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Author Topic: Christianity Today Magazine Archives  (Read 3686 times)

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patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine Archives
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2018, 03:06:40 am »


https://theologyforums.com/index.php?threads/you-can%E2%80%99t-have-racial-justice-without-a-bloody-cross.3584/


You Can’t Have Racial Justice Without a Bloody Cross


Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s necessary rebuke on race rests on a sadly truncated gospel.

In 1846, the abolitionist Samuel Brooke published a book called Slavery, and the Slaveholder’s Religion; as Opposed to Christianity, in which he condemned human bondage as “the violation of every principle of human brotherhood, of natural right, of justice, of humanity, of Christianity, of love to God and to man.”

Like so many of his fellow abolitionists, Brooke wanted to prick the conscience of a religious tradition that sang songs of praise to God on Sunday and whipped slaves on Monday. In Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion, writer and activist Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove attempts to take up this mantle, arguing that today’s white evangelical movement remains beholden to a racial ideology that hijacks and distorts the true Christian faith.

Wilson-Hartgrove doesn’t approach the topic of race as an expert, though his experience moving into a majority-black neighborhood in Durham, North Carolina, gives him a proximity not shared by many of his fellow white Christians. Yet he offers a remonstrance that many white Christian leaders desperately need to hear. He traces fault lines in American Christianity that have roots in the nation’s founding and shows how white evangelicals have often baptized white supremacy either by endorsement or silence.

We are tempted, of course, to assume that we are well beyond our racial tensions, being more than 150 years removed from the Civil War and more than 50 years removed from the passage of landmark civil rights legislation. But significant tensions remain, and systemic racism, more subtle and pernicious than white bed sheets or lynching trees, still causes suffering for African Americans. Wilson-Hartgrove makes a persuasive case that racism still haunts our institutions in ways we are often unwilling to see.

What’s more, it seems that white believers often remain stubbornly indifferent. Wilson-Hartgrove’s point is that “the gospel of white evangelicals hasn’t interrupted our racial habits; it has reinforced them. To be white and Christian in America is to be, on average, more segregated than your unchurched neighbors, whatever the color of their skin.”

This is a difficult but necessary rebuke. It should cause us to fall on our knees in repentance and to lament the ways we have actively and passively contributed to a system that still divides us along racial lines. And we should commit to preaching and living out a gospel that displays the multi-ethnic character of the kingdom of God as described in Revelation 7.


However, while Wilson-Hartgrove’s book offers much to commend, it soon becomes apparent that his vision for “reconstructing” the gospel actually involves redefining the gospel in significant ways. In his opening chapters, Wilson-Hartgrove recalls sitting in a church-sponsored Christmas production and being embarrassed by the pastor who preached on the exclusivity of salvation in Christ. He implies that a gospel presentation based on John 14:6 (“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”) is akin to sermons by slave owners preaching the gospel of white supremacy. But the problem for pastors in the antebellum South who baptized a racialized status quo was not that they placed too much weight on justification by faith in Christ. The problem was that they failed to carry that doctrine to its logical conclusions. There is no full and final justice against racial superiority without the bloody cross. In his death and resurrection, Jesus creates the unity that cannot be achieved by any other movements or religions (Eph. 2:11–22). At times, Wilson-Hartgrove seems to reject everything conservative white Christians have ever taught, including a biblical sexual ethic.

Perhaps most distressing is the way in which Wilson-Hartgrove, while rightly critiquing the misguided political approach of the Moral Majority, seems to imply that the way of Jesus leads right to the policy platforms of the Democratic Party. If you’ve been offended, as I have, by sermons comparing the current president to apostles and prophets, you will be just as offended by a book discerning the Holy Spirit’s work in a state legislature’s turn from red to blue. Christians should be engaged in politics, but the answer to an unholy alliance of party and faith is not another unholy alliance of party and faith.

If Wilson-Hartgrove is presenting a truncated gospel, that’s no excuse to keep preaching a truncated gospel of our own. Let those of us who are white continue to listen to and learn from our black brothers and sisters. Let’s work hard, in our own communities, for racial unity. And let’s do it with humility and repentance, longing for the day when every nation, tribe, and tongue is gathered around our King’s throne.

Daniel Darling is vice president for communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.





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Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection, the gospel of our salvation, 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 -

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.

patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine Archives
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2018, 09:10:00 am »


https://theologyforums.com/index.php?threads/what-are-christian-apologetics-and-how-do-they-relate-to-the-gospel-anyways.3039/

What Are Christian Apologetics, and How Do They Relate to the Gospel Anyways?


The greatest apologetic for faith is embedded in the gospel message itself.


Many Christians talk about Christian apologetics. Indeed, the topic is very interesting for Christians on many levels as we seek to gain confidence and assurance for our own faith. And, of course, apologetics also has great value for us as we seek to help seekers and doubters to get over the intellectual barriers keeping them from embracing faith in Christ.

But often, there is one great apologetic that gets neglected, and this concerns God’s love, forgiveness, and willingness to be Lord of our lives.

A brief look at apologetics

First, however, let me define and clarify terms. Apologia in classical times simply meant “defense”. In a court of law, an apologetic was the making of a defense for the defendant at trial. Such was the case of the Apology by Plato. He was setting forth the case made by Socrates during his trial before the court at Athens.

In Acts 7, Stephen makes a defense before his accusers in Jerusalem. And several times in the book of Acts, Paul sets out a defense before his accusers, not only for his actions as he traveled the world preaching the gospel, but also a defense for the gospel itself. He wanted people to see the reasonableness for faith in Christ.

Paul would reference the prophetic passages of the Old Testament and showed how Jesus, in the days of the Incarnation, was the exact fulfillment of these prophecies. Furthermore, Paul appeals to the historicity of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and the remarkable number of eyewitnesses who validated having seen the Resurrected Christ.

These were apologetic proofs for faith. Jesus was not only raised from the dead, but his resurrection validated both his deity and his message—somehow the death and Resurrection of Christ puts us right with God. Paul used apologetics to validate his message that Christ’s sacrifice is the means whereby God forgives sin, reconciles lost humanity to himself, and provides the hope of eternal life.

The tradition of Christian apologetics

The tradition of Christian apologetics has a long history. It stretches from the earliest days of the church, and is a practice witnessed to in the historic record in Scripture. And we see a long practice of Christian apologetics continuing on from the second century writings of Justin Martyr through to the more recent writings of G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, and William Lane Craig.

These works in apologetics have continued to show how the Resurrection, Old Testament prophecies, the archeological data, the evidence for miracles, the dramatic nature of changed lives (people hostile to the faith actually becoming believers and bearing witness to the faith), and many other evidences support the Christian claims. One tradition of apologetics has appealed to the compelling evidences that support the message of Christianity.


Another tradition of Christian apologetics appeals to a more philosophical and propositional approach to defending the faith. Given the fact that a world exists, we must ask, “Why is anything there, rather than nothing there?” If the world that exists is full of contingencies, then something must be necessary, essential, and non-contingent. What is it?

Furthermore, in the midst of these mutabilities and change, why is there still an observable continuity? Why is there not chaos rather than order? Why is there such precision in the movement of the heavens that people have been able to predict solar eclipses accurately for hundreds of years? Why do things seem to work towards predictable, developmental ends? Why can we even talk about things like maturity, and purpose? And why are we disappointed when things do not seem to go according to plan?

If all was chaos, these disappointments would not bother us because they would be normative not exceptional. These and hosts of questions like them are the kinds of things presuppositional apologetics wrestle with.

The idea that works best for explaining these various phenomena is faith in God. The presuppositionalists point us in this direction.

The great apologetics found in the gospel message itself

All the various forms of apologetics are, in their way, interesting, and they are often affirming for those who have faith. And sometimes they help skeptics climb over their barriers to faith and embrace Christ.

Nevertheless, the greatest apologetic for faith is embedded in the gospel message itself. God loves us. Christ died for our sins. And he is willing to enter into our lives and bring order out of the chaos we make of things.

Every honest, unpretentious person I’ve ever met longs to be loved unconditionally. Human love is great as far as it goes, but if we are aware we have probably never loved another person perfectly, and unconditionally, then it is likely we have never been loved perfectly.

Yet the longing for this kind of love persists in us. The gospel message is, in itself, a perfect apologetic, for it comes as a solution to the very nature of the heart’s deepest desire. God loves us unconditionally.

Furthermore, I’ve never met an honest, unpretentious person who fails to recognize that he or she is messed up. We say we believe in love, but we sometimes have sharp words with those we say we love most in the world. We have our high ideals, and often catch ourselves living beneath them. We have standards of behavior we expect of others, but we are often blind to our own transgressions against these expectations.

The apologetic inherent in the gospel message itself is once again made clear. This God who loves us unconditionally is also willing to totally forgive us all our misdeeds and forgive us in Christ.

Furthermore, since we’ve acknowledged our shortcomings and failures, then we’ve also acknowledged our need for assistance to bring order out of the chaos we have created. Again, the apologetic in the gospel is loud and clear: when we ask him, God is willing to enter our lives as Lord and begin the process of restoration.

