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Author Topic: The fearless evangelist  (Read 4647 times)

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Re: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #65 on: March 06, 2021, 06:03:37 pm »


Conservative United Methodists Plan Breakaway Denomination

The new Global Methodist Church will leave the UMC regardless of the General Conference decision, which has been delayed until 2022.

Conservative United Methodists have chosen a name for the denomination they plan to form if a proposal to split the United Methodist Church is successful: The Global Methodist Church.

The Global Methodist Church unveiled its new name, logo, and website on Monday, days after the United Methodist Church announced it was once again postponing the May 2020 meeting that was set to consider the proposal to split.

That puts the likely launch of the planned denomination at least a year and a half away.

“Over the past year the council members, and hundreds of people who have informed their work, have faithfully and thoughtfully arrived at this point,” the Rev. Keith Boyette, president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and chair of the Transitional Leadership Council that is guiding the creation of the Global Methodist Church, said in a post on the WCA website.

“They are happy to share with others a wealth of information about a church they believe will be steeped in the lifegiving confessions of the Christian faith.”

The United Methodist Church’s General Conference, its global decision-making body, is now scheduled to meet August 29 to September 6, 2022, at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis.

Delegates are expected to take up a proposal to split the denomination called the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation.

The proposal negotiated by 16 United Methodist bishops and advocacy group leaders from across theological divides, would create a new conservative “traditionalist” Methodist denomination—that’s the Global Methodist Church—that would receive $25 million over the next four years. Individual churches and annual conferences could choose to join the new entity; otherwise, they’ll remain in the existing denomination by default.

Calls to split one of the largest denominations in the United States have grown since a 2019 special session of the General Conference approved the so-called Traditional Plan strengthening its bans on the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists.

At the time of the 2019 special session, Boyette’s WCA made clear it planned to split from the United Methodist Church if delegates to the special session had not approved Traditional Plan.

On its website, the Global Methodist Church says it similarly would move forward with a split if delegates to the General Conference meeting in 2022 do not approve the proposed protocol — or if support for the protocol wanes in the intervening year and a half.

The website describes the planned denomination as a “new church rooted in Scripture and the historic and life giving teachings of the Christian faith” and emphasizes its desire to be a global church.

It also includes downloadable versions of a proposed Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline in multiple languages.

“True to our roots, we’re a patient and methodical people,” Boyette said on the WCA website.

“We want to do our very best to help theologically conservative local churches, laity, and pastors navigate the transitional period as smoothly as possible. And then we look forward to the Global Methodist Church’s convening General Conference where we hope the duly elected delegates will find what we have done to be helpful. It will be their great task and responsibility to discern God’s will and so help all its local churches and people live fully into the body of Christ.”

Already, one group of progressive United Methodists has announced it isn’t waiting for a vote to form its own denomination.

The Liberation Methodist Connexion launched last November with a virtual worship service and introductory presentation. The LMX—which doesn’t expect members to leave their current denominations or faiths to join—stresses action over doctrine and emphasizes the full inclusion of people of all gender expressions and sexual identities, races and ethnicities, mental and physical abilities, sizes and ages.

The Methodist have long been called "Dead" regardless of their association with the UMC.  Almost too little too late unless they radically change.


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: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #66 on: March 17, 2021, 06:45:37 am »


Evangelical Thinking on the Trinity Is Often Remarkably Revisionist

Theologian Matthew Barrett diagnoses our drift away from an orthodox understanding of Father, Son, and Spirit.

By and large, American evangelical Christians have conservative views of Scripture and morality. According to theologian Matthew Barrett, however, their most basic claims about God are often remarkably revisionist.

Barrett, professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive editor of Credo Magazine, is the author of Simply Trinity: The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit. The book—a follow-up to his 2019 work None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God—does two things. First, it shows how a good portion of evangelical theology on the Trinity has drifted from the classical Christian tradition. Second, it recruits a veritable “dream team” of teachers from across that tradition to lead readers back to the safe harbor of biblical orthodoxy. The tone is accessible, but the sources are deep.

How has evangelicalism gone wrong in its understanding of the Trinity? Barrett ranges broadly, but he fixes on the development, in recent theology, of what he calls “social trinitarianism.” Proponents of this view, which is more of a common posture than a monolithic school, tend to conceive of the oneness of God as a community of persons. Barrett introduces some of its major figures, including liberal theologians like Jürgen Moltmann and Leonardo Boff and American conservative counterparts like Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware.

The hallmark of social Trinitarianism is its willingness to appropriate the relationships between the persons of the Trinity as a model for various social projects. For liberals like Moltmann and Boff, this can mean invoking the equal status of Father, Son, and Spirit to advance an egalitarian vision of society. Conservatives like Grudem and Ware sometimes point to supposed hierarchies within the Trinity—namely, what they call the Son’s “eternal submission” to the Father—as grounds for their complementarian views on gender roles. (Plenty of complementarians disagree. Liam Goligher, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, raised the alarm several years ago in a viral blog post accusing Grudem and Ware of undermining the unity that exists between Father, Son, and Spirit.) Simply Trinity provides a thorough analysis of how revisionist trends in Trinitarian theology have settled into the seemingly conservative world of American evangelicalism.

What’s the way home? In part two of his book, Barrett retrieves classical Trinitarian teachings, addressing the relationship of eternity and history while affirming the oneness and simplicity of God. The doctrines he covers—the “eternal generation” of the Son, the “eternal procession” of the Spirit, and the “inseparable operations” of the triune God—can sound rather elevated, but Barrett explains them with ease and clarity.

Amid these chapters, Barrett also offers a single chapter examining the claim by Grudem, Ware, and others that the Son is “eternally subordinate” to the Father. He rightly shows that the relations of origin between Father, Son, and Spirit profoundly affect our understanding of salvation.

The book isn’t perfect. Barrett doesn’t always go deep enough in addressing either the root causes of recent revisionism or the glories of classical Christian understandings of the Trinity. And he fails to locate the work of Trinitarian reflection within larger questions of Christian spiritual formation, which restricts the book’s focus mainly to matters of intellectual debate and biblical interpretation.

This doesn’t quite match the mode of classical Christian thought. Take the fourth-century church father Gregory of Nazianzus, for example. In his Five Theological Orations, he certainly addresses Bible passages about the Father, Son, and Spirit—but only after reflecting on the spiritual preparation needed for Trinitarian conversation.

In his Confessions, Augustine demonstrates that God, as characterized in Scripture, is a person unlike any other. But Social Trinitarianisms, of the left or the right, tend to make the mistake of drawing false analogies between God and other people. Unless we address that root malady, we’ll continuing seeing symptoms of theological error pop up from time to time.

Still, Simply Trinity goes a long way toward identifying and excising some of these harmful tendencies. For anyone who has read confusing blog posts about the Trinity in recent years, the book will help you regain your theological bearings. And for anyone seeking to recover the riches of worshiping one God in three persons, Barrett will prove a more than able guide.

Michael Allen is the John Dyer Trimble Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He is a co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Reformed Theology.

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Re: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #67 on: March 31, 2021, 12:23:29 pm »


Wall Street Crisis Could Cost Evangelical Orgs

The CEO of Archegos Capital, now making financial headlines for risky trading, is also known for his generous commitment to Christian ministries.

It’s not often that a Wall Street Journal article on the latest stock market shakeup includes a line describing a Greek reference to Jesus from the New Testament.

The hedge fund at the center of massive selloffs in the market last week was the Christian-owned Archegos Capital Management—named for ἀρχηγός, the Greek word used to describe Christ as the “author” of our salvation (Heb. 2:10) and the “prince” of life (Acts 3:15).

Archegos has dominated the financial headlines over the past few days. The fund placed outsized bets on media stocks using money borrowed from banks, and when the lenders put a check on its high-risk trading, it had to sell off huge blocks of shares, sending the market into a frenzy.

Major corporations and banks lost billions, enough to “impact everyday Americans’ retirement accounts,” CNN Business reported. While investors and shareholders are bracing for the damage, the move could potentially impact evangelical ministries as well.

Archegos CEO Bill Hwang is also the co-founder of the Grace and Mercy Foundation, which shares an office with his New York-based firm and distributes millions in grants to Christian nonprofits every year. So far, it’s unclear how much the financial situation will affect the foundation and its beneficiaries.

Grace and Mercy’s 2018 tax filing (the most recent year available) listed $5.5 million to the Fuller Foundation, $2 million to Fuller Theological Seminary, where Hwang is a trustee, and $1.2 million to the Museum of the Bible, in addition to six-figure donations to A Rocha, International Justice Mission, Luis Palau Association, Prison Fellowship, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, The King’s College, and Young Life.

Annual giving totaled $16.6 million over 63 organizations, including many New York churches and ministries, like City Seminary of New York, Manhattan Christian Academy, and the Bowery Mission.

Though giving by individuals remains the largest source of funding for charities overall, foundations are becoming a bigger player in the landscape.

“We’ve seen a consistent and growing trend in giving by foundations comprising a larger share of total giving than it did 15 years ago,” Amir Pasic, dean of Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, told Ministry Watch last year. “This change may reflect larger trends such as in the distribution of wealth and in asset growth across a decade of stock market expansion.”

Grant-giving private foundations is also subject to market forces. As Giving USA researcher Anna Pruitt explained:

Private foundations are required by law to give 5% of the average value of their assets, often held in an endowment. When the financial markets fare well, the assets foundations hold grow–and that 5% of their total value gets larger too. The opposite happens during downturns.

The Grace and Mercy Foundation distributed $79 million over a 10-year span, with its grant amounts increasing in recent years, and the highest levels given in 2017 and 2018. Forbes wrote, “It’s hard to know for sure to what extent Hwang’s hidden fortune was battered last week, though his charity’s filings in future years will show how much the crisis impacts his generosity.”

Hwang is part of a new “evangelical donor-class,” who are less concerned with using their wealth to advance political causes, as covered in The Atlantic in 2019. These newer players in the giving landscape include Asian American Christians who “aren’t necessarily beholden to the culture wars of the past,” Josh Kwan, president of the Christian philanthropic network called The Gathering, told the magazine.

Beyond his $500-million foundation’s investments in American ministries, Hwang sees his career in finance as led by God, saying, “I invest with God’s perspective, according to his timing,” when talking to a Korean audience about faith and work.

This is not Hwang’s first time at the center of a controversy over his financial strategy. Back in 2012, when he ran Tiger Asia Management, he was penalized by regulators in the US and Asia and ultimately had to shut down his firm, pleading guilty to wire fraud and fined over charges of insider trading.

When he shares his story, Hwang points to this time as a period where “money and connection couldn’t really help” and he had to turn to Scripture.

After struggling his whole life as a Christian to get into a habit of Bible reading, he finally was awakened to the power of hearing the Bible read out loud and in community. It was transformative enough that through the Grace and Mercy Foundation he has launched resources for Christians to gather to listen to Scripture together in-person or online.

Hwang has also spoken of how he sees his investment activity as a way to further God’s work in the world, both by serving as a Christian witness in Wall Street and supporting companies that build God-honoring culture and help human society advance.

“I’m like a little child thinking, ‘What can I do today, where can I invest to please our God?’” he said in a conversation with Fuller Studio. “Remember Jesus saying, ‘My Father is working, therefore I’m working’? God is working, Jesus is working, and I’m working—I’m not going to retire until he pulls me back.”

