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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020  (Read 1223 times)

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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #26 on: May 22, 2020, 09:54:58 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/whats-up-with-ascension.html






What’s Up with the Ascension?












Seated at the right hand of God, what’s Jesus doing up there?


Fellow church members occasionally ask: “If all our sin was dealt with when Jesus died on the cross, why must we still confess it?”

The answer is partly found in an oft overlooked aspect of Christian belief—Jesus’ ascension. According to the New Testament, God raised Jesus from the dead, and then, 40 days later, took him up into heaven (Acts 1:9–11). Romans, Hebrews, and 1 John all describe the ascended Jesus actively working for his people in God’s heavenly presence. Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25 identify Jesus’ present activity as intercession. In 1 John 2:1–2, Jesus serves as an advocate before the Father.

But why do God’s people need an advocate? Is the Crucifixion not enough for our salvation? I would answer no. The single event of the Cross is not sufficient—only the person of Jesus is sufficient. If all we had were the Cross, then we’d have no salvation. As important as Jesus’ death is, Christ’s saving work involves more. We need Jesus’ ongoing ministry of intercession for our salvation. Hebrews identifies Jesus’ ongoing intercession as key for Jesus “to save completely those who come to God through him” (Heb. 7:25). To reduce Jesus’ saving work merely to his dying ignores this important aspect of Jesus’ present ministry for his people.

Salvation isn’t accomplished just because Jesus died but because he was also raised and ascended into heaven. There, continuously interceding for us, Jesus maintains the New Covenant better (permanently better) than the Old Testament sacrifices and priests maintained the old. Hebrews and 1 John describe Christ’s heavenly ministry using concepts drawn from Old Testament sacrifices and priestly ministry. Hebrews looks to the annual Day of Atonement (Lev. 16) to explain how the ascended Jesus ensures his people’s salvation. The earthly high priests entered God’s presence in the Holy of Holies once every year to offer the sacrifice of atonement by sprinkling blood.

But Jesus did something better. He ascended to God’s presence in the heavenly Holy of Holies once for all time. There, as an ever-living sacrifice, he offered himself before the Father the way the earthly high priests offered the sacrificial blood (Heb. 9:6–7, 24–26). Hebrews says that Jesus took his seat at God’s right hand after he made purification for sins (Heb. 1:3). Jesus presently rules on the heavenly throne as God’s exalted Son. Hebrews also affirms that Jesus now serves as the Great High Priest who continues to work for the salvation of his siblings. He is seated, but he is not silent. Even now, the ascended Christ ministers as the Great High Priest in the heavenly Holy of Holies (Heb. 8:1–2), perpetually interceding for his people (Heb. 7:25). This is part of how he saves us completely.

Similarly, 1 John reflects on Jesus’ work in the light of Jewish sacrifices: Jesus himself is the “atoning sacrifice” now located in the Father’s presence (1 John 2:1-2). As in Hebrews, Jesus is not silent in God’s presence. He actively advocates for his people when they sin. This advocacy supplies the rationale for John’s admonition to believers to continually confess their sins (1 John 1:9). The reality of ongoing sin requires ongoing confession and forgiveness of sin. Jesus’ ascension makes this possible because Jesus, who is the atoning sacrifice, presently pleads with his Father for his people. Unlike Hebrews, 1 John does not identify Jesus as high priest, but Jesus’ ongoing advocacy clearly implies his priestly ministry.

In Romans 8:34, Paul also highlights the importance of Jesus’ ongoing intercession at God’s right hand as a central means for preserving relationship between God and God’s people. No one can condemn those who are in Christ. This truth depends not only on Jesus’ death, but, as Paul says, even more on his resurrection and present intercession at God’s right hand. Paul can therefore confidently declare that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). Jesus’ love extends beyond the Cross—his death, resurrection, and ongoing intercession at God’s right hand are essential for his people’s salvation. Take out any one of those elements and, like the Jenga tower that falls to pieces when a key block is removed, Paul’s confident claims in Romans 8:35–39 collapse.

The preceding reflections do not do full justice to the significance of Jesus’ ascension. They only highlight some of the important implications of this event. They remind us that our ascended Lord is not sitting silently in his Father’s presence. He actively intercedes and advocates for us, ministering before the Father as our merciful and faithful high priest (Heb. 2:17). We need this ministry as we continue to wait for the Lord to return and make all things right (Heb. 9:28). Our salvation is completely contingent on Jesus—the one who died but even more rose, ascended, and presently intercedes for us.

All of this brings us back to our opening question. Why do we continue to confess our sins and seek forgiveness even after professing faith in his salvific death? We do this, boldly even, because Jesus ascended as our great advocate, our high priest (Heb. 4:14–16). He has returned to his Father and ours to intercede on our behalf. This present work is an essential part of the ongoing relationship that he, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and we as God’s people share. Jesus’ ascension, we might say, is part of how he maintains the New Covenant relationship he inaugurated at his death. Atonement in the Old Testament wasn’t accomplished simply by slaughtering animals; their bodies and blood had to be brought to the altars by priests with prayers offered. Similarly, Jesus’ ascension brought him, the crucified and resurrected one, into God’s heavenly presence to minister as his people’s high priest. He is the atoning sacrifice who died, rose, and now intercedes for his siblings. He ensures his people will receive the salvation God has promised them. We still sin and fall short, but we have an advocate in heaven. We can, therefore, confidently proclaim his death, until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26).




David M. Moffitt is Reader in New Testament Studies, University of St Andrews, Scotland
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #27 on: May 22, 2020, 10:00:20 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/how-fall-affected-evangelism.html







How the Fall Affected Evangelism









From the account of Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden, there are at least four reasons why believers may not be sharing the gospel


David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1).

Jesus responded to the Pharisees when they told him, “Teacher rebuke your disciples” by saying, “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out” (Luke 19:10).

We learn something extremely important about creation in these two verses. We learn that creation, by its very nature, is an evangelist. The heavens “declare,” the expanse “proclaims,” and the rocks “cry out” in an act of praise to its Creator.

If creation is, by its nature, an evangelist, then it would only stand to reason that human beings—by their very nature—should be considered evangelists as well.

Humans were created in the image of God—meant to represent God’s presence (along with his rule and reign) on planet earth. Therefore, the heavens weren’t the only thing that was to declare God’s glory; the expanse wasn’t the only thing that was to proclaim the work of God’s hands; and the rocks weren’t the only thing to cry out in response to their Maker.

Humanity was the crown of God’s creation meant to exercise dominion over the created order, and thus to lead out in the universal declaration and proclamation of the King of the Cosmos.

Think about it—way before Israel or the church were brought into existence and were called to “declare God’s glory among the nations” (Ps. 96:2) or “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15), God created his image-bearers to be his evangelists.

Interestingly, the call of God’s people to declare God’s glory throughout the earth is something that creation, by its very nature does.

David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1). Jesus responded to the Pharisees, when they told him, “Teacher rebuke your disciples,” by saying, “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out” (Luke 19:10).

Paul addressed the fact that God’s “eternal power and divine nature has been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made” (Rom. 1:20).

Creation seems, by both David and Paul’s account, to be batting .1000 when it comes to declaring God’s glory.

On the flip side, God’s people don’t bat .1000 when it comes to their responsibility and call to declare God’s glory and gospel to all the world.

Why is that? The short answer, temptation and sin. We know from the book of James, temptation and sin are two different—yet connected—things (James 1:13–15).

Although God’s people have been redeemed and reconciled by the blood of Jesus, and have been indwelt with the Holy Spirit, God’s people still struggle with both temptation and sin. Thus, temptation and sin suppress and prohibit evangelism.

Using the account of humanity’s fall in the garden—where we clearly see how temptation and sin take our eyes and lives off God’s glory—I want to share four reasons why God’s people don’t evangelize.

You won’t evangelize if you’re skeptical of God.

Satan sought to plant seeds of doubt and skepticism in Eve’s view of God. He wanted her to think that God was holding out—that He wasn’t as generous or good as she might have thought.

The reality is, you won’t share what you are skeptical of, and you won’t declare what you doubt.

If believers are to exercise their evangelistic calling as God’s people—image-bearers who are redeemed and being restored in Christ—then they will have to trust in the graciousness, goodness, and generosity of God. That doesn’t mean they will fully understand everything in the world or that happens in and around their life.

Elisabeth Elliott once noted, “Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.”

You won’t evangelize if you’re seduced by sin.

James explains in his letter the process of temptation. He writes, “But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown it gives birth to death” (James 1:14–15).

It wasn’t the serpent’s fault for luring Eve to the tree. He didn’t force her to come over. It wasn’t the serpent’s fault for twisting the truth Eve was supposed to know. But it was the serpent’s intention to plant seductive seeds that tempted Eve to rebel against God.

The reality is, Eve stayed way too long at the tree. She was captivated by the product of the tree. She should have fled the moment the serpent started questioning God’s words. But she didn’t.

She stayed and ate, and thus from her life and actions dethroned God. And what becomes your god, becomes your gospel. Why do you think Eve turned around and gave the fruit to Adam? You’ll share that which you hold dear.

Billy Sunday once stated, “Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in.”

When it comes to temptation and evangelism, the more we are intoxicated to sin against God, the more difficult it will be to invite sinners to be redeemed by God.

You won’t evangelize if you live in shame.

In their sin, Adam and Eve sought shelter from God when they heard His footsteps. As a result of their sin, their faith and security in God quickly turned to fear and shame. And their fear and shame drove them into hiding.

Today I believe we live in a shame-based culture. The difference between a guilt culture and a shame culture is—a guilt culture is more about a person believing they have done badthings, whereas a shame culture is more about people feeling they are bad. But this new shame culture we live in is somewhat different than a traditional shame culture.

David Brooks, writing about this new shame culture, expresses how “everybody is perpetually insecure in a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion.” And in this new environmental system, “There are no permanent standards, just the shifting judgment of the crowd.”

What does this have to do with evangelism? In short, shame silences sharing.

