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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine - September 2019  (Read 198 times)

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patrick jane

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Christianity Today Magazine - September 2019
« on: September 03, 2019, 02:50:38 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/august/sharing-gospel-in-world-filled-with-good-news-messages.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29






Sharing the Gospel in a World Filled with Good News Messages




Here are five elements that makes people share good news.

 
All people seem to possess an innate ability to share a gospel message. Whether it’s an exercise regimen, a holistic health remedy, a debt-reduction strategy, or any of a myriad of other supposed life-hacks, people of all personality types are bold and courageous when it comes to championing their good news message.

The words used give insight into the worshipful undertones they purport: “life-altering” and “transformative” seem to top the list. The relative value of such plans or products aside, the way they captivate our attention and our conversations provide insight into the lack of evangelistic fervor demonstrated by many supposed followers of Jesus.

What’s required for people to speak good news?

First, a shared need

The assumption driving good news messages is that all people have a common need, even those who might not know they do. People can relate to feeling fatigued from time to time, struggling with nagging health challenges, battling a pervasive mental fog, wishing their waistline was a bit smaller, or the fear of living paycheck to paycheck.

These challenges seem common, so when someone has an apparent solution to remedy one or more of these problems, it’s assumed that everyone else needs the answer as well. We’d be foolish or selfish to keep a message to ourselves if so many of our friends and family members are looking for answers to the same questions.

Could our evangelistic apathy be traced, at least in part, to a minimization of sin and the necessity of salvation from the wrath of God due to all sinners?

Second, personal transformation

Those gossiping their good news life-hacks have personally benefited from the message they share. For some, this benefit is financial. They communicate a message and receive financial benefit from a product’s sales. More often, such capitalistic impulses are not the primary driving impetus, however.

The good news bearer is testifying to an idea that has added value to his or her life—weight loss, mental focus, gut health, financial freedom. It’s not that these benefits don’t exist, but that those who are sharing the good news message have personally experienced these benefits.

But the good news doesn’t’ stop there. Often, these individuals will testify to the spill-over effect into other areas of life. Because of enhanced health, they are now better able to engage in the overall demands of life. Hence, their gospel message is life-altering in the truest sense of the word.

Is a lack of personal transformation at the root of our evangelistic apathy?

Third, focused conviction

These good news messages littering our daily conversations also point to the necessity of personal conviction. People speak about the good news message that they believe works. The goal isn’t merely physical health or financial freedom, but it is a particular pill, drink, bar, regime, budget, method, or tool that is thought to be the best route of getting to that goal.

Vague, theoretical aspirations don’t promote good news messages; instead, we need a specific answer to how people get to a desired end. We tell people about the path we’ve discovered in hopes that they will likewise choose the narrow way that we are convinced is the actual answer they need.

Is a lack of personal conviction that the good news of Jesus is the singular hope for the whole earth at the root of our evangelistic apathy?

Fourth, clear messaging

Good news requires sticky language and an intentional message. We don’t meander through life-altering, transformative truth claims; we declare them boldly.

The process of the message is the same every time. First, establish the need. Then, introduce the solution and demonstrate the transformation it brings. Finally, invite the listener to act.

Those who excel in their good news messages work this plan to perfection. Each day, each post, each coffee shop conversation is merely spinning back through these same three categories with different content. We link to articles, post pictures, share research, and give discounts following this Marketing 101 pathway. The repetition of a clear, compelling message allows hearers to understand the good news and exactly how they can get on board.

Is the fact that fewer church attendees are able to clearly articulate the message of Jesus and call others to repentance and faith at the root of our evangelistic apathy?

Finally, intentional relationships

The good news message run along relational networks. The first to learn of our life-hacks are those with the relational proximity to see the benefits firsthand. Our families, neighbors, co-workers, or classmates are around us enough to know whether or not something has genuinely been transformative.