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Re: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #68 on: May 05, 2021, 08:24:39 am »


20 Truths: No Longer Strangers

20 Truths from Eugene Cho and Samira Izadi Page's latest release, ‘No Longer Strangers.’

1. "The editors of this volume and the contributors believe wholeheartedly that evangelism is a necessary and beautiful part of our discipleship. However, while the book affirms the important commitment of evangelism, we highlight the dangers when North American Christians, in particular, underestimate how their education, race, language mastery, and other factors impact their ability to love and express the gospel (in word and deed) to refugees and immigrants coming from backgrounds that include trauma, oppression, colonialism, persecution, etc." Eugene Cho and Samira Izadi Page (1)

2. "This book, . . . will guide churches, individuals, and Christian leaders in the ways of healthy discipleship and instruct them in how to avoid evangelism that causes harm to immigrants through abuses of power dynamics and intercultural blind spots." Eugene Cho and Samira Izadi (2)

3. "[The church] at times feels like it's lost its footing in the chaos and craziness of our polarized, political world where it seems as if more and more Christians are in a space where their politics inform their theology rather than our biblically rooted theology informing our politics." Eugene Cho and Samira Izadi (5)

4. "What we are seeing now is a new work of the Spirit. While the pattern of migration and refugee resettlement can be explained factually using social and political sciences, the Christian must look above and beyond and seek the purposes of God amidst these facts. In light of the sovereignty of God, why are refugees and immigrants brought to our doorstops?" Eugene Cho and Samira Izadi (6)

5. "We are in the midst of the largest mass migration in human history. . . there are 70.8 million forcibly displaced people in the world. . . . What is God up to? How can I be a part of it?" Eugene Cho and Samira Izadi (8)

6. "Evangelism means sharing the good news, and people who are traumatized are in desperate need of good news that brings them healing and restoration." Issan Smeir (36)

7. "But can a faith journey with God in the form of a personal relationship bring healing and restoration to those who have been traumatized? The answer in the literature is yes." Issan Smeir (37)

8. "Evangelism and sharing the good news can bring healing and restoration; however, as we reach out to those who are hurting, we must be aware that their vulnerable status might make them prone to coercion and manipulation. Those who faced recent trauma are more sensitive to any influence or pressure from others. Pressuring people who are hurting to make a quick decision to follow God or luting them by making false promises is immoral, ineffective, and harmful." Issan Smeir (37)

9. "Church was meant to be the safest place on Earth. Jesus always demonstrated his love before telling people who he was. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and comforted those who were hurting. He cried with them. Evangelism should always be conducted with compassion." Issan Smeir (44)

10. "The first lesson we learned about service is that proximity changes everything. We didn't have to look across the world for the poor, the marginalized, the immigrants, and orphans. We only had to look across the street. They were right there next to us." Laurie Beshore (48).

11. "People don't want a handout, they want dignity." Laurie Beshore (51).

12. "Compassion is always a safe topic; justice is challenging." Laurie Beshore (60).

13. "Evangelism in a Western context has been seen as communicating truths. Biblical witness is about operating in a way that shows the transformative reality of Jesus." Sandra Maria Van Opstal (81).

14. "Speaking up and telling the truth about refugees as individuals made in the image of God who deserve our dignity and respect is the first way we can remind people of our common humanity." Jenny Yang (92).

15. "Advocacy can be carried out in three ways: (1) by the poor––empowerment; (2) with the poor––accompaniment/partnership; and (3) for the poor––representation." Jenny Yang (96).

16. "Because God is allowing refugees to be brought to America in the twenty-first century, I believe Westerners traveling overseas for evangelism must begin in their neighborhood." Torli H. Krua (107).

17. "Most Americans are unaware that refugees don't come to America to live and die; many receive everlasting life and return to their homelands a business and civic leaders and as Christian leaders who bring the Word of God to their own people in their native language and cultural settings." Torli H. Krua (112).

18. "Many of us have treated the Great Commission as if it were the only thing Jesus said, and we have reduced it to a mere call for evangelism. This reductionism can lead to methodologies that prioritize isolated evangelism, often at the expense of loving our neighbors. This then becomes our metric for measuring obedience, and sometimes even maturity. We seem to forget that Jesus also said that loving our neighbor is part of the great commandment and explains all the rest of the Bible." K.J. Hill (131).

19. "One side [of justice] is retributive, which means people receive the punishment they deserve for doing wrong. The other side is restorative, which is actually the more common usage in the Bible and means making sure people have what they need to flourish. So, one side of justice is stopping people from doing wrong, as in Leviticus 24 (eye for an eye, etc.), while the other side is ensuring that the weak and vulnerable have what they need, as in Proverbs 31:9." K.J. Hill (134).

20. "The connection from the Great Concern (Mic. 6:8) to the Great Commandment (Luke 10) is the same thread that runs from the beginning of the Bible to the end, from Abraham through the church." K.J. Hill (135).

The Exchange is a part of CT's Blog Forum. Support the work of CT. Subscribe and get one year free.
The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today

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Re: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #69 on: May 07, 2021, 03:19:23 pm »


White Evangelical Pastors Hesitant to Preach Vaccines

Advocates say more subtle approaches and one-on-one engagement may actually do more to inform the unvaccinated without further dividing the faithful.

As COVID-19 vaccination rates slowed this spring, Americans’ attention turned toward the groups less likely to get the shot, including white evangelicals.

Black Protestants were initially among the most skeptical toward the vaccine, but they grew significantly more open to it during the first few months of the year, while white evangelicals’ hesitancy held steady.

With African Americans, many credit robust campaigns targeting Black neighborhoods, launching vaccination clinics in Black churches, and convening discussions featuring prominent Black Christian voices for reducing rates of hesitancy. So for those eager to see higher levels of vaccination, the question became: Are white evangelical leaders doing enough to engage their own?

The latest poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit research organization focused on health issues, found that as of the end of April, white evangelicals (54%) were about as likely to have received the COVID-19 vaccine as the country overall (56%).

The difference comes with the attitudes among the unvaccinated. White evangelicals are half as likely as Americans overall to say they plan to get the shot ASAP, and 20 percent say they definitely won’t be getting the shot, 7 percentage points lower than the rest of the country.

Most evangelical churches in the country span a range of perspectives on vaccination, which makes it difficult for pastors to know when or how to address the topic.

“I know pastors who won’t even mention masks because people would leave. I’d say vaccines are even more sensitive,” said Dan DeWitt, who directs the Center for Biblical Apologetics and Public Christianity at Cedarville University. “Pastors feel so constrained. They want to take care of their people, but they know one careless comment could cost them.”

The issues dividing the country in 2020 divided churches too. While pastors tried to adapt worship services and continue to provide spiritual care for the suffering and mourning, congregational disputes over politics, racial issues, and COVID-19 responses spiked. Church leaders fielded complaints for being too cautious or not cautious enough, with members threatening to leave or simply making the move over reopening plans.

After a year like that, some don’t feel comfortable publicly endorsing or rejecting the shot; maybe they would if tensions weren’t so high. Even pastors who personally trust the vaccine and would recommend it may worry that it’s not their topic to preach on or that doing so would unsettle their congregation.

Curtis Chang, the former pastor and Fuller Theological Seminary senior fellow behind ChristiansAndtheVaccine.com, says pastors are in a tough position. “They’re really stuck. They’re feeling paralyzed and muzzled,” he said. He challenges them to think beyond Sunday sermons to other ways to engage the issue.

Chang’s site and campaign offer a slate of informative videos for Christians and for pastors in particular. His message to those leading evangelical congregations: “Don’t feel like you need to preach on this from the pulpit. Look for other subtle ways to exercise your influence.”

That’s what Kentucky minister Carl Canterbury did. He told the Lexington Herald-Leader that he wouldn’t address the vaccine from the pulpit, but, knowing that vaccine misinformation is rampant in his small town in east Kentucky, he would talk to fellow members at Louellen Pentecostal Church about why he went ahead and got the Johnson & Johnson shot.

“So many people think it’s a conspiracy, and they want to know, are you getting it? The day I had my shot, I had four members in our church to stop by and ask, did I take the shot, and I told them, yes,” Canterbury said, noting that every pastor in the small town of Closplint had also been vaccinated. “Because I did, they did.”

What happened at his Pentecostal church, where people changed their mind after hearing a pastor or church member talk about why they got the shot, is a promising trend.

And it makes sense. Though many people were eager to immediately roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 jab, having questions about the new vaccines or wanting to wait for others to get the shot is actually a common, natural response, wrote epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz.

“It’s also worth reiterating that most of these hesitant people do eventually get vaccinated. Sometimes they are late, sometimes they take a while to convince, but most of them are reasonable people worried about something they don’t yet fully understand,” he said. “Most can also be reassured with time and adequate information shared by medical providers.”

PRRI found in March that among churchgoers who are waiting to see if they’ll get the vaccine, nearly half of white Protestants said engagement from their faith community—either seeing others get vaccinated or hosting events like forums or clinics—would make them more likely to do so.

The poll also found that white evangelical Protestants who attend church more often are slightly less likely to want to get the vaccine (in March, 43% said they had done so or planned to ASAP) than those who attend less often (48%). Among Black Protestants, it was the opposite; church attendance was correlated with greater openness to the vaccine.

Chang suggested that the Black church tradition has primed them to see health as a community issue, and that Black churchgoers are more likely to trust the model set by their pastors—many of whom signed up for the vaccine early in public-facing vaccination campaigns.

As vaccine access expanded in March and April, many prominent pastors touted their decision to get the vaccine, such as Southern Baptist Convention president J. D. Greear, who posted a #sleeveup selfie on Twitter. Others opened their churches as vaccination sites, such as First Baptist Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, a former evangelical adviser to President Trump.

But many white evangelicals see vaccination not as a mandate of their faith but as a matter of personal conscience. It’s between them and their families, them and their health care provider, or them and God.

There are a few who embrace conspiracy theories about the vaccine and the coronavirus, of the sort promoted by evangelical leaders such as Eric Metaxas, and some who claim the inoculation is somehow connected to the “mark of the beast.” More commonly, though, evangelicals who are hesitant to receive the vaccine were resisting what they saw as cultural pressure to take away their freedom to make an individual decision.

Chang said that for some the attitude is, “I made my decision. Don’t tell me what to do,” or “I prayed about it, God told me not to take the vaccine, therefore end of discussion.”

Christian messaging around the COVID-19 vaccine has employed a range of theological reasoning: Vaccination is a way to take advantage of the blessings and protections God gives us through science. It’s an expression of love and care for our neighbors, especially those who are medically vulnerable. It allows us to participate in God’s healing of the world.

As stances on masking and vaccination become conflated with ideological positions, evangelicals are also sensitive to how they talk about the issues in faith terms.

At Madison Baptist Church in Georgia, pastor Griffin Gulledge models wearing a mask to church and prays during services to thank God for the vaccine and for effective treatments against the coronavirus—“That sends a message,” he says—but he also believes that he’s not a public health expert, and people may have good reasons for waiting to vaccinate.

“Christ tells us to love your neighbor as yourself, then the apostle Paul tells us to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. I think those are two things we need to balance,” said Gulledge. “I don’t think it is reasonable for people to say in all cases, universally, to love your neighbor you must follow this or that precaution and you must get vaccinated at this time. … These things are complicated. Reasonable people are going to come to different conclusions.”

Despite assumptions about COVID-19 approaches in the rural South, 30-year-old Gulledge said the “vast majority” of his church was eager to get vaccinated, so much that they helped him find an appointment to get the shot.

Being a pastor and being a part of Christian community has always involved designating between matters of gospel importance and individual freedom. Lately, those issues have come up in particularly visible, fraught ways as the country takes sides on pandemic responses and vaccines.

DeWitt at Cedarville points out how much tone and perception matter when it comes to how churches address COVID-19. What some people see as an act of caring, others see as overreach.

“How do we stay committed to the gospel and committed to this message that we care for body and soul?” he asked. “If there is no good evidence that the vaccine is hurtful, and if there is evidence that the vaccine is helpful, then church leaders should be vocal—not for virtue-signaling but because it’s an actual good and leads to flourishing.”

DeWitt also sees the attitudes over coronavirus responses as tied to deeper issues in the American church, where he worries too many people are conflating “scriptural identity” and “political identity.” “We’re in a culture in which things that are superficial are seen as deeper loyalties,” he said.

The fact that American evangelicalism is so fragmented—that the big-name ministry leader who inspires one group of evangelicals may totally turn off another—makes it a challenge to engage the movement as a whole, even when calling on shared beliefs and values.

“The recipe here is information plus trust,” said Chang. “We can provide the information. The trust has to come from a person who’s sending this along and saying to their friend or their church or their family, ‘Hey, would you be willing to take a look?'"

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Re: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #70 on: May 10, 2021, 06:34:40 pm »


Ten Things That Aren't Evangelism

What does it mean for 21st century people to engage in evangelism?

In Act II, Scene II of the classic work, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, there is a famous conversation between the couple. They love each other and want to be together, but they carry the burden of their surnames, and this means that they will be apart forever. In the midst of this complicated mix of feelings and emotions, Juliet uses a metaphor to persuade Romeo that their names do not matter; she says that if a rose had another name, it would still produce the same perfume. I believe that evangelism has a similar dynamic, because although the name comes with a full range of feelings, pre-concepts, fears and worldviews, it’s true nature, motivations and purpose, go beyond any word that we can use to name it.

It is time for people to understand what evangelism is, and what it means for the church of the 21st Century to engage in evangelism. So, to begin to ‘stir this pot’ I would like to introduce 10 things that evangelism is not.