For believers who already live in a shame culture—where people lie in wait ready to shame another—coupled with the shame they have in their struggle with sin (past or present), it’s no wonder many live in a prison of silence when it comes to sharing the Good News.

When people hide in their shame, it is difficult to share the good news of Jesus to the public.

You won’t evangelize if you experience relational strife.

God graciously draws Adam and Eve out of hiding. How they respond to His questions reveal the hurtfulness and hostility of their hearts. They each play the blame game.

Relational conflicts exert negative effects. When things aren’t going right in life, and the impulse is to blame others—to see “others” as the problem—relationships are bound to stay off track and fail to experience positive forward progress.

Relational strife keeps believers and churches from reaching sinners. I would argue that Jesus knew this, which is why He prayed, “May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me” (John 17:20–21).

Could relational strife be one of the many reasons why so many churches fail to reach their communities? I think so.

In closing, at the core, a lack of gospel evangelism is rooted in temptation and sin. However, the good news is that—through Jesus and the Spirit’s empowerment—skepticism, seduction, shame, and strife can subside so that the declaration of God’s glory and the proclamation of His salvific work in Christ may rise from the lips and lives of those who are his. And in doing so, God’s people in joining with creation becomes of symphony of declaring God’s glory and his gospel!


















Josh Laxton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Billy Graham Center, Lausanne North American Coordinator at Wheaton College, and a co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Exchange is a part of CT's Blog Forum. Support the work of CT. Subscribe and get one year free.
The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #28 on: May 22, 2020, 10:22:15 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/manhattan-new-york-food-pantry-fathers-heart-coronavirus.html







Do Unto the Least of These? There’s a Wait List for That.













How one New York City food ministry is thriving, even behind masks.


The line that forms Saturday mornings outside The Father’s Heart Ministries stretches farther than it used to—in part because of a rising number of first-time guests at the soup kitchen in Manhattan’s East Village, and in part because masked patrons stand safely distant from one another.

With the highest unemployment numbers since the Great Depression, food pantries across America are experiencing an average of more than 50 percent growth in attendance, with two in every five people seeking assistance for the first time.

But also growing at ministries like The Father’s Heart is the number of volunteers who want to serve. In an era when many food pantries and soup kitchens are suspending services due to coronavirus-related precautions, the volunteers have kept the 22-year-old food program operating out of the historic brick-and-stone church building that houses it. In fact, there’s a waitlist to serve there.

Churches have long played a critical role in America’s food pantry network, particularly in areas with glaring hunger needs. And amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re continuing to do what they’ve always done—now with the help of a new wave of volunteers, particularly younger ones who find themselves home from school and work, according to Jeremy Everett, executive director of the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty at Baylor University.

“A part of our faith tradition is to love our neighbors as ourselves,” Everett said. “If you have a church community, and maybe some of the traditional volunteers that don’t feel like it’s safe to volunteer, that elicits other people to step up.”

Marian Hutchins is the executive director of The Father’s Heart and one of six pastors at the ministry’s host church, which bears the same name. As volunteers arrive, she smiles behind a mask and welcomes them with a “Good morning!” and a “How was your week?”

In normal times, Hutchins would add a hug to her greeting, but now volunteers immediately wash their hands once they arrive and don masks and gloves. They can’t serve otherwise. And in usual times, as many as 150 volunteers would descend on the church on Saturday morning to hand out food and run a full-service kitchen. But now, with social distancing requirements, only 30 volunteers are allowed at one time.

The volunteers flock in from across New York City. Some have been coming for close to a decade, like Katie Sullivan, who stumbled on The Father’s Heart in 2013 when a friend told her the soup kitchen was short on volunteers.

“I just fell in love with it immediately,” said Sullivan, an anti-corruption attorney for The World Bank who now avoids the subway and walks four miles each way between her Brooklyn apartment and the church. “Their focus on maintaining people’s dignity and really caring for people, and the way that they do table service, really lit up my heart.”

Not only do volunteers continue to show up every Saturday, they’re also reaching into their pockets.

The Father’s Heart typically has a yearly budget of around $1 million. But Hutchins says they’ve had an increase in private donations and grants from volunteers, long-time supporters, church partners, and organizations like United Way and Hope for New York. The availability of the CARES Act small business loans has also buoyed funding hopes at The Father’s Heart and pantries across the country.

While non-perishable foods like rice and canned tuna are staples of the pantry bags guests receive, Hutchins said the additional funding will help them “take it up a few notches” and order the kinds of fresh foods she buys for her own family, essentials like eggs, milk, grains, and meats.

On a recent Saturday, Hutchins felt something different from the moment she woke up in her Flushing, Queens home. With all the strict protocols she’d put in place, she realized, the atmosphere during the Saturday food program had become flat. City-mandated protocols had drained so much of the human contact from the operation.

To create more separation between volunteers who prepare groceries, Hutchins had moved the food pantry staging area from a tighter space in the basement to the 3,600-square-foot sanctuary, which was vacant since Sunday church services had moved online. A weekly sit-down, buffet-style breakfast was replaced by “breakfast to go,” where volunteers pass ready-to-eat packed food through an outside window and give guests a second bag of groceries inside the building.

A service that once beamed with hugs, handshakes, and praying hand-in-hand has been subdued to a monotonous assembly line.

“It’s hard with the six-foot distancing,” Hutchins said. “It’s changed the dynamics in the sense that the guests can’t stay long, they can’t get close.”

She felt God telling her the volunteers needed an extra boost of inspiration. So on this morning, instead of handing out cook and server assignments for their restaurant-style soup kitchen, Hutchins gathered her 30 volunteers in the high-ceiling sanctuary and opened with a Scripture reading and a prayer.

She read from Psalms 46: “Be still and know I am God.”

Although Hutchins, who is 64, is ordained and has served in this church for 36 years, she would not usually have this kind of spiritual component for volunteers. But in truth, she was looking for inspiration, too.

Standing at the center of the elevated alcove altar, an old wooden cross draped with red velvet cloth hanging atop, she looked out to her volunteers and prayed:

“Lord, let us see and let us feel. Let us be your hands and be sensitive, be present and not just get through the safety of today but let’s be present.”

She finished the prayer with:

“Let us be present with your knowledge and be alert to people’s needs.”

Hutchins’ prayer was met with echoing “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!” from volunteers spread every six feet throughout the teal-walled sanctuary on white-taped floor markers.

After the prayer, some volunteers went back to prepping food pantry bags. Others assembled to-go breakfast packages full of cheerios, milk, juice boxes, granola bars, yogurt, and chicken salad. They added lollipops and Cheez-Its for kids. And, of course, individually wrapped wipes.

Not long after Hutchins finished her prayer, the doors opened and guests started to roll in 30 to 50 at a time, staggering their entries and exits. Since New York City became an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, the operation has been opening an hour and a half earlier than normal to accommodate the extra safety logistics.

“Everything has got to be strict,” Hutchins said. “But we find ourselves grabbing an arm or an elbow or pat someone’s back. It’s so hard to stay sterile when you see people you love and you want to reach out to them.”

The pantry serves just over 400 guests on a given Saturday, though Hutchins knows that many of the older regulars are staying home out of caution, even as the pantry registers a growing number of new guests each week.

Though guests remain thankful, some have met the changes with sneer.

Shortly after opening, a lofty, striking homeless man questioned the volunteers’ faith when he saw them wearing face masks and gloves and keeping their distance.

“Why?” he asked loudly, pointing to their protective gear. “Don’t you believe in God? Don’t you have faith?”

“It’s not about my faith,” Hutchins, her petite frame drowning in an overcoat, tried to lull the man’s taunts. “It’s about other people getting my germs.”

“Jesus touched the lepers, and he didn’t get leprosy,” the man retorted.

Another homeless man was on his way out when Hutchins offered him a mask. He quietly refused, saying, “I have faith in God.”

Still, Hutchins emphasizes, such encounters are one-offs. Most of their guests are embracing the challenges with gratitude. One homeless woman smiled and told her, “You doing this brings hope to everyone on the streets.”

Guests are normally offered a Bible as they leave the church. In the past, many would refuse. But lately, Hutchins says, guests have been taking Bibles like “crazy.”

“People are saying, ‘Everything that I counted on, everything that I lived for, everything that I relied on is gone,’” she said. “I think that causes people to look away from the natural things and look to God.”

What is hard is that Hutchins and volunteers can’t console hurting people in the same ways they used to. The comfort that hugging and physical contact bring are what some of the guests and volunteers had come to look forward to, said Neil Weiss, a former homeless guest who now serves as a volunteer supervisor.

“We can’t interact like we used to,” Weiss said. “But, we still hear them say ‘God bless you. We really appreciate it.’ We heard that before, but it seems like they’re expressing it deeper.”

Volunteers are finding ways to adjust. For example, since sitting down with guests to eat and mingling with them in line are no longer options, they’ve turned to a new initiative in the form of prayer slips. Guests write prayer requests on pieces of papers that volunteers then carry with them throughout the week and pray over. The prayer pens are sanitized after every use.

Food insecurity is usually linked to the homeless. But since the pandemic hit and unemployment has soared, Hutchins says The Father’s Heart is seeing more than 100 new guests almost every week. Many of these first-timers have never before had to find free food.

“Who knows that there’s a Food Bank for New York City unless you need food?” Hutchins said.

New guests she’s encountering are going online and calling hunger hotlines to find resources they’ve never needed before. Many come agitated, scared, or confused.

And they’re very hungry. Hutchins says she’s proud that The Father’s Heart is equipped to remain open with staff and supplies for the long haul.

Over 100 service locations affiliated with the Food Bank for New York City—which supplies more than 1,000 food pantries and soup kitchens—have suspended their operations. According to New York City Mission Society, an organization aimed at ending multigenerational poverty, a third of the nation’s food pantries are also closed, impacting over 17 million people.

Some pantries don’t have enough space to comply with social distancing requirements. Some experienced debilitating drops in volunteers.

“We didn’t have volunteers to cook anymore,” said a representative from Community Help in Park Slope Inc., a similar service center in Brooklyn that recently suspended services. “Everyone is afraid to come in.”

