but we don’t seem to see much evidence of that in the political and the cultural social spaces. And I just think that has to change.

But I am standing on the shoulders of people who have done so much more with so much less. In Montgomery, there’s a whole history of people courageously fighting the things that need to be fought. The generation before me would put on their Sunday best and go into a space where they knew they would likely be battered and bloodied and bruised, but they went anyway. And with that history in my head and that knowledge, I could feel like I’ve got to do the things that have to be done. And it’s part of what struggle requires.

Part of what I saw manifested in the movie is you seeing value in people who sometimes don’t see it in themselves, and having the conviction to fight for them even when they seem to not have that same conviction because the system has so thoroughly beat them down.

What has defined my work over the last 35 years is this belief that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I genuinely believe that no one is just their worst act. If you tell a lie, you’re not just a liar; or if you take something, you’re not just a thief—even if you’ve killed someone, you’re not just a killer. And justice requires that we know the other things that you are.

It’s easy to expect the worst part of you and just stay in that place, because it takes work and faith and hope and belief and love to transcend some of the difficult and painful things we do to one another. I think that’s what we’re called to do. And in that respect, the work can be both ministry and advocacy at the same time. I want the same things for me that I want for my client; I want the opportunity to be forgiven if I say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing. I can’t expect that for myself if I’m not going to give it to other people. That has shaped my work. I don’t want to see anybody burdened with the lie that their life doesn’t matter, that they’re beyond hope and beyond redemption or beyond any purpose. I don’t believe that for anyone. Part of what my work is about is trying to illuminate that path so that we can both see it.

How has the death penalty driven your work, especially after it was resuscitated on the federal level last year?

I think that the threshold question when it comes to the death penalty isn’t “Do people deserve to die for the crimes they’ve committed?” I think the threshold question is, “Do we deserve to kill?” If you have a system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty; if you have a system defined by error, that’s made a lot of mistakes, that’s very unreliable; if you have a system compromised by bias against the poor or people of color, then I don’t think you deserve to kill. The long history of racial violence in this country ought to be disqualifying of a state that perpetrated genocide against native people, that tolerated enslavement for two centuries, that allowed lawlessness and terrorism and mob violence and lynching to define the first half of the 20th century. But that kind of history, that we would even want to use legal violence and as a measure or expression of our commitment to justice, seems very turned around. So for me, it’s very easy to stand with the condemned and to argue for something better—something that goes beyond the illogic of killing people to show that killing is wrong.

As a Harvard Law School graduate who had many opportunities coming out of law school, can you talk a little bit about how your faith informed your vocation?

I never had met a lawyer until I got to Harvard Law School. I didn’t really understand what I wanted to do. And when I met people on death row who were literally dying for legal assistance. When I heard a condemned man sing about higher ground as we have in the film, everything just came together for me.

My great-grandparents were enslaved. My grandmother survived lynching and terrorism. My parents were humiliated every day by Jim Crow laws that were designed to denigrate. And yet they had enough faith, they had enough hope, to love one another and to create another generation. And I want to honor that hope and that love and employ that same faith to believe that we can create something better for the people who come after. I do think there’s something better waiting for us in this country. I do think there’s something that feels more like freedom than inequality of justice. But to get there we’re going to have to talk more honestly, we’re going to have to work harder, we’re going to have to do the difficult things that are sometimes required to love mercy and to do justice and to walk humbly with God.

Article continues below
What do you hope this movie leaves the church wrestling with?

I hope it causes us to talk more about this need for redemption and grace to everyone. We can’t be believers and be so hopeless about people who fall down. Life without parole is a hopeless sentence; and, we impose that sentence upon people who are drug addicted and drug dependent, people who have made poor choices around money. There has to be more hopefulness in the way we think about any person's ability to recover, to be redeemed. Then the second thing is that we need to see people of faith in spaces where there’s a lot of despair and anguish, where there’s a lot of trauma and abuse. I can’t think of any place where that is more evident than in our jails and prisons.

I want to see people of faith get reengaged. The Gospels talk about not only feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and providing shelter to the homeless, but also about going into the jails and prisons and standing with the accused. And we haven’t done that in a way that I think we should be. And I hope it still inspires a conversation that leads us into that place.

Dominique DuBois Gilliard is the director of racial righteousness and reconciliation for the Evangelical Covenant Church, and is the author of Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice That Restores, which won a 2018 Book of the Year Award for InterVarsity Press.