From there, we venture out into secondary relationships via social media or broader relational networks. And, depending on the degree of zeal, good news messengers won’t be stopped by relational distance. A total stranger in a restaurant or in an adjacent seat on an airplane is likely to hear just how good our good news actually is.

Could it be that we are squandering the built-in relationships in our lives and wasting daily opportunities for good news snippets, thereby contributing to our evangelistic apathy?

One thing is certain: People will always speak of truth that transforms. It’s unavoidable.

The answer to evangelistic apathy isn’t an attempt to motivate passive people to speak of good news; the solution is to get all of us who are zealous to communicate good news to harness that energy and intentionality into winsome, consistent witness to the one Truth that’s truly transformative—not only for this life but the next as well.




Matt Rogers is a pastor at The Church at Cherrydale in Greenville, South Carolina. He has a Ph.D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Southeastern and an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.






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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - September 2019
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2019, 03:49:07 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/september-web-only/hit-hard-pat-tammy-mcleod-football-brain-injury-trauma.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29







When Trauma on the Field Creates Trauma in the Home





After their son suffered a devastating brain injury playing football, Pat and Tammy McLeod saw their marriage put to the test.


The family and friends of Zach McLeod gathered at a church in Boston for a solemn ceremony entitled “A Time to Mourn.” They watched a video of his life from birth until the devastating accident he suffered at age 16. Zach had been a gifted athlete, student leader, and beloved friend. His mother spoke of how much she missed hearing Zach’s prayers, thoughts, and dreams. Guests wrote down what they missed most about the young man they had known—the young man they would never see again.

Then, later that day, the same group reconvened. This time they celebrated a new life and watched a video showing milestones of progress. Who were they celebrating? Zach McLeod. In fact, Zach himself attended this ceremony, called “A Time to Dance.” He was elated to see so many friends and family members, to see and to hear their affirmations of what they appreciated about him.

If this sounds like a confusing day, not to mention an emotional whipsaw, welcome to the world of “ambiguous loss.” And welcome to Hit Hard: One Family’s Journey of Letting Go of What Was—and Learning to Live Well with What Is, a powerful new book by Zach’s parents, Pat and Tammy McLeod. Hit Hard deals with the messy contradictions of a life where suffering and joy are not strangers but siblings that share the same house.

The Language of Loss

Pat and Tammy were attending a ministry meeting when they received a nightmarish phone call. Their son Zach had sustained a catastrophic head injury in a high school football game. Zach survived, but today he speaks with great difficulty and requires 24/7 care. Pat and Tammy had to come to grips with the complex realities of taking care of him while parenting their other three children and juggling their careers in ministry. They both serve as chaplains for Cru, an interdenominational Christian ministry, at Harvard University. Tammy is also the director of College Ministry at Park Street Church in Boston.

The McLeods wrestled for a way to understand what they were experiencing. Alternating as authors, Pat and Tammy write about the same events from different points of view. Having and not having their son in the way they once did put them on what felt like opposing sides. Pat focused on the “have” part of that reality, while Tammy gravitated toward the “have not” end. As a result, they struggled to connect with one another in their grief. This book is as much about how a marriage survives in the wake of a crisis as it is about the ongoing trauma.

Because Hit Hard is so honest, it is also raw, intense, and messy. It is emotionally difficult and uncomfortable to read. The book takes readers through a series of traumatic events and explores how Pat and Tammy process each of them and the relational challenges that ensue. The details of their loss are heart-wrenching: Tammy gets cancer, and Zach sustains a second brain injury. For people who have endured trauma (or are enduring it still), the details of their journey may reopen wounds before providing hope.

The McLeods could not find language for what they were experiencing, which only deepened their sense of loss and isolation from their community and from one another. Their friends were unsure what to say. Should they share their joy that Zach had survived? Or grieve with them for the loss of the life that was?

Countless books and articles on grieving failed to speak to the McLeods’ circumstances. Finally they found a book by family therapist Pauline Boss called Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief. Putting a name to their experience was powerful. The words “ambiguous loss” validated their pain. They were not alone in their pain; it had a category of its own and was shared by others.