As we engage in the work of explaining to others the truth of the gospel, we must not let the work of apologetics distract us from the power of the apologetic embedded in the message itself. That is, that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.”

His love, forgiveness, and willingness to be Lord of our lives is the greatest apologetic of all. And it speaks to the deep felt needs of every human heart.



Jerry Root,Ph. D, is Professor of Evangelism atWheaton Collegeand Director of the Evangelism Initiative out of theBilly Graham Center at Wheaton College.




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Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection, the gospel of our salvation, 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 -

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.

patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine Archives
« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2018, 02:56:30 pm »


https://theologyforums.com/index.php?threads/the-myth-of-missionary-neutrality.4177/#post-63725


The Myth of Missionary Neutrality


New From 09/17/18


Everything we do either propels God’s mission forward or hinders the embodiment of his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Cars rarely operate in neutral, but churches do all the time.

Maybe this is because neutral is the normative posture of those who make up the church.

It’s common to hear people speak as if there are three possible positions for life in relation to God. Some are in drive—moving forward in active obedience to the Great Commission. Others are in reverse, demonstrating rebellion against God’s authority and living to undermine God’s mission in the world. The rest are sitting in neutral, somewhere between drive and reverse.

Those in the first position are the missionary superstars of the church. They preach, lead, or better yet, they go across the world to take the gospel to those who’ve never heard. Those in reverse are clear enemies to the gospel. They flaunt their depravity through heinous acts that are universally decried as wicked.

Then there’s everyone else—the mass of humanity who saunters through life in a seemingly neutral posture.

Some of these neutral people profess faith in Jesus yet perceive of their existence as morally and missionally neutral, devoid of meaning most of the time. Others do not believe, however their posture toward life differs little from their neutral, supposedly believing friends. They simply live making decisions and investing time in ways that have little significance beyond the meagre reach of their influence, or so they think.

I (Jeff) write about these themes in my book, Kingdom Matrix, where I suggest that, contrary to this tripartite way of thinking, there are ultimately two, not three, kingdoms in which we can live.

The first is the kingdom of God wherein our lives are caught up in the grand mission of God and infused with worth, value, and significance by virtue of this reality. The second is the kingdom of darkness that defies God’s authority and works to undermine or abate God’s mission through volitional sin or passive apathy.

Far too often we believe in a third kingdom, “a grey territory that would contain the bulk of my time and energy. Not good. Not evil. Just life…The problem with the Third Kingdom is that it doesn’t actually exist” (pg. 28).

My conclusion, while validated by Scripture’s testimony, falls on deaf ears far too often. What happens if we believe this third kingdom defined by missionary neutrality actually exists?

We Compartmentalize Our Lives

The impetus for the pervasive sacred-secular divide is found in neutral. If we erroneously believe that the majority of life is spent plodding through secular activities divorced from God-consciousness, then it’s easy to rationalize neutrality.


The secular domain, so the logic goes, is morally neutral throughout, thus those activities that take place in the majority of our lives spent in what’s typically categorized as “secular” could be quarantined off from those few activities that are overtly Godward and, as such, are either moving forward (honoring God) or moving backward (dishonoring God).

But if, as I’d submit, all of life is sacred and every activity, down to the most mundane, is done as an act of worship unto the Lord, then everything we do either propels God’s mission forward and fosters universal praise of his greatness or hinders the embodiment of his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

We Confuse Mission

Neutrality also confuses the mission of God’s people, suggesting that mission only applies to missionary superstars who devote the totality of their lives to gospel proclamation or to those actions by all the rest of us that fit the normative categorization of evangelism.

As such, only about 1% of the average person’s life would count at “mission,” and that percentage would only apply to the five-star Christians. The other 99% of our investment would not count—time spent showing hospitality, jump starting a neighbor’s car that won’t start, opening our hearts and our wallets to the widow or orphan, or sitting on a kid’s bed comforting them in their tears.

If we remove neutral from the vocabulary of the church, we reframe all of life as mission and animate all of life with God’s missionary purposes.

We Miss Joy

The economy of the kingdom of God redefines value. Those who participate in short-term missions often get a little taste of this truth. They invest money, travel to an unfamiliar context, and give a week to serve in ways they’d gripe about back home.

The result: Joy. Great joy. Joy found in pouring themselves into work that matters. Joy in storing up treasure in heaven. Joy in a sense of participation in God’s mission to save sinners and fix the world.

Joy and mission go hand in hand. When we claim to live in neutral we miss the joy God intended for his people.

If all of life is mission and mission is found in all of life, then we can experience joy in the trivial, hope in the mess, and peace in a life well-lived.

Language shapes culture, as evidenced by the fictitious sense of “neutral” among those who profess faith in Jesus. If we take neutral out of our vocabulary, it forces a reappraisal of every aspect of life in light of the key question: Is this enhancing or undermining the mission of God? There’s no place for neutral in that answer.

Jeff Christopherson is an author and Chief Missiologist and Vice President of the Send Network. He also serves as Co-Executive Director of the Send Institute, a partnership of the Billy Graham Centerat Wheaton College and the North American Mission Board.





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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Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection, the gospel of our salvation, 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 -
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.

patrick jane

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Re: Christianity Today Magazine Archives
« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2018, 03:14:47 am »


https://theologyforums.com/index.php?threads/blessed-are-the-unsatisfied.1689/


Blessed Are the Unsatisfied


We often assume that loneliness and dissatisfaction are symptoms of spiritual failure. But what if they’re signs of healthy faith?


TV preachers like Kenneth Copeland tell us what we often want to hear: “God intends for you to be satisfied in every area of your life.” Christian teacher Joyce Meyer presents a similar formula for Christian living: “God cares about everything about you and everything that concerns you. He wants to be good to you and He will never disappoint you. Give Him all of your heart and put all of your hope and expectation in Him. You can have true contentment and satisfaction in Christ!”

Many people interpret these promises to mean getting what they want. But getting what we want doesn’t deliver what we think it will. Open a search engine and type “It didn’t make me happy” and you’ll find stories of people getting married or divorced, having a family, finding and losing jobs, converting to one religion or another, and gaining and losing weight.

In other words, happiness is a moving target. The stories we hear of miserable lottery winners are about people who bought tickets because they thought winning would make their lives better. Like so many of us, they have discovered a decidedly biblical truth: The places we seek satisfaction often fail to provide it. In fact, they can leave us more miserable.

While most Christians freely embrace the idea that the world doesn’t satisfy, many believe the remedy is to find contentment in a relationship with Christ. As long as we are in relationship with Jesus, he will fill that “God-shaped hole” inside us, and once that hole is filled, we will no longer ache with desire or longing.

The trouble is, while knowing and following Jesus has its priceless rewards and eventually leads to fulfillment, it won’t fully deliver on this promise now. Sometimes obedience makes a person miserable. Sometimes it leads to suffering or even death. Yes, a relationship with God can bring comfort, peace, and even joy in hard circumstances. But it may not bring satisfaction or happiness—at least in complete and lasting form.

My own life lends an example.

For most of my childhood, my family was living on public assistance, food pantry fare, government cheese, and the discounted bread that had passed its expiration date. I believed that if only I had what other people had, my spiritual and emotional hunger would be quelled. My mother was ill and dependent on me and my siblings, and I thought that if only I had a normal family, I would no longer thirst for a more fulfilling life. I lived in the country, then in the city, in decidedly ordinary and overlooked places. I dreamed that if I could go to the exciting and glamorous places or become one of the suburban folks I envied, I would feel like I belonged in this world.

I got some of what I wanted. I went to college, got married, became a professional, earned an adequate income, experienced some success. I became a mother myself, had some adventures, even moved to the suburbs. I went to counseling, did some hard work to heal from the hardships of my youth, and wrote a book sharing my family’s story, which God turned into a ministry to others like us. I studied the Bible, spent a lot of time in prayer, and served in the church.

These years later, however, I’m still not satisfied—not by my life’s circumstances and not by my relationship with God. Does it mean something is wrong with me, or that my faith is weaker than the faith of the people around me who claim they are satisfied? Or might it mean things are as they should be? Which one is it?

Even well-respected teachers like Oswald Chambers lead me to expect something I don’t believe God delivers in this life. In his widely beloved devotional My Utmost for His Highest, Chambers tells us at the beginning of the year that, “When once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely.” He goes on to say, “The saint who is intimate with Jesus will never leave impressions of himself ... because the last abyss of his nature has been satisfied by Jesus.”

My own experience runs contra to this claim. While I have a long way to go (and a deep longing to go there), I am intimate with Jesus, and after walking with him for more than 40 years, I still feel lonely at times. Sometimes I am unsatisfied not only with my ability to reflect Jesus but also with the very quality of my intimacy with him. I strongly suspect that the abyss of my nature has not been entirely satisfied by Jesus. I believe this lack of satisfaction is not a problem—beyond the human condition we hold in common—but rather an indication of spiritual vitality.

In other words, maybe we don’t feel truly satisfied because we aren’t. Maybe God doesn’t want to take away our longings yet. When we grow deeper in faith and closer to Jesus, we’re likely to find ourselves less—not more—satisfied with life here and now.