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2020, 03:07:20 am »


Megxit and the Church: Harry and Meghan Reflect Our Lost Youth

Britain’s royal family isn’t the only institution struggling to retain and empower the next generation.

You know things are serious when “Senior Royals” in Buckingham Palace let it be known that they are “hurt” and “disappointed” over a decision made by one of their own. The revelation this week that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, intend to step back as senior royals and instead seek a way to become financially independent has received not only public challenge from the royal family but also a high degree of criticism from pundits and the press.

The tone of reporting in the United Kingdom has felt very judgmental, with one of the main critiques being the couple’s lack of consultation with the wider royal family. However, over the past few months, the Sussexes have made no secret about their personal and professional struggles. In October, they issued an official statement in which the prince said he could no longer be a “silent witness” to his wife’s “private suffering.”

Markle continues to bear the brunt of the angry reaction, which some see as both misogynistic and racist. Despite the scandal over Prince Andrew’s relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, the tabloids have nevertheless focused on her surprising choices: to wear jeans to Wimbledon; to ride on a jet with Elton John; or to guest edit Vogue magazine. The media’s obvious problems in dealing with Markle as a progressive American woman of color with ideas and opinions is born out in the stinging criticism that has been directed at her over the step-down, in what some are calling “Megxit.”

Prince Harry has been the first to compare the hounding of his wife to that of his mother, Princess Diana. He has made it clear that he cannot stand by and watch history repeat itself. This has led him to break protocol before, when he helped lead a campaign on mental health issues and opened up to his own need for counseling two decades after he lost his mother at the age of 12. Unsurprisingly, the general public has always had a great deal of sympathy for the prince.

While there are some who are very critical of the couple for abandoning tradition—accusing them of dereliction of their taxpayer-funded duties—others like myself are more supportive of the Sussexes’ progressive stance. Their desire to prioritize one another, be financially independent, and champion causes close to their heart despite great sacrifice is praiseworthy. Many are hopeful that this will catalyze the modernization of the monarchy and facilitate it to further its positive contribution to the UK’s and the Commonwealth’s public life.

Christians should consider carefully our response to this latest episode with “Harry and Meghan.” The church and the royal family have more in common than we might at first imagine. Both are ancient institutions struggling with recent scandals of high-profile members failing to deal adequately with accusations of sexual abuse; accused of being biased against women and non-inclusive of people of color; and now apparently losing the allegiance of a new generation.

For many years, the Barna Group has been analyzing generational engagement with churches. In his book, Faith for Exiles, David Kinnaman states that in 2011, 59 percent of young Americans who grew up Christian had stopped attending their churches. Less than a decade later, the number has now increased to 64 percent. Despite numerous initiatives to try and reverse the trend, we have not managed to sufficiently engage young adults with Christianity.

This speaks to a major challenge to the mission of the church: for all the evangelistic initiatives, for all the church planting, for all the populist fears of immigration diluting the Christian population’s majority, the biggest challenge to the Christian church is our inability to disciple our own children and help them transition from childhood faith to adult belief.

Harry and Meghan’s story highlights that transitioning tradition is not just a problem for the institution of the church. And like the royal family, the church needs to renegotiate how it holds on to the past and contextualizes for the present. For Christians, this necessarily involves working out the relationship between the unchanging gospel and our current culture—a conversation that has been on the church’s agenda since the time of the New Testament, when the topics ranged from the eating of meat offered to idols to the question of circumcising Gentile believers.

At the crux of these debates, Christians have had to wrestle with their own traditions and look behind and beyond them to discover what is essential to the gospel and what is culturally contingent. Too often we have been caught in the nexus that the great historian of Christianity, Jarislav Pelikan, expounded: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

As Buckingham Palace has to ask the same questions—regarding what is essential to its identity, heritage, and mission in the world—I wonder if there is a living tradition that brings the best of what the royal family has to offer to serve our world today?

One proposal may be the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day. Millions of people across the UK have an annual tradition to tune in to the BBC broadcast at 3 p.m. on December 25th. And over the last few years, Queen Elizabeth II has been the most reliable of witnesses—never failing to point the British population to consider who Christ is and what he has done for us. (As viewers of The Crown on Netflix will understand, the queen has played a pivotal role in the UK’s public life and her Christian faith has been enormously influential on her personally and professionally.)