Boss describes two kinds of ambiguous loss. One is when the physical body is absent yet the person is psychologically present in the mind of the loved one. Examples of this include those missing because of war, natural disasters, kidnapping, adoption, or divorce. The other kind of loss happens when a person is bodily present but is not the same cognitively or emotionally. Examples of this kind of loss include people affected by Alzheimer’s, addiction, mental illness, or debilitating brain injury.

Boss wrote that to pursue closure is a fruitless endeavor. Fixing the ambiguity is often impossible. The goal then becomes how to live well with the ambiguous loss and increase tolerance for it. Tammy writes, “The secret to living well with ambiguous loss requires living well with both having and not having someone the way you once had them.” The McLeods needed to learn how to hold two opposing ideas in their minds at the same time. The Zach they had known was gone. A new Zach survived. They celebrated his survival but mourned what had happened to him.

Finding out that their grief had a name somehow changed things for the McLeods. It not only authenticated their pain but also clarified the source of the tension in their marriage. They realized their marital challenges had not been rooted in one spouse being right and the other being wrong. It was the ambiguity of the loss. Giving a name to their grief did not remove the debris, but it did throw light on the scene, so that they were less frequently tripping over things or bumping into each other in the dark.

Redeemed Ambiguity
In the beginning of the book, Tammy laments all of the things her son could never do again. He would never play football or sing with her, a hobby they enjoyed together. A scene at the end of the book illustrates how Tammy has made peace with their reality. Two hulking football players are holding Zach up as the three of them step onto the playing field. Zach is dressed in the team uniform, but he isn’t playing. His gait is not as smooth and his posture not as straight as the other players. But Zach is a leader in his own way. He sets an example by showing up and rising from every hard hit of life. He plays a motivational presence on the field and in the community.

Hit Hard can help those struggling with all kinds of grief, but especially those experiencing loss that has no clear end. Tammy felt understood when she read Boss’s words that living with continuous uncertainty and loss “is the most stressful kind of loss people can face.” The book can also help those who want to support someone experiencing a loss that feels complex, contradictory, and elusive. And lastly, it may assist marriages or other relationships in tension due to differences in how people process grief.

As Pat writes, “Ambiguous loss will probably always remain part of our family’s legacy. It will move in and out of the forefront, but never completely disappear. Like mountain hikers, we’re learning how to cinch our backpack straps tighter, adjust the weight so it doesn’t rub on already stressed spots, and keep climbing….Today we live in that redeemed ambiguity—incredible suffering and incredible love in the same messy world.”





Joyce Koo Dalrymple is a wife and mother, a minister of discipleship and women, and a former attorney.






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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, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. 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 - September 2019
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2019, 11:50:17 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/september/dorian-bahamas-man-o-war-cay-churches-destroyed.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29






Dorian Destroys Tiny Bahamas Island With 3 Churches and 300 People



Christian relief workers wait for floods to recede before they can make it to the hardest-hit places like Man-O-War Cay.


Since September 1, Pastor Randy Crowe has had limited contact with his former congregation on Man-O-War Cay, Bahamas. With no electricity, phones, or cellular service on the island, Crowe cannot reach anyone.

But during his one satellite call with a former congregant at New Life Bible Church, Crowe learned that the church he pastored for 12 years is gone, destroyed in the 200 miles-per-hour sustained winds surrounding the eye of the Category 5 storm.

The island, which has fewer than 300 residents, also endured tornadoes embedded in Dorian’s eye wall as the storm lumbered across the 700 islands that make up the Bahamas.

“Man-O-War Cay is decimated, just destroyed,” Crowe said.

CNN reported that Man-O-War Cay, part of the hardest-hit area of the Abaco Islands, suffered widespread damage to 90–100 percent of its buildings. There were three churches on the tiny island: New Life Bible Church, Church of God, and the Gospel Chapel.