Hutchins says she’s grateful to her volunteers for their dedication to serving the community. She worries about protecting their safety, too, every time she thinks about them leaving their homes and risking their lives to serve.

“You want to do what’s best for the community,” she said. “But you also have staff that you need to protect and take care of, too.”

To that end, Hutchins has had a lot of help. Partners in New York, such as the Food Bank and United Way, have provided boxes of gloves with every donation delivery. Masks have come in from church partners and locals around the city and across the country.

Ione Parshall is a retired military officer in Manhattan, Kansas, who wanted to help America’s “worst-hit city” that happens to share a name with hers. So far, she has rallied her congregation, University Christian Church, to make and donate more than 350 masks to The Father’s Heart.

“I just felt like I needed to do something,” Parshall said. “As a Christian, we’re supposed to reach out to those in need.”

Hutchins is now looking ahead to recovery. Her community has gone through similar crises, like Hurricane Sandy, and she wonders how people will overcome this one.

“There’s going to be a lot more people needing food,” she said. “We may have to be open more and hire more people.”

As they said goodbye to their last guest of the day, Hutchins offered individually wrapped Communion for her volunteers and closed with a prayer, which included:

“We are an extension of God’s love on earth.”

Then, in the middle of the sanctuary, pantry boxes stacked high around, and everyone standing six feet apart, they sang “Amazing Grace.”


















Rita Omokha is a freelance journalist based in New York City. She is an alumna of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #29 on: May 22, 2020, 11:28:40 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/covid-free-in-christ-to-defy-state-closures-latino-churches.html







‘Free in Christ’ to Defy State Closures? Latino Churches Offer Insight.









Our churches are essential, but whether it is critical to gather is another question.


Categorizing the church as a non-essential institution is another blow to the Latino church. Many know firsthand what it means to be marginalized in society. Forced church closures add to this experience of rejection. It tells the Latino church that its ministry role in the neighborhood is not needed during this pandemic. The federal government does not identify churches as being so essential that their closure “would have a debilitating effect on security, economic security, public health or safety.” This categorization itself has bothered not only Latino ministers, but many other Christians, as seen by recent lawsuits in California, Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, and Kansas, to name a few.

Like many others, Latino Pentecostal ministers in southern California are facing the challenging choice between the freedom to gather or the freedom to put others first by staying at home.

Since the First Amendment includes the freedom to worship and the ability to assemble, churches are fighting for their constitutional freedom to congregate—including some Latino pastors in California who are planning to reassert this right on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, with or without state approval. They may not have the resources to join a lawsuit, so civil disobedience is another means to voice their displeasure.

But this desire to reopen will involve more than an expression of our constitutional right to gather. It will reveal how we understand our freedoms in Christ; whether we champion the right to gather above the health and safety needs of the other. This decision is not that simple. It also intersects with ministerial, cultural, and technological challenges in being the church for the Latino community.

John Brito, the senior pastor of Spirit Life Community Church in Norwalk, California, is concerned not just for his congregation’s spiritual well-being, but for their entire, holistic lives—spirit, soul, and body. “The average family is running out of money. I know people that got the stimulus check and it has not been enough to keep them going,” Brito said. “There are real families that are hurting. Business owners are going under, despite intervention from the government. The death tolls predicted by the models never materialized, and now we have to endure a lockdown for three more months?”

Economic hardship is “another kind of pain, suffering, and death,” he said. His ardent love for his congregation keeps him going. He continues to minister, preach, teach online, and network for resources for the community. But Brito also has concerns with the government’s stay-at-home orders. He even wonders if “they are taking advantage of the pandemic in order to bring another agenda” to keep the churches closed indefinitely—although most recent statements propose church opening within weeks. For many Latino and Latina pastors, indefinite closure is also interpreted as a spiritual attack on the very institution and mission of the church, an attack that they will not allow without a response.

Brito represents those who are not certain if the data on the pandemic and disease in California is an accurate assessment. After all, COVID-19 related deaths in California do not mirror New York and prolonged closures of small businesses impact Latino families disproportionately. Other pastors are also discouraged that politicians do not trust churches to practice safe social distancing. As one pastor of a large Latino church asked, “why are we more dangerous than others? Why are we a higher risk than stores like Home Depot?” COVID-19’s financial, psychological, and emotional impact on the Latino community has led some to reassert their rights with planned civil disobedience.

Freedom to Gather
Further, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing the Latino Pentecostal church in Southern California to rethink what it means to be called a church for the people. The identity of the Latino church is colliding with both the stay-at-home orders and the American constitutional right to gather in peaceful assembly. As Pastor Brito explains, “the church is a gathering of people, it is an ecclesia. Without the gathering, we are not the church.”

Not all Latino ministers agree. “Pastor, if your notion of ‘church service’ is a gathering on Sunday, no wonder our government sees us as non-essential,” says Jack Miranda, the executive director of the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership. Miranda encourages ministers to look at their ministries and ascertain if they are making an essential impact on their communities. If our churches would take Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25 to heart, perhaps the church would never have been categorized as a non-essential institution. Miranda believes that keeping church gatherings temporarily suspended for the sake of people’s health does not impede the proclamation of the gospel.

Latino pastors recognize that their churches are an essential institution. The Latino church serves the most vulnerable and underrepresented community. It establishes itself in places where no church of privilege wants to be. Who will minister to the drug addict, the gang member, the migrant, and homeless if not the Latino church—which also resides in the same community? The Latino church may not have a public marketing campaign and advertise all the benefits it has provided to the city, but it does have an essential role. The failure to recognize this contribution does not sit well with many pastors and ministers.

A Christian life without corporate worship proves most difficult for many Latinos and Latinas. We do not go to church just for an hour. Our services are longer, often three hours. Church is a place not only for sharing in worship, but also in food, culture, and language. It is the one sacred place where a marginalized Latina can worship with her fellow sisters and brothers in her own native tongue. It is the one place where her cultural identity is part of her religious experience. There is something different about being in a place where one does not feel marginalized, profiled, and stereotyped. Church, for the Latino community, is the place where we are important in the eyes of God. Losing the ability to gather has a greater loss for the Latino believer, especially in a society that marginalizes and undervalues their contribution. For these reasons and more, Latino pastors and ministers are willing to reassert their right to gather.

Freedom to Serve
But what if our entire focus on the freedom to gather is misplaced? Rather, what if this is a season for the church to utilize their freedom to serve?

The apostle Paul talks about freedom, but not in a way that could be easily reconciled with American ideals. It is not the type of freedom that we fight for in legislative battles or class-action lawsuits. In Galatians 5:1, Paul states, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Paul talks about “freedom in Christ” but for what end? To protest all forms of hindrances, laws that govern our ability to move, shake hands, or gather in our churches?

This discussion on freedom was in reference to the Mosaic Law. Paul is trying to make the argument in these verses that those who attempt to be made righteous by the law through circumcision are nullifying the righteousness that comes from Christ through the Spirit (Gal. 5:2-6). He continues, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:13-14).

Paul encourages the Corinthian church to serve others with their freedom. To the Christians who complain about people seeking to limit their “freedoms,” Paul responds: “do not cause anyone to stumble… for I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:29-33). Their freedoms had limitations and must be oriented toward the other.

What if we take Paul’s language on freedom seriously? What would happen if instead of fighting to gather in a building we would actively fight for the freedom to serve our neighbor? What if we put our brother or sister’s safety above our own desires to be with them? The activities of my freedom should be determined and shaped by the needs of my neighbor.

Their needs are simple: food, health, and medical resources for the most vulnerable communities. Many have lost their jobs and are struggling to put food on the table or endure this pandemic season with adequate housing and financial support. In fact, CDC guidelines encourage community organizations to “work across sectors to connect people with services, such as grocery delivery or temporary housing.”

“It is a huge issue,” said food bank director Cecelia Bernal. “Because if you do not have food, then all other issues will emerge like stress and anxiety.”Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Los Angeles county, the food ministry at another Latino Pentecostal church, Church of the Redeemer in Baldwin Park, has grown exponentially. Like many other food banks, they are working hard to serve the needs of the community. They used to serve the community once a month. Now they open the church eight times a month and include home deliveries for seniors and those who are unable to drive to the church.

Bernal is a Latina leader for her community that serves people all over Los Angeles county. She and her volunteers represent another way of utilizing freedom in Christ by providing essential needs. People come not for spiritual food, but their daily bread. “We always say that we are the church,” she said. “Now we see that you do not have to be in the building, [but] together we are still the church.”

Which Freedom Will We Choose?
We are not the only believers throughout history who have lost the right to gather publicly. The Jewish people who were exiled to Babylon and those who survived the destruction of the temple in 66-70 CE were able to worship apart from buildings. Early Christians would secretly gather in homes or catacombs and worship together before the emergence of the basilica. Yes, worship can be facilitated through communal gatherings. Hebrews 10:25 calls for believers to gather.

We must remember that our freedom to worship has not been restrained; only the ability to gather in buildings. Believers throughout the years have learned to worship apart from buildings. Gathering must be different during COVID-19. We can preach online. Other Latino ministers had already adjusted to these new realities of online church. But these are the adaptable tech-savvy churches or those who had utilized the skills of second-generation Latinos and Latinas prior to COVID-19. Other Latino churches do not have technology budgets or church members with reliable internet access at home. This is another reason why it is appealing to reenter their buildings and defy orders. There is a desire to belong together, and the church building location is a place of belonging. The Latino church is wrestling with the desire to belong without putting their most vulnerable at risk.

The Latino church is one example of the complexity and challenges of gathering together. What are we going to be known for as a church during this season? That we defied stay-at-home orders and placed our most vulnerable in harm’s way? The way we gather is also a public statement on how we view and value one another. The freedom of Christ that is fundamental to our faith is not supposed to be lived for oneself. It is a freedom that prompts us to reimagine how we can love and serve one another, especially during this pandemic. We must exercise our freedom with the most vulnerable in mind. Our freedoms are not unlimited rights to put the community’s health at risk, especially communities that may not have access to adequate health care and experience further unintended consequences of contracting COVID-19.