Although I believe there is still a place for the royal family and some of the values and traditions its members espouse, I also believe there should be room for a younger generation to forge its own path and bring its own strengths—and indeed weaknesses—to a new form of leadership. Will it be possible for this new generation to use its talents to bring change, without having to face a crippling barrage of cruel criticism? Can that change hold onto the essence of the traditions, but recontextualize them for our day?

I for one am cheering Harry and Meghan on. This young couple with a baby are facing a media storm of criticism and invasion of privacy, as well as public disapproval from their family, and need refuge and all the support they can get. I sincerely hope they can find this in the church.

And I look forward to seeing how their decisions might help the royal family progress, and perhaps how it might even encourage the church as we Christians wrestle with important questions, champion new causes, inspire racial inclusion, and engage the new generation to lead our ancient institution into the future.

Krish Kandiah is a UK-based speaker and author and founder of Home for Good, a fostering and adoption charity.

Speaking Out is Christianity Today’s guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the magazine.

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2020, 08:41:02 pm »


Most Pastors Say Middle East Politics Won’t Speed Up the Second Coming

A new LifeWay Research survey shows that only 1 in 9 pastors link geo-political events with Christ’s return.

Like everyone else, US Protestant pastors may have been closely watching the recent events related to Iran, but probably not because they thought it had anything to do with the return of Christ.

Pastors are more than three times as likely to believe Christians can speed up the return of Christ by the spread of their faith than by backing certain geo-political changes, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

“While Scripture specifically says we cannot know the day or the hour of Jesus Christ’s return, we were interested in pastors’ views on whether Christians can play a role in bringing about that return any sooner,” explained Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

Around 1 in 8 Protestant pastors (12%) believe Christians can speed up the second coming of Jesus by supporting geo-political changes mentioned in the Bible, with 5 percent strongly agreeing.

Eight in 10 pastors don’t believe their support will have an impact on the timetable of Christ’s return, including 61 percent who strongly disagree.

During heighted conflicts with Syria, a 2013 LifeWay Research study found many Americans were likely to link global conflict with end times.

Almost 1 in 3 saw the conflict as part of the Bible’s plan for the end times. One in 4 thought a US military strike in Syria could lead to Armageddon. And 1 in 5 believed the world would end in their lifetime, including 32% of evangelicals.

“A large majority of pastors do not see biblical prophecies about future changes among nations as a roadmap for advocating specific international engagement,” said McConnell.

In the most recent study of Protestant pastors, there is no significant difference between mainline and evangelical pastors regarding their views about international political affairs speeding up the return of Christ. There are, however, differences among ethnicities.

White pastors (11%) are less likely to believe backing geo-political events will hasten Jesus’ second coming than African American pastors (20%) or pastors of other ethnicities (22%).

Pastors 65 and older (16%) are more likely to agree than younger pastors, those 18 to 44 (9%).

Additional education decreases the likelihood a pastor agrees that support from Christians of geo-political events will speed up the return of Christ. Pastors without a college degree are more than twice as likely to agree than those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree—22 percent to 10 percent.

Evangelism to end times
In the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20), Jesus tells his followers to “make disciples of all nations,” which is often understood as a command to spread the faith to all distinct people groups.

Previously in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus connects this occurring to his second coming. “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14 CSB).

Protestant pastors are split, however, on whether Christians can actually speed up the return of Christ by helping to share the gospel with all people groups.

Close to 2 in 5 (41%) believe Christians can hasten Jesus’ second coming through world evangelism, while around half (54%) disagree.

“The Great Commission was a task Jesus gave his followers to be doing while he is gone,” said McConnell. “Four in 10 pastors believe the pace of sharing the message of what Jesus has done will impact the timing of Christ’s return. Presumably many of those who disagree would assert exclusively divine control over Christ’s return.”

Denominationally, Pentecostal pastors (66%) are the most likely to agree Christians can speed up Jesus’ return by sharing the gospel with all people groups.

Those with no college degree (56%) are more likely to agree than those with additional degrees.

Pastors 65 and older are the age group most likely to agree (52%).

White pastors are more likely than African American pastors to disagree that the second coming of Christ can be sped up by global evangelism—55% to 43%.

Immoral until the end?
Whenever the second coming of Christ may be, most Protestant pastors believe immorality will be more common until Jesus returns.

Almost 7 in 10 (68%) agree “culture will increasingly get less moral until Jesus Christ returns.” Around a quarter (26%) disagree.