New Life, covered in grey siding and flanked by palm trees, had been boarded up with plywood on each window along the sanctuary, in preparation for the storm, but it was not enough to hold back Dorian’s force.

“New Life and the cottage are all shuttered up,” read a final post on the church’s Facebook page before the storm. “The rest is in God’s hands.”

Having assisted with hurricane relief for every hurricane to hit the Bahamas since 1992, Crowe called Dorian the “worst one ever.”

With such severe infrastructure damage, Bahamian church leaders have not been able to contact fellow pastors in the US. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship reports that it has not heard from the pastors of its nine churches in the Bahamas.

It took three days for any outsider to reach Man-O-War. Since the closest airport in Marsh Harbour is under two feet of water, Crowe must wait until the weekend to bring supplies in his Piper Cherokee 6 plane.

But once the airport reopens on nearby Abaco Island, Crowe plans to bring in emergency supplies like tarps, chainsaws, hygiene products, generators, powdered drinks, and ready-to-eat meals.

Soon he will organize teams to fly down and help clean up and rebuild with Island Outreach, the ministry he and his wife Paula founded four decades ago.

“Our efforts will focus on Marsh Harbor and Man-O-War Cay,” Crowe said. “There will be many trips. The first priority is to secure the houses and roofs and clear roadways while making sure everyone has food and water.”

Man-O-War Cay owes part of its quaint, remote feel to its Christian heritage. Because of the longtime presence of Brethren and Pentecostal churches on the island, it never legalized drinking, and without bars or hotels, never grew into a major tourist spot. (Many of the island’s residents are direct descendents of the earliest settlers, British Loyalists who moved to the Bahamas after the Revolutionary War.)

On the larger Grand Bahama island, reports already indicate that churches have opened as shelter, with Jubilee Cathedral housing 150 people.

Samaritan’s Purse landed in Nassau with relief supplies on Thursday, bringing shelter materials, water filters, and filtration units. Its disaster response team has a smaller plane and helicopter they hope to use to access harder-to-reach islands to continue to assess needs and distribute relief materials.

Crowe said Missionary Flights International also plans to fly supplies to Marsh Harbour when the airport reopens.

“We all work together because that’s what makes the body of Christ so good,” Crowe said. “We’re better together.”
Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. 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 - September 2019
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2019, 04:05:56 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/september/3-ways-to-view-scarcity-as-asset.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29







Scarcity Brings Clarity: 3 Ways to View Scarcity as an Asset


Our clearest moments of thinking often come during times of less and loss.


Think about the times in your life when you have had the most vision and clarity on issues of importance. Likely, these haven’t come when you’ve been soaring high, soaking in an overflow of resources, everything at your fingertips.

No, most likely, if you are like me, you’ve noticed a trend that our clearest moments of thinking often come during times of less and loss—when we are running on empty and at the end of our resources.

One of the things I have experienced is that scarcity brings clarity. It’s during times of scarcity when I have also learned that I am the most effective leader. Scarcity forces us to consider options both in vision and strategy that we may not have necessarily seen before. We become more effective and efficient both in the short and the long term.

Scarcity forces clarity and from scarcity, we can actually retool an organization so that it is more effective and remains more focused in times of abundance. Prioritization is important at every moment, but prioritization is life-preserving in times of scarcity.

I remember when I came to the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College three years ago. At the time, to quote my boss, the Center was “on life support.” Instead of closing shop, we asked three key questions:

What could we best do?
What should we be doing?
What could only we do?
Our focus narrowed on a priority: gathering global leaders for greater gospel impact. Then we began to measure everything we did on the basis of our focus. In doing so, we became what Mr. Graham hoped we would become—a world hub of mission and evangelism..

Had it not been for that time of scarcity, we would not have been forced to assess clearly what we were working toward and discover how to best accomplish our goals.

Scarcity is rarely enjoyable to lead through. But when we understand these times as possible game-changers, we can actually discover that these are the times that change both us and our organizations.