1. Evangelism is not supposed to be complicated.

One of the first things that comes to people’s minds when they hear the “E” word, is “it’s complicated”, but the fact is that this is not true. Evangelism is not complicated; it is simply to share with the world the life that you have found in Jesus.

There are three people who, in a very natural way, carried out evangelism in the New Testament, but who many people don’t recognise as engaging in evangelism. They are the blind man, the demon-possessed man of Gadarene, and the Samaritan women. None of them knew Jesus for a long time, or had much, if any, training. But they were willing to share the difference that Jesus had made in their lives and that is what it is to evangelise - to share who Jesus is and to share what difference He is making in our lives.

2. Evangelism is not supposed to be born out of guilt.

We don’t evangelise to be saved or to earn salvation, but because we are saved. Some Christians share the Gospel only because of internal pressure and because they feel obliged to repay the debt that Jesus paid when He went to the cross – this feeling is based in guilt. In reality though, evangelism is a response to His love and forgiveness, that rises up in us because we want everyone to experience the same level of abundant life that we are experiencing. This removes the need for guilt and leaves only a place for loving obedience.

3. Evangelism is not supposed to be a response to external pressure.

We shouldn’t evangelise because people around us are pressuring us to do it, but because Jesus released us and sends us to share the good news. Any motive that is not from God or Godly is a wrong motive. Your friends, church leaders and family should encourage you and cheer you on in your evangelism and ministry, but that should never become an external pressure to “make” you go and share. Remember that Jesus is freedom, and it is important that we share because we are free to do so. At the heart of evangelism is the truth that because love has found us, we now want to share this love with the world.

4. Evangelism is not to bullying, coercing or convincing people.

We don’t bully people into accepting the gospel. Evangelism should never be an ‘act of terror’ and we definitely shouldn’t try to coerce anyone into becoming a Christian. In the past I was a victim of ‘terror evangelism’; while I was still an atheist, I was the target of many people who knocked at my door asking: “Do you know that if you die today you will go to hell and burn forever?” I don’t know if you have ever had an experience like this, or if, like me, you were the target of something similar, but I have never met anyone who came to Jesus because of this kind of evangelism.

It is not our role in evangelism to convince people. Yes! I will write it again to help people to be released from this burden! It is not your role to convince people; that role belongs to the Holy Spirit. Although we need to be ready to give the reason for our faith, the Holy Spirit is the one who convinces, and He is very good at doing that! Our role is to present and proclaim Christ to the world, everything else is the work of the Holy Spirit.

5. Evangelism is not the marketing of your local church.

It’s ok that you like your local church, and it’s ok to invite people to come along, but this is not evangelism. Many churches think that to invite people to an event or service is evangelism, but this is not the case. Evangelism is to share the good news of Jesus and His story, with the world. It’s not wrong to offer an invitation or to be willing to bring people to our local churches, but what changes people’s lives is the gospel, and that’s what we need to be actively sharing!

6. Evangelism is not to critique other religions, other churches or other church leaders.

Evangelism is not to critique other religions, or other churches and their leaders. We don’t waste time sharing what we are not, but instead, spend our time sharing who Jesus is and what He has done for each and every one of us. Don’t waste the precious time that you have to talk about the King, with talking instead about your views of other people and religions.

7. Evangelism is about more than technique.

Technique is not wrong, but if God is in it, any technique will work. The three unusual people who were engaged in evangelism that I mentioned in the first point, didn’t have any technique, but even so, many people believed in Jesus because they shared the life that they had found in Him. Every church and organisation will have their own technique, and although I strongly recommend that you should support and get involved in the technique of your local church (if it is sound and biblical), remember that this is only one way in which to communicate the precious, unchangeable, good news of Christ.

8. Evangelism does not begin from a position of superiority.

We don’t engage in evangelism or in evangelistic activities because we are the saved ones who go to those who are less than us. Spurgeon said that evangelism is “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread”. We go to others because we have received, and we are commissioned to go, not because of any merit or status of our own.

9. Evangelism is not supposed to be unloving.

There is no true evangelism that exists without love. That is how the world will know that we are His disciples. When the message of the gospel reaches us, it transforms us, and this love will break the cycle of indifference and inertia in our lives, so that we are unleashed into the world, to do as Jesus did.

10. Evangelism is not an activity, but a way of life.

I don’t do evangelism just as an activity on “Saturday at 3pm”. In fact, I don’t ‘do’ evangelism at all! We can go for a walk and distribute flyers as a one-off event, but evangelism is so much more than this – it is sharing life and we should do that in our lives in natural ways; it is part of who we are and what we do as Christians. We share about Jesus and the difference that He has made in us, and that can never be an isolated activity, but instead must grow to become something that is part of everything that we are and do.

Luiz F. Cardoso, missiologist, writer and local pastor. He is the Advance Development Manager at the message trust, pastor of Connect Church in Stockport - UK and the director of the Global Network of Evangelism for the Portuguese speaking world. He did his B.A. in theology in Sao Paulo - Brazil and the M.A. in mission in the University of Manchester. Luiz has been married to his wife Dani for 20 years; they have two boys together.

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Re: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #71 on: June 16, 2021, 12:31:07 pm »


Meet the Conservative Evangelicals Practicing ‘Strategic Hibernation’ in the American Northwest

They might embrace their marginal status, but they don’t plan on staying marginal forever.

In September 2020, about 150 Christians gathered to stage an informal Psalm Sing in the parking lot of Moscow, Idaho’s city hall. They were there to protest the local mask mandate.

Five individuals were cited by police for violating the local order to wear masks, and two were arrested “for suspicion of resisting or obstructing an officer.” One of the event’s organizers was Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, a 900-member congregation with historical connections to Christian Reconstructionism (also known as theonomy), a movement that hopes to see earthly society governed by biblical law. One month earlier on Twitter, Wilson had framed his concerns about the issue in revealing terms: “Too few see the masking orders for what they ultimately are. Our modern and very swollen state wants to get the largest possible number of people to get used to putting up with the most manifest lies.”

In Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest, historian Crawford Gribben recounts how in recent decades conservative evangelicals, inspired by assorted strands of theonomy and survivalism, came to settle in the Pacific Northwest. Gribben explores how this group of “born-again Protestants who embrace their marginal status” has thrived in the wilds of Idaho and adjoining states, proposing “strategies of survival, resistance, and reconstruction in evangelical America.”

Turning toward triumphalism

Gribben describes his book as a “social history of theological ideas” based on long-distance interviews of several subjects and in-person fieldwork. Rather than crafting a journalistic exposé or a theological critique, Gribben employs “biographical, institutional, or thematic” approaches.

Previous accounts of Christian Reconstructionists have tended to focus on these believers’ theocratic vision of a future Christian polity rather than their separation from mainstream society. Today, Gribben concludes, these practitioners of “strategies of hibernation” may no longer be as marginal as some have assumed. In a series of illuminating chapters, Gribben astutely examines the history of theonomist migration to the Northwest, the eschatological assumptions underlying the original Reconstructionist vision, theonomic political theory, the movement’s influential educational ideas, and its thoughtful and innovative use of publishing and electronic media.

For these theonomists, present-day survivalism is closely linked to a future reconstruction of a godly society and Christianity’s earthly triumph. Theonomy is a diverse theological movement, arising within a conservative Reformed milieu. Its central ideas were first articulated by Rousas John Rushdoony, a California-based Presbyterian pastor and the son of Armenian immigrants. Gary North, Rushdoony’s estranged son-in-law, is one of many to carry its banner forward into the 21st century. Although theonomy first gained notoriety through its bold application of Mosaic law to the existing political order, more recent adherents have often sanded down its sharp edges.

Among the most intriguing features of Reconstructionism is its view of human history as it relates to Christ’s second coming. For much of the 20th century, American evangelicals were mainly premillennialists, believing Jesus would return to earth before inaugurating a thousand-year reign of peace and prosperity (the Millennium). Premillennialism went hand in hand with pessimism about existing social conditions—if Christ needed to come before things would get better, then why waste much energy on making them better in the here and now? By the 1970s, works like Hal Lindsey’s best-selling The Late Great Planet Earth had popularized a premillennial eschatology that stressed cultural and moral decline and applied apocalyptic prophecies to the Cold War.

Rushdoony challenged this dominant paradigm in the early 1970s, shifting toward a postmillennial view that saw the earthly progress of Christianity as a precursor to Christ’s return. First in a biblical commentary and then in volume 1 of his magnum opus, the pretentiously titled The Institutes of Biblical Law, Rushdoony argued that most believers lacked faith in Christianity’s ultimate triumph. “The whole of Scripture,” he countered, “proclaims the certainty of God’s victory in time and in eternity” (emphasis mine). The saints were called upon to fight for a Christian society here and now, and their victory in this world was assured.

The unalloyed triumphalism of Reconstructionism appealed to some disheartened evangelicals. Douglas Wilson’s evolving theology was shaped by Rushdoony’s postmillennial vision, although he has subtly distanced himself from the more extreme aspects of Rushdoony’s application of ancient Israel’s legal code. Because of years of hard work by Wilson and his followers, Gribben argues, “Moscow may now be America’s most postmillennial town,” with two large, thriving Reconstructionist congregations and members who play important roles in the town’s social and economic life.

In his chapter on the Reconstructionist understanding of government, Gribben carefully examines the historical origins of the movement’s odd coupling of Old Testament legal codes and libertarian politics. While other evangelicals were being drawn to Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign, Rushdoony began working for the conservative William Volker Charities Fund. The Fund played a key role in getting libertarian economist Friedrich Hayek appointed to the faculty of the University of Chicago, and it embraced Hayek’s anti-statism.

While Rushdoony advocated the adoption of Mosaic civil law in a reconstructed Christian political order (including stoning those who engaged in homosexual behavior or disrespected their parents), he also embraced a small-government model that would have warmed the heart of Thomas Jefferson. Theonomy’s focus on Old Testament regulations has had little impact on conservative public policy, but Rushdoony and North’s tireless efforts to reconcile Christian principles with libertarian governing philosophies have been quite influential among some Christian conservatives.

Reconstructionists have also shaped evangelical educational theory. Rushdoony first gained attention with his forceful critique of public education. Inspired by theologian Cornelius Van Til’s argument that a neutral philosophical perspective was impossible and that secular and Christian approaches were fundamentally incompatible, Rushdoony advocated Christian alternatives.

By the 1990s, Wilson had become a widely acknowledged authority on homeschooling, promoting a classical curriculum based loosely on Dorothy Sayers’s previously neglected essay, The Lost Tools of Learning (1947). Moreover, Wilson helped found both a seminary and a small residential liberal arts college (ambitiously christened New Saint Andrews) in Moscow. Pacific Northwest theonomists separated themselves from the public school system as part of their strategy to transform society at large. “Before we can enlist in the culture war,” Wilson commented, “we have to have a culture. And that culture must be Christian.”

To promote their educational ideas and socially conservative vision, Wilson and company have creatively used both conventional book publishing (establishing Canon Press) and the internet. Behind all these ambitious efforts is the ultimate goal of cultural renewal or reconstruction. As the community’s organ, Credenda Agenda, put it bluntly, publishing “is warfare.” This campaign included a well-publicized series of debates between Wilson and atheist journalist Christopher Hitchens in 2009 over whether Christianity has been good for the world. (Gribben mentions the interaction with Hitchens at least five times.)

Gribben’s study is a welcome contribution to our understanding of the theonomist movement. His dispassionate, non-alarmist account allows the participants to speak for themselves. Occasionally, however, Gribben seems reluctant to pursue more searching questions, and his appraisal can sometimes be muted. It provides little comfort, for instance, when Gribben reassures readers that while Rushdoony “may not have approved of democracy,” he didn’t actually “approve of its violent subversion.” Allowing subjects to speak for themselves can periodically wander toward accepting their self-portraits. Still, Gribben handles complex cultural and theological questions deftly and with admirable sensitivity.

Two questions
Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America raises a host of fascinating questions that no single work of this sort can answer. Two such questions spring to mind.

First, despite all their dismissals of benighted pietism, isn’t it ironic that Rushdoony, North, and Wilson all ended up following 20th-century evangelicals in disparaging state intervention and embracing libertarianism? Despite the theonomists’ reverence for the Puritans, libertarian assumptions appear to trump the Puritans’ focus on the common good and their conception of the state as a moral agent. As such, their theonomy appears to owe more to Rand Paul than to, say, the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s first governor, John Winthrop. In this sense, is it really accurate to affirm, as Gribben does, that “the Moscow community … has successfully resisted American modernity”?