Scripture gives us evidence of these truths.

Consider just a few of the Old Testament prophets. On the heels of his great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah ran for his life, became depressed and suicidal, and complained to God (inaccurately) that he was the only faithful prophet left alive (1 Kings 19). Jeremiah, also known as “the weeping prophet,” wrote a book called Lamentations. He was hated, rejected, and persecuted for delivering the messages God called him to deliver, and he found himself bemoaning his prophetic calling and cursing the day he was born (Jer. 20).

Jonah was called out for a special job and in desperation tried to run away from God. After a time of deep repentance and prayer, he committed himself to God’s mission; then, when his preaching actually made his audience repent and turn toward God, Jonah was so discouraged he became suicidal. Oddly, that’s how Jonah stands as the book ends.

What about Jesus himself? Was he satisfied by his life in this world? “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isa. 53:3). He wept over Jerusalem, matter-of-factly told a potential follower that following him would be no picnic, and lost his temper over corruption in the temple. When he faced death by crucifixion, he spent the night in prayer and told his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

Of course, we cannot experience what Jesus experienced. We’ll never understand what it meant for him to don human form with its limitations, pains, and sorrows. But like Jesus, we should be uncomfortable here. We should be unsatisfied by what we experience in this life. We were made for another world, and God wants his people to long for it.

As a promise of things to come, Christ gave us his Holy Spirit. Having this source of living water within makes us even thirstier for what the Holy Spirit offers. The 18th-century Baptist theologian John Gill understood this “now-not-yet” nature of faith. He wrote,

Thirsty persons are invited to take and drink of the water of life freely, and are pronounced blessed; and it is promised, that they shall be filled, or satisfied; yet not so in this life, that they shall never thirst or desire more; for as they need more grace, and it is promised them, they thirst after it, and desire it; and the more they taste and partake of it, the more they desire it.

Anyone who lives with the Holy Spirit knows it’s possible for us to choose whether to follow his leading, choose whether to draw on his resources. And anyone who is honest knows we all do this imperfectly, and our spiritual, emotional, relational, and mental thirst does not go away when the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us. Instead, the Holy Spirit acts as a seal on a promise God has made for our future (Eph. 1:13–14).

Yes, someday our thirst will be fully quenched. Someday we will “never thirst.” But that day is not yet here.




This excerpt was adapted from Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World by Amy Simpson, releasing on February 13, 2018. ©2018 by Amy Simpson. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426. Simpson is a life & leadership coach, speaker, and author. You can find her at AmySimpson.com and on Twitter @aresimpson.



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Hearing, believing and trusting the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection, the gospel of our salvation, 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 -

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 Archives
« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2018, 11:17:02 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/february/evangelicals-gun-laws-max-lucado-pat-robertson-parkland.html



Evangelicals from Max Lucado to Pat Robertson Urge Action on Gun Safety


Even America’s most gun-friendly religious group agrees with the rest of the nation on certain proposals to limit access.

 
White evangelicals hold the same views as most Americans on many proposals to restrict access to guns, but are also among the biggest advocates for a more divisive idea that has come up following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting: arming classroom teachers.

Along with Americans across religious groups, white evangelicals strongly support laws to prevent people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns and to require background checks to purchase firearms at gun shows or through private sales, according to 2017 Pew Research Center data provided to CT.

Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) of both white evangelicals and Americans overall endorse mental illness restrictions, while about 8 in 10 white evangelicals (80%) and Americans overall (84%) favor the expanded use of background checks.

Though white evangelicals tend to be less eager to see the government adopt stricter gun laws, they actually show similar levels of support for individual policy measures as the rest of the country.

White evangelicals resemble Americans on average when it comes to banning gun sales to those on federal no-fly or terrorist watch lists (86% vs. 83%) as well as banning assault-style weapons, such as the AR-15 used in several recent mass shootings (63% vs. 68%), Pew reported. (Though two-thirds of black Protestants identify as evangelicals, Pew could not break them out on many questions due to small sample size.)

Last week, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) founder Pat Robertson spoke out in favor of banning automatic weapons and using background checks to screen for mental illness. A group of 15 evangelical leaders has launched a petition urging fellow believers to call for “common-sense gun laws” in addition to praying over the threat of gun violence.

“We’ve been actively reaching out to evangelical leaders, mostly behind the scenes, and are finding many that are distressed by our seemingly unrestrained enthusiasm for easy gun access,” Rob Schenck, the pastor behind the Prayers and Action petition as well as an acclaimed 2015 documentary on gun policy, told The Huffington Post.

“The perception that all evangelicals have a kind of bloodlust for firearms, that’s not true, particularly when it comes to under-40 evangelicals and their pastors.”


A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted just days after the February 14 mass shooting—the deadliest high school shooting in American history—found that a majority of all self-identified evangelicals (not just whites) favored stricter gun laws.

Evangelicals (58%) were more likely than conservatives (46%) and Republicans (45%) to support gun control reform, with 1 in 3 strongly supporting stricter laws, the poll found. But its multiethnic evangelical sample was still less likely than voters on average (64%) to back stricter laws, with nearly a quarter “strongly opposed” (more than any other religious group).

Further Politico/Morning Consult polling showed similar trends as last year’s Pew data. Self-identified evangelicals and voters overall were further apart on broad sentiments about guns than specific reform measures.

In the poll, conducted in the past week, evangelicals were less likely than American voters overall to support stricter gun laws (60% vs. 68%) or making gun law reform a congressional priority (57% vs. 64%).

They resembled Americans on average on issues such as universal background checks (87% of evangelicals vs. 88% of all voters), bans on sales for those on the no-fly and watch lists (82% of both groups), and efforts to prevent sales to people “reported as dangerous to law enforcement by a mental health provider” (88% of evangelicals vs. 89% of all voters).

“It’s wise to examine existing gun laws and ask if there changes or additions that need to be made, and also ask whether the myriad of relevant laws already on the books are being adequately enforced,” Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, wrote in a blog post Tuesday. “This is the role of our legislature.”

He went on to say that gun reform would not be enough to prevent mass shootings. “The current debate has to be about more than guns,” Daly said. “What’s being protested is a symptom of a much larger problem. You cannot legislate away evil. No laws on the books can change the human heart.”

Despite their support for various restrictions, Pew found that white evangelicals still stand out on policies related to gun owners’ rights.

They are significantly more likely to endorse policies to expand concealed carry locations, with 28 percent wanting to see concealed carry allowed in more places, compared to 19 percent of mainline Protestants or unaffiliated Americans and 17 percent of Catholics, according to Pew.

White evangelicals are also the religious group most likely to get behind the idea of allowing K-12 teachers to carry guns in the classroom as a protective measure, with 31 percent in favor. Just 18 percent of Americans on average want to see teachers armed.

This proposal, endorsed by President Donald Trump, has generated a lot of discussion on both sides after the Parkland shooting.

“I am a teacher, and I am a Christian. If our government wants to force me to carry a gun, they can call me a conscientious objector,” Seattle-area teacher Ryan Morey wrote. “Some trust in horses and others in chariots, I will praise the Lord. I will not live by the sword, but I will trust in God. I will love my neighbor—even my enemies.”

Supporters believe that educators with firearms could deter would-be school shooters or stop them before they kill students; at least eight states currently permit some teachers to carry firearms on school property.

As CT reported in its examination of Pew’s data on who loves God and guns, evangelicals themselves are more likely than members of other faith groups or the average citizen to own a firearm. But the most faithful aren’t packing the most heat:





Americans who attend religious services weekly were less likely to own a gun than those who attend less frequently (27% vs. 31%). And Americans with a high level of religious commitment were less likely to own a gun than those whose commitment is low (26% vs. 33%).

Meanwhile, churchgoing gun owners are more likely to belong to the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has been targeted in the latest round of advocacy for stricter gun laws:

Highly religious gun owners are twice as likely to belong to the NRA as less religious gun owners (24% vs. 12%). Gun owners who worship weekly are also more likely to join the NRA (23%) than those who don’t worship as often (18%).

A quarter of gun-owning white evangelicals as well as white mainliners are members of the NRA, more than gun-owning nones (10%), Catholics (21%), or Americans overall (19%).




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Re: Christianity Today Magazine Archives
« Reply #18 on: November 17, 2018, 11:44:09 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/january/arab-church-leaders-trump-refugee-ban-persecuted-christians.html


What Arab Church Leaders Think of Trump Prioritizing Persecuted Christian Refugees


Middle East believers appreciate the sentiment of the new president’s executive order. But not its strategy.

 
Married in December to a Syrian woman with American citizenship, Fadi Hallisso went to Beirut to apply for a green card.

A Syrian Christian, Hallisso has worked with refugees in Lebanon since 2012. Funded by different American agencies, he was no stranger to the US government. He even testified about the situation in Syria to the US State Department and to Harvard Divinity School.

But this week, Hallisso was told he was no longer welcome to apply. The new Trump administration said so.

“It is very humiliating to be put in the category of potential terrorist,” said Hallisso. “Just because I carry a certain passport.”