Times of scarcity don’t always last, however, and they should lead to change and growth. To maximize our time as leaders during these scarcity moments, let me offer a few tips.

1. During times of scarcity, we must remember that we still have tools and resources with which we can work.
Look around and consider what you do have to work with. Who is there? What is your history? What tools do you have available? In these times, we must work exceptionally well with what we have. We must properly prioritize how we utilize our resources—whether those be money, people, time or property—for a more focused end goal.

2. Scarcity forces us to reevaluate where we are and where we are headed.
Perhaps our organization has tried to do too much. Perhaps we have lost focus of our end goal in an effort to grow and achieve great things. In times of plenty, it’s often difficult for organizations to see how off track they’ve gotten until it’s nearly too late to turn the ship around. This is why, for example, IBM doesn’t sell personal computers today. Once the leading provider of computers, IBM withered away because it was engaged in so many areas of work. Today, however, IBM is much more intentionally focused.

3. Scarcity causes us to look to other places for other resources.
We begin to see that it’s not all about us and we find creative ways to work together and to get what needs to be done accomplished. Too often, as organizations grow, they develop a mindset that begins to shut others out. Ever so slowly, silos develop, and the concept of shared resources and partnership are lost for the sake of greater growth. Scarcity allows us to look around and consider what others are doing and see potential for partnership that we otherwise would not have noticed.

If you are in a time of scarcity as an organization, don’t despair. Use this time as a transformation opportunity to take you and your team to the next level.






Ed Stetzerholds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.





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Re: Christianity Today Magazine - September 2019
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2019, 11:00:53 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/september-web-only/glenn-stanton-myth-dying-church-rick-richardson-you-found.html







Is American Christianity on Its Last Legs? The Data Say Otherwise.



Two new books push back on Chicken-Little narratives of evangelical decline.


When Christians write about the status and reputation of Christianity in American society, they usually focus on two questions: What is happening? What should be done?

Two recent books have taken up these questions in a markedly optimistic spirit: Glenn Stanton’s The Myth of the Dying Church: How Christianity is Actually Thriving in America and the World and Rick Richardson’s You Found Me: New Research on How Unchurched Nones, Millennials, and Irreligious are Surprisingly Open to Christian Faith.

The books share many similarities. Both make extensive use of survey findings and other types of data. Both are written by leaders at prominent evangelical organizations (Focus on the Family and The Billy Graham Center respectively). Both take a myth-busting approach to misconceptions about American Christianity. And both even use the story of Chicken Little to describe how Christians react to bad news about the faith.

Nonetheless, they are different books. With some exceptions, they address different aspects of Christianity in society. They also make different recommendations for how best to further its prospects.

Portrait of Resilience


In describing what is happening with the faith in America, Stanton focuses on the size and vitality of evangelical Christianity, especially as compared to mainline Protestantism.

Stanton marshals an impressive array of evidence. He emphasizes Christian affiliation rates, giving special attention to what’s happening with young people. He also examines a wide range of other topics, including charitable giving, church construction, missionary efforts, youth ministries, Christian colleges, and Christian publishing.

The story that emerges from Stanton’s overview is that evangelical Christianity is doing rather well for itself. Where it is not increasing, it is holding steady. As Stanton writes, “Churches that are faithfully preaching, teaching, and practicing Biblical truths and conservative theology are holding stable overall. In some areas, they are seeing growth.”

In contrast, the fortunes of mainline Protestantism in America are falling fast. Its long decline has been documented before, and Stanton updates our understanding of it. As he puts it, “people are leaving those churches like the buildings are on fire.”

Stanton’s portrait of resilience is one more strike against the widely held narrative of evangelical failure. This failure narrative is surprisingly resilient. It spreads in the minds of Christians like dandelions. After reading Stanton’s analysis, it’s clear that Christianity is not on its last legs.