Second, and more broadly, while theonomy has certainly proven influential in ways unrecognized by scholars, just how seriously should Christians take its theological and social project? Evangelicals can sometimes be taken in by the appearance of scholarship. Answering those who claimed theonomists were weighty thinkers, former First Things editor Richard John Neuhaus once commented acerbically:

One might object that the argumentation of the theonomists is more often obsessive and fevered than well-reasoned, and the pedantry of bloated footnoting should not be mistaken for scholarship. One may also be permitted to doubt whether there is, in the explosion of theonomic writing, one major new idea or finding that anyone outside theonomy’s presuppositional circle need feel obliged to take seriously.

Though downplayed by Gribben, Rushdoony’s circle of fellow travelers should give any thoughtful Christian considerable pause. To note only a few red flags: In the first volume of his Institutes, Rushdoony appeared to flirt with Holocaust denial. Years later, he promoted the work of a writer who endorsed geostationary theory, which denies that the earth orbits around the sun. Gary North was among the most alarmist and apocalyptic of the Y2K prophets—at least until the clock struck midnight at the close of 1999. More recently, Wilson authored a booklet, Black & Tan, that adopted discredited Lost Cause views regarding secession and described the allegedly benign features of antebellum slavery. It is easy (especially in the age of Twitter) to confuse quantity with quality and strong opinions with wisdom.

Biographer Michael McVicar once speculated that Rushdoony was “one of the most frequently cited intellectuals of the American right.” Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America provides an insightful exploration of the larger social and regional contexts inhabited by Rushdoony’s offspring. While strict theonomists remain comparatively few, their influence has been significant in some surprising places. Lamentably, they have usually championed an approach more narrowly ideological than genuinely scriptural.

Gillis J. Harp teaches history at Grove City College. He is the author of Protestants and American Conservatism: A Short History.

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Re: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #72 on: June 21, 2021, 01:40:55 pm »


US Evangelicals Promise Prayers and Support for Israel’s New Prime Minister

Letter welcomes Benjamin Netanyahu’s successor after Friends of Zion founder pledged to oppose the incoming leader.

A diverse group of American evangelicals congratulated Naftali Bennett on becoming the new prime minister of Israel and successfully forming a coalition government, offering reassurance on to Israelis concerned about Christian support after Benjamin Netanyahu’s departure.

“We pray that God grants you wisdom and strength as you make hard decisions that will affect the lives of millions, and we trust that He will answer those prayers,” wrote more than 80 religious leaders, organized by the Philos Project, a group promoting “positive Christian engagement” with Israel and pluralism in the Middle East.

The letter expressed appreciation for Netanyahu and everything he did “to strengthen Israel and its alliances” over the past 12 years he served as prime minister. It also welcomed the change brought by Bennett, a religious Jew and former Netanyahu disciple who formed an alliance with multiple parties across the political spectrum to oust Netanyahu.

“We want to thank you in advance for protecting our shared values as they apply to Israel’s citizens, whether Jews, Christians, Muslims, or Druze; for guarding the holy sites and welcoming religious pilgrims from around the world to discover the birthplace of their faith; for defending Israel from outside aggression; and for continuing to work toward peace with Israel’s neighbors,” the letter said. “In return, we pledge to deepen our friendship with your country and its wonderful people.”

Some Israeli political commentators have worried about evangelical support for the new government. In the run-up to the election, former Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer argued Israel should be very concerned about losing the support of American evangelicals.

Those fears seemed to be confirmed when Mike Evans, founder of the Jerusalem-based Friends of Zion Heritage Center and the Jerusalem Prayer Team, lambasted Bennett in an open letter.

The Jerusalem Prayer Team’s Facebook page had 77 million followers before it was taken down in May, and Evans is regularly described in Israeli media as a prominent American evangelical leader and even the “world’s largest evangelical leader.”

“Shame, shame, shame on you. Don't ever call yourself a defender of Zion. You're not,” Evans wrote to Bennett in early June, while Bennett was negotiating to form a coalition government.

“I will fight you every step of the way. You have lost the support of evangelicals 100 percent,” Evans said. “We gave you four years of miracles under Donald Trump. We evangelicals delivered it. You delivered nothing. What appreciation do you show us? You s— right on our face.”

Evans later apologized for using rude language, but repeated his opposition to Bennett and any other political figures who might attempt to replace Netanyahu.

“You’re gonna wave a white flag of surrender—not a blue and white flag—a white flag, because you’re so blinded by your hatred, by your petty politics and your obsessions with power that you can’t see the trees for the forest,” he said.

Evans also reiterated his claim to represent American evangelicals, and referred to “my 77 million evangelicals” in his press conference.

Other American evangelicals with a record of strong support for Israel stepped in to say that not everyone felt the same as Evans.

“While Evangelicals do highly respect and appreciate Netanyahu, their love for Israel is not tied to one man,” wrote Joel Rosenberg, a Christian fiction author and founder of All Israel News. “Christians of course know that at some point Netanyahu will move on, but they sincerely want to bless and strengthen Israel for the long haul regardless of who is in power.”

Rosenberg is one of the dozens of leaders who signed the Philos Project letter.

It was also signed by Methodist, Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, and Missionary Baptist pastors; bishops in the Anglican Church in North America and the International Pentecostal Holiness Church; and representatives from the National Day of Prayer Task Force, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, National Religious Broadcasters, Pastors Wives of America, and Promise Keepers.

Professors from The King’s College, Grove City College, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dickerson-Green Theological Seminary, and Beeson Divinity School signed on, as did Tony Suarez and Johnnie Moore, who served as evangelical advisors to President Donald Trump.

Robert Nicholson, president of The Philos Project, said in a statement that the letter was designed to show broad support.

“This list represents tens of millions of Christians from all over the denominational spectrum,” he said, “who differ on many things but agree on the importance of Christian friendship with Israel based on shared values that come from the Bible.”

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Re: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #73 on: June 28, 2021, 10:58:11 am »


No Longer Evangelical

Is the label 'evangelical' sustainable for Christians in our post-everything world?

I became a Christian at the age of 20, while doing my honors work in philosophy at the University of Michigan. Up until that point, I was an atheist, being raised by atheists. My childhood home had a sign declaring, “The Moore’s, The Atheists,” and a barrel for Bible burning—seriously. That’s why when I converted to Christianity, I had nearly zero history with organized religion and was utterly unfamiliar with a great many terms and labels that came with my conversion.

One of the most important labels I inherited at the time was “evangelical.” I was told that was what I had become, an evangelical Christian. It seemed right to me, because, after all, I had not become a Catholic, Pentecostal, fundamentalist, or Orthodox Christian, I had become an “evangelical Christian,” and that meant something to me at the time.

At the time, as I learned about the ecosystem of the variety of Christian expressions, evangelicals cared deeply about intellectual engagement, spreading the message of Jesus to the world, working together to accomplish that mission, and had a commitment to personal spiritual transformation. That isn’t to say these hallmarks didn’t also present themselves in other forms of Christianity, but after my conversion in the early 1990s, I found them all to be replete within evangelicalism.

How has evangelicalism changed

At its core, evangelicalism is a global expression of Protestantism, which is patently “trans-denominational,” and fundamentally concerned with the spread of the Christian message through mission and evangelism. At its best, evangelicalism was a highly ecumenical movement that enjoyed a long era of engaging issues of social good and justice, intellectual and academic engagement, and a culturally sophisticated understanding of peoples and ethnic social capital. Through my commitment to the evangelical brand of Christianity, I spent nearly 20 years as an abolitionist, mobilizing state and federal lawmakers, faith communities, corporations, and hundreds of thousands of citizens in the fight against modern-day slavery. This was because of the brand of my Christian faith, but today, it is despite it.

Today, evangelicalism has devolved into a grasp for cultural and political superiority at any cost as we can see from its collapse into Christian nationalism. Today, evangelicalism is rife with conspiracy theories and an anti-intellectual, anti-scientific worldview. This collapse is simply the proof that evangelicalism went from hallowed to hollow somewhere along its way, and we are now just witnessing its inevitable demise. For most Americans, they’ve never known a world where evangelical was a term to be revered, even amongst its antagonists. For most, there have never been the “good old days of evangelicalism,” and that is part of the problem.

Evangelicalism is a shadow of what it used to be, offering little to the world it once cherished and lived in as a good global citizen. It is hard to break with one’s heritage—after all, it was evangelicals that first taught me, as a former atheist, to care for the environment, to fight for modern-day slaves, to believe in the power of science, to speak out for racial diversity and empowerment, and pursue a lifelong commitment to intellectual integrity.

These were some of the many reasons why I originally, proudly accepted this label for myself, but as my spiritual journey has evolved, I’ve increasingly kept my evangelical card-carrying identity close to the vest. Being an evangelical has become cumbersome and a source of embarrassment, always needing to be nuanced, contextualized, and qualified. “Well, I’m not that kind of evangelical,” or “Many evangelicals are like that, but not me.” For many, the term is synonymous with MAGA and Christian nationalism—a corruption of the ways of Jesus for sure. For many outsiders, the word evangelical summons amorphous images that are homophobic, misogynist, anti-scientific, and racist. The constant negotiating of the term evangelical has gone beyond tedious; it is clearly unsustainable. This is why I am no longer considering myself an evangelical Christian. I am no longer willing to participate in the charade of pretending that evangelicalism means what it meant.

Beyond faith labels
As I leave the faith tradition that has given me so much, I want to qualify what I mean when I say I’m no longer an evangelical. I will always be Christian, but no longer of the evangelical variety, primarily because I don’t see how evangelicalism can ever be salvaged from what it has become. Today, to be an evangelical in the minds of our society is to be an enemy of the ways of Jesus. To be sure, there are millions of Christians who still don the name ‘evangelical’ who are passionately and unswervingly following the ways of Jesus but under the banner of that label are doing so to their detriment. We are in desperate need of a new expression of Christianity—an expression that creates space for a new way forward.

The ways and teachings of Jesus were radically incompatible with many of the aspects of the mainstream culture of His day, things like misogyny, elitism, and the oppression of the immigrant. One needs only to read one of the four biblical gospel accounts to see that the good news Jesus announced envisioned a new normal that would dismantle many of the powers and privileges of the elite. For many American evangelicals, these are the same powers and privileges they seek to control and benefit from through their use and abuse of political power and cultural echoes from past eras when evangelicalism had a much bigger megaphone than it does today. American Evangelicalism, as it now stands, is quickly becoming synonymous with the very culture and power systems Jesus Himself sought to dismantle!

I am no longer an evangelical, but I am a Christian. In abandoning my evangelical faith tradition, I am sure I will cross and disappoint many who are still desperately trying to redeem and defend the term. But let’s be honest it is a lost cause. We have gone too far, made way too many compromises, and cashed in what little equity we had left in evangelicalism during these last four years. My call is for others to do the same: to denounce what evangelicalism has become and re-embrace the radical ways of Jesus. For millions of church-going, Bible-reading, sincerely praying Americans, who love God and their neighbor, we are not helped by continuing to own this bankrupt label. What our world needs in this time of healing are women and men who are committed to justice, peace, equity, and, most of all, love. This, after all, is the way of Jesus in the first place, so let’s begin by returning to that and figure out what a post-evangelical faith in America looks like together.

R. York Moore is the Executive Director, Catalytic Partnerships at InterVarsity Press as well as National Evangelist for InterVarsity USA and Co-Founder of the EveryCampus Movement.
A passionate, visionary leader and an effective communicator, casting vision and leading change through written and oratory talent.

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Re: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #74 on: July 06, 2021, 11:33:37 am »


Critical Race Theory: What Christians Need to Know

Let’s talk about the issue tearing the American church and country apart.

Christians should be afraid of critical race theory. That’s the message that a number of conservative Christian leaders have shared in recent months. Last fall, the presidents of the five Southern Baptist seminaries issued a statement saying that “affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory” is incompatible with the Baptist Faith and Message, the denomination’s core beliefs. This anxiety made CRT a main focus at the denomination’s recent gathering.

In recent years, some evangelicals have identified critical race theory as an ascendant ideology in the church that is fundamentally at odds with Christian faith. This anxiety has been mirrored by many conservatives at large and the debate over this ideology has moved from the previous president’s public disgust of the ideology to state legislature measures that would ban it in schools. All of this comes months after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have once again spurred both conversations about how the church ought to respond to racial injustice but also how the church should discuss this reality. One recurring concern for some Christians: that their fellow believers have adopted the worldview and talking points of critical race theory and Marxism.