As more details of President Donald Trump’s new policies emerge—including a promise to prioritize Christian refugees for resettlement in America—much appears lost in translation.

“This executive order has created a new atmosphere very hostile to people in the region,” said Chawkat Moucarry, World Vision’s director for interfaith relations—and Hallisso’s uncle. “Unwritten rules seem to be implemented as a result.”

Is Trump’s executive order on refugees a “Muslim ban”? Is it not? Is it prudent? As American Christians debate these questions from the small towns of Middle America to the nation’s major airports, so also Arab Christians are trying to figure out what is going on.

“I read the executive order,” said Adeeb Awad, chief editor of al-Nashra, the monthly magazine of the Presbyterian Synod of Syria and Lebanon. He remarked upon its temporary nature and—in his estimation—its reasonable restrictions and its actual improvement upon the upper limits of refugee acceptance. He particularly appreciated that the order did not contain discriminatory religious language.

Instead, Awad lashed out at the actions of President Barack Obama and previous US presidents, and the damage they did to the region. “It was the policies before Trump which hurt Middle Eastern Christians and other minorities more than anything else,” he said. “Especially in Iraq and Syria.”

Moucarry, born and raised in Syria and author of several InterVarsity Press books that help evangelicals engage Islam, is also critical of the region’s wars. But also of the potential outcome of Trump’s executive order.

“This policy will encourage Christians to migrate,” he said, “which is exactly what Christian leaders in Syria are fighting against.

“It is important for Christians to live in Muslim countries,” he said. “Because through them, Muslims will learn to accept the other. We must learn this principle in order to have a democratic society.

“Extremists say there is only one way to think or believe,” Moucarry continued. “So keeping Christians in the area is an indirect way to counter extremism and learn that diversity is good.”

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, primate of the Eastern Catholic Church, went further. In remarks to Agenzia Fides, the news agency of the Vatican, he criticized Trump’s orders harshly.

“Every reception policy that discriminates the persecuted and suffering on religious grounds ultimately harms the Christians of the East,” said Sako.

Such rhetoric feeds into tensions with Muslims, and paints Christians as lackeys of the West. “[It is] a trap,” he told Fides. “We do not want privileges.”

Bishop Angaelos, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, agrees that placing religious categories on refugees, immigration, and travel has the potential to provoke greater antagonism and give rise to reciprocal actions. (Already, Iraq has responded by banning Americans from visiting.) Thus, vulnerable Christian minorities in the Middle East could be adversely affected.

But he also believes it is “patronizing” to tell beleaguered Christians to stay in the Middle East. “It is a choice of life and death,” said Angaelos. “It is not about maintenance of the church or their community. We have to support them no matter what their decision.”

Above all, he urges that this discussion take place with sensitivity and respect for the biblical values of indiscriminate hospitality, love, acceptance, forgiveness, and mercy.

“Without these values, our world will become a much more hostile place,” said Angaelos. “They safeguard against our human tendencies to seek revenge, or to act in ways no different from those who seek to harm us.”

Andrea Zaki, president of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches, warned of the danger to American moral leadership.

“The US is considered the superpower of the world,” he said, “but it will lose its credibility and be considered as a nation that discriminated against Islam. There should be no double standard.”

Similar to all the Arab church leaders interviewed by CT, Zaki—who also leads the Protestant Churches of Egypt—recognizes the right of governments to protect their borders and their people.

He agrees that, though there should be no blanket list of restricted visitors, it might be appropriate to publicly state “reservations” about certain countries. But he believes that this must not be based on any religion—even regarding radicals.

Unlike other leaders, though, Zaki thinks the impact of Trump’s executive order on Middle East Christians will be minimal. But if anything, it will hurt Christians more than help them.

“When you talk about religious discrimination of Christians alone, it does not help us,” he said. “Only if you discuss discrimination against all minorities.”

Moucarry agrees. “Favoring people [like Christians] on the basis of their faith rather than their needs is definitely discriminatory and contrary to the Bible’s teaching,” he said.

Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis, primate of the Anglican province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, was also critical of the executive order. He called Trump’s solution “naïve.” Based on generalization and discrimination, he said, it will not help American security in any way.

Instead, Anis called upon the United States to accept more refugees. “Much poorer nations like Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt have been accommodating the thousands that the United States is turning away,” he said.

Jesus was also a refugee, said Anis, and the Bible demands a compassionate welcome. But in his heart, he does not want to see his fellow Arab Christians leave.

“The Middle East will not be the Middle East without Middle Eastern Christians,” he said. “The beautiful mosaic will suffer, as will the witness to Christ’s love among all the peoples of the region.”




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Re: Christianity Today Magazine Archives
« Reply #19 on: December 05, 2018, 10:04:13 pm »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/biblical-preaching-geiger.html


What is Biblical Preaching? The Messenger and the Message


an ongoing series on biblical preaching

 
In the last decade I have invested a lot of time in public speaking. With employee meetings, plenary sessions, breakouts at conferences, consulting ministry leaders, and speaking on books I have written, I have given hundreds and hundreds of leadership and ministry presentations. I have also preached weekly for the last several years as executive pastor, teaching pastor, interim pastor, and now a bi-vocational senior pastor. Preaching is different. In both the burden of responsibility and the eternal impact, preaching the Word of God to a congregation of His people far outweighs speaking on other subjects. Preaching differs from other speaking in that the message we deliver is the only message that will endure forever (Isaiah 40:8), the only message that brings someone to saving faith (Romans 10:17), and the only message that can transform the human heart (1 Peter 1:23).

So how do I define preaching—the sacred stewardship of handling the Scripture and presenting it to a group of people? Because a messenger delivers a message, I want to focus on both aspects of preaching: the messenger and the message.

The Messenger


Aristotle taught that effective communicators possess ethos (credibility), pathos (passion), and logos (logic). All three are essential; as they increase, so does the power of the presentation. Though not designed for those of us who preach the life-giving message of Christ, the applications are clear.

Ethos [Credibility]

The fable of the boy who cried wolf taught us from a young age that true messages are not heard when they are delivered from people who are deemed untrustworthy. A preacher without credibility is a preacher whose message won’t really be heard. Which means we must repent before we ask those who hear us to repent. The apostle Paul challenged Timothy to “watch his life and his doctrine closely” (1 Timothy 4:16). A preacher whose life does not match the message will quickly lose the street cred to stand and declare truth.


Pathos [Passion]
The famous preacher John Wesley is said to have proclaimed, “Light yourself on fire and people will come from miles to watch you burn.” Our affections for the Lord and His Word must be stirred if the people we serve are going to clearly see the beauty of His holiness and grace. May we be like Jeremiah who was unable to be silent because the message was like fire in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9).

Logos [Logic]
Martyn Lloyd-Jones described preaching as “logic on fire.” We must bring truth and substance, not just flash and style. The content of our message must be deeply rooted in Jesus and His Word and for the people to whom we are speaking, which brings us to the message…

The Message
While there are surely better definitions of the message that the messenger preaches, here is my aim when I preach the Word: “Teach Christ and the text in their context.” The aim is three-fold and implores the communicator to keep Christ, the text being studied, and the people in view.

Preach Christ
The apostle Paul reminded those he ministered to in the city of Corinth that he decided to know nothing among you “except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). It is possible to teach a passage and not teach Christ’s work for us, but doing so isn’t faithful to the whole story of Scripture and fails to change hearts with the grace of Jesus. Of his preaching Charles Spurgeon said, “I take my text and make a bee-line to the cross.” In other words, he would walk through the text while simultaneously moving people to Christ and the cross as quickly as possible. So I want to bring people to Jesus every week. I seek to pull up from the text to the grand story of Scripture and show how we need Jesus and how He is for us.

And The Text
While we must point people to Christ continually, we must also properly expound the text we are teaching. In his book “Preaching,” Tim Keller advocates this balance: “We have a balance to strike—not to preach Christ without preaching the text, and not to preach the text without preaching Christ.” The Scripture must be expounded. Preachers who don’t hold tightly to the truth, trustworthiness, and power of the Word will find something else, and something less, to expound. After declaring that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable to equip believers (2 Timothy 3:16), the apostle Paul gave a simple command to Timothy: “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). The Lord uses His Word to form His people more into His image, to sanctify them. In the research behind one of the books I co-authored, Transformational Discipleship, we discovered that the biggest impact on a person’s spiritual growth is engagement in the Bible. If people don’t see their preachers holding tightly to the Word in their messages, we are foolish to think they will hold tightly to the Word in their own lives.

In Their Context
My aim is not only to teach Christ and the text, but also to place the life-changing message in the context of those listening. We must not only love the message we are stewarding, but we must also love the people who are listening. Without love, preachers are merely resounding gongs and clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1), clutter without compassion. Anglican preacher Richard Cecil stated, “To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach quite another.” To place the message in the context of those listening is to be faithful to how the Lord has served us, stepping into this broken world to rescue us. He also placed the written Word in modern street language; as Calvin Miller reminded us: “We must remember that the New Testament was not born in colonnaded Greek. Koine Greek is, of course, ‘street’ Greek. The gospel of Christ was written in friendly street language.”