Richardson, in You Found Me, has a different focus on what is happening. In 2016, the Billy Graham Center commissioned a survey of 2,000 Americans who don’t actively participate in religion—the “unchurched.” The survey asked these people about how they perceive Christians and Christianity. This included their view of Christianity, their willingness to talk about faith matters with Christians, how they would respond to being invited to a church event, and which types of invitations would they be most willing to accept.

Analyzing these data, Richardson finds that many unchurched Americans think well of Christians and are open to engaging matters of faith. For example, 42 percent of the unchurched think that Christianity is good for society, 33 percent admire their Christians friends’ faith, and up to 67 percent would be willing to attend a church event (depending on the type of event). Richardson concludes that the unchurched include “a massive number of people who are open to being invited, persuaded, and connected to a local congregation.”

Richardson’s analysis counters misconceptions about the unchurched. Christians commonly overestimate the hostility of the unchurched in matters of faith. We can slip into viewing them as mini-versions of Richard Dawkins—hostile to all things Christian. If this is true, why would we want to talk with them about our faith? It would be asking for rejection. Instead, Richardson’s findings invite us to share our faith openly, lovingly, and without fear. Not all of them will constructively engage us, of course, but many will.

Measures of Success
Turning from the question of where things stand to the question of what should be done in response, Stanton examines how Christian parents can effectively pass on their faith to their children. Drawing on research studies of young people transitioning into adulthood, he identifies multiple practices for fostering faith in children. It starts with a healthy, warm, and secure parent-child relationship. In this context, parents can lead their children into Christian practices such as prayer and reading Scripture. They can train them to see God’s work in everyday life, to handle their doubts without abandoning their faith, and even to face persecution.

Stanton’s discussion of parenting is very helpful. I wish I could have read it when our children were young. It identifies best practices for raising children in the faith. Christian parents care deeply about doing this, and Stanton gives hope that it can be done successfully. As he puts it, “passing faith to our kids is neither a crapshoot nor rocket science.”

Richardson takes on the issue of sharing faith with our unchurched neighbors. He offers practical guidelines for individual Christians, church leaders, and entire congregations. Particularly useful is Richardson’s treatment of evangelism by congregations. He describes the ideal congregation as a “conversion community”: It is steadily growing, it has recent converts attending its services, and it integrates evangelistic outreach into all its activities.

These characteristics come from data collected by the Billy Graham Center in a large-scale survey of several thousand Protestant churches in the United States. Richardson ranks these churches by their growth rates due to conversion. He then looks for the unique characteristics of the churches that rank the highest. From these, he makes recommendations for how churches can reach out to their local communities.

Among churches that succeed at evangelism, Richardson discerns two key characteristics. Frst, they develop a culture of innovation, frequently inviting the unchurched to church events. Importantly, the congregation leaders themselves lead the way in inviting others. And second, they develop a culture of hospitality, meeting the needs of people outside the church, whether they are physical, social, or emotional needs. Richardson shares many stories of people finding the love of God through a church’s hospitality. As one woman expressed it, the church to which she was invited “showed us so much love, unconditional love.”

Some Small Concerns
These two books complement each other well. Stanton goes deep into what’s happening with religion in society; Richardson gives insight into the thinking of the unchurched. Stanton advises parents; Richardson gives strategies to church leaders and congregations.

But even good books leave us wanting more, and these are no exception. Stanton gives a thorough description of how different Christian traditions are changing, but he gives much less attention to why these changes are taking place. For the United States, he briefly reviews the relative appeal of conservative, demanding theologies versus liberal, laissez-faire theologies. Presumably, there are also other factors at work as well. Stanton does give a fuller explanation as to why Christianity is spreading in the Global South.

A concern with Stanton’s book is the uniformity of his evidence. All of his statistics show that evangelical Christianity is holding steady or growing. It’s my experience as a researcher that social data are rarely this consistent in their message. Instead, they are like unruly children, going in many directions at once. Stanton has the overall story absolutely right. However, I assume that continued research on this issue will add qualifications and exceptions to this overall pattern of ongoing evangelical success.