Over time, these charges have been lobbed by Christians at Christians, the latter of whom often feel like this language mischaracterizes the movement, miscasts their efforts, or unfairly shuts down conversations without a hard look at the issues actually at stake.

D. A. Horton directs the intercultural studies program at California Baptist University and serves as associate teaching pastor at The Grove Community Church in Riverside, California. His 2019 book, Intensional, presents a “kingdom” view of ethnic divisions and reconciliation. Horton has written a four-part series on Ed Stetzer’s blog, The Exchange, about CRT and Christian missions.

Horton joined global media manager Morgan Lee and senior news editor Kate Shellnutt to discuss what critical race theory is, why it unnerves some Christians, and what can be done to help Christians stop talking past each other when it comes to addressing the reality of racial injustice.

Highlights from Quick to Listen: Episode #271
Can you define what critical theory is before we get into critical race theory?

D. A. Horton: So critical theory was developed inside of a school in Germany, known as the Frankfurt School, specifically inside the Institute for Social Research. And it really got its start in the late 1920s and the early ’30s. And it was led by the scholar Max Horkheimer, who framed critical theory with three criteria.

First of all, it needs to be explanatory. This means the individual who’s engaging the theory must be able to explain what is wrong with the current social reality that they are analyzing. They also have to identify who are the powers that are maintaining what is wrong through the systems, through the rhythms of the society. Second, it needs to be normative. What norms in this wrong society should be criticized? What are the pieces of evidence of the wrongdoing? And then finally, it has to be practical. What are the achievable, practical ways society can be transformed?

Coming out of that, we have to understand what Horkheimer meant by the term “critical.” In his writings and his lectures, he framed it as a distinct meaning: a different approach to analyzing society than the traditional way of viewing society. And honestly, Horkheimer used “critical” in synonymous with Marxism. His tool of analysis was the lens of Marxism and he used critical theory to identify what values of capitalism were producing injustice in the society that he was in.

But it is good for us to understand that, from the beginning, that framework is not how it always stayed. It did not always stay within the conversation of Marxism. What we see is in the second generation of the Frankfurt School is that it produced intellectuals like Jürgen Habermas, who expanded the research and the analysis beyond Marxism. He said claims to truth must also be moral and political goodness, and they have to be justified. And so he began to pivot away from critical theory from Marxism.

In his later works, especially in the ’90s, he began to expose how secularism, or the humanistic perspective of pushing God out, kept religious thought out of the spaces of law and politics—to which Habermas was preventing us from having a better model of society. And so in his work Habermas actually says religious voices can impact society for good if they learn to communicate their ideas in understandable language for those who are not religious.

And he goes on to give an appeal of a biblical perspective. He says that the biblical social vision is made evident in Genesis 1:26–27, where every human is an image-bearer of the God who created them. And the way that you can translate that theological concept to people who are not religious is by identifying that there is invaluable dignity that every human being has been given.

So critical theory, when it was initially founded as a framework of analysis, the objective measurement tool was Marxism. But then the second generation broadens that reach and even made appeals for the inclusivity of religious dialogue with a very specific biblical appeal.

And as a missiologist, I take that as an invitation to engage with a biblical perspective that analyzes the society but also has a different finish line than what those who are not coming from a Christian theistic worldview may present as their conclusion.

Are we waiting for our Habermas with critical race theory? Do we need someone who can take some of the ideas proposed in the framework of critical race theory and add that theological dimension to make the bridge happen for people who still see it in conflict?

D. A. Horton: Well, there have been many, many Christians who are living out their vocations as given to them by God, in the different spaces and arenas in society. In the behavior sciences, social work, the field of education, and legal studies, you have believers who engage the terms, the language, and the concepts, but at the same time, they’re also looking for the way that they can communicate a biblical perspective. Understanding that society is not going to be perfectly transformed, that our finish line is not a utopia of this side of eternity, but rather it is residents in the city of God that we read about in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.

I believe that there have been people doing that; it’s just that critical race theory and its scholarship has not been mainstream until recent years. And so that’s where I think it gets a little murky. But there have been Christians who have engaged this perspective and they’ve been engaging at it for quite some time.

Is there a way to define critical race theory for people outside of academia? And how would you define it in contrast to the perspective of race that existed prior to CRT?

D. A. Horton: The first thing that I think everyone should understand is that critical race theory is a direct growing out of something known as critical legal studies. And this is particularly focused and centered in the United States of America, so it’s not a global perspective. The only way it becomes global is if somebody adapts the principles and the tools that critical race theory leverages as a methodology of social analysis, and then they apply it to their society outside of America.

But basically, critical legal studies focused on the relationship between the legal scholarship and the struggle to see a more humane, egalitarian, and democratic society. And so critical legal studies contain insights from the Supreme Court rulings on Scott v. Sanford in 1857 and Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 because that provides the context for the legal debates surrounding the flawed “separate but equal,” as well as the colorblindness, or the neutrality, of American law.

So after these rulings, it was a normative belief in America that the law was colorblind, that although people were separate but equal in the Jim Crow era, everyone still had the same type of access to freedom and liberty and everything that our founding documents promise to residents of America.

However, that’s where critical race theory comes in. One of the architects, Richard Delgado, communicated that they began to realize that the momentum of the civil rights movement in the ’60s had stalled when it became evident that a lot of the implementation and legislative changes were not being made by academics.

The cornerstone founder of critical race theory is Derek Bell. His documents are what people consider the foundation of CRT. And alongside the scholarship of Delgado, Kimberly Crenshaw, Ellen Freeman, Cheryl Harris, Charles Lawrence III, Mari Matsuda, and Patricia Williams, they are often framed as the primary voices of critical race theory. To define critical race theory, you really must look at the themes that these primary voices begin to bring to the forefront.

I do think it’s important also to qualify that Derek Bell was interviewed before he passed away, and Bell distanced his perspective as it relates to what would become later known as critical race theory from the views of Marxism. And the reason that he did that is that he didn’t want people to think that he had to turn to European “white” men to understand the racial interactions that he as a Black man has had his entire life in the United States of America. And so one of the misnomers that we have is that CRT automatically, unequivocally, always equals Marxism. And that’s just not true because the founder, Derek Bell, distanced himself from that.

Based on the primary voices I listed, the five themes that I typically identify critical race as is, one, race is something that is manmade, and it has created privilege for something that is known as whiteness—a created American identity which immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe could assimilate. They would become white in exchange for their ethnic heritage, and that would secure them citizenship, employment, housing, and even religious freedoms and liberty.

In addition to that, racism is something that is seen as permanent in the United States of America. And a lot of that is because of the implicit racist language in our founding documents, like the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

The third thing is that counter-stories from marginalized people are necessary. In Christian language, we call a counter-story a testimony. It’s somebody sharing their testimony of how they have interacted with racism in America.

The fourth is that being colorblind is not being truthful.

And then the fifth element that I would say is a common theme is that racial progress seems to only be made when “white people” are the ones who benefit from it.

So these are the five themes that I have identified from the primary voices themselves.

The question about critical race being a worldview—which, when I hear “worldview,” I'm thinking through the lens of the arena of theology. A worldview is how one answers the questions such as, Who is God?; Who am I?; What’s my purpose for living?; What is real?; Who determines right from wrong?; and What happens after I die?

To me, a worldview would include deism, existentialism, monotheism, naturalism, new consciousness, nihilism, and pantheism. And each of those has varying beliefs as it relates to the concept of race. So, in my opinion, critical race theory is not a worldview—it’s comprised of legal scholars who are not dedicating their work to the cosmology of humanity or the universe, let alone the eternal condition of humanity. The focus of critical race theory scholars is the inequality of the law in the United States of America.

And I think that’s one of the misnomers: that people have forced it to become something known as a worldview. And I just don’t see that in the primary voices. Their focus is the United States of America; it’s not global-centric. It throws me off when people compare critical race theory to a worldview, because as a theologian, it doesn’t give answers to some of these worldview questions.

When critical race theory moved from academia into something that some Christian leaders begin to identify as posing a danger to our faith, what were some of the stories or connections that set off alarm bells?

D. A. Horton: This is my personal opinion; I’m limited by my own experiences and experiences of others that I’m in dialogue with. But, what began to happen is that some of the language that critical race theory has developed began to become more normal in a lot of “Christians of color.”

Critical race theory does provide language for concepts that believers, specifically of color, have wrestled within their minds, and now they have terms to use to help these abstract ideas explain in concrete ways.

One example is the term microaggression. The definition of microaggression is an action or an incident that is an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against somebody who is part of a marginalized group. As an example from my own life, I was really stressed going into my PhD entrance exam at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and for that whole process, I was just really nervous and I doubted myself. And I remember being driven to the airport by a brother in Christ and he was asking me what was on my mind because he could tell I was stressed. I explained to him how I felt overwhelmed by the process and demands of the exam.

And he looked at me and confidently said, “You should not stress out. You’re going to pass no matter what. Southeastern needs you. You’re a minority. They need more Hispanics”—which is a term I don’t use, but he used it—“They need more Hispanics so that they can show themselves to be diversified. They need more guys like you, so you’re going to get in no matter what.”

It was saying that I don’t have the educational capacity or the academic rigor and wherewithal to pass, but I’m going to get a pass simply because they need me for visibility. That’s a microaggression because he connected my ethnicity with the fact that I was going to pass.

If I share that statement in a Christian space, people ask, how can you know his motives? How can you know his intentions? And I think at that point, we want to begin to theologize what somebody said so that we don’t have to accept the claim that what was said showed discrimination.

So there was a list of terms that seem to be the no-no terms, and whenever you heard these certain words used, it was like, “Oh my gosh, there are Marxists, communists, socialist people in the church!”

Do you think part of it is that there is a suspicion that comes from hearing the non-Christianese language used by Christians? Especially when it’s being used to critique us?

D. A. Horton: I think that is part of it. But if we just even assess the language that we use as Christians—I mean, the term gospel was not a Christian term; it comes from a Greek word that was literally connected to the imperial cult, it was used for the “good news” that was proclaimed when a new Caesar was crowned or when the Caesar was going to have a child.

Our writers of Scripture—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who safeguarded them from writing anything in error—used that concept, which was connected to pagan worship. And we have seen that used to translate into the gospel because we do proclaim the Good News of Christ being the only source of redemption that God has in his plan of redemption.

And so I think that’s where it takes more education for Christians to understand that everything in our speech is not purely Christian. The clothes that we wear are not always stitched by Christians. This is exactly what Habermas asked. He gave an invitation for religious people to communicate their beliefs and how society can flourish, but they have to be able to do it using terms and concepts that the nonbeliever can understand. There has to be some shared language.

Another term is intersectionality. When people hear “intersectionality” in the church, I often think they’re fearful of a slippery slope and that it is going to somehow give affirmation and acquiesce to the LGBTQ+ community. And my pushback to that is we see the concept in Scripture. And some would say I’m isolating and reading intersectionality into the Scriptures. But what I’m doing is identifying a modern word that describes something that we already see in the Bible.

One of the classic examples I give is John 4. Jesus spoke to the woman at the well. She was identified by her ethnicity as being a Samaritan. She was a woman. You can even argue that the reason that she was drawing water from that well at that time of the day was that she was socially ostracized, so she was marginalized. Those are three identifying realities for her. Another example is in Galatians 3:28; in addition to identifying ethnicity, he [Paul] also identifies gender, and he identifies the reality in social class. All three of those concepts are right there in Scripture.

And this is where evangelicals struggle, because when it comes to gender, we see constant material being produced to advocate biblical roles in marriage, in the home, biblical masculinity and biblical femininity. So, we don’t deny gender. We’re not gender-neutral. At the same time, we see the economic realities and we talk about financial stewardship, giving, employment ethics, good work ethic. We talk about those things. So, we acknowledge the reality of employment and financial stewardship. But now we want to say, “I don’t see ethnicity”? That’s not true. You do inasmuch as you see gender and the reality of the need for financial stewardship and employment and employee ethics. And if you’re talking about ethnicity, gender, and class, that is intersectionality.

So by saying the concept of intersectionality is in Scripture, does that mean I am forsaking Christ as the only means of salvation? Absolutely not. What I’m saying is that there are multiple facets to the reality that we embody in a fallen world.

I am a man. I am also married. I am also Latino. I’m also Choctaw Nation. I have various European descents inside of me. I’m married to a woman. I have daughters, I have a son. I fit in a social class. I grew up in a different social class. These are realities. Acknowledging these realities does not mean I’m doubting the gospel. It doesn’t mean I’m denying the sufficiency of Scripture. Claims of such things are just erroneous and they’re hyperbole.