Preaching is more sacred than any other type of speaking. We hold the faultless Word of God and represent Christ to those who listen. For this reason, I want to be filled with credibility, passion, and logic. And I aim to preach Christ and the text in their context.



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Re: Christianity Today Magazine Archives
« Reply #20 on: December 06, 2018, 10:14:18 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/biblical-preaching-geiger.html


What is Biblical Preaching? The Messenger and the Message


an ongoing series on biblical preaching

 
In the last decade I have invested a lot of time in public speaking. With employee meetings, plenary sessions, breakouts at conferences, consulting ministry leaders, and speaking on books I have written, I have given hundreds and hundreds of leadership and ministry presentations. I have also preached weekly for the last several years as executive pastor, teaching pastor, interim pastor, and now a bi-vocational senior pastor. Preaching is different. In both the burden of responsibility and the eternal impact, preaching the Word of God to a congregation of His people far outweighs speaking on other subjects. Preaching differs from other speaking in that the message we deliver is the only message that will endure forever (Isaiah 40:8), the only message that brings someone to saving faith (Romans 10:17), and the only message that can transform the human heart (1 Peter 1:23).

So how do I define preaching—the sacred stewardship of handling the Scripture and presenting it to a group of people? Because a messenger delivers a message, I want to focus on both aspects of preaching: the messenger and the message.

The Messenger


Aristotle taught that effective communicators possess ethos (credibility), pathos (passion), and logos (logic). All three are essential; as they increase, so does the power of the presentation. Though not designed for those of us who preach the life-giving message of Christ, the applications are clear.

Ethos [Credibility]

The fable of the boy who cried wolf taught us from a young age that true messages are not heard when they are delivered from people who are deemed untrustworthy. A preacher without credibility is a preacher whose message won’t really be heard. Which means we must repent before we ask those who hear us to repent. The apostle Paul challenged Timothy to “watch his life and his doctrine closely” (1 Timothy 4:16). A preacher whose life does not match the message will quickly lose the street cred to stand and declare truth.


Pathos [Passion]
The famous preacher John Wesley is said to have proclaimed, “Light yourself on fire and people will come from miles to watch you burn.” Our affections for the Lord and His Word must be stirred if the people we serve are going to clearly see the beauty of His holiness and grace. May we be like Jeremiah who was unable to be silent because the message was like fire in his bones (Jeremiah 20:9).

Logos [Logic]
Martyn Lloyd-Jones described preaching as “logic on fire.” We must bring truth and substance, not just flash and style. The content of our message must be deeply rooted in Jesus and His Word and for the people to whom we are speaking, which brings us to the message…

The Message
While there are surely better definitions of the message that the messenger preaches, here is my aim when I preach the Word: “Teach Christ and the text in their context.” The aim is three-fold and implores the communicator to keep Christ, the text being studied, and the people in view.

Preach Christ
The apostle Paul reminded those he ministered to in the city of Corinth that he decided to know nothing among you “except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). It is possible to teach a passage and not teach Christ’s work for us, but doing so isn’t faithful to the whole story of Scripture and fails to change hearts with the grace of Jesus. Of his preaching Charles Spurgeon said, “I take my text and make a bee-line to the cross.” In other words, he would walk through the text while simultaneously moving people to Christ and the cross as quickly as possible. So I want to bring people to Jesus every week. I seek to pull up from the text to the grand story of Scripture and show how we need Jesus and how He is for us.

And The Text
While we must point people to Christ continually, we must also properly expound the text we are teaching. In his book “Preaching,” Tim Keller advocates this balance: “We have a balance to strike—not to preach Christ without preaching the text, and not to preach the text without preaching Christ.” The Scripture must be expounded. Preachers who don’t hold tightly to the truth, trustworthiness, and power of the Word will find something else, and something less, to expound. After declaring that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable to equip believers (2 Timothy 3:16), the apostle Paul gave a simple command to Timothy: “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). The Lord uses His Word to form His people more into His image, to sanctify them. In the research behind one of the books I co-authored, Transformational Discipleship, we discovered that the biggest impact on a person’s spiritual growth is engagement in the Bible. If people don’t see their preachers holding tightly to the Word in their messages, we are foolish to think they will hold tightly to the Word in their own lives.

In Their Context
My aim is not only to teach Christ and the text, but also to place the life-changing message in the context of those listening. We must not only love the message we are stewarding, but we must also love the people who are listening. Without love, preachers are merely resounding gongs and clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1), clutter without compassion. Anglican preacher Richard Cecil stated, “To love to preach is one thing, to love those to whom we preach quite another.” To place the message in the context of those listening is to be faithful to how the Lord has served us, stepping into this broken world to rescue us. He also placed the written Word in modern street language; as Calvin Miller reminded us: “We must remember that the New Testament was not born in colonnaded Greek. Koine Greek is, of course, ‘street’ Greek. The gospel of Christ was written in friendly street language.”

Preaching is more sacred than any other type of speaking. We hold the faultless Word of God and represent Christ to those who listen. For this reason, I want to be filled with credibility, passion, and logic. And I aim to preach Christ and the text in their context.



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Above "“It is very humiliating to be put in the category of potential terrorist,” said Hallisso. “Just because I carry a certain passport.”"

It is unfortunate for these people,however: There are a lot of those who claim to be Christians for purposes beyond this Post. Until they are thoroughly vetted, they do not need to come into this country.

Blade
1 Cor 15:3-4.."For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:"

Acts 17:11.."These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
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Re: Christianity Today Magazine Archives
« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2019, 10:49:23 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/christian-culture-three-ways-to-engage-with-your-neighbor.html




The Christian & Culture: Three Ways to Engage with Your Neighbor




The Great Commandment and the Golden Rule make us better listeners.

 
One of the things I enjoy doing is following politics and public discourse. I think it’s important for all of us to stay in the loop on what is happening in the world and in American life. More than that, however, I think it’s important to engage in these things. But it’s an understatement to say that much of what happens in public discourse is less than pretty. Unfortunately, this often includes Christians.

The last several U.S. Presidential elections have revealed the division in our culture. The amount of true discussion and debate over the issues of greatest importance has taken a back seat to well-crafted one-liners delivered at just the right time for maximum rhetorical impact. A lot of time is spent talking past each other instead of listening to each other.

But this goes beyond politics. I have seen an increasing entrenchment in our views and a vilification of people with other views. When this is the case, we are not going to work together. How do we dialogue for the common good and with the goal of solutions? I don’t hear a lot of people talking about that.

Sure, Evangelicals have many problems with where culture is going, and rightly so. But we aren’t getting far with the culture in our discourse with them. Why? I think the answer is engagement. In my book, Subversive Kingdom, I argue that we shouldn’t be about control. Rather, we should be seeking to live as agents of the kingdom who are showing and sharing the love of Christ to a world that’s hurting. But how do we get to that place of engagement?

Let me list three simple and biblical ways to wisely engage with our neighbors and our culture, regardless of how difficult an issue may be.

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

First, love your neighbor as yourself. As many of us have heard this preached or taught it ourselves, to love our neighbor is to see him or her as God does and to care for him or her as God would have us.

While we can, and should, describe love as more than feelings (which I’ll do below), I want to focus here on that feeling of love—to truly feel love for our neighbor. Love means we see people as creatures made in God’s image.

If you want to cultivate a heart that loves your neighbor, know your own heart better. Once we begin to seek to understand our own hearts, we will realize that we (not those with whom we are dialoguing) are the chief of sinners. Realizing this will break us, humble us, and open our eyes to see people as we’ve never seen them. That, in turn, will enable us to love them as we’ve never loved them. This leads to my next point.

Practice the Golden Rule
Second, love leads us to practice the Golden Rule: “Whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them” (Matt. 7:12). It’s unfortunate that one of the most practical and powerful teachings in scripture and from the lips of the Savior is often too quickly said and too rarely practiced. When love for neighbor is genuine and deeply felt, it changes not only what we feel for others, but also how we treat others.

The Bible includes many passages that illustrate what treating others as we want to be treated looks like. We are to consider others as more important and to look out for their interests (Phil. 2:3-4). We are to bear others’ burdens (Gal. 6:2). What if we looked at those with whom we disagree through the eyes called to bear burdens? What if we were more concerned for them than ourselves?

If we are honest, we want to be understood and be listened to. Unfortunately, too often we don’t remember that others may feel the same. They, too, are just looking for affirmation and a listening ear.

Without love, we are just clanging cymbals (1 Cor. 13:1) in the public sphere or in our coffee shop conversations. Love is the fuel for disagreeing without being disagreeable. Love elevates our dialogue and seeks the greatest good.

My goal when I critique someone else’s position is that he or she would say that I have articulated his or her position correctly even though we disagree on the position itself. Without love, people and arguments are demoted to caricatures.

Be Quick to Hear, Slow to Speak, and Slow to Anger
Finally, we need to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). Following these words, James explains that our anger doesn’t accomplish God’s righteousness. This may be one of the best ways to explain what the Golden Rule looks like in an actual conversation.