Evangelical pastors (80%) are far more likely to agree than mainline pastors (51%). Pastors 45 and older (71%) are more likely to agree than younger pastors (62%).

Again, education plays a role in pastors’ likelihood to agree. Those with no college degree (90%) or a bachelor’s degree (81%) are more likely to believe immorality will increase until the return of Jesus than those with a master’s degree (61%) or a doctoral degree (63%).

Baptist (86%) and Pentecostal (84%) pastors are more likely to agree than Church of Christ (67%), Lutheran (59%), Methodist (48%), or Presbyterian and Reformed pastors (45%).

“On the surface, the responses of most pastors could be described as feeling helpless regarding these specific aspects of the future,” said McConnell. “Yet the persistence of their faith amidst a lack of control points to an even greater level of hope.”

Aaron Earls is online editor of Facts & Trends and a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.

Methodology: The phone survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted from Aug. 30 to Sept. 24, 2019. The calling list was a stratified random sample drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister, or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.3%. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2020, 10:43:28 am »


Many Churchgoers Don’t Know If Their Pastor Is a Republican or Democrat

Still, three-quarters of evangelicals say they agree with their church leaders on politics.

Churchgoers are most likely to say they don’t know whether their pastor is a Republican or a Democrat—and many preachers believe that’s a good thing.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center finds that almost half (45%) of people who attend services at least a few times a year are “unsure” of their clergy’s partisan leanings. Over a quarter (27%) say their clergy are a mix of both parties, while 16 percent say they lean Republican and 11 percent say they lean Democrat.

The job of the pastor is to help churchgoers see that “neither party has a corner on true Christianity, and neither party is working out the values of Christ’s kingdom in its fullness,” said Bill Riedel, pastor Redemption Hill Church in Washington, D.C.

Riedel told CT he was pleased to see that almost half of churchgoers do not know their pastors’ political leanings, but he would like that percentage to climb even higher. While pastors have a right to their political opinions, Riedel said, pastors should, like the Apostle Paul in Corinth, be willing to set aside their rights for the sake of the gospel.

“To be a Christian doesn’t mean you ascribe to a particular secular partisan ideology,” he said. “I don’t think pastors should be fake about who they are either. It’s an entire grid of how we think about politics that ought to be changed.”

When politics does come up from the pulpit, a majority of those in the pews (62%) say they agree with their leaders. The political overlap is particularly strong among evangelical Protestants, three-quarters of whom (76%) say they agree with their pastor’s political opinions, the survey found.

Some Christians have spoken up for the right for pastors to endorse political candidates, and President Donald Trump often talks about repealing the Johnson Amendment to free churches to take a stand without losing their tax-exempt status.

But overall it’s an unpopular position; Pew found last fall that most Americans (63%) want churches and other houses of worship to stay out of political matters, and more than three out of four (76%) say they should not come out in favor of a political candidate. As CT reported, Protestants in the historically black churches and evangelical Protestants are the only major religious groups that favor church endorsements.

“I deliberately avoid using language that is too precise,” Brandon Washington, preaching pastor at The Embassy Church in Denver, told CT last year. “You’ll never see us endorsing a candidate or anything like that.”

“My decision to not make political statements or not align with a political party from the platform does not keep me from addressing matters that I believe have become politicized,” including abortion and racism, Washington said.

While few Christians heard political endorsements from the pulpit back in 2016 (Pew found that just 1 percent of churchgoers said their pastors spoke favorably about Donald Trump during the campaign, compared with 6 percent who said they spoke favorably of Hillary Clinton), there’s new momentum around political civility this election year.

“Evangelical pastors must recognize that political diversity frequently is present within churches,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “If civility across these differences is not actively fostered, it can hurt the mission of the church. This has already been evident as many young adults point to political differences as a reason they stop attending church.”

Riedel thinks the problem in 2016 was that many pastors believed they could avoid politics and just preach the gospel. “The more heated things got … people were unprepared to think about Christian unity across political spectrum,” said the Redemption Hill pastor, whose congregation includes government staffers from both political parties. “The past two years have shown us that partisan rhetoric falls short. Christianity has a lot to say to both sides of the aisle.”

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2020, 10:48:05 am »


Trump Pledges to Protect ‘Right to Pray’ in Public Schools

Updated guidance reaffirms First Amendment protections and provides new pathways for complaints.