There is an even heavier burden on Latino pastors: their congregations especially look to their spiritual leaders for direction. Latino and Latina believers view the pastor as an esteemed figure anointed by God to lead the local church. The pastor’s decision will communicate more than just a desire to gather, it will reveal how they believe God views the most vulnerable.

But perhaps we also need to look at other Latinos who are already considered essential workers, the people who make up the church nationwide. This includes undocumented workers who pick the food from agriculture fields, Latina grocery clerks who expose themselves to multitudes of people, and the food plant employees who have been ordered to resume work by presidential executive order. The Latino church and many of our multiethnic churches are made up of many migrant and marginalized members who are the church.

These people exemplify what it means to serve others through their vocations. They are not free to serve our consumer goods through Zoom meetings, but are putting their lives at risk. They gather to serve and put the needs of others first. Can the broader Christian community follow suit? Or will we use the most vulnerable amongst us, our people, our gatherings, to force the governmental authorities to relent and allow us to officially gather?

We need a reorientation of our understanding of freedom and make churches essential again. We need new ways of thinking about what it means to make the church visible to our civil leaders. We need to creatively brainstorm what it means to gather for each other. We cannot go back to the church as usual, thinking that fighting for the freedom to gather exemplifies what it means to be a church. This is not how we use our freedom given to us by Christ. The freedom of Christ is not found in those who want to walk around without facemasks, overload our healthcare workers by not washing their hands, or open churches without social distancing measures and spread the disease. The church is not a place solely for social belonging. It is a church because its identity imitates Christ, who utilized his own freedom and life to serve others, especially the most vulnerable. This would be the freedom Paul beckons: the freedom to put the needs of the other before my own.















Rodolfo Galvan Estrada III is the director of institutional research and adjunct professor of the New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. His most recent book is A Pneumatology of Race in the Gospel of John.
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #30 on: May 23, 2020, 07:51:07 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/president-trump-governors-and-churches.html







President Trump, Governors, and Churches: We Don't Need an Immediate Opening, But We Do Need Communication and Collaboration









We don't want to rush ahead of the governor, but there is a significant and growing angst among many church attenders and many church leaders.


In a press conference today President Trump called churches, synagogues, and mosques all "essential services" and called on governors to reopen them "right now." Where I live, Illinois Governor Pritzker has already said that churches are essential, and I agree with them both.

That’s not really the question.

The question people are asking is how and when can churches (and other religions congregations) gather together in groups larger than 10 or larger than 50?

And, with President Trump’s comments, I imagine the pressure will grow to ignore the directives of stricter states like CA and IL.

Actually, the Justice Department recently sent a letter to Governor Newsom of California regarding his policies on houses of worship gatherings. Here in Illinois, as I recently wrote for RNS, my concern is that Pritzker has not been communicating with church leaders by doing so while putting off gatherings of more than 50 to his final phase where there's a vaccine, much lower level of community spread, or higher level of treatment.

This approach moves churches meeting together to some far distanct, uncertain time to be determined. It is creating tension among church leaders and congregants.

In a press conference today, Gov. Pritzker said he has been collaborating with church leaders, but we cannot discern who those leaders might be.

Along with James Meeks, pastor of an African American congregation in the South, and Wilfredo de Jesus, a Hispanic pastor, both of whose communities have been hit particularly hard, we have asked the governor to open a conversation with faith leaders and the health department so we can follow the science and open at a later date in a safe way in cooperation with one another.

We do not think that Chicago churches need to open now—this weekend. There is too much community spread. It might be weeks or months, but it can’t be forever. Right now, there is no end date and no hope for churches meeting.

There's been communication with businesses and with academia, but not much communication with church leaders. We think that's an essential step.

I want to be clear that I think the governor's motivation is concern for the safety of people, and as pastors and leaders we should share that concern. But by setting numbers like 10 and 50 doesn't take into account the variety of churches: 50 people meeting in a building that seats 50 people is probably dangerous; but 50 people at Moody Church, where I serve as Interim Teaching Pastor holds 3,750, is not a relevant number.

There, the question is capacity.

Could we, following protocols given by our county and state health departments, gather with a 25 percent capacity with people practicing social distancing and wearing masks, and more?

That is the conversation we need to have. We are asking the governor to engage us with a better conversation based on the circumstances and situations of churches rather than a blanket number.

We don't want to rush ahead of the governor, but there is a significant and growing angst among many church attenders and many church leaders that if we don't have that conversation soon, it's going to cause people to make decisions with a void of information. It's better to have the conversation.

The governor has been in conversations with Costco and it’s opened in a way that is safe for employees working long hours with countless people, and that's great. But if Costco employees can make it work, we think churches can as well.

I'm not talking about next week and maybe not next month, but together we can in the foreseeable future make it work in conversation with the governor and health departments.

The issue for congregations is space and times. We can have multiple services spread out over Sunday, for instance, with sanitizing between. That's the conversation we want to have.

The governor cares about the people he serves; so do we. That's why you aren't going to see a rush to open—regardless of what President Trump said—communities with high community spread like Chicago.

That said, if you say, "We don't have an idea or see in the foreseeable future when churches can gather," it's hard for us or other faith leaders to say to our congregants, "Ignore what the president just said. Ignore what churches in neighboring statues are doing. Just stay with the plan that has no end date AND no real communication with pastors.”

This Sunday, over 1,000 churches in California are going to defy the governor and meet. That’s not what I suggest or recommend, but it will be hard to stop such moves if we don’t see communication and real collaboration soon.









If you are an Illinois pastor and are interested in seeing and signing a letter to the governor (still being drafted), just send an email to IllinoisChurches@Gmail.com and we will get you the letter for your consideration next week.
Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. The Exchange Team contributed to this article.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #31 on: May 23, 2020, 07:54:43 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/trump-church-reopening-essential-religious-freedom.html







Trump Declares Churches ‘Essential’ as CDC Releases Reopening Guidelines







More than 1,000 pastors in Minnesota and California plan to resume worship in the coming weeks, despite state restrictions.


The anticipated release of new federal guidance on in-person religious services comes at a precarious point in the national balancing act that pits the call of worship against the risk of coronavirus.

Even before President Donald Trump said Friday that he considered religious institutions “essential places that provide essential services” and vowed that guidance would be coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Christian leaders in several states made plans to welcome back congregants on the week of Pentecost, May 31.

The new advice could energize houses of worship that might want to reopen their doors, despite evidence of ongoing risk of the virus spreading through communal gatherings.

Tension over when and how to reopen houses of worship has varied depending on the state, as different areas set their own pace for easing pandemic stay-at-home orders. Trump called for the resumption of in-person religious services repeatedly this week, saying Friday that “we want our churches and our places of faith and worship, we want them to open.”

While Trump said delayed CDC guidance for faith organizations could come as soon as Friday, the timetable for release remained unclear.

The president suggested on Thursday that friction over the issue was more common in states run by Democrats because “churches are not being treated with respect” by many their governors.

One of those Democrats, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, was warned this week by Trump’s Justice Department that the state’s phased-in plan to restart economic activity puts an “unfair burden” on worship by not permitting churches to open earlier in the process. More than 1,200 California pastors are planning to restart worship on May 31 despite Newsom’s stay-at-home orders, which he has said would likely allow for religious gatherings within weeks.

Among the California pastors leading the call for resuming in-person gathering is Danny Carroll of Water of Life Community Church in Fontana. State officials “don’t understand that people of faith need contact, that they need to worship together,” Carroll said in an interview. “We’re trying to close the gap—thoughtfully, humbly, nicely.”

Carroll described the California church leaders’ effort as disconnected from politics: “We don’t deal with how people vote. We deal with how people live.”

But another pastor involved, Ron Hill of Love and Unity Christian Fellowship, said that he finds “some merit” in Republicans’ claims that blue states have a less keen understanding of religion’s importance in public life.

“I really find it difficult to understand why they’re placing a different rule on the church than on the supermarket, café, or restaurant,” said Hill, who added that he had not yet definitively decided whether May 31 would mark the reopening of his church in Compton, California.

Pastors in other states, however, have already begun outlining plans to welcome back worshipers in person before the month’s end. Florida’s Rodney Howard-Browne—arrested in March for holding a large in-person service at his church (charges that were later dropped)—is preparing to reopen with an outdoor service on Pentecost. Catholic and conservative Lutheran churches in Minnesota have notified that state’s Democratic governor that they plan to resume this week in advance of the holiday, in defiance of his order.

“Now that the State has deemed the risk of spreading coronavirus low enough to reopen non-essential business, we respectfully believe that it is our right and duty to safely resume public ministry to the faithful even without the support of the Governor,” said Lucas Woodford, president of the Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has backed the Catholics’ and Lutherans’ case, saying continuing to keep Minnesota churches closed represents a First Amendment violation.

Texas pastor and Trump supporter Jack Graham plans to reopen Prestonwood Baptist Church on Pentecost weekend. Attendees of those services will be required to make reservations, but masks will not be mandated, according to the megachurch’s website.

Graham told the Faithwire website this week that Pentecost, considered holy by Christians as the birthday of the church, was a fitting moment for “a kind of rebirth of the church” this year.

The momentum toward restarting in-person worship comes amid new reports of church gatherings spreading COVID-19. A CDC report released this week traced the spread of the virus to 35 out of 92 attendees at two March church events in Arkansas that were attended by two symptomatic people.

While Pentecost promises to escalate the number of churches seeking to reopen, many other houses of worship are still expecting to wait until June or beyond to resume in-person services with restrictions aimed at protecting public health. Another prominent conservative evangelical ally of Trump, pastor Robert Jeffress, said he is eyeing local metrics and could reopen sometime next month.

Jeffress said his Dallas-area megachurch would be “data-driven, instead of date-driven, when it comes to reopening.”

A spokeswoman for the ministry of Paula White-Cain, the pastor who leads Trump’s White House faith initiative, said this week that Pentecost services at her Florida church are slated to be online-only.