Richardson and the Billy Graham Center should be commended for their innovative data collection. It’s exciting. Their data give us a rich understanding of both the perceptions of the unchurched and the practices of congregations that evangelize effectively. While Richardson identifies principles of effective outreach, it would be helpful to have more guidance on how to implement these principles. Knowing what to do and actually getting yourself to do it are two different things—both for individuals and groups. Richardson offers some preliminary thoughts on executing these principles. More would be useful.

A concern with Richardson’s book is a byproduct of its wide-ranging nature. It addresses many different themes—social trends, people’s attitudes, leadership development, and congregational practices. It draws evidence from multiple sources—survey data, Biblical principles, and personal stories. It would be difficult, with all of these components, to construct a tight, coherent narrative for the reader. It’s not always clear that Richardson does so. At some points, the presentation of the material, as well as the analysis of the data, felt underdeveloped.

Taking the Next Step
In reviewing these books, allow me to make an important but entirely unfair (I’ll explain why) observation about their use of data. Both use data to formulate strategies that should work. But neither actually uses data to test if these strategies really do work. This would require randomized evaluation studies. It is the difference between thinking that a medicine should work and actually giving it to people to carefully measure what happens. This leaves us with promising—but unproven—theories.

Here is why this observation is unfair. No one in American Christianity, to my knowledge, is doing this type of evaluation research. It’s common with other organizations, such as international aid programs, but it hasn’t found its way into Christianity yet.

Nonetheless, this type of research is entirely doable. It can cost less than a survey, and its results are crucial for knowing which strategies of Christian growth really work. Think of all the medicines found to be ineffective once tested. This type of evaluation research is the gold standard. Something as important as sharing the faith deserves this quality of evaluation.

But regardless of whether these authors, or the organizations for which they work, ever take the next step and directly test their recommended actions, these books give us deeper insight into what’s happening with Christianity and what might be done in response.





Bradley Wright is a sociologist at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media (Bethany House).





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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, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. 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 - September 2019
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2019, 07:17:44 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/september/maranatha-mission-maranatha-moments-in-world-filled-with-tr.html







Maranatha & Mission: Maranatha Moments in a World Filled with Tragedy




Sometimes "Come, Lord Jesus" is all we can say—and that's okay.


Years ago, I remember a Chris Rice song that resonated with my soul. It was called “Hallelujahs.” It described scenarios of life, like experiencing a purple sky to close the day, wading in the surf to see dolphins play, and tasting the salt while watching the dancing waves. At the end of the refrain, these words would echo throughout the song, “And my soul wells up with hallelujahs.”

Yes, there are certainly times throughout life where my soul wells up with hallelujahs—with “Praise the Lord!” However, I have also experienced my fair share of instances where my soul wells up with Maranathas!

Have you ever found yourself crying out, “Maranatha?” Maranatha is an Aramaic word used in 1 Corinthians 16:22 that can mean, “Our Lord, Come!” or “Come, Lord Jesus!” Interestingly, as Trevin Wax notes, this second interpretation wasn’t widely used until the last couple of centuries. In fact, as he notes, throughout the ages, Maranatha has been mainly used as a declaration, “Our Lord has come.”

Both are appropriate, but one version finds itself on the minds and lips of people when faced with life’s pains and sufferings. This week has been one of those weeks where “Maranatha” has been uttered from the lips of many, including myself.

I found myself crying out “Maranatha!” as I scrolled through the feeds that marked the 18th anniversary of 9/11—the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The devastation caused by those acts of terrorism almost 20 years ago will be forever stitched in our minds: planes flying into towers, people jumping from buildings, dust filling the city air, lifeless bodies under piled rubble, and grieving families and friends who in a twinkling of an eye lost husband, wife, parent, or child.

In addition to the anniversary of 9/11, the evangelical world experienced the loss of a prominent young church leader and mental health advocate who died by suicide—Jarrid Wilson, a man who loved Jesus and people, and who had dedicated his life to helping those in need. Jarrid preached messages, wrote books, and faithfully ministered to a broken world, only to find himself losing the battle (but not losing the war).