Days after promising to “safeguard students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in our schools” in an evangelical campaign rally, President Donald Trump backed school prayer and proposed new rules for religious organizations receiving federal funding. The announcements correspond with Thursday’s annual White House proclamation for Religious Freedom Day.

This is first updated guidance on school prayer from the Education Department since 2003. The directive orders states to verify that school districts have no policies limiting constitutionally protected prayer and to refer violators to the Education Department. That’s much like the earlier guidance, but the directive goes further in requiring states to provide ways for making complaints against schools.

Students can pray on their own or together during lunch or other free times, for example, and student speakers can pray at assemblies or sports games as long as they weren’t chosen to speak based on their religious perspectives, according to the guidance.

The president hosted more than a dozen students and teachers in the Oval Office for the announcement, including Teachers Who Pray founder Marilyn Rhames, who CT featured in 2018. Her organization gathers teachers for prayer and spiritual formation outside of classroom instruction time.

“There’s a myth out there that what Teachers Who Pray does … is not legal, and it absolutely is,” she said during the presidential gathering. “I’m here to tell teachers we need to pray … We need to do what we have to do for our kids because if we’re not strong, we can’t make them strong.”

Public schools have been barred from leading students in classroom prayer since 1962, when the Supreme Court said it violated a First Amendment clause forbidding the establishment of a government religion. Later decisions extended the ban to school graduation ceremonies and, under certain circumstances, school athletic games.

Yet Americans remain largely in favor of prayer in public schools. According to General Social Survey data analyzed by political scientist Ryan Burge, just 20–35 percent of Christians support a ban against requiring reading the Lord’s Prayer or the Bible in public schools, and the religiously unaffiliated are evenly divided on the question.

Additionally, a 2019 Pew Research Center survey found 41 percent of teens in public schools, including 68 percent of evangelicals, said they view teacher-led prayer in class as appropriate. While most students knew it was unconstitutional, 8 percent of teens said they have had a public school teacher lead a class in prayer.

Matt Sharp, senior counsel with the conservative legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, told CT in October that public schools “are generally accommodating religious expression,” despite occasional religious freedom conflicts.

Disputes used to center on “whether religious clubs and religious speech can even happen in the schools,” Sharp said, with some schools attempting to prohibit students from founding Bible clubs and handing out Christian literature. Today the law is “well settled” to allow those activities, so legal battles have shifted to “a clash between religious expression and other students’ being offended” by it.

Civil liberties groups say the firewall protects religious minorities and ensures fair treatment of all faiths. But many Christians say courts and schools have pushed too far against the right to free religious expression.

“The White House isn’t saying whether one should pray or to whom or what they should pray to, they are simply making it clear that in the United States students have First Amendment rights,” said Johnnie Moore, an evangelical consultant and one of Trump’s faith advisers, by email. Moore recalled a dispute over a Bible study he held over lunch when he was in high school. “It was totally absurd.”

Today, a majority of teens in general (82%) and evangelical teens (64%) say there are no religious support or prayer groups that meet in their school, Pew found.

Additionally, under orders from Trump, nine Cabinet departments on Thursday proposed rules intended to remove “regulatory burdens” on religious organizations participating in federal programs by eliminating a requirement that they refer people to alternative providers upon request.

Melissa Rogers, who served as executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Barack Obama, expressed concern that the changes threaten the religious liberties of beneficiaries, who may be turned away on the basis of religion without being directed to an alternative. “The religious liberty of social service beneficiaries is as important as the religious liberty of faith-based providers,” she said.

Much of the new proposals follow through on an executive order Trump from 2018 that aims to put religious groups on equal footing when competing for federal grants and other funding.

patrick jane

  • Trade Count: (0)
  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 17546
  • Karma: +1010/-0
  • Research Jesus Christ - Research Flat Earth
  • Location: Homeless in God's Flat Earth
  • Referrals: 48
    • Theology Forums
Re: Christianity Today Magazine - January 2020
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2020, 09:35:03 pm »


Died: Jack Van Impe, Televangelist Who Saw Signs of End Times

Every week for more than 30 years, he interpreted headlines in light of prophecy.

Jack Van Impe, a popular televangelist and one of the world’s most well-known end times preachers, died on Saturday at the age of 88. His passing was confirmed by Jack Van Impe Ministries International.