And I think if we approached it that way, without the name-calling, we would see greater progress in the body of Christ. You can engage the language, but you don’t have to lay down to the agenda of the world by engaging the language. Because my purpose and intention for engaging the language is to help the nonbeliever understand the perspective that God offers as a solution, in Christ alone, for the realities of the broken and this one.

As a missiologist, instructor, and a pastor using the language developed through CRT, what are the ways that it’s helpful, or are there places where there are limits or concerns? Are there boundaries you draw for how it can be employed as a tool within a faith structure?

D.A. Horton: My personal approach is to be honest. What I can do is look at the claims that critical race theory makes, and if it’s true then I can acknowledge that truth.

If all truth is God’s truth, then with common grace, God has given every human being who bears his image rationale, the ability to process information, to think about it, and to communicate. And so I would be remiss if I think that non-Christians cannot tell the truth. And when it comes to social analysis and assessment, if they depart from truthful claims, that’s where, as a follower of Christ, I can say that I have a different guardrail that I’m using to measure the truth claims. Mine is the Word of God.

For example, when I look at the claim that race is a social construct, that it is manmade, that is very true because, in all the times of antiquity, we do not see the racial structures or caste system that we have seen throughout the colonization of the indigenous Americas. Spain and Portugal created the caste system first in the Caribbean and Mexico and South America, and then Protestants did the same thing in the United States. None of that is endorsed in Scripture; however, it is a reality, and it is something that shows in the documents of the United States.

However, what has God given? He’s given ethnicity. And we see this in Acts 17:26 and Genesis 3:20. Ethnicity is a gift from God. And when I look at Revelation chapters 21 and 22, I see that ethnicity is present in the eternal state. So, Christians do not need to be ashamed or feel guilty for their ethnicity.

One of the things that I have been trying to do is to get rid of the color-coded language of the racial caste system and begin to challenge people to affirm their ethnic heritage that was elected for them to have and that will be present in the eternal state. And in doing that, I’m departing away from critical race theory because I’m going back to the cosmological creation of humanity and I’m going to the eternal state. Critical race theory doesn’t go there.

Another example: Often people say that critical race theory says that whiteness was created and it provides privileges for only people who are in that category. And there is some truth in that, but it’s not fully true. And one of the things that I want to communicate is that privilege is not a bad thing.

Anyone listening to this podcast, anyone that has running water, anyone that has shoes on their feet, has food in their pantry—that’s privilege because not everybody in the world has access to those amenities. Privilege is not bad. It’s not sinful. It only becomes sinful when it is not leveraged to help other humans in need. I don’t apologize for my privilege because I can leverage my privilege in specific moments.

In the four blogs with Christianity Today, I explore all of this. What are the claims that critical race theory makes? Where are they true and where are they not true? And then how does Scripture speak to the truthfulness of their claim? But also, how does it correct the errors in their claim as well?

Do you think the reason that some Christians are turning to the language of critical race theory is that they haven’t found sufficiently comprehensive language within Christian contexts to talk about racial injustice?

D. A. Horton: I think in some situations, people have grown weary and tired and they’re just exhausted. They’re just tired of trying to make evangelicals believe that this is a reality for some people. At the same time, I think some people are disgruntled because they don’t feel that they have a safe space that is safe to communicate these things without being charged and accused of various terms. It’s a smorgasbord of realities for people in their experiences.

We, as believers, have to understand that this is also a discipleship issue. Jesus has given the Great Commission and included is language which means “to every ethnicity.” So we are to be making disciples of every ethnicity in America. We are blessed because God has allowed the neighborhoods to be inhabited by the nations, so we’re without excuse. And that’s where I think the work of being diligent to diversify our dinner tables, to diversify our inner circles of friendships and discipleship rhythms is important. It should reflect the reality of the community that God has chosen for us to live in.

I think our local churches should not see the reality of Great Commission fulfillment as affirmative action or a secular perspective. No, this is the reality of what Christ is commissioned every Christian to do. We all have the same job description as the Great Commission.

And in the eternal state, what we recognize is that the ethnicities are present, we are worshiping God. We even see that products of cultural grace are going to be brought in by leaders of the various ethnicities into the city of God. So, we can appreciate the cultural expressions that we have, and we can even see them redeemed for the glory of God.

In my family, one way we’ve done that is with the quinceañera. The quinceañera began as an aspect of pagan ritual, but then it was synchronized with Roman Catholic practice and dogma. And what we did for our daughter when she was 15 is that we made Christ the center focus. We removed the paganism, but we kept the cultural celebrations. And a lot of the language and the customs could be leveraged for the glory of God. Every one of our daughter’s padrinos and madrinas (godparents) gave a gift that was connected back to Scripture and affirmed her walk in Christ.

These are beautiful things of our culture. There are certain dances, there are certain songs, there are certain testimonies and oral traditions in various cultures that in the United States of America have often been deemed as unholy. And if we have divorced ethnicity, if we have divorced the reality of race, because we’ve chosen colorblindness or other methodologies to not even acknowledge those things and framing ethnicity is something carnal and holy and sinful, that’s a discipleship issue.

I don’t think we can talk about people’s fear of critical race theory without discussing cancel culture. How do you define cancel culture? What concerns might you sympathize with for those who are very concerned about this, and where might you push back on people regarding those fears?

D. A. Horton: Cancel culture was derivative of the African American community. As it would be expressed on Black Twitter, it was stepping away from public support, and even the shunning, and the dropping of endorsements of entities or people that did not fall in step with the progression of whoever was doing the canceling.

One of the aspects of cancel culture that has now become a little bit more normative in mainstream society, which then provided a tributary into evangelicalism in America, is this contra-biblical way of interpersonal relationships. We have to understand that cancel culture and the way that it’s been done by the nonbelievers is not endorsed in Scripture.

It basically opens the door for the Evil One to allow suspicions to be brewing in the hearts of people. That we can be content with being warriors of the faith, defenders of the truth of scripture and Christianity by labeling our brothers and sisters enemies of the church enemies.

Even the term woke—a lot of people don’t have the historic understanding of the term. It was something that, again, was first used in the African American community to mean to be aware of the reality and the nuances of practical racism that had been expressed pre–Jim Crow, during Jim Crow, and post–Jim Crow.

And that terminology has now been hijacked in a similar way that the term evangelical has been hijacked. And I think one of the things that we have to do better at in evangelicalism is explaining and defining our terms. And I ground my definitions from themes all throughout Scripture—not social sciences, not critical race theorists, not the Frankfurt school, but from Scripture.

And the reason I want to define those terms is that often in these conversations, in the church we’re not defining our terms. We are allowing the interpreter to read their understanding into the terminology we’re using. That means we have to do the diligent work of explaining to our listeners what we mean by these terms. And then we can give them a better understanding of where we are coming from.

Having terms with no clear tangible definitions just leads people to move forward in their own assumptions, or move forward with the trusted voices that they listen to, and that’s a problem because sometimes the voices that you trust—whether they are grossly misinformed or whether they are intentionally participating in this sin of slander—are not always being consistent and truthful with their assessments and their terminology and even their claims.

To what extent do you say there are a significant number of Christians who are being bad actors, and when is it okay for us as Christians to call people out for acting in bad faith, and are people always aware that they’re acting that way?

D. A. Horton: I think one thing that I have learned in my journey of walking with Jesus, over the last 25 years in America, is that there is a way to theologize yourself out of being guilty of sins like slander and gossip.

We use codified language like “I’m seeking counsel” or “I’m trying to get wisdom,” and we’ll throw a Bible passage on that. And I’m not saying that it’s wrong to seek wisdom and counsel and guidance; however, when it starts getting into the realm of suspicion leading to reading things into what they’re saying …

We live in a fallen world, and sometimes when people want to see something, they’ll see it when it’s not even there. And they’ll convince themselves that they see it and they will be very convincing to others. And when I look at that framework in Scripture, the reality of systemic deception in the world and society at large is in Ephesians 2:1–3. We see that there is a worldly system that is in opposition to righteousness, justice, and all things that are derivative from God’s design for humanity.

So, is there systemic sin in society? Absolutely. Now can it also be in the church? That’s exactly what Paul was arguing in Ephesians 4. The language that he is using points to the systematic lies that are present in the churches, that were brought into the church. And the way that we refute that is through discipleship, rooting ourselves in the Word of God while living on the mission of God.

We, as followers of Christ, don’t have to be aloof when it comes to the systemic deception that unfortunately can make its way into local churches. And what’s being framed now is this new religion called woke-ism, this new perspective of critical race theory being charged as an enemy. We are headed to an unnecessary civil war. And to have a civil war, you have to have an enemy. And this enemy is manufactured because I’ve yet to see anyone who is purposefully seeking to bring the nuances of critical race theory into the Southern Baptist Convention with a desire to take it over.

Now, is that possible? Sure. We live in a fallen world, people may have vindictive motives, but the reality of what I see and who I engage with that are the “faces of this new religion” this new “liberal takeover,” I'm like, y’all are trippin’. They are not what you're calling them.

For those opposed to CRT, what do you think is the “worst-case scenario” in their mind?

D. A. Horton: You know, the only interaction that I’ve had in length with the side that is framing CRT as a religion and woke-ism and the social justice movements as entering into the church, is Fault Lines by Voddie Baucham.

And from the very beginning, the conversation is framed that you’re standing on one of two sides of a fault line, and literally the fault line—no pun intended—of the book is framing the side that Voddie is on and then the side that’s the nonbiblical social justice perspective, which starts with the world and then these Christians now are speaking the world's philosophies and perspectives into the church. And, at the end of the day, he concludes with a call to war against the opposing side.

And in that perspective, he’s framed it as a binary where the reader has to pick a side. And in my mind, that’s a false dichotomy. I don’t have to pick a side. Is there really even a fault line? And as I began to assess some of the claims made, some of the references that were there were cited, it didn’t work for me.

It’s not choosing a side. I don’t have to. I’m being faithful to the work of Christ, and I know where the truth claims are, and I know where they derive away from the truthfulness of God’s Word. And as a competent follower of Christ, I can engage in those conversations and I can give empirical data within the space of the academy.

As a missiologist, I don’t see a dichotomy between faith and scholarship. I don’t see a dichotomy between faith and career vocation. Because God is the one who has his fingerprints on the lives of his children, and the gifts, the talents, and the opportunities he’s given them, which provides them with an opportunity to give him representation in the spaces that they entered.

So, as I enter into the academic space, I am not aloof or naive. I know that I’m walking into social injustice because my God, the only true living God, has been systematically parsed out from representation in data. And I found a way to introduce the reality of who he is, what he has done, in a way that can be communicated inside of a humanistic-centric space.

But the way I communicate about that data in that space is way different than in the church. With the church I’m making the appeals for ethnic conciliation, grounding my definitions in Scripture, helping us see a pathway forward. But the pushback I’m getting is, “Well, you should read Fault Lines.”

Well, I did, and when I express my difference in opinion from where Voddie is coming from, somehow people don’t think that that’s Christian-like. And I think we, as followers of Christ, have to understand that it’s okay to disagree on things. It doesn’t mean that people are kicked out of the kingdom of God. I mean, if that’s the case, then that's a non-biblical view of salvation in the first place.

But when people are trying to create these false dichotomies and call us to war, I’m like, hold on, time out. We are wasting friendly fire. We should be advocating against the principalities and structures that the Evil One has put into place, but we should not be assuming that brothers in Christ are the ones being used as sons of disobedience. Especially if they’re still pointing to Christ as the only means of salvation.

So why are we allowing cancel culture in our evangelical spaces to now be practiced in interpersonal relationships, church relationships, and relationships with staff members? We, as the people of Christ in America, have to be able to recapture the art of dialogue. We have lost that.

In that spirit, can you see the genuine or sincere motives that people have for raising questions about critical race theory? Do you see a good reason or the gospel as a motivation for people who are still suspicious, skeptical, or trying to learn?

D. A. Horton: Yes, absolutely. I do feel that there is a desire now for followers of Christ in America to at least understand critical race theory, and how a Christian is supposed to interact with it.

The first thing that I express to people is a Christian doesn’t need to use critical race theory. You don’t have to. Nobody’s forcing you in the Word of God to communicate that you have to engage critical race theory. Salvation is a gift given by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, confirmed in Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone. So only embracing Christ, the Savior, is necessary to be a part of the kingdom of God, to be a part of Jesus’ church.