As we engage with those who have different perspectives and opinions, we should focus on listening. Too often, we ‘engage’ by preparing our responses while others are still laying out their case. We can do better by listening well.

It not only makes us respond better, but it shows that we respect the person with whom we are dialoguing. We speak best when we know what someone says, what we are saying, and how we should say it. Good listening leads to good understanding, and good understanding leads to good and accurate responses.

Then, when the person responds, we refuse to get easily angered and offended. We keep focused on the discourse and not the attacks.

True Christian Discourse
Christian leaders must teach the values of civil public discourse. Before we expect it from others, we must model the path. This starts with obeying the Great Commandment to love your neighbor and following the Golden Rule. It makes us better listeners, wise as to when and how to use our words, and not easily offended or angered.

More than a good zinger or a clever quip to try to win an argument, we should desire real discourse for the good of the causes we believe in and for the good of the world that we care to convince.






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Re: Christianity Today Magazine Archives
« Reply #22 on: March 26, 2019, 09:47:56 pm »





Fundamentalists, Modernists, and the Rest of the Story
Early 20th-century evangelical history was more than two camps lobbing grenades at each other.
ELESHA COFFMAN| MAY 9, 2017




Early 20th-century evangelical history was more than two camps lobbing grenades at each other.

 
Geoffrey Treloar’s The Disruption of Evangelicalism: The Age of Torrey, Mott, McPherson and Hammond feels like the culmination of a very long project. Back in 2003, historian Mark Noll inaugurated InterVarsity Press’s five-volume series on the history of evangelicalism with The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys. He described the series as a whole, in the introduction to that book, as accessible to any reader, yet footnoted for scholars; global in scope, though grounded in the English-speaking world; and centered on “evangelical religion, as understood by the evangelicals themselves” while attending to historical context. Subsequent volumes appeared in chronological order, except for this one, which marks the end of the series but covers the penultimate time period, 1900–1940.

The early 20th century is generally considered the low point in the long sweep of evangelical history. Superstar evangelist Dwight L. Moody died in 1899, and his mantle would not be taken up by Billy Graham until after World War II. Key events, including World War I, the Great Depression, and the rise of fascism in Europe, offered little to cheer. The period also saw the infamous fundamentalist-modernist controversy, which split numerous denominations and religious institutions along lines of biblical interpretation, doctrine, openness to scientific inquiry, and posture toward the outside world.

In a move reminiscent of the “new academic hagiography” advocated by historian Rick Kennedy (see Chris Gehrz’s post at The Pietist Schoolman blog), Treloar seeks to rehabilitate this era, casting it as a time not of narrowness and rancor but of breadth and creativity. Instead of two hardened camps, fundamentalist and modernist, lobbing rhetorical shells between their respective seminaries, Treloar describes a wide spectrum of evangelicals with most of its vitality at the center. “Not all fundamentalists were the same; liberals varied in the degree of their liberality; and the centre was broad,” he writes. This perspective rescues little-known figures from obscurity, both expanding the roster of evangelicals and marking finer shades of differentiation among them.

A Wider Frame
The spectrum approach is a major strength and weakness for the book. On the positive side, Treloar is able to show how evangelicals accommodated differences of opinion on such matters as the role of the Holy Spirit and the need to balance evangelism with social service activities. Beneath the din of the strident voices that dominate other accounts of this period, Treloar argues, most evangelicals endeavored merely to live holy lives and make the world a little better for their neighbors, and they made good strides in both areas. At the level of leadership, rather than a cacophony of divisive, desperate attempts to make faith relevant in the modern era, Treloar sees a “flourishing of evangelical theology,” brimming with outstanding contributions from the center-left and center-right. Overall, Treloar deems early 20th-century evangelicals to have been enthusiastically ecumenical, a corrective to their portrayal as relentlessly fissiparous.

But the spectrum approach also proves unruly. A dizzying array of figures populate these pages, with the individuals mentioned in the subtitle making only token appearances. (Thomas Chatterton Hammond, a little-known Irish-Australian clergyman, shows up on page 199, while the flamboyant Pentecostal preacher Aimee Semple McPherson does not arrive until page 214.)

The right end of the spectrum comes into focus as fundamentalists separate themselves from evangelicalism—a development that Treloar insists took place after World War I, even though The Fundamentals were published between 1910 and 1915. But the left end remains vague, as Treloar stretches it to include men such as the progressive Woodrow Wilson, the socialist Sherwood Eddy, and the Federal Council of Churches architect Samuel McCrea Cavert. Considering that evangelicals defined themselves against the very things that these men stood for, it makes little sense to tuck them cozily under one big tent.

Treloar’s attention to the wider English-speaking world is also a strength and a weakness of the book. Of the five authors in the series, only one (Noll) was based in the United States, and this perspective means that readers familiar with only American evangelical history encounter much new material. Treloar, an Australian, taps archival sources not commonly used by American scholars and melds voices from around the British Commonwealth into the debates he covers. In this way, he makes good on the series’s promise to help explain how a movement once limited to the (impressive) ambit of George Whitefield’s travels came to circle the globe. This is not just an American, or even just a transatlantic, story.

Understandably, however, wide geographic focus comes at the expense of contextual specificity. It is not clear, for example, that all of the voices Treloar brings into his discussions thought of themselves as interlocutors or even knew of one another’s existence. He does not describe the circulation of the periodicals he uses as primary sources or map connections among the church and parachurch organizations to which people belonged. As a result, the first and last thirds of the book feel abstract, like a meeting of minds who likely never met. A sense of disembodiment is not uncommon in works of intellectual and theological history, but accounts of real-time arguments help to bring such works down to earth. Personality conflicts and ideological fisticuffs are in short supply here.

The middle third of the book is quite different. It focuses on World War I, an event that Treloar contends has been under-studied in religious history. (Philip Jenkins’s The Great and Holy War, which was published too recently to contribute more than a footnote to Treloar’s book, begins to fill this gap, but much more can and should be written.) This section is firmly, and often movingly, rooted in historical context, describing the ways men mobilized and ministered, doubted, and died.

The problem in this section is that the gradations of evangelical belief and practice that figure so prominently in other parts of the book start to disappear. Some of this blurring is warranted, historically, as the war made common cause among people who might otherwise disagree about the chronology of Genesis 1 or the role of indigenous leaders in global missions. Here, though, Treloar writes of “evangelicals” who are undifferentiated among themselves or from anyone else. Sample sentences, from the span of a few pages in chapter 6, read, “Evangelicals were well aware of the temptations that accompanied military life. … Evangelical ideals of womanhood readily adapted to the demands of war. … The norm among evangelicals was a measured acceptance of the war and the resolution to do what they could to secure victory on both the home and foreign fronts.” None of these sentences is footnoted to a source for greater elaboration. It is impossible to discern precisely who or what Treloar is describing.

The End of an Era
The Disruption of Evangelicalism not only marks the end of a five-book series but also suggests the end of an era in evangelical scholarship. In the acknowledgements for volume 1, Noll thanks the “network of historians connected by Wheaton College’s Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals,” an institute that Noll and fellow historian Nathan Hatch founded in 1982. The ISAE was one of several ventures (including conferences, fellowship programs, and the magazine Books & Culture) established in the 1980s and ’90s to study and further evangelicalism. These ventures drew funding from the Lilly Endowment, Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Luce Foundation, and they involved an identifiable cohort of scholars, almost all of them white, male, theologically attuned, self-identified evangelicals. In scholarly circles, these men were sometimes jokingly called the “evangelical mafia.”

The ISAE shut down in 2014. Books & Culture followed in 2016. Noll and other members of the “evangelical mafia” have retired or moved into administrative positions. Books about evangelicals continue to appear steadily, but fewer and fewer of them reflect the sympathetic, theologically-centered insider perspective of the previous generation’s work. To cite just a few recent examples, Bethany Moreton, Timothy Gloege, Kevin Kruse, and Darren Grem have all examined the influence of American business cultures on evangelicalism. In addition to this “business turn,” gender and sexuality have become central concerns in studies of evangelicalism. Work on evangelical ideas, such as Molly Worthen’s Apostles of Reason, has become more pointed. The current bestselling book on the topic, Frances Fitzgerald’s The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, focuses on politics rather than on theology, is highly critical of evangelicalism, and is written by an East Coast journalist with numerous writing awards but no insider credentials. The field is changing, dramatically.

Treloar writes about one era of disruption in evangelicalism. His book appears at another. It remains to be seen whether polarization will rend the movement this time or if theological creativity and a robust, irenic center can emerge again to carry the day.




Elesha Coffman is assistant professor of history at Baylor University and author of The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline (Oxford University Press).










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Re: Christianity Today Magazine Archives
« Reply #23 on: May 01, 2019, 08:01:12 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/april-web-only/my-prayer-for-christianity-today.html





My Prayer for Christianity Today






The ministry's president and CEO bids farewell.

 
On May 1, Harold Smith will retire as president and CEO of Christianity Today and assume the honorary title of president emeritus. In drawing his administration to a close, Smith addressed Christianity Today’s board of directors in Charlotte, North Carolina, on April 23 on both the need to remain vision focused and on the challenges seeking to redirect that vision in the days ahead. The following are his edited remarks.