Trump, however, continued to project eagerness to restart religious services. The president and other senior administration officials held a Thursday conference call with 1,600 “pastors and faith leaders” to tout the importance of reopening in-person worship, according to the White House.

Some governors designated faith gatherings as essential services in their states’ pandemic stay-at-home orders, although others restricted them as the virus began to spread.

Ralph Reed, chief of the Faith & Freedom Coalition and another conservative evangelical ally of Trump, said that while Pentecost is “an important marker for the church,” he doesn’t expect most Christian leaders would be “guided particularly by that date” in deciding when to reopen.

But Reed lauded the growing push in that direction. “Churches are doing a good job” adapting to necessary public health constraints, he said, “but I do think it’s time for the country to reopen.”

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #32 on: May 25, 2020, 02:21:06 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/jesus-re-shaping-of-post-pandemic-church.html







Jesus’ Re-Shaping of a Post-Pandemic Church










So, now what?


For many, the fruit of this pandemic has been troubling, confusing, and spiritually disorienting.

But not for all.

For some, this season of cultural turbulence has brought greater clarity to their spiritual intuition. They’ve witnessed many moorings of tradition exposed as skimpy vestiges that could not possibly survive this test. They’ve watched our sacred ecclesiastical proxies evaporate – vaporized by an imperceptible virus. Elaborate systems that have long served as safe, synthesized surrogates for a more substantive participation in Christ’s mission have come to a sputtering and inglorious end.

So, now what?

Speak Courage. Ironically, some who regularly proclaim from our pulpits that “all members are ministers” and that “we are all missionaries,” have been very silent on directions for their ‘minister-mission-force’ in the season of a scattered church. Instead, we most often hear of a longing, languishing, desperate, yearning to fill the empty pews – as if to concede that the scattering has altogether thwarted the church’s mission. But surely God is still at work.

If the church’s mission is essentially seen as one of gathering, then we have enough evidence to see that an invisible virus is more powerful than that version of church. This is a conclusion that many have realized – well before the pandemic hit. The Holy Spirit has revealed to many through an honest reading of the New Testament, that Jesus’ church was never meant to be a weekly worship experience, but a unified, commissioned, and sent people living synergistically in the world under the authority of Christ. We know this. But do we have the courage to voice it?

The Courage for Metanoia. The only steps which bring us closer to Christ are steps of repentance. Metanoia—the changed mind—requires disciples to choose courageous steps away from our self-interested-minds and toward the mind and mission of Christ. If this is true for the individual disciple, how much truer is it of Jesus’ collective people? Now, perhaps more than any time in living memory, Jesus’ Church has an opportunity for courageous steps of metanoia in the months ahead—both publicly and privately. As my friend Alan Hirsch said, “Any move toward God requires repentance.”

The Grace for Metanoia. My desire for God’s grace is God’s grace. My honest desire for God’s mind, for God’s will, for God’s glory comes only through repentant moves toward a gracious God. When collectively, our desires for Christ’s mission supersedes our self-centered impulses for safety, comfort, and brand-control, we experience the grace of metanoia.

So, what might the repentant reshaping of a post-pandemic church look like? As a pastor of a local church, I, like many of you, have wrestled with this question. Although not exhaustive, here are three repentant moves toward God that I am convinced he is requiring of us.

Orthodoxy: A Sovereign God on a Rescue Mission. Orthodoxy speaks of right teaching. The right teaching that this pandemic has clarified to us is that God has always been on a rescue mission, and his church finds her purpose as she wholeheartedly engages in that divine commission. Outside of the mission of Christ, the church has no purpose, no passion, and no power.

Knowing this, we have still found other fascinations to preoccupy our energies and resources. Good things in their primacy of our affections have become god-like things for many. We are no longer a selfless, rescuing people – we have become a self-consumed, relaxed people, content to contract out a minor missionary impulse in order to qualify for the demarcation of evangelical.

But the grace of metanoia has landed. The secondary things that we chased have become hollow, empty, and vapid. The question, “How many are you running?” now seems like a relic of a different era. Were we ever really running anybody? Or did our scorecard require the benching of the saints instead of deploying them into Jesus’ rescue mission?

An orthodox application of God’s sovereignty reveals, with immense clarity, that God is absolutely in charge. He has allowed these cataclysmic events to crush the ecclesial basket that has been smothering the light of Christ and scattered little lights into dark, frightened, and hopeless neighborhoods.

What will be our post-pandemic response? Will our metanoia be orthodox?

Orthopraxy: A Biblical Community Engaged in God’s Rescue Mission. Orthopraxy speaks of right practice. By connecting right practice with our right teaching, we become a biblical community that is neck deep in God’s rescuing ventures. We become as salt and light in a dark, tasteless world. Our participation in God’s mission becomes like transforming yeast to people desperate to see the Kingdom of God. We become a people who are others centered. Our true orthodoxy is authenticated only through orthopraxy.

So, God’s grace leads us to practical metanoia. As we have been dispersed into the mission field, many have seen the world with new eyes. Compassionate eyes. Jesus’ eyes. And once you have seen, it becomes very difficult to ‘un-see.’ Now, there is a growing Kingdom yearning in the hearts of many saints that will never again be satisfied with the self-consuming priorities of our pre-pandemic assemblies. There is a deep yearning for a simpler thing. Something that is real. Something that is substantial. Something that isn’t dependent on production values. Something that is important.

Will our corporate practices reflect repentant moves toward God and his mission?

Orthopathy: Joy-filled Believers Revealing the Beauty of God’s Mission. Orthopathy speaks of right affections. When right teaching is animated with right practice, right affections become the natural fruit. Like raspberries forming on a raspberry bush, we naturally develop passions for God’s passions. As our affections are turned upward, they then are turned outward. Our affections for Christ deepen beyond the momentary emotions emerging from well-rehearsed worship songs to decisions that demonstrate that I have become a living sacrifice. Our affections for Christ’s Body transform from remaining in a church as long as the experience meets my needs to seeing my brothers and sisters as my interdependent spiritual family. I need them to become like Christ. And they need me.

In this divine dance of interdependence, we discover deep affections for Christ’s Mission. The gospel becomes a much too weighty thing to only consider during the sacred hour. It becomes the propelling theme that thrusts us out from the safety of our sanctuaries into the broken, desperate, and painful places where good news is craved the most.

The Joy of Metanoia. So, the steps of repentance that moves us toward God indelibly marks us with his unconcealable joy. The church reveals the beauty of God’s Kingdom as we joyfully engage Christ’s mission with an affection that find’s its source in Christ himself. Those living in darkness cannot escape the contrasting light that illuminates God’s Kingdom. With living water before them, newly befriended neighbors suddenly find themselves thirsty for a drink they didn’t know existed.

So, will our post-pandemic churches be the same as they were before the great scattering? By God’s grace, I know one in a suburb of Toronto that will not be.

What about the one that you lead?














Jeff Christopherson is a church planter, pastor, author and Missiologist at the Send Institute - an interdenominational church planting and evangelism think tank.

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Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #33 on: May 28, 2020, 01:01:54 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/george-floyd-central-park-911-call-and-all-places-cameras.html







George Floyd, a Central Park 911 Call, and All the Places Without Cameras







We are all bound to each other because we are all made in the image of God.


It happened again yesterday.

This time, one Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of a black man until he could no longer breathe.

The man’s name was George Floyd and his hushed and desperate “I can’t breathe!” reminded many of us of Eric Garner, both in the words and the situation. And, in both cases, their cries did not stop the officers and neither did they stop their deaths.

Onlookers reacted differently than the fired officers, many pleading for the officer to get up. As one Washington Post article explains,

“Witnesses begged the white officer to take his knee off the man’s neck. ‘You’re going to just sit there with your knee on his neck?’ one bystander said on the video….

‘Bro, he’s not even f------ moving!’ one bystander pleaded to police. ‘Get off of his neck!’

Another asked, ‘Did you kill him?’”
Based on what they saw, the Minneapolis police department acted swiftly, firing the officers.

Anger

How can we not be angry about this?

Indeed, anger is the appropriate response, but not the only response. And, this moment should remind us that cameras tell us what happened, but they also remind us of how many incidents there have been without those cameras.

All of us, if we follow the news on a semi-regular basis, have seen way too many moments like this.

I am weary. And I am mad.

Cameras continue to show us what many African Americans have known for years.

And if one video a day was not enough, a thousand miles away, Amy Cooper (a white woman) was walking her dog off leash in a part of Central Park (NYC) when Christian Cooper, a black man who was bird-watching, asked her to leash her dog in the area—which is designated as leash-only. The situation escalated when Amy Cooper became upset, saying, "I'm taking a picture and calling the cops. I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life." At the end of the call, she escalated her tone and her faux panic and the camera told us the ugly truth—she was using his race as a weapon.

In the coming days, there will likely be efforts to try to explain this story away. As a church, we must resist these efforts and confront the reality behind this and similar stories. It’s racism on display. And it always brings deep pain.

She was fired and she has apologized—but how many others were not on video? Actually, would she even have considering apologizing if it were not for the video?

We don’t know what she would have done, but we do know what our eyes clearly showed us.

Let our anger remind us to be our brother's keeper.

My Brother’s Keeper

What both of these have in common is this simple little thing called a camera. Both exchanges were caught on video with a cell phone. Both instances of injustice were captured because another person felt they needed documentation.

In Central Park, Christian Cooper recorded the verbal assault. In Minneapolis, a bystander painfully recorded the horrific act which resulted in the loss of a man’s life.

There is a phrase you likely have heard and it’s a powerful one: “my brother’s keeper.” It harkens us back to the early days of humanity when Cain, after murdering his brother, was confronted by God: “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don't know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother's keeper?’" (Gen. 4:9).

This, of course, was a ridiculous reply in the face of an all-knowing God.

As a Christian, there is both a sense of great peace and of great dread in knowing that the God we serve sees all and knows all. There is nowhere, scripture tells us, where God isn’t. C.S. Lewis says it this way: “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with him. He walks everywhere incognito.”