Every week for more than 30 years, Van Impe appeared on TV as the host of his own half-hour show, Van Impe Presents, offering eschatological commentary on current events. Alongside his wife Rexella, Van Impe read the latest headlines and explained how they connected to prophecy about the Antichrist, one-world government, and the rapture of true believers that might happen at any moment.

“We only report the news from the latest papers and magazines,” Van Impe once said, “but we use the Word of God to show you that it means Christ is coming.”

Van Impe reached a global audience from his studio in the suburbs of Detroit. He had memorized tens of thousands of Bible verses, earning himself the nickname “the Walking Bible.” He would recall Scripture on his show as he explained his apocalyptic theology, before ending each episode with a call for viewers to prepare for the end by accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior.

“Few reached a larger audience than evangelist Jack Van Impe,” historian Paul Boyer wrote in his landmark study of prophecy belief in modern America. “Bible quotations studded Van Impe’s apocalyptic predictions, including not only the familiar ones from Revelation, Zechariah, and 2 Peter … but also more obscure selections from Joel, Zephaniah, Malachi, and … Ezekiel.”

Beerhalls to Churches
Van Impe was born in Freeport, Michigan in 1931, the son of two Belgian immigrants. Jack’s father Oscar worked in a Plymouth auto factory by day and as a musician in the Detroit beerhalls by night. Oscar taught young Jack to play the accordion—sometimes, as Jack would later recall in his conversion testimony, with violent and drunken beatings.

Oscar and Marie Louise Van Impe had a conversion experience at an independent Baptist church that embraced the label fundamentalist in 1943. A week later, 12-year-old Jack walked to the front of the church to profess his own faith. The Van Impes stopped going to beerhalls and started preforming gospel music in area churches. The young Van Impe soon felt a call to ministry.

He was ordained in an independent Baptist church in 1951, after graduating from Detroit Bible College, and joined Youth For Christ as a musician around the same time as the late Billy Graham. Franklin Graham tweeted his condolences, saying Van Impe’s “life demonstrated the importance of ‘laying up these words of Mine in your heart and in your soul’ (Deuteronomy. 11:18). May we all be inspired to do the same.”

Van Impe married Rexella Shelton, a musically gifted and evangelistically minded Baptist who had spent one year at Bob Jones University, in 1952. The couple set off on their own in 1970, founding Jack Van Impe Crusades Inc. They travelled the country together, preforming music and preaching in 130 cities in 10 years.

From the start, Van Impe had an apocalyptic message. Popular early sermons included “The Coming War with Russia” and “Shocking Signs of the End of the Age.” Van Impe also preached about current events, warning people of the dangers of communism, homosexuality, abortion, and errant ministers. The last became a specialty. Van Impe frequently attacked other Christian ministers in his crusades—in general and by name.

“Night after night,” he later recalled, “I did my best preaching if I could be attacking individual names.”

In keeping with their fundamentalist commitments, the Van Impe Crusades initially refused to cooperate with any churches that weren’t also independent Baptist. Then Van Impe decided to exclude Baptist churches he believed had strayed from the fundamentals of the faith. Finally, he excluded fundamentalists who associated with non-fundamentalists.

Break from Super-Separatism
The ministry expanded into radio in the late 1970s, and then television in 1980. After some backlash for criticizing other Christians on TV, though, Van Impe apologized for what he called his “super-separatist” mentality. “I could no longer be a biased, hate-filled, prejudiced man,” Van Impe told a Sunday school convention in Detroit in 1982. “I’m going to love all God’s people even if they have a different denominational tag.”

The television ministry ran into financial trouble and closed in 1984, but relaunched on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) in ’88. The format of the new show was simple. Rexella Van Impe would perform a piece of music, chat with her husband, and then Jack Van Impe would bring up contemporary headlines and explain their prophetic significance. It was a formula they would repeat for the rest of their career.

By the mid-1990s, Jack Van Impe Presents aired weekly in about 25,000 cities in the US and Canada, and in more than 150 other nations around the globe. Viewers were delighted by the relevance of Van Impe’s message and his detailed application of seemingly complicated Scripture. Once, for example, he calculated how much of the earth might be destroyed by nuclear war in fulfillment of Revelation 8:7. His conclusion: exactly 18,963,194 square miles.

In the 1990s, Van Impe said he expected Christ to return between 2001 and 2012. He warned Christians to be on the lookout for the Antichrist and moves to establish a “New World Order,” or one-world government. The phrase “New World Order” was popular with far-right conspiracy theorists, including many in the militia movement. Van Impe was unfazed by the association.