These are truly exciting days for the ministry of Christianity Today. The selection and arrival of Tim Dalrymple as our next chief executive has brought me a sense of great joy even as it has excited the ministry as a whole. And I must again publically thank God that my timing in asking Tim to join CT back in 2013 was not God’s timing.

God’s timing is now!

And with that timing will come someone whose vision for CT is expansive, is media forward, is global, is beautifully orthodox. Everything that is needed for CT as it seeks to be a rallying point for thoughtful Christ-followers in the years to come.

But even as we look forward to all the new and exciting opportunities that Tim will unquestionably open up, my heartfelt prayer is that we will never lose sight of the threefold vision that the Spirit of God himself set upon this ministry through our founder Billy Graham all those years ago.

First, would we faithfully continue to maintain a tone of “conviction and love”—one of Graham’s favorite phrases—in everything we publish in print, pixels, over podcasts, on video, and across future media platforms unknown to us today. The depth of our biblical understanding and the irenic tone of its presentation are needed now more than ever...

Perhaps Graham himself said it best:

Believing that a great host of true Christians, whose faith has been impaired, are today earnestly seeking for a faith to live by and a message to proclaim, Christianity Today dedicates itself to the presentation of the reasonableness and effectiveness of the Christian evangel. This we undertake with sincere Christian love for those who may differ with us, and with whom we may be compelled to differ, and with the assurance in our hearts that God's Holy Spirit alone can activate any vital witness for Him.

Second, and always set in the context of this tone, would we faithfully continue to showcase the best of Christian thought. The best of the Christian mind.

Evangelicals really do have something to say to the church and to the cultures we find ourselves in—something I’ve tried to assure younger, frustrated believers who view the term evangelical as but a synonym for bigoted or a label for someone who is closed minded, unloving.

In response to this caricature—and even as Graham himself found in helping evangelicals lend their voices to the public square—we need to thoughtfully, winsomely showcase the message of reconciliation and love in our commentary and reporting. And in the end we need to leave those who engage our content on whatever media platform with hope.

Third and finally, would we faithfully continue to expand the reach of our content to the uttermost parts of the world.

Mr. Graham’s global vision for this ministry was prescient. The evangelist envisioned no fewer than 100 correspondents worldwide reporting on the works and wonders of God.

For much of my administration, I have reflected upon what God might have us do in his name in partnership with the burgeoning global church. As I have prayed about this, I have re-envisioned Graham’s expanding list of global contributors to include women and men who can not only report the news from their part of the world but offer theological commentary on trends that are increasingly finding expression and influence globally. For the edification of all those who seek to be faithful servants of the risen Christ.

I have envisioned helping train up these global contributors in their reportorial and writing skills, perhaps working more collaboratively with other ministries that have made this training their primary ministry calling.

I have envisioned an expanding community of digital communicators not only feeding CT content but providing content for other national Christian outlets as we together seek to build up Christ’s church.

And from this, I have envisioned a more connected church, one that listens to one another, rejoices together, cries together, and prays together across borders for the continuing movement of God.

A big vision to be sure. But one rooted in the understanding that media today moves ideas, people, governments, cultures, and societies. Why not, therefore, use this trusted and respected brand to counter today’s multiple narratives of despair and hopelessness with a message of the hope-filled gospel on the move.

For all of these reasons, I’m convinced that our newly launched CT Global initiative will define the work of Christianity Today for years to come. The fine-tuning of this expansive definition will be the focus of the initiative’s initial stage. But the clear sense of God’s “yes” on this big vision tells me—as I hope it tells all of us—that the content platforms God has graciously given us and kept vibrant in the wake of publishing’s tumult are for the benefit and the building up of the whole church. Would he therefore give us the wisdom and wherewithal we need to minister to the mind and heart of his whole body ever more effectively in the days ahead.

Yes, these are indeed exciting times for this ministry. But these are exceedingly challenging times as well.

As we well know, we live in an angry, at times ugly, increasingly more confused world. The tone of our rhetoric—across all media and even behind some closed church doors—is more rage than redemption. Is more disgrace than grace.

Not surprisingly, we here at CT have not been immune to such attacks, sometimes indiscriminate, with no basis but full of bias. But for better or worse, this is part of journalism in today’s world.

And making matters eternally worse, the truth of our convictions—the truth of God’s Truth—seems increasingly worn down by attractive heresies and ugly orthodoxies that in the end are destined to leave more and more of God’s creation in despair and without a sense of hope.

And yet, in the midst of this darkness, the light of the gospel still shines forth, and the darkness has not, will not, cannot overcome it.

Right here, right now, Christianity Today still has a Spirit-led calling and opportunity to reflect the true light of Christ back onto this age of anger and confusion. Back onto a church caught in the midst of all this confusion.

And thus the importance of boldly speaking words of Beautiful Orthodoxy into this cacophony. We must unflinchingly set forth an orthodoxy anchored firmly on the authority of God’s Word and, with God’s help, expressed not with self-righteousness but in a language and with lives that model the unconditional love and blood-stained beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Early church fathers like Augustine wrote that truth expressed without beauty, without love, without hope was no truth at all.

But when lived faithfully and fearlessly, Beautiful Orthodoxy boldly demonstrates for all how the truth that sets us free—our orthodoxy—can result in freedom and flourishing for not only the church but for all those communities and cultures the church intersects.

This is why this ministry was set into motion. This is why this ministry is so needed today.

In a world in desperate need of truth, goodness, and beauty, we have the privilege of communicating the breadth of the true, good, and beautiful gospel in our words, in our actions, in our lives.

And in doing so, we can rebuild the plausibility of the Christian faith in the minds and hearts of our culture. Paraphrasing Charles Taylor: We can help those who dare to believe to believe. And we can help those who believe to live.

“I came,” Jesus said in John 10:10, “so that they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”

Would the pages, pixels, podcasts of this precious ministry be an amen and amen to this grand eternal truth.

With content that speaks in the gospel tone of conviction and love.

With content that brings to eyes and ears the best of balanced biblical thinking.

And with content that finds an expanding number of eager recipients in every corner of God’s world.

To that end, would God grant Tim wisdom and strength to discern which changes, which opportunities are to be pursued—and when—so that the vision, mission, and distinctives of this God-ordained ministry can positively impact yet another generation, a global generation, with Christ’s gospel of love, forgiveness, and life.




And all to the glory of God alone.




















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Re: Christianity Today Magazine Archives
« Reply #24 on: July 02, 2019, 08:37:10 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/june/how-should-we-think-about-declining-denominational-numbers.html







How Should We Think About Declining Denominational Numbers?


There’s more that matters than just the numbers.

 
Are denominations dying?

Are local churches increasingly ineffective?

Is the church losing?

Recently, the Southern Baptist Convention released their Annual Church Profile (APC), reporting on key metrics for the SBC, including church attendance, number of baptisms, number of churches, and giving. Overall, the numbers weren’t good. Membership is down to its lowest point since 1987, baptisms are down to 1940s levels, attendance dipped by about half a percent, and the total number of churches dropped by 88.

The only statistical bright spot is that giving is up slightly.

As a man who loves the church and believes numbers are our friends, this report is concerning. All of us would like to see a different trajectory for the SBC, and other Evangelical denominations, but sadly, that isn’t our reality.

I’m not a part of the SBC. I’m Assemblies of God. And the AG releases its numbers every year as well. We’ve enjoyed being one of, if not the only, growing major evangelical denominations of late. We’ve shouted those numbers from the rooftops, and rightly so.

When I’m with friends from other denominations, they often ask for the AG’s secret to growth when all the other denominations’ numbers are declining. While there are some very legitimate reasons why the AG has seen sustained growth in the U.S. and globally (95 percent of the AG resides outside the U.S.), there’s a concerning statistical development on the horizon for us, too.

Our latest U.S. numbers reveal that the AG is growing in churches and average attendance, but only barely. Our total number of adherents slipped slightly after 27 years of consecutive growth. Our number of churches classified as plateaued and declining is at its highest level in nearly four decades.

While the number of water baptisms has continued to climb generally, Spirit baptisms (a hallmark of the Pentecostal church and experience) have been on the decline 11 out of the last 18 years.

The AG has enjoyed a long history of growth in the U.S., but I’m saying that if the current trends continue, my denomination could, like the SBC, eventually release a report showing decreases in many or most of our important metrics.

What then? What happens when even the once-growing evangelical denominations begin to decline? Does it necessarily mean that evangelical churches will follow the pattern of decline experienced by mainline churches?

First, small declines don’t necessarily mean big declines.

We have to be careful that we don’t overreact when one of our key metrics dips by a few tenths of a percentage point. When you’re talking about self-reported church numbers from thousands of churches, a slight dip can be caused by any number of things, including differences in how some churches report their numbers. For that matter, small declines don’t automatically indicate a trend.

Looking at the numbers over more than just a handful of years gives us a better indication of where we’re at than looking at a snapshot in time. When we start to see a downward trend over a decade or more, that’s not good. Unfortunately, a downward trend is what many of our denominations are experiencing.