As I reflected on the actions of those Minneapolis officers who took an oath to protect and serve all, I couldn’t help but be grateful for that one courageous woman who took out her camera and hit “record.” She was her brother’s keeper.

The voices of those without power were captured—pleading for this man’s life to be spared. The actions of the officers were captured—as a painful reminder of the injustice too many of our friends of color face.

Depravity and the goodness were captured in that 10-minute video.

When someone asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” the answer is always a resounding yes. How this plays out varies. We yell and advocate. We hit record and document. We use our platforms and our voices to speak for our friends who live in fear because of the color of their skin or their ethnicity.

We are all George Floyd’s keeper. And Christian Cooper’s keeper. We are all bound to each other because we are all made in the image of God.

When No One Is Looking

Here’s the thing, and I don’t want you to miss this: because that camera was recording, we can work and pray for justice to be done.

But for every camera recording, too many aren’t.

For every act of injustice caught and shared on social media, too many go under the radar.

My friend and colleague Esau McCaulley tweeted this response:

“African Americans don't need the videos. We have the lived experience of being Black in this country. The videos are not for us. They're for everyone else. Instead, What we are witnessing is the collective triggering of an entire people who have their own stories and traumas.”

Countless more violent actions in the dark continue. This ought to bring all of us to our knees.

But when no one seems to be looking, one Person is: God. Indeed, there is utter dread in knowing that everything we do in secret is seen by a holy God. But there is also comfort and peace that silence won’t stay silent forever, and that every single act is recorded by God.

What Real Power Looks Like

Even as God sees all, though, we are also called to be our brother’s keeper and take care of each other. This is never truer than for those who are called to leadership positions.

Whether this be a leadership position in a church context or in education or in the medical field or in law enforcement or in any other place, we vow to lead as Jesus leads.

"You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him," Malcolm Forbes said. You can also judge the character of a nation by how we treat the marginalized.

For believers, there is an even higher call: "Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart" (Zech. 7:10).

And what this looks like is antithetical to how the world demonstrates power through a strong hand and a harsh word. Too many leaders take on the adage that only the strong will survive and that there are those who deserve to be treated well, and those who don’t.

I would argue that real power looks remarkably similar to what those bystanders demonstrated. They used their voices for good. They did what they felt they could for the sake of another.

True power, true leadership, is humble and kind. It’s sacrificial and seeks to build up rather than tear down. It’s impartial and responsible and is always on the side of the underdog.

Back to those little cameras. What they demonstrate to me is a powerful tool many of us have never considered. Hear me out: I’m not saying to record everything and everyone around you. That’s actually unlawful in some places and an infringement of privacy.

What I am saying is that all of us have ways and means to be powerful and strong just as Jesus was. We have voices, actions, platforms, and a sound mind to be our brother’s keeper.

Do not be deceived; we need to care for each other today more than ever. So even as I pray for the family of George Floyd and I use my voice to call for justice, I pray for you and for us—that we would use whatever God has given us for the good of those around us who are victims of marginalization and victimization and prejudice on a daily basis.

It’s time to bring what’s silent out of the echo chamber. Let’s commit to be our brother’s keeper, in every situation, regardless of cost—with or without cameras.
















Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

Laurie Nichols is Director of Communications for the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz, and she blogs at Not All Those Who Wander. Laurie is currently working on a book called The Making of a Hero: How you and those around you are changing the world.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #34 on: May 29, 2020, 07:30:06 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/george-floyd-ministry-houston-third-ward-church.html







George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston












As a person of peace, “Big Floyd” opened up ministry opportunities in the Third Ward housing projects.


The rest of the country knows George Floyd from several minutes of cell phone footage captured during his final hours. But in Houston’s Third Ward, they know Floyd for how he lived for decades—a mentor to a generation of young men and a “person of peace” ushering ministries into the area.

Before moving to Minneapolis for a job opportunity through a Christian work program, the 46-year-old spent almost his entire life in the historically black Third Ward, where he was called “Big Floyd” and regarded as an “OG,” a de-facto community leader and elder statesmen, his ministry partners say.

Floyd spoke of breaking the cycle of violence he saw among young people and used his influence to bring outside ministries to the area to do discipleship and outreach, particularly in the Cuney Homes housing project, locally known as “the Bricks.”

“George Floyd was a person of peace sent from the Lord that helped the gospel go forward in a place that I never lived in,” said Patrick PT Ngwolo, pastor of Resurrection Houston, which held services at Cuney.

“The platform for us to reach that neighborhood and the hundreds of people we reached through that time and up to now was built on the backs of people like Floyd,” he told Christianity Today.

Ngwolo and fellow leaders met Floyd in 2010. He was a towering 6-foot-6 guest who showed up at a benefit concert they put on for the Third Ward. From the start, Big Floyd made his priorities clear.

“He said, ‘I love what you’re doing. The neighborhood need it, the community need it, and if y’all about God’s business, then that’s my business,’” said Corey Paul Davis, a Christian hip-hop artist who attended Resurrection Houston. “He said, ‘Whatever y’all need, wherever y’all need to go, tell ’em Floyd said y’all good. I got y’all.’”

The church expanded its involvement in the area, holding Bible studies and helping out with groceries and rides to doctor’s appointments. Floyd didn’t just provide access and protection; he lent a helping hand as the church put on services, three-on-three basketball tournaments, barbecues, and community baptisms.

“He helped push the baptism tub over, understanding that people were going to make a decision of faith and get baptized right there in the middle of the projects. He thought that was amazing,” said Ronnie Lillard, who performs under the name Reconcile. “The things that he would say to young men always referenced that God trumps street culture. I think he wanted to see young men put guns down and have Jesus instead of the streets.”

More than 50 people have been killed over the past several years in what authorities describe as a gang war spreading from the Third Ward and southeast Houston.

It can be hard for outsiders to gain trust, or even ensure safety, coming in on their own. The “stamp of approval” granted from a figure like Floyd is crucial for urban discipleship, which requires access, direction, and context to be effective.

“His faith was a heart for the Third Ward that was radically changed by the gospel, and his mission was empowering other believers to be able to come in and push that gospel forth,” said Nijalon Dunn, who was baptized at Cuney. “There are things that Floyd did for us that we’ll never know until the other side of eternity. There were times where we’d have Church at the Bricks until 3 p.m., and by 4:30, they’re firing shots right at the basketball courts.”

Dunn shared pictures of Floyd at his baptism and basketball games. Floyd’s handle included the name “BigFloyd4God.”

Tributes and prayers of lament from fellow Christians rolled in over social media as the news of Floyd’s death spread this week. On Twitter, Davis described Floyd as “the definition of ‘Be the change you want to see’” and shared a video tribute that has been viewed 1.1 million times. Popular Christian hip-hop artist Propaganda reposted the reflections from fellow artists who knew Floyd saying, “He was a friend of my friends.”

Floyd moved to Minnesota around 2018, his family told the Houston Chronicle. He was there for a discipleship program including a job placement, according to pastor Ngwolo. “A ‘Bricks boy’ doesn’t just leave the Third Ward and go to Minnesota!” he said. Floyd told Dunn he had plans to return this summer.

Though he never made it home, he’ll be “immortalized in the Third Ward community forever,” Lillard said. “His mural will be on the walls. Every youth and young man growing up will know George Floyd. The people who knew him personally will remember him as a positive light. Guys from the streets look to him like, ‘Man, if he can change his life, I can change mine.’”

Ministry leaders have heard from community members in the Third Ward who called Floyd their brother, uncle, or even their dad because they lacked older male figures to serve as a positive influence.

Mourners gathered Tuesday night for a prayer vigil in Emancipation Park, a historic Third Ward site that was once the only park open to African Americans in Houston during Jim Crow segregation. Ngwolo is meeting this week with area pastors to lament together.

The viral video of Floyd pinned to the pavement by a Minnesota police officer joins a devastating canon of cell phone footage depicting police using force against black men. His friends in ministry said that when it turned up on the news they weren’t ready to watch another clip so soon after the recording of Ahmaud Arbery being shot while jogging in Georgia and the video of a woman calling 911 on a black man watching birds in New York’s Central Park. But then Lillard texted: It was Big Floyd.

There’s only so much disbelief they can muster from this kind of killing. They’re black men too. Despite their innocence, their faith, their good deeds, they have their own stories of being suspected, humiliated, and threatened by authorities, Lillard told CT.

And now they’re put in the position of rightly remembering a man they knew as a gentle giant, an inspiration to his neighborhood, and a positive force for change. But they also say that shouldn’t matter. He was a fellow image-bearer, and that should have been enough to keep him from the aggressive treatment they saw in the viral clip. Floyd’s family and supporters say the officers involved—who were fired from the department—should face murder charges.

Pastor Ngwolo is still trying to process the news, but one theme he keeps coming back to is the shedding of innocent blood. After Cain’s superiority and animosity drove him to kill Abel, Scripture tells us, “The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground’” (Gen. 4:10).

“If you fast-forward 2,000 years, there’s another innocent sufferer whose blood spoke of better things than Abel’s. … Jesus’ blood says he can redeem us through these dark and perilous times,” Ngwolo said. “I have hope because just like Abel is a Christ figure, I see my brother [Floyd] as a Christ figure as well, pointing us to a greater reality. God does hear us. He hears his cry even from the ground now. Vengeance will either happen on the cross or will happen on Judgment Day.”
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #35 on: May 30, 2020, 11:12:23 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/leaning-into-grief.html






Leaning into Grief










We acknowledge that the meaning of our deepest experiences is often hidden from our eyes.


John 11 is one of the more emotional windows into the ministry of Jesus. In this chapter, Jesus confront grief, and in the process, teaches us valuable lessons.

Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, send word to Jesus that Lazarus, the one Jesus loves, is sick. This was not an explicit invitation or a request for immediate intervention. However, the assumption is that once Jesus heard, he would immediately come.