Jesus’ work is not dependent on anything or anyone other than him. And I recognize that as a follower of Christ. But as a missiologist, who is evangelistically active and discipleship driven, I engage critical race theory because it’s relevant to my mission field in North America.

So, when people enter into the conversation wanting to understand, then that’s what I want to do. I want to help give them the themes that I’ve identified from the primary voices and point them in the direction of Scripture. I want to show them where some claims are truthful and you’re not compromising Christianity or reducing the finished work of Christ if you acknowledge that there are claims that are true in this methodology. And then, at the same time, as a follower of Christ, because CRT was not developed in a theological sphere or arena, it’s not going to lead to the same kingdom conclusions that we see as those living on mission for Christ. The conclusions and the solutions should lead to gospel conversations with people.

And I think the fear is that people are saying that CRT is being forced on them by Christians who have platforms. CRT is saying that the gospel is not enough, and we need this to help us. And I think that’s where we just read our presuppositions and what people are saying.

I’m not admitting that the gospel is not enough. I still proclaim the gospel. So when people are saying you got to pick critical race theory or the gospel, I’m like, that’s a false dichotomy. I don’t have to play your game. Helping people understand that through dialoguing and answering honest questions with us honest research will help us. And it doesn’t mean that just answering questions is going to suffice and everything goes back to being good. No, these are ongoing conversations again. That’s why I say it’s a discipleship issue.

People are cherry-picking some of their quotes, not giving diligence to the context of the quote, and people are only seeing the sound bite. And the people who don’t want to do the diligent work of researching or cross-referencing or searching for context, they're going to believe these little sound bite options. And that’s where the motives of people then have to be measured.

These are things that I think can only be parsed out through ongoing, honest, transparent, and safe spaces created for these real conversations, and they’re best done in discipleship relationships.

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Re: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #75 on: July 09, 2021, 06:51:14 pm »


Evangelicals Ask Pope Francis to Help Save Lebanon

Visiting the Vatican for a Christian summit, leaders explain why the problems of sectarian politics have become unbearable.

Pope Francis has a message to consider from Lebanon’s evangelicals.

“We are not comfortable in our sectarian system, and thank God that we are not a part of the politics that led the country to collapse,” said Joseph Kassab, president of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon.

“We are not benefiting, and it hurts us like the vast majority of the Lebanese people.”

Last week the Catholic pontiff invited Lebanon’s Christian denominations to the Vatican for a time of prayer and reflection. Ten patriarchs, bishops, and church leaders gathered, as Francis encouraged them to speak with one voice to the politicians of their nation.

Lebanon has been unable to form a new government since its prior one resigned 11 months ago, following the massive explosion at Beirut’s port. As its Christian, Sunni, Shiite, and Druze political parties wrangle over representation, more than half the population now falls below the poverty line.

Following a default on national debt, personal bank accounts have been largely frozen as the Lebanese lira has lost over 90 percent of its value. The World Bank estimates the economic collapse to be among the world’s three worst in the last 150 years.

“We blame and condemn our Christian and Muslim political leaders equally,” said Kassab.

“We have to say this loudly.”

Pope Francis (left) attends a prayer with Lebanon’s Christian leaders in St. Peter’s Basilica on July 1, hosting them at the Vatican for a day of prayer amid fears that the country’s descent into financial and economic chaos is further imperiling the Christian presence in the country.

The nation’s longstanding sectarian system, however, works to recycle these leaders. Lebanon’s president must be a Maronite Christian, its prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and its speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim.

The 128 parliament seats are divided evenly between Muslims and Christians, with one reserved for Protestants. But confessional distribution extends into ministerial and civil service positions, including the army, police, and intelligence services.

Each community seeks to maximize its interests, while being careful not to upset the sectarian balance.

“Positions are distributed by religious identity, not qualification,” said Kassab. “Francis called us to push our politicians toward the common good, but we are imprisoned in this system.”

Closed door discussions were frank, he said, but conducted with a brotherly spirit. There is no Lebanese consensus on solutions, let alone among Christians.

The Maronite patriarch has repeatedly called for an international conference to compel a political solution, as well as to ensure Lebanese regional neutrality. But AsiaNews reported that the Greek and Syrian Orthodox leaders have reservations, likely due to headquarters in Damascus.

Consequently, the pope sought to find the common denominator between the churches. This was identified as the urgent necessity for a government, and social assistance to keep Christians in Lebanon.

Currently “50 to 60 percent of our young people live abroad,” stated Samir Mazloum, the Maronite patriarchal vicar. “There are only old people and children left.”

The Vatican released no official statement, but Pope Francis’ closing homily served as an indication.

“Lebanon cannot be left prey to the course of events or to those who pursue their own unscrupulous interests,” he said. “It is a small yet great country, but even more, it is a universal message of peace and fraternity arising from the Middle East.”

Francis’ earlier visits with the Grand Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar, a Sunni, and the Grand Ayatollah in Iraq, a Shiite, represent his attempt to secure good relations across the Muslim world. In Lebanon, however, there was some unease about the nature of last week’s Christian-only dialogue.

To assuage them, John X, patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, met with the heads of the Sunni, Shiite, and Druze communities in advance of the gathering. This initiative, Kassab said, was roundly appreciated by the pope and Lebanese Christian leaders.

“We need to be a church that serves the Muslims,” he added. “We cannot exclude our partners in the nation.”

Despite the economic troubles, this sentiment is holding firm.

Lebanese dismiss the possibility of a return to civil war, which tore the country apart from 1975 to 1990. But those wounds were never healed, stated Bishop Michel Aoun of the Maronite church, with no confession of wrong. International pressure may help force a government, but the political system—adjusted after the war—failed to instill a sense of Lebanese unity.

So Francis prayed for it.

“We have seen our own lack of clarity and the mistakes we have made,” the pope stated during his closing homily. “For all this we ask forgiveness, and with contrite hearts we pray: Lord, have mercy.”

And specifically, he mentioned a failure “to bear consistent witness to the Gospel,” including missed opportunities for reconciliation.

The daylong gathering began at Casa Santa Marta, where Lebanese leaders joined the pope at his simple residence. He walked with them to St. Peter’s Basilica, where they recited the Lord’s Prayer. After about five minutes of silent meditation, the heads of denominations descended into the crypt, where they each lit a candle in front of an ornate Bible.

Left above was Charlie Costa, head of Lebanon’s Baptist convention, invited by Kassab as part of the evangelical delegation. Awed by the sense of history at the Vatican, he remarked that this cathedral was built with the indulgences that triggered the Reformation. Yet it also preserved Western Christianity throughout the ages.

Francis listened intensely during the sessions, speaking little, he said. And he received the Protestants respectfully, engaging them as an equal component of Lebanese society, along with the Catholic and Orthodox delegations.

“He is an amazing man,” said Costa. “Christians in Lebanon, evangelicals included, can learn from his humility.”

There was a consensus among the Lebanese leaders that they must.

“We forgot for a while about our differences,” said Kassab. “But if we leave the situation as it is, Lebanon is going to die.”

The evangelical report handed to Francis emphasized the necessity of freedom of conscience and belief, while maintaining good relations with the traditional churches and Muslim community.

Lebanese evangelicals would welcome the Vatican taking a leading role in international efforts to rescue Lebanon. Francis announced no concrete steps, but delegation members anticipate he will lead the charge to preserve the diverse, multi-confessional nation.

Will it remain sectarian in its political system? No one knows the details.

“Lebanon will be different,” said Kassab.

“We as Christians have to be prepared for that future.”

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Re: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #76 on: August 01, 2021, 04:28:25 pm »


Patrons’ Saints: Christians Turn to Patreon, Substack, and Kickstarter

As more evangelical figures embrace crowdfunding, is the format demanding too much of them?

To release her first contemporary Christian music album back in 2004, Beth Barnard signed a contract with Sparrow Records during her freshman year of high school.

Her 11-song debut was self-titled Bethany Dillon, a stage name she adopted at the recommendation of execs who thought her maiden name—Adelsberger—would be a mouthful. Through Sparrow (now Capitol Christian Music Group), Barnard spent most of her teen years recording music. Her hit songs were nominated for Dove Awards and appeared on WOW compilations.

She then married Shane Barnard—one Shane-half of Christian music group Shane & Shane—and realized that she wanted to stay at home with her family rather than record and tour. More than a decade and four kids later, Barnard sensed last year that she had another collection of songs to share. Only this time, she launched a Kickstarter campaign.

The crowdfunding site had allowed Barnard to release a worship album, A Better Word, in 2017. She turned to Kickstarter again in 2021 to bypass some of the business baggage she was happy to leave behind when she stepped away from the music industry years ago, like marketing efforts and hitting the road to promote the album.

Her fans remembered her and came through, giving more than $20,000 in the first 12 hours of the fundraiser in January.

“Thank you, thank you … not only for helping us meet the financial part of rolling this out, but also for what that speaks … that you’re behind this and excited about it,” Barnard told backers in a recorded video after her project was funded.

Kickstarter, where supporters can pledge for a one-time project, and platforms like Substack and Patreon, where they can pay to subscribe for content on a regular basis, offer creators a way to directly connect with their audiences while giving fans a way to directly support the creators they love.

These setups took off over the past decade among the aspiring and niche, including in Christian circles. Then, as the pandemic canceled events like concerts and conferences, more artists and speakers relied on direct funding and online subscription models as they adapted their material for online audiences.

Apologists, pastoral coaches, and theologians have also begun to turn to direct funding as a revenue stream and a way to share resources. The Truth’s Table podcast, hosted by Michelle Higgins, Christina Edmondson, and Ekemini Uwan, has over 250 Patreon supporters offering $5–$50 a month for bonus episodes and other perks. Australian Bible scholar Michael Bird offers Q&As and commentary in his Substack newsletter Word from the Bird.

Big names have stepped over to the direct-funding space too. After 40 years in Christian music, the late singer Carman created what remains one of the highest-funded Kickstarter projects in the app’s history, raising $538,103 in 2013 for what turned out to be his last album. Some of the top Christian artists on the site today include singer-songwriters Nichole Nordeman and Jasmine Tate and worship band Citizens.

Though he continued making music and releasing books through traditional outlets, rapper Lecrae joined Patreon during the pandemic, offering his weekly podcast for $5 a month or perks like live Zoom chats for $50 a month. Christian writer and podcaster Tsh Oxenreider launched a Substack in 2019, where subscribers get access for $60 a year or $6 a month to her newsletter and are invited to special events, including in-person book club gatherings (when pandemics allow).

The widespread use of direct funding has shifted the relationship among supporters, creators, and the institutions that used to stand between them.

But despite the success many Christian artists, public theologians, and podcasters have found in crowdfunding, the model raises questions Christians should consider: What are we selling, exactly? And should we sell it just because someone’s willing to buy in?

‘Quintessentially Christian’ giving
Christians were in the direct funding game long before there were websites. In Roman society, wealthy patrons supported poets, philosophers, merchants, and artisans, and the framework carried over into the church. Paul refers to Phoebe as prostatis—a “patron” or “benefactor.” Other New Testament figures such as Lydia, Jason, Onesiphorus, and Philemon may have also played that role in supporting the early Jesus movement.

For most of history, being a patron required status and big bucks. An elite few would commit to consistently support a respected artist or teacher over their career. Online tools today, however, have opened the door to huge swaths of middle-class supporters, who can offer up $5 a month via their credit cards for a members-only podcast and the distinction of digital patron status.

But the church itself has always leaned on the benevolence of the masses. Most churches across the globe rely on tithes and donations from members to operate. Churches build buildings, send youth groups on mission trips, plant other churches, and send out full-time missionaries almost exclusively on donated funds.

In a proto-crowdfunding model, missionaries regularly visit churches or send letters to recruit like-minded Christians to pledge ongoing support for their ministry work. Like the creators now recruiting online, missionaries are expected to provide their backers with updates about how the investment is paying off on the mission field.

Those missionaries are tapping into a key motivation of their donors: They want to feel intimately involved—or at least aware—of what they’re supporting. That sense of intimacy is key to other, more global Christian efforts like World Vision and Compassion International, where donors can choose a specific child and international community to support.

Still, research suggests younger generations are more inclined to give to individuals than to institutions doing mission work. Giving directly to Christian artists over the internet leans into that reality.

Whatever the reason people give, crowdfunding does seem quintessentially Christian. It answers the call to be generous, to bear one another’s burdens, and—depending on the “product”—to work together in pursuit of gospel causes.