“The Bible teaches that when the Antichrist comes to power, they will form a world government,” he said. “Why am I now out on a limb?”

Van Impe did balk, however, at being called a “doomsday preacher.” Christians could look forward to the rapture, he said, and Christ’s 1,000-year reign on earth before the final conflict at Armageddon. He insisted this was a message of hope.

“Rexella and I are not doomsday people,” he told the Detroit News. “We believe the greatest time is coming.”

Current events, however, looked very dark to Van Impe, and got darker in the 21st century. He increasingly worried about Islam after the terrorist attacks of 2001 and entertained numerous conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama, repeating false claims that Obama was a Muslim and part of a Muslim plot to infiltrate the US.

Conflict with TBN
Van Impe’s concerns led him into conflict with TBN in 2011. He started attacking other Christian ministers for not taking a strong enough stand against Islam—and again attacking them by name. Van Impe said megachurch pastors Rick Warren and Robert Schuller, both of whom had spoken to Muslim groups, were secretly promoting a merger of Christianity and Islam, or Chrislam.

TBN refused to air the episode and Van Impe separated from the network. The Van Impes continued the show on their own, broadcasting Jack Van Impe Presents on TV and the internet. On January 10, the most recent episode available on the ministry website, Rexella Van Impe read headlines about the heightening conflict between the US and Iran.

“You know friends, there’s so much to consider out there,” she said to the camera. “And I am grateful that we have a president who says we are not going to be number two, we are going to stand up to what’s happening.”

Then she turned it over to her husband, asking him if there was going to be a war.

“The Bible says in Ezekiel 38, 39, Gog, Magog, Mesheck, Tubal, and Rosh are going to lead the battle,” Van Impe said. “Who are they? Well Gog is the leader, Mesheck and Tubal is Moscow and Tobolsk, after being interpreted. And all the Orient, Revelation says, is going with them. China, North Korea, all of them … It’s going to be the bloodiest war in the world. The blood will flow to the bridles of the horses for 200 miles.”

Van Impe died eight days after the episode aired, concluding a 68-year career in ministry. Jack Van Impe Ministries has not named the cause of death. Funeral arrangements are being made.


Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
15 Replies
Last post January 19, 2021, 05:32:13 pm
by patrick jane
20 Replies
Last post January 19, 2021, 05:35:58 pm
by patrick jane
23 Replies
Last post January 19, 2021, 05:36:34 pm
by patrick jane
37 Replies
Last post January 19, 2021, 05:36:47 pm
by patrick jane
12 Replies
Last post January 30, 2021, 11:21:06 pm
by patrick jane

+-Recent Topics

Buddha By Rudolf Steiner by patrick jane
Today at 08:02:57 pm

Rudolf Steiner Bio by patrick jane
Today at 08:02:28 pm

The Buddha and Christ - Rudolf Steiner by patrick jane
Today at 08:02:06 pm

LION OF JUDAH VIDEOS by patrick jane
Today at 07:16:03 pm

The Occult Religions by patrick jane
Today at 06:58:45 pm

Fear and Loathing In The Flat Earth by patrick jane
Today at 06:58:22 pm

Your Favorite Music, Images and Memes by patrick jane
Today at 06:58:12 pm

Aethereal - Battle for Heaven and Earth by patrick jane
Today at 06:58:03 pm

Hollywood Occult Symbolism and Worshiping Lucifer by patrick jane
Today at 06:57:44 pm

A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL - The SHOCKING Truth About Blood Covenants by patrick jane
Today at 06:55:42 pm

Rudolf Steiner Press Archive - YouTube Channel by patrick jane
Today at 06:27:42 pm

Epic Poetry From Gilgamesh To The Cantos [And More?] by patrick jane
Today at 05:50:11 pm

Gnosis - Secrets of the Kabbalah & Zohar by patrick jane
Today at 05:20:49 pm

The Stages of Higher Knowledge By Rudolf Steiner by patrick jane
Today at 05:19:44 pm

SURVIVALIST THREAD by patrick jane
Today at 05:15:55 pm

Tiny Houses, Affordable Living and More by patrick jane
Today at 05:15:37 pm

Scriptures - Verse Of The Day and Discussion by Chaplain Mark Schmidt
September 16, 2021, 11:04:13 pm

What's on your mind? Chat Thread by truthjourney
September 16, 2021, 07:46:35 pm