Having heard the news while driving, I had to wait until I stopped to see it for myself. As I sat and scrolled through the feeds, my heart was broken and grieving over what I read. There were so many comments that expressed heartbreak, grief, sadness, and lament.

The most jarring comment was a twitter post from Jarrid himself the day of his passing. As somewhat of a last, parting words of this life, he posted,

Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure suicidal thoughts. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure depression. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure PTSD. Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure anxiety. But that doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t offer us companionship and comfort. He ALWAYS does that.

My response is a resounding, AMEN!

But it is the irony of his words and parting action that wells up in my soul a Maranatha! I get how the weight of this world and the struggle with illness and disease can crush the drive to live. And therefore, I couldn’t help but cry out “Maranatha!” over and over. Lord Jesus, come! Lord Jesus, come!

Have you been there? Are you there? If so, it is perfectly acceptable for there to be dry moments and seasons where no Hallelujahs flow from our tongues. It is alright if we somberly sit and utter groanings of Maranatha. This makes me think of Romans 8:22–23, where Paul writes,

For we know that the whole of creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

We live in a world filled with compounding brokenness, hurt, pain, and suffering. It’s not like we face oneexperience of hurt and pain; Oh no, we face a life filled with such. Sexual brokenness, divorce, betrayal, abuse, violence, discrimination, racism, poverty, abandonment, addiction, illness, disease, and more—not to mention death. We are victims of multiple counts of pain and suffering. In short, the fallen world, the opportunistic enemy, and the fleshly nature of sin lay claim to many a victim—everyone included; yes, even pastors.

As believers, we believe Jesus is in the process of making all things new. But there are times where our hopeful knowing gives way to our groanings of “Hurry up!” In those times, the struggle with life is just too real. We are simply too overwhelmed with the ugliness and darkness of life, and therefore we cry out—maybe with more of a tonal demand—"Maranatha!”

While we groan, we wait. Will Jesus answer our prayer? Will he, at that moment, physically come and make all things new? In all likelihood, possibly not. But one day he will.

In the meantime, what do we do?

When nothing but Maranatha comes from our lips, where should our minds and hearts go?

Let me share a couple of thoughts.

First, we can attune our minds to the empathetic yet finished work of Jesus.

The eternal God made flesh entered into the fray of humanity, bore the cross for our sins as he absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf. In clothing himself in humanity, Jesus experienced life, and thus pain, in a fallen world. He experienced betrayal, disease, poverty, abuse, violence, hatred, and even deaths of loved ones.

By taking upon himself the sin of humanity, he entered and endured the greatest of all pains—the wrath of God—and thus, separation from the Father. So, when it comes to our Maranatha moments, we can rest assured that Jesus knows and understands where we are. And his empathetic and yet finished work becomes the fuel for the courage to face another day.

Second, we can attune our hearts to focus on the hope of glory.

One of my favorite passages on this is 2 Corinthians 4:17–18, where Paul writes, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.”

Regarding this passage, John Piper says,

Not only is all your affliction momentary, not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there, but all of it is totally meaningful. . . . Every millisecond of your pain—from fallen nature or fallen man—every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that suffering.

In short, Jesus is in the process of making all things new, and somehow, in some way, even though we cannot see it, God is in the Maranatha moments preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

In closing, depravity casts a long and dark shadow. When that shadow hits our lives, Maranatha may be the only word welling up in our soul. And that is perfectly ok.

But as you sit in your Maranatha moments, let the Spirit speak hope and peace that Jesus is indeed in the process of making all things new. As a result, you can also whisper to your soul, as the old hymn writer Horatio Spafford quipped, “It is well with my soul.”






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 new podcast, Living in the Land of Oz. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.





Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, the gospel of our salvation, and repenting, seals us with that Holy Spirit of Promise. 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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