That’s why Heather Wilson and her brother, Jacob Wells, said they wanted to create an explicitly Christian crowdfunding site. They launched GiveSendGo in 2015 and now estimate the site has raised around $25 million so far, spread out among about 8,000 successful campaigns—everything from missions and Habitat for Humanity projects to, more recently, funding for adoption or foster care.

“We got to talking about how this is really what the church should be doing,” Wilson said. “The church in Acts would give what they could and help support each other. This is the kind of the same thing.”

In practice, though, it’s not that simple. For one thing, the site doesn’t require campaigners to be professing Christians or be raising money for explicitly Christian endeavors. In fact, GiveSendGo offers a case study in the pitfalls of populist funding. It’s come under fire recently for hosting deeply controversial campaigns.

Earlier this year, a high-ranking member of the violent alt-right group Proud Boys raised more than $100,000 on GiveSendGo.

Kyle Rittenhouse, accused of murdering two Black Lives Matter protesters in Wisconsin during the unrest last summer, has raised more than a half million dollars for his defense.

Before his murder conviction in the killing of George Floyd, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin allegedly raised more than $6,000 (his campaign is no longer active).

Wilson and Wells told Religion News Service that they decide which campaigns to allow on their site on a case-by-case basis and that they don’t want to participate in “cancel culture” or presume to be “judge and jury.”

There’s a difference, of course, between crowdfunding for a cause (controversial or not) and the patron-artist relationship fostered on sites like Kickstarter and Patreon.

GiveSendGo is perhaps a cautionary tale: When anyone can launch a crowdfunding effort with the click of a button, people will ask for money for anything—and some people will give money for anything. So how can Christians think critically about what we should create, and where we should give?

Sustaining income?
Hannah Anderson is a Christian writer whose work often explores the relationship between home life and the marketplace. Anderson thinks crowdfunding may appeal to people, especially women, who are used to giving away their artistic work for free.

She first began writing as a young mom, she said, in part because her family needed the money, but also because she felt a calling to create. “That’s just a human need,” she said.

For many like Anderson, crowdfunding and subscription platforms may seem enticing. They’re often marketed as an alternative to the uber-competitive and exclusive “marketplace”—Kickstarter’s mission is to let “creative people…take the wheel” rather than leaving “art world elites and entertainment executives to define our culture.”

But many who have found success in crowdfunding already had a steady following built through more conventional means.

The Holy Post podcast had been around for four years before the show added a Patreon with bonus content in 2016, and its popular cohosts author Skye Jethani and Phil Vischer (of VeggieTales fame) had name recognition with Christians long before that. They now bring in over $18,000 a month on Patreon.

While direct funding may allow artists to finally monetize their work, it’s usually not enough to pay the bills.

Beth Barnard says she never planned for her album’s Kickstarter to put food on her family’s table. “We wanted funds to be able to pay the band well and to check all the boxes of what it is to make a record,” she said.

That funding problem isn’t exclusive to crowdfunding sites, though. Even established Christian authors who publish books the old-fashioned way typically don’t make a sustaining income on writing alone.

“Almost everybody who is publishing in traditional ways in the Christian world, who are successful authors … almost everybody has a day job,” said Trevin Wax, outgoing senior vice president for theology and communications at Lifeway Christian Resources. Publishing is “at best a nice little bonus.”

For that reason and others, Wax doesn’t worry that crowdfunding sites will elbow out traditional publishing houses. Lifeway offers a machine of publicists, editors, graphic designers, inventory managers, and, crucially, event planners that those going the independent route won’t have. The events are key, Wax says; any author who wants even a modicum of success must also be speaking in front of audiences.

Expectation of intimacy
So if the majority of Christian creators using crowdfunding won’t make a sustainable family income on the art alone, what else can they sell?

Crowdfunding offers something that traditional publishing doesn’t: intimacy between creators and their audience. But the expectation of that intimacy—which comes to the forefront on social media and through these subscription models—can be more rewarding and more demanding.

Glorious Weakness author Alia Joy used to field requests from committed readers who wanted to send her money through Venmo to support her work. After her 2020 conference plans were called off during the pandemic, she took the readers up on their suggestion and started a Patreon.

“The people that have believed in my writing have really rallied around me,” said Joy, who lives in Oregon with her three kids, husband, and widowed mother.

Joy’s bipolar disorder, physical disability, and bouts with severe depression have often kept her from writing consistently. In February of this year, she wrote a confessional post to her Patreon supporters apologizing for her inconsistency and trying to set a more realistic expectation.

“When I have words, I will serve them here,” she wrote. “When I don’t, I will rest. His grace is sufficient.”

The $5 Patreon subscriptions total about $350 a month, which Joy said she uses to cover the cost of her psych medication.

She says her readers have been mostly kind and supportive. She has less of a problem with getting pushback from followers than with hearing from some who feel too connected to her when she is not able to reciprocate.

“I 100 percent don’t care if people just don’t like me,” she says. “But if people ask me, ‘Hey, can we go get coffee?’ and I say I can’t do that … if they’re like, ‘I’m not worth having coffee with,’ that actually is the thing that makes it really hard for me to set boundaries.”

After she released her book, in which she wrote about her childhood sexual trauma and other heavy issues, Joy says she started getting really personal, weighty emails from readers who wrote as if they knew her—and were expecting a response in kind. For a while, Joy shared an 800 number that connects callers with mental health experts in their area. She’d send it to especially troubled supporters.

Whenever the line between person and brand blurs, expectations become unmanageable, Anderson warns. Financial backers might feel too much entitlement to creators’ content (and time). Creators might view negative feedback as a referendum on them as a person.

In addition to the personal risks, she sees another potential problem: The quality of the art could suffer. “You have the accountability of contenting your audience, but to me that’s not a good form of accountability,” she said.

If the artist is the product, she says, there’s no editor necessary. That might feel like freedom, but when artists focus more on their fans than on their work, it can also lead to stagnation.

“If you enter into this space like, ‘Oh, I’m just going to give my thoughts to the world’ … there’s no reciprocation about whether your thoughts should be shifted,” she said.

“I would worry that people who go down the Patreon route without a clear sense of putting boundaries in place for themselves … one of the things it would do is it would stifle your personal growth.”

Wax at Lifeway says professional editors push writers to do better work. “There’s always going to be a need for traditional publishers to vet writers really well and edit their work with excellence.”

Scripture, too, warns of the potential downsides of a crowdfunding model, with James criticizing churches that catered to their generous benefactors (James 2:1–4).

There’s no doubt crowdfunding sites like Patreon and Kickstarter have paved the way for albums, podcasts, articles, theological insight, and art that may never have otherwise been produced.

Beth Barnard may never have released another album if doing it required a year of touring apart from her family. Alia Joy may never have found an outlet that would publish the heartfelt prose her audience has come to love—and that her disability keeps her from producing consistently.

But despite their clever marketing, crowdfunding sites offer neither perfect populism nor unfettered creative freedom. They don’t eliminate many of the setbacks of traditional publishing: Some really good artists still won’t find an audience. Some really bad art will. “Success,” after all, still hinges on popularity and money. And those looking for money for nefarious reasons will also try this new avenue to get it.

This presents challenges for Christians on all sides of the crowdfunding relationship: to make sure we’re creating good things that warrant distribution and to make sure we’re giving money to those good things—not as a bid for influence over the person creating them.

For her part, Hannah Anderson doesn’t support many Patreons. Instead, she likes looking for digital “tip jars” (usually links to PayPal or other money-transfer apps) at the ends of articles she enjoyed.

“I link it more directly to the artifact,” she said. “I’m going to give you money for this thing, not for you.”

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Re: The fearless evangelist
« Reply #77 on: August 16, 2021, 03:27:12 pm »


TikTok in Tongues? Charismatics Disagree.

Spirit-filled content creators test theological limits on social media.

Michael Paul Corder says he “cut his teeth” praying in public by going around to grocery stores and striking up conversations, asking folks if they wanted to pray. But even in the Bible Belt of East Tennessee, he found people were often hesitant or embarrassed.

Not so, he said, on TikTok.

Corder does a livestream open prayer every day, in which he prays for the hundreds of people who hop into the virtual chatroom without embarrassment. Many of his nearly 165,000 followers who join express feeling relief or calm when he prays for them. Their pain or healing is not something that can be verified, Corder admits, but still, he believes their presence testifies to something missing from their churches.

“At those churches, they’re not praying for the sick, or if they are, they’re not seeing results. At mainstream churches, you get more of a philosophical lecture,” Corder told Religion News Service.

Sometimes on his livestreams, Corder will pray in tongues—a practice popular among charismatic and Pentecostal Christians who say the unknown language is a gift from the Holy Spirit, as described in Acts 2.

“I think words are not the greatest at describing the sensation,” Corder said. “It’s being filled, it’s being baptized.”

“It’s a little mysterious,” he added, saying he speaks in tongues when the Holy Spirit moves him.

Pentecostal or charismatic TikTok is a thriving community of diverse Christians. It’s multilingual and multicultural and spans generations. Its hashtags have millions of views. Here, Christians who identify as charismatic, nondenominational, Assemblies of God, or Pentecostal all gather to share encouragement and witness for their on the internet.

Many of the videos on charismatic TikTok are dedicated to prayer—talking about prayer, encouraging others in prayer or praying on camera. In the charismatic tradition, this can often include praying in tongues, also known as glossolalia, and the hashtag for speaking in tongues has more than 4 million views.

Heidi Campbell, author of the recent book Digital Creatives and the Rethinking of Religious Authority, says new media has long been a ripe platform for evangelization and religious discussion—from the printing press to TikTok.

Before the internet became widely available to the public, Campbell described participating in charismatic email-based communities on internet relay chats, forerunners of popular messenger platforms like AOL Instant Messenger.

“If you were speaking in tongues, you would just kind of let your fingers go over random keys—like gobbly goop,” said Campbell, “but that was the symbolism of speaking in tongues.”

In nearly 30 years of research on faith practices in the digital world, Campbell believes that Pentecostal theology provides a warrant for enthusiastic embrace of new technology.

“Pentecostal theology is all about being led by the Holy Spirit,” said Campbell, “so the idea of the Holy Spirit moving through the computer or having a spiritual experience through the computer is very acceptable.”

But not all believers on charismatic TikTok agree.

Taylor Cuthbertson, 27, has 27,000 followers on TikTok who watch her videos about living as a Pentecostal Christian. For Cuthbertson, there are some things that “are a big no on TikTok” and one of them is praying.

“I’m a very private person,” she said.

Michael Grattan, pastor of Manhattan Pentecostal Church, believes prayer belongs in public, but he’s not sure it belongs on TikTok.

Grattan explains the tradition of speaking in tongues as a sign of God’s spirit dwelling with baptized believers. The apostles were able to speak in many languages, to be understood as they addressed a crowd of people from different nations gathered in Jerusalem.

In a monolingual community, Grattan said, that sort of diversity of language becomes unnecessary, so the often unintelligible prayer language of “speaking in tongues” becomes a way of “expressing the deepest parts of your spirit,” Grattan said.

It’s perfectly appropriate for a public setting, Grattan said. But he cited Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, which reads, “Let everything be done decently and in order.” On the internet, Grattan sees disorderliness and chaos.

Grattan does have an account on TikTok. “It’s a good way to get the pulse of the people,” he said. But he doesn’t post on it. He’s not sure it’s the ripest ground for prayer or evangelization, saying he thinks the internet’s constant stimulation drowns out the message of the gospel.

“When you have so many choices, it’s hard to see the real value and it’s hard to communicate value,” he said, “The vistas of knowledge available on the internet are unimaginable. But the flip side of that is that meaning is lost in the midst of it.”

“TikTok to me is the ultimate noise,” Grattan said.

Montana Cooley sees her mission on TikTok as breaking through the noise. “I want to spread the love of God,” she said.

At the end of 2020, Cooley, 19, said she was in a dark place. And then she started getting more involved again at the Assemblies of God church at which her great-grandfather was a preacher.

“I fell back in love, I guess,” she said.

She wouldn’t show video of herself praying in tongues, however. First, she said, because it’s not premeditated but rather prompted by the Holy Spirit. “Sometimes I’ll do it out in public when the spirit comes my way,” Cooley said. But mostly because it usually happens in church.

Cooley does however talk about her experiences praying in the spirit to her 15,000 followers because she wants them to know that talking in tongues is a part of the Christian life.

“Some people think that talking in tongues is demonic,” she said, “but it’s evidence, showing other people that the Holy Spirit is there in your presence.”


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