Mary and Martha knew of his tender compassion. They understood Jesus’ heartfelt affection for their brother. And yet, when Jesus receives word about his good friend’s condition, he delays even beginning his journey to Bethany for another two days.

The Gospel writer tells us that Jesus delayed because loved them. He delayed that God would be glorified. And yet, imagine waiting for Jesus. He has the power to heal, he has a history of healing (even raising the dead), and yet he delays! How could Jesus be so callous?

By the time Jesus arrives in Bethany, Lazarus has died and been in the tomb for four days. Jesus walks into a setting of pain, tears, and grief. According to Jewish thinking, the soul of the deceased hung around the body for three days. And yet, Jesus purposely waited until the 4th day to show up.

To those who grieved, the situation was utterly hopeless by the time Jesus showed up. And as we know, Jesus specializes in bringing light to hopelessly dark situations.

Consider the silence of God. Joseph is thrown into prison in Egypt, and many would conclude that God had forgotten him. Moses spends 40 years on the backside of the desert while the Israelites suffer under the hands of the Egyptians. Where was God when his people needed him the most?

In contemporary situations, a Christian is falsely accused of misconduct by a co-worker which leads to years of lawsuits and hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal fees and his reputation is largely ruined. Then, he is acquitted of all charges. We wonder if God cares.

In the midst of COVID-19, loved ones slip into the arms of Jesus, alone in ICU. There is no funeral, no opportunity to grieve in the presence of family and loved ones, and no closure. And in our grief, we question God’s compassion.

And yet, we know that God is good. We acknowledge that the meaning of our deepest experiences is often hidden from our eyes. We find comfort in admitting that we do not fully understand our lives.

If we equate our perceived silence of Jesus with a lack of his love and care, then from our limited human perspective, it seems as if there are times when God ceases to love his children.

Oh, that Jesus would free us to not know. We need an ability to walk honestly in the mystery of our days. There are times when we cry out to God in grief, and his response is silence.

These are times of deepened trust.

In John 11, Christ delayed in coming to those he deeply loved. He instituted a period of perceived silence in order to (1) strengthen their faith, (2) push them along in embracing the mystery of the Almighty, (3) glorify God, and (4) deepen their love for Lord Jesus.

In times of grief, questioning, and silence, may we sing and dance in the ever-deepening mystery of God’s love.

Unquestionably, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is pain, grief, and death all around. Today, if you are hurting, you need to be assured that God weeps with you. Jesus is not unaware. He is not a stoic, distant, rigid, isolated God.

Rather, God is fully aware! He is close, active, and individually caring for every person.

Jesus is unique. He is matchless. He individually distinctively responds to everyone one of his children. What a truth! Jesus knows our particular challenges. He is at work, even now, uniquely working in my life to orchestrate everything for my ultimate good and for his ultimate glory. Because of the distinctive nature of every person, Jesus responds to grief in a uniquely individualized approach.

When Jesus enters Bethany, he first encounters Martha. She hurries out to meet Jesus and says (v. 21) “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha expresses the heart of every believer after facing disappointment, “Lord, if you had only been here…”

There may be an accusatory tone in her voice. Jesus, where were you? In essence she is saying, “Jesus, if you would only have followed the script I wrote for you, my brother would be alive!

This is the heart of many. Where were you God when my loved one died? Where were you when my marriage dissolved? Where were you when my husband cheated on me? Where were you when my father was abusing me? Where were you when my parents divorced? Where were you when my child rejected the values we worked so hard to instill in them? Where is the Lord in the most painful of days?

Yes, we are his children but that does not mean that we are not allowed to express our pain to the Lord. Some have bottled up feelings and anger towards the Lord for years. Perhaps today is the day that your heart needs to be expressed before Him.

Jesus speaks truth when he tells her that her brother Lazarus will rise again. When Martha assures Jesus that she knows this, Jesus makes the great declaration, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

A short time later Jesus encounters Mary who falls at Jesus’ feet and amazingly makes the exact same statement. Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus responds by weeping with Mary. The word here means that tears ran down the dusty cheeks of Jesus. We have a great God who loves us, delays and stays away and then comes and completely enters into our sorrow. This is the great mystery of the Lord!

Two identical statements. To Martha he responds with truth and to Mary, Jesus responds with tears. Sometime grief needs to be met with truth. Jesus is our shepherd. He promises to be with us in even the darkest valley.

Other times, grief needs to be met with tears. With Martha, Jesus speaks and with Mary he is speechless. With Martha, Jesus is bold and direct and with Mary he is broken and trembling. With Martha, Jesus confronts her mind while with Mary he enters into flow of her heart.

Too often, we lack perspective. Do I judge Jesus’ love by my circumstances? Or do I judge my circumstances by Jesus’ love? Ask the Lord Jesus to grant you the wisdom to know how to lean into grief. Jesus is the perfect combination of the ministry of truth and tears. When we lean into grief, we will need both.








Jimmy Dodd is Founder and CEO of PastorServe, strengthening the church by serving pastors. He is part of the leadership team of the Resilient Church Leadership initiative.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #36 on: May 30, 2020, 11:17:07 am »
More than a quarter of the global church falls under new and debated label: “Spirit-empowered Christianity.”


Are you Pentecostal?”

Todd Johnson, co-director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, couldn’t quite place the Chinese Christians he met at a conference in South Africa. Theologically, they seemed Pentecostal, so he asked.

They responded: “Absolutely not.”

“Do you speak in tongues?” Johnson said.

“Of course.”

“Do you believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

“Of course.”

“Do you practice gifts of the Spirit, like healing and prophecy?”

“Of course.”

Johnson said that in the United States, those were some of the distinctive marks of Pentecostals. But maybe it was different in China. Why not use the term?

“Oh, there’s an American preacher on the radio who is beamed into China,” the Chinese Christians explained. “He’s a Pentecostal, and we’re not like him.”

Names can be tricky. What do you call a Pentecostal who isn’t called a Pentecostal? The question sounds like a riddle, but it’s a real challenge for scholars. They have struggled for years to settle on the best term for the broad and diverse movement of Christians who emphasize the individual believer’s relationship to the Holy Spirit and talk about being Spirit-filled, Spirit-baptized, or Spirit-empowered.

Globally, the movement includes 644 million people, about 26 percent of all Christians, according to a new report from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. The study was done in collaboration with Oral Roberts University, named for one of the most famous Pentecostal evangelists in the 20th century, to be shared at the Empowered21 conference, featuring 70 speakers such at Bethel’s Bill Johnson and Assemblies of God leader George Wood. The conference, which was originally going to be in Jerusalem, will be held online starting Sunday.








The report represents the first attempt at a comprehensive demographic analysis of this group of Christians in almost 20 years. These findings will be widely cited by scholars and journalists seeking to understand these Christians, especially as they impact places like Qatar, Cambodia, and Burkina Faso, where their numbers are growing fastest, and places like Zimbabwe, Brazil, and Guatemala, where they now account for more than half of all Christians.

In the debate over what to call the movement—which has been dubbed “global Pentecostalism,” “Pentecostal/Charismatic,” and “renewalist”— Todd Johnson and his co-author and co-director Gina Zurlo propose another option: Spirit-empowered Christianity.

“The name has been a perennial problem,” Johnson told Christianity Today. “One of the first things we asked is what is it that is common with all these groups. It turned out to be the baptism of the Holy Spirit. People talk about being filled with the Holy Spirit and an older term is ‘Spirit-filled.’ But a lot of groups have emphasized being empowered.”

Like the Chinese Christians noted, “Pentecostal” is associated with American churches, Johnson said, such as the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ. The term indicates a connection to the multiracial Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles in 1906, where the Los Angeles Times reported a “new sect of fanatics is breaking loose” with a “weird babel of tongues.” The term “Charismatic” is connected to a renewal movement starting in the 1960s and ’70s, where Christians received the baptism of the Holy Spirit but mostly stayed in their own denominations—especially Anglican and Catholic churches.

But there are lots of other groups that are independent of major denominations and disconnected from the American history of Azusa Street. They also emphasize the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the importance of the experience of Spirit baptism, but they’re not really “Charismatic” or “Pentecostal” in the same way.








“Asking groups, ‘Do you believe or practice the baptism of the Holy Spirit?’ that was a really good question to ask,” Johnson said. “What we found in the end is that the baptism question gets at the commonality.”

Not all scholars are convinced by this new term. Some don’t even think a single name can work for a movement so diverse.

“It’s tough to nail Jell-O to the wall,” said Daniel Ramírez, professor of religion at Claremont Graduate University and author of Migrating Faith: Pentecostalism in the United States and Mexico in the Twentieth Century.

Ramírez said that part of the power of Pentecostalism has always been that people can take it and make it their own. It is endlessly adaptable, portable, and regenerative. An indigenous Mexican man, for example, received the gift of the Holy Spirit at the Azusa Street revival and was recorded through a translator thanking the people at that church. But then he left, Ramírez said, and no one at Azusa Street had any control over his theology or authority over how he shared that religious experience with others.

“That’s part of what makes it interesting,” said Arlene Sánchez-Walsh, professor of religious studies at Azusa Pacific University and author of Pentecostals in America. “It’s been diverse from the beginning. You look for a catchall term that’s vague and broad, and I use ‘Pentecostal’ to glue it back to the origins, but then I want people to think twice about the origins of the movement. Pentecostalism didn’t start in one place, whether it’s Azusa Street or a revival in Wales or in India, and so it’s always diverse.”

A single name can also imply that different Christians are more closely associated than they really are, argues Anthea Butler, a professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Women in the Church of God in Christ.

Lumping people together across traditions and cultures, you risk obscuring the historical and theological differences between a Catholic group that speaks in tongues, a Vineyard Church that practices holy laughter, and a Celestial Church of Christ that emphasizes purity and prophecy.











“You say ‘Spirit-empowered’ and an old-time Pentecostal would say ‘Well that Spirit could be a demon,’” Butler said. “And nobody’s going to invite a Catholic priest over to a Charismatic church in Nigeria unless it’s for an exorcism. You can’t just compress the theological differences and flatten out the history.”