Second, and this is the major thing, we have to think about how we think about church numbers.

We often see stats as a measure of whether we’re winning or losing, growing or declining. I get that, and there’s some truth to it. We’re right to measure things because what gets measured will typically receive most of our attention, but there’s another truth here as well.

As William Bruce Cameron wrote, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Though churches and denominations report common numbers like salvations, baptisms, attendance, membership and giving, there’s more that matters than just the numbers. And there are lots of factors that influence the numbers. Here are just a few examples:

There are ecclesiological issues. Jesus said to make disciples, not draw big crowds. I’m not against crowds; I just want to see discipleship.

Sometimes discipleship happens in big crowds and sometimes it happens in small groups. We see both in Jesus’ ministry and in churches today. Large numbers aren’t more important to God than small numbers because every number is a soul about whom God cares deeply.

While the early church did experience explosive growth on the day of Pentecost (3,000 added to the church), much of the rest of Acts and Paul’s epistles indicate that the growth of the church happened as a result of the steady (not explosive) multiplication of house churches (small groups) embedded in their communities, making one disciple at a time.

But at the end of the day, Jesus said to make disciples. While I hope the Church can do that very quickly and in large, ever-increasing numbers, what’s most important is that we do it consistently.

There are theological issues. When we talk about church growth and multiplication and when we look at the resulting data about attendance, etc., we often fail to talk about the reality that there is a real enemy fighting against the church.

I get not wanting to give the enemy too much credit, airtime and attention, but Jesus and Paul both acknowledged the reality of Satan’s attacks against the church and the people of God. While we do have Jesus’ promise that the gates of hell will not ultimately prevail against God’s people and God’s work, we don’t have the promise that it will be easy for us in the short term. In fact, Jesus promised persecution, not church growth. He promised his ongoing presence, not numeric success.

There are anthropological issues. The church doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s inextricably tied to its culture and context. So whatever is happening in culture will impact the church. It always has. While we can hope that somehow the church will rise above the surrounding culture (especially above cultures negative aspects), culture will always affect the church.

Increases in consumeristic behavior in culture affects the church negatively. Secularization in culture affects the church negatively. A general busyness in culture affects the church negatively. And the list could go on.

What am I saying? When we see decreasing denominational numbers, many inside the church have a visceral reaction. I’ve heard people say these things:

The decline is because that denomination is too legalistic and doesn’t appeal to the younger generation.
The decline is because so many denominational churches are watering down the gospel message and preaching a gospel of ease and comfort.
The decline is because the denomination has lost its missional focus.
Are those things true? Maybe. Or maybe not. All I’m saying is that there are so many factors in play here, that downward trends in denominational numbers don’t necessarily mean a denomination has ceased to be faithful to the gospel and the mission of God. Neither does it mean that churches have lost their effectiveness.

I’m not making excuses for decreasing baptisms and attendance in the SBC, nor for an increase in plateaued and declining churches in the AG. I am saying that numerical growth, while wonderful, is not the ultimate measure for kingdom success.

Jesus never promised the church’s numbers would always be up and to the right.

At no time in history has the popularity of the gospel message determined the church’s success. So what happens if church numbers continue to trend down? Does it mean we’re failing? Does it mean we need new methods or increased fervency? Again, maybe. But Jesus is clear that there are lots of reasons outside of an ineffective church that cause believers to fall away, leave the church and abandon relationship with him (Matt. 24:9-12; John 6:66).

So what do we do with falling denomination numbers?

Pray. Always our best response to any report, whether good or bad, is to ask for God to accomplish his work. Specifically, pray for God to send out harvest workers (Matt. 9:36-38) and that "the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored" (2 Thess. 3:1-3).

Reflect. Any time is always a good time for the people of God to assess and evaluate our gospel effectiveness. If we can make changes to become more effective, we should change. But it is possible that a faithful church won’t always be a growing church. After all, some plant and some water, but God determines the increase (1 Cor. 3:5-7).

Tell. Jesus has set before us the task of telling people about him. We can’t control how many respond to what we tell them, but we can control our faithfulness to keep telling the story (Matt. 24:14; Rom. 10:14-17).

Plant. Declining denominational numbers would be so much worse if not for men and women taking leaps of faith to start new churches, bringing new people to faith in Christ. And without the herculean efforts of church planting agencies like the SBC’s Send Network and the AG’s Church Multiplication Network, there likely wouldn’t be any signs of hope in our annual domestic denominational statistics.

Regardless of the trends, our best hope is to keep doing what Paul taught us, starting churches where the name of Christ is not yet known (Rom 15:20). Plant, water, be faithful and let God bring the growth.





Dr. John Davidson is Director of the Alliance for AG Higher Education and Director of the CMN Leadership Development in the Assemblies of God National Office.








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Re: Christianity Today Magazine Archives
« Reply #25 on: September 03, 2019, 02:55:31 am »

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/august/critical-connection-between-context-and-culture.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29






The Critical Connection Between Context and Culture



Here are a few factors that make leaders effective at shaping the right culture for an organization.

 
I’ve started churches, served more established congregations, and been the vice president of a half-a-billion-dollar company. Now, I am privileged to lead the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

In my roles, I have seen leaders who overwhelmingly succeed and those who phenomenally fail. One of the key differentiators of success for leaders that I have observed is their ability to create, protect, shape, and embody an appropriate culture that matches the goals and purposes of their organization.

In the discussion about culture, it is easy to make broad, sweeping statements about the need to shape culture. But good leaders go awry when they try to shape the culture into one they personally enjoy instead of the culture that is appropriate for their context.

Every leader will naturally embody the things he or she believes and the values she or he cares about. And that is good and should be cultivated. But in the nuance of a specific role or a specific place, leaders must be adaptable and intuitive enough to know the right culture to shape in the right places and the right times in an organization’s history.

Here are a few factors that make leaders effective at shaping the right culture.

1 – Good leaders know the value of context


Where some good culture-shapers stall is forgetting the value of place.

Location and context matter immensely when shaping culture, and I’ve often seen the dichotomy of a good leader shaping unhealthy cultures in education or church leadership. It frequently comes from successful business leaders who make the switch to nonprofit leadership. They are often hired for their leadership acumen and provide great benefits to spaces where practitioners (educators/professors and pastors/theologians) don’t have direct leadership training and years of experience. This is good for churches and educational institutions alike.

But where these nonprofit leaders often have hang-ups is when they insert a profit-driven culture into a nonprofit environment. The production-driven culture is out of place and out of touch with the moving target goals of nonprofit leadership. Success becomes measured differently, and advancing the institution becomes harder to gauge, which can be problematic for a cut-and-dry culture that is often present in successful businesses.

Good leaders keep the principles of valuing clear goals, streamlining communication, and expecting hard work and production from their employees. But good leaders must understand their landscape and adapt the culture in which those goals are communicated to match the context of an institution or organization. So, the principles can be the same, but they can be packaged with more care and nuance, especially in the switch between for-profit and nonprofit leadership.

2 – Good leaders bring their value-set to contextualized cultural shaping
The value-set of a leader’s principles is crucial to keep in the contextualization of culture.

For instance, if a leader is known for encouraging on-time and accurate financial reporting, he or she should not compromise on that in a different leadership context, but the mechanisms of how that person accomplishes that (culture) can and should change with the organization with which she or he partners.

Again, where I have seen leaders drift is where they compromise their convictions in order to care for the culture. It is a balance between the two: culture and convictions. Good organizations understand that good leaders bring convictions (and the underlying philosophical principles that underpin them) to the table. But culture is what an organization hires a leader into, and shaping that culture with value-based convictions means that a leader’s methods should adapt while the principles should stay the same.

For instance, when I came to the Billy Graham Center in 2016, I valued innovation and organizational flexibility (as I had in my last role). However, I needed to adapt how I communicated those values in our team. I communicated like a vice president of a large company, but I needed to communicate like the leader of a traditional academic institution. So, my convictions and expectations for our team didn’t change, but I changed how I communicated those expectations and matched convictions with the culture that I was responsible for stewarding and advancing.

3 – Good leaders invest in others and value the tension of culture and convictions
One of the marks of good leaders is that they instill their convictions in others. However, often where the miss occurs is that they also pass on their preference of culture with those convictions. This where the mentor conflates values and preferences, and those who are being mentored also do the same, rendering them less adaptable when they become leaders themselves.

Leaders who develop others that conflate culture and convictions can set their mentees up for failure when they miss the first point—the value of context. As leaders grow and invest in others, they must learn the nuance of investing their values and principles, while differentiating their preferences and the specific culture of where they are currently leading. When they can do this, they develop more adaptable leaders who can lead outside of a specific cultural context, giving them a foundation of principles instead of a full-built house of principles alongside the constricting walls of preferences.

As we lead, we must learn to differentiate between our convictions and the culture we are current in and shaping. When we do this, we will develop deeper, principled convictions that will allow us to be more adaptable in different cultural contexts and ultimately become better influencers.





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.

This article was originally published by the Global Leadership Network.




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