The Empowered21 conference, which begins this Sunday on Pentecost, has adopted the “Spirit-empowered” label. Some of the breadth of the movement is reflected in the conference lineup alone: American evangelicals like megachurch pastor Chris Hodges and Hobby Lobby board chair Mart Green are sharing a virtual stage with Cindy Jacobs, part of the New Apostolic Reformation, and Todd White, a Word of Faith preacher, in addition to leaders from Asia and Africa.

Any term is going to bring some people together and drive a wedge between others, according to Cecil M. Robeck, professor of church history at Fuller Theological Seminary. Robeck has been a part of ecumenical dialogues since 1984 and thinks the term “Spirit-empowered Christian” could help some believers see what they have in common. But it also might throw up walls where they don’t need to exist.

“I worry about line-drawing,” Robeck said. “I want to know: Do we have an ecumenical future together? I want people to experience the Holy Spirit, but I don’t want to say they have to jump another hurdle to talk to me.”

Johnson is unfazed by the criticism. He doesn’t think “Spirit-empowered Christian” is a perfect term, but he will argue “it’s as good as any.”

“We used ‘renewalist’ for a while,” Johnson said, “but we decided that’s a neologism, and we thought, ‘Well, we want to use something more natural.’ … If you’re trying to get at what all these groups have in common, ‘empowerment’ isn’t a bad choice, but it’s also not the only one.”

The new study, Introducing Spirit-Empowered Christianity, will be widely available in September. It predicts that by 2050, the numbers of Spirit-empowered Christians will grow to over 1 billion, which will be about 30 percent of all Christians. But when nearly one out of every three Christians practices Spirit baptism, scholars will likely still debate what to call them.

“This argument is always going on,” said Nimi Wariboko, a Pentecostal theologian at Boston University. “What they are trying to capture is the move of the Spirit. Americans often want a term that reminds people of the umbilical cord to the West. But the essence is not geographical origin. The essence is not history and the essence is not doctrine and the essence is not the numbers. It’s the Spirit. And the Spirit moves.”
« Last Edit: May 31, 2020, 12:13:09 am by patrick jane »
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #37 on: May 30, 2020, 11:20:07 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/dennis-edwards-george-floyd-revolution-will-not-be-videoed.html







The Revolution Will Not Be Videoed








What Paul and Silas might have said about George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and and and…


For many of us, anger, sadness, frustration and fatigue are not episodic responses but chronic conditions. In recent days we’ve all seen, heard, and read of the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery, the shooting of Breonna Taylor, the use of the police by a white woman to threaten Christian Cooper, Minneapolis police officers executing George Floyd, and of the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately harms black and brown people. I have been a pastor in Minneapolis and my heart is heavy as people have taken to the streets to demonstrate against injustice.

The videos have helped some white people to see a bit of what many black and brown people know: White America has long had its knee on our necks. I am sure that some who just read that sentence are saying, “Not all of white America.” But that’s the problem. It’s hard for people of color to feel that White America is with us and not against us. White America has not demonstrated the collective resolve to repent, rebuke, and reorient itself against racial injustice. That includes Christians. White Christians can opt out of outrage over racial injustice. The status quo works for them.

Consider, for example, the tenacious support many evangelicals give to President Donald Trump, who told police on Long Island, New York, in 2017 to “not be too nice” with suspects. He appeared to encourage heavy-handedness, if not outright brutality. His then press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had to walk back the president’s comments, saying he was joking. Police brutality is not a laughing matter. White Christians are watching the screens, maybe shaking their heads, but largely immobile. Rather than justice overflowing (Amos 5:24), it trickles down, at best. In my more than 30 years of ministry—in the pastorate as well as academia—I’ve spent plenty of time with white evangelicals for whom justice is an elective course.

In 1973, Gil Scott-Heron wrote “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” indicting white apathy. He described how some Americans delighted in the mundane and trivial that flashed on the television screen while injustice demanded a revolution. Now people are watching their screens, seeing the violent acts as well as the protests in response, but then going back to business as usual. We need a revolution.

The Revolution Starts with Righteous Agitation
Acts 16:35–40 is the epilogue to a powerful story of God’s deliverance. The imprisoned Paul and Silas were singing hymns when an earthquake hit around midnight. Such was the power of the quake that the prison doors were opened, chains fell off prisoners, and the fear that overcame the jailer resulted in his conversion, along with that of his household. We could reflect a bit on God breaking people out of prison, but instead I want to highlight the epilogue, which tends to get overlooked in sermons from Acts 16. The morning after the earthquake, the jailer told Paul and Silas that the magistrates had released the apostles and they could “go in peace.” But Paul and Silas did not peacefully walk away. Instead, Paul replied, “They have beaten us in public, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they going to discharge us in secret? Certainly not! Let them come and take us out themselves” (Acts 16:37). Some of my friends argue that Paul’s concern here is the propagation of the gospel. Perhaps, but the text doesn’t say that. What we do see, however, is Paul’s agitation over the violation of his civil rights as a Roman citizen (a point he brings up strategically in Acts 21:39 and 22:25–29).

At the very least we can acknowledge that injustice demands a response to people in power. (For more on this, see Esau McCauley’s theology of policing.) Paul called the magistrates to account for their actions, and we must do the same. We should be outraged over injustice, and people in positions of authority need to feel our anguish.

For years, black and brown people have been doing the same as Paul in calling out injustice. The apostle Paul’s demands to the magistrates foreshadows Mamie Till’s bold move to have the body of her lynched son, Emmett, open for viewing. She wanted America to see what was allowed to happen to her son. White Christians have blamed victims of violence, waiting for some dirt on the victim to be dug up. White Christians have minimized the actions of the perpetrators by imagining there must be “another side to the story.” Perhaps even worse is the relegation of injustice to the actions of a few bad characters rather than the failings of an entire system and a worldview that vilifies non-whiteness.

The Revolution Is Really About Love
In that Acts 16 story, the magistrates apologize. They also ask Paul and Silas to leave the city. But before the apostles leave, they meet with the newly forming Christian community in Lydia’s house to encourage and admonish them. Surely this church, which now included a jailer, understood how power worked in Philippi and began their own revolution. Judging from what Paul wrote to that church sometime later (from prison!) they were to learn that the revolution means being like Jesus, considering others as more important than yourself (Phil. 2:3–4). The revolution means laying aside privilege in service to others (Phil. 2:5–11). Perhaps white Christian America can be motivated by that.

It is possible to be, like Jesus, angry at injustice while demonstrating and calling for love. In the many times over the years that I’ve been asked to speak about racial injustice, people expect me to end the message with hope. For some reason, those most vulnerable to oppression are the same ones who are supposed to give white people hope. Yet I do think about what moving forward means, especially since my wife and I have adult children and three grandsons. We think about a revolution for them. A revolution of love.

I affirm that black or brown skin and non-European ancestry is not the problem. We fight white supremacy, in part, by loving our nonwhite selves that have been created in the image of God. We don’t need to take on a Carlton Banks of Bel-Air persona to prove our Americanness (and in case you’ve forgotten: It didn’t work for Carlton Banks, either).

I affirm the use of our Christian imaginations to envision practicing the “weightier matters” of justice, mercy, and faith (Matt. 23:23, ESV). Gil Scott-Heron ended “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” with the words: “The revolution will be no re-run, brothers / The revolution will be live.” Rather than looking backwards to some mythical past greatness, we look forward to God’s ongoing work in the world.

I affirm the revolutionary power of the Holy Spirit. I have hope that those who have pledged allegiance to King Jesus will be moved by love to thwart the evil at work in the world because worldly power does not trump or stifle the power of the Holy Spirit.

Currently, we are mostly sheltering in place, relying heavily on screens for our communication. But hopefully we will be able to get away from the screens and go beyond the videos and hashtags to join in solidarity with those who hunger and thirst for justice (Matt. 5:6, NLT). That’s revolutionary.











Dennis R. Edwards is associate professor of New Testament at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago and author of Might from the Margins: The Gospel’s Power to Turn the Tables on Injustice (September 2020). In addition to his academic work in biblical studies, Dennis has served as a pastor in Brooklyn; Washington, DC; and Minneapolis.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
« Reply #38 on: May 31, 2020, 03:22:10 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/supreme-court-churches-covid-19-state-limits-california.html







Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Coronavirus Limits on Church Services







California restrictions allowing churches to reopen at 25 percent of their capacity, with no more than 100 worshipers at a time, “appear consistent” with the First Amendment, wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.


WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court on Friday rejected an emergency appeal by a California church that challenged state limits on attendance at worship services that have been imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Over the dissent of the four more conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's four liberals in turning away a request from the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, California, in the San Diego area.

The church argued that limits on how many people can attend their services violate constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and had been seeking an order in time for services on Sunday. The church said it has crowds of 200 to 300 people for its services.

Roberts wrote in a brief opinion that the restriction allowing churches to reopen at 25 percent of their capacity, with no more than 100 worshipers at a time, “appear consistent" with the First Amendment. Roberts said similar or more severe limits apply to concerts, movies and sporting events “where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time.”

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in dissent that the restriction “discriminates against places of worship and in favor of comparable secular businesses. Such discrimination violates the First Amendment.” Kavanaugh pointed to supermarkets, restaurants, hair salons, cannabis dispensaries and other businesses that are not subject to the same restrictions.

Lower courts in California had previously turned down the churches' requests.

The court also rejected an appeal from two churches in the Chicago area that objected to Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s limit of 10 worshipers at religious services. Before the court acted, Pritzker modified the restrictions to allow for up to 100 people at a time. There were no recorded dissents.
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and REPENTING, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise - EPHESIANS 1:10-14 KJV - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise. 2 Peter 3:9 KJV - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 KJV - Ephesians 1:10-14 KJV - Romans 10:9-10 KJV - Romans 10:13 - Romans 10:17 - Ephesians 1:7 KJV - Colossians 1:14 KJV -


Copyright Disclaimer: All audio and music belongs to the owner/creator. This is a non-profit. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

 

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