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Discussion | Christian News | Chaplain's Office => Christian and Theological News => Topic started by: patrick jane on May 02, 2020, 12:43:34 pm

Title: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 02, 2020, 12:43:34 pm
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117155.jpg?w=940)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/virus-breaks-camels-back.html







The Virus Breaks the Camel's Back







Saudi Arabia and civil war ravaged Yemen. And now this.


The first confirmed coronavirus infection in Yemen was identified in a 60-year-old man on Good Friday. No additional cases have been reported since then, but that can hardly be for lack of transmission, for it’s difficult to imagine a country more ill-equipped to fight COVID-19’s spread. This small Middle Eastern nation has endured five years of violence, blockade, starvation, and epidemic, and its medical system was ravaged before the pandemic began. The United Nations considers Yemen’s condition the world’s worst humanitarian crisis—and it’s a crisis to which our government contributes.

Located at the southern edge of Saudi Arabia and bordering the Red Sea, Yemen is thought to be the home of the biblical queen of Sheba, and perhaps only biblical language can adequately convey its confluence of miseries. The prophets’ mournful condemnations of violence and oppression all find expression in Yemen: The combatants’ “feet run to evil, and they rush to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, desolation and destruction are in their highways.The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths” (Isa. 59:7–8, NRSV). Yemen illustrates all too well the way sin flows from sin (Ps. 7:14–16) and how human and natural evil can conspire in our fallen world.

When Yemen’s civil war began in 2015, it was little noticed in the United States. Widely ignored too was the Obama administration’s decision to support a coalition intervention led by Saudi Arabia to back the Yemeni government and oppose the Houthi rebels challenging its power. Then-President Barack Obama never obtained congressional authorization for US involvement in this war, as required by the Constitution, and President Donald Trump vetoed a bipartisan congressional resolution to end American involvement last year.

While neither administration permanently planted any significant number of US boots on the ground in Yemen, both backed the coalition even as it racked up credible accusations of war crimes. Washington sold the Saudi coalition weapons, including a bomb used in the Saudi school bus strike that killed 40 children. Our military’s intelligence sharing informed the coalition’s air campaign as it bombed civilian targets like hospitals, schools, markets, refugee camps, weddings, funerals, food factories, and water treatment plants.

That damage to clean water sources fueled in Yemen the largest cholera outbreak on record in world history. Cholera is a waterborne disease in which diarrhea and vomiting cause catastrophic dehydration, and Yemeni cholera cases are estimated at more than 2 million in a population of 28 million. The same poor hygiene conditions that help cholera spread will spread COVID-19 too.

But the US-backed coalition’s single most harmful tactic is its ongoing blockade of Yemen’s airports and seaports. Ostensibly intended to prevent the Houthis from obtaining weapons from Iran, it has produced famine conditions and severe shortages of medical supplies. Yemen is a desert nation that must import 90 percent of its food, so under siege, Yemen is starving. Photos of malnourished Yemeni children call to mind Holocaust victims. A Yemeni child of five years or younger dies of starvation and other preventable causes every 12 minutes.

Between war casualties, cholera, and starvation, Yemen’s medical system has long been overwhelmed. Only half its hospitals are functioning normally. Medicine and equipment are in short supply, and many doctors and nurses worked without pay until outside aid groups began to cover some salaries. There is no scenario in which Yemen can be prepared for the coronavirus. There is no scenario in which Yemeni COVID-19 patients will receive the care they need.

But there is a scenario in which the United States could stop adding to Yemen’s suffering: We could stop assisting the Saudi coalition. Politically, this should be an easy sell: It has bipartisan support in Congress and among Americans aware of the war. It would not jeopardize US security—the Houthis have only local ambitions, and the power vacuum of civil war helps terrorist organizations rather than curbing them, most notably al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). (AQAP-linked fighters have even obtained American weapons and armored vehicles flowing into Yemen via coalition forces.)

US military withdrawal from Yemen’s conflict is no guarantor of peace. It will not rebuild hospitals or control epidemics. But it would make the coalition intervention impossible to continue, at least at its current scale. That could push Saudi Arabia and its allies to reach a peace deal or long-term ceasefire with the rebels after multiple failed negotiations. And it could well break the blockade, allowing in vital food and medical aid.

Open ports and a decline in violence in Yemen would give Christians an opportunity to serve the Yemeni people in ways that are now all but impossible. A NGO worker in Yemen told me few of the aid organizations that have managed to stay active in the country are affiliated with churches. That is partly because Yemen is a dangerous place for Christians, this worker emphasized. A mass shooting in 2016 included four nuns and a priest among its victims; international Christian aid workers were kidnapped and killed in 2009; and three Southern Baptist missionaries were martyred in Yemen in 2003. The Yemeni Christian population is extremely small and subject to persecution (conversion from Islam is prohibited). That likely won’t change however the civil war concludes, as neither the Yemeni government nor the Houthi rebels respect religious freedom. Yemen needs spiritual care as much medical and economic aid.

In this pandemic and after, amid civil war and after, Yemen desperately needs the church. It needs Christians to imitate our God who “will incline [his] ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more” (Ps. 10:17–18, NRSV). It needs us to embody God’s self-sacrificial care for the helpless. Yemen needs peace, and it needs our prayers.














Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Christianity Today, a contributing editor at The Week, a fellow at Defense Priorities, and the author of A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (Hachette).
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 04, 2020, 07:41:04 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117126.jpg?w=940)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/april-web-only/lay-down-your-ventilator-for-friend.html






Lay Down Your Ventilator for a Friend








What is a Christian to do when there's not enough to go around?


The weeks slide from our fingers as the pandemic’s first wave moderates—whether due to our quarantined culture or the wiles of viral behavior. Pressure mounts to resume some sort of normalcy. On the one hand, normal is impossible as long as a vaccine eludes us. But on the other hand, surviving a sustained shutdown is economically and emotionally infeasible. Thirty million Americans have lost their jobs, nerves are fried, and happiness stays socially distant.

Reopening America comes at a high price. Given what we know about the coronavirus and its effects, there’s a tradeoff to be calculated between economic livelihood and human life. The quarantine’s goal from the outset has been preserving hospital capacity for anticipated surges. America is a country where health care, while expensive and notoriously complicated, is regarded as more a right than a privilege. But if too many people get sick and health care resources deplete, rights give way to privilege. The better off get better while the poor and marginalized suffer.

Such is the way of life, some would say. Nature must run its course. The virus exposes a surplus population, the elderly, and the mortal sin of preexisting conditions. According to a recent Pew survey, a majority of people with no religious affiliation (56%) said ventilators should be saved “for those with the highest chance of recovery in the event that there are not enough resources to go around, even if that means some patients don’t receive the same aggressive treatment because they are older, sicker and less likely to survive.” Economists do the math: A life is worth X, a job is worth Y, toss in actuarial variables, and generate a value on which to base a decision. Risk and price prove as efficient as they are heartless.

But a value and values are not the same thing. Ideally when it comes to health care, the patient does the math based on their own preferences and personal beliefs. Providers then respond with treatment options available. Unavailable resources may press for a recalibration of utility over values, but Christianity resists. One’s personal conviction, prayer, Scripture, community, and trustworthy teachings supervene on ethical decisions. Thus, according to Pew, most evangelicals (60%) said limited ventilators should go to whichever patients “need them most in the moment, which might mean that fewer people survive but no one is denied treatment based on their age or health status” (the US average was 50%). Moreover, religious beliefs evoke suspicion of any human presuming authority over another’s life—God alone holds authority over death and life (Deut. 32:39).

Still, decisions have to be made. Years ago, I served a stint on a hospital ethics committee in Boston where we tackled organ donation after cardiac death. When was it OK to remove a heart for a consented transplant from a child after that heart irreversibly stopped beating? Hospital policy was to wait five minutes rather than the preferred two practiced by most medical centers. The reason was to provide the deceased with “spiritual wiggle room.” The hospital determined that five minutes should suffice for a soul to depart its body.

Nonreligious members of the ethics committee were nonplussed. With hundreds of children desperately awaiting organ donations, why risk organ viability by taking extra time for something that, scientifically speaking, we’re not even sure happens? The ethics committee turned to me (a minister at the time) for advice.

“Reverend,” they asked, “how long does it take for a soul to depart the body?”

All I knew to say was what Christians had always believed. I quoted the Apostles’ Creed: “We believe in the resurrection of the body,” by which we mean the whole body. No need for the wiggle room. How does this happen? The Bible says it works something like farming: A natural body gets sown in the ground like a corpse buried, but then gets raised a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44). To dust we return, but from the dust we will rise and be recognizable like Jesus, fully healed and made whole and finally our true selves.

Except Jesus still has his scars. You’d think if resurrection gets you a new body, you’d at least lose the nail holes. “Look at my hands and my feet,” Jesus said (Luke 24:39). His scars were signs of sacrificial love. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:3).

Note that Jesus did not say to lay down another’s life. We’re told to take up our own crosses in order to follow Christ (Mark 8:34), not to crucify others. We can love sacrificially unto death for a friend with hope and without fear because Jesus really rose from the dead.

If social distancing fails and resources deplete, the question over who lives and who dies resorts to politicians, economists, and health care administrators. But Christians have another ethical choice. Is our faith sufficient that we would ever give up our own ventilator for the sake of a friend? For a neighbor? For even a stranger? One’s personal conviction, prayer, Scripture, community, and trustworthy teachings challenge us to consider sacrifice over self-preservation. Following Jesus means taking up crosses. Lose ourselves and we find our true selves. Our scars and core wounds reveal our core loves and real faith, not the fruit of our effort but the yield of our yielding to Jesus. Our greatest love and most beautiful virtues do not run, but rather transcend, nature’s course.

John Calvin once wrote:

We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves, and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our goal of life.














Daniel Harrell is Christianity Today’s editor in chief.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 04, 2020, 10:46:16 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117169.png?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/20-ways-to-help-your-children-process-pandemic.html







20 Ways to Help Your Children Process the Pandemic











In these seasons of crisis, in our all-important busyness, there is often a subtle temptation to overlook the precious little lives that dwell in our very homes.


You’re not the only one feeling the press. Little eyes, little ears, little bodies and tender souls are doing their best to process this COVID-19 experience alongside their parents – with far fewer tools. Try as we might to conceal it from them, a new “homeschool life,” coupled with a new “work-from-home-world,” or worse, a “no-work-at-all-world” - positions often anxious children in full view of life’s troubling complications. While we likely have ways of processing the noise, it’s entirely possible that our children might be overlooked in the missionary equation that lies before them.

On one hand, this is to be expected. There is, after all, a lot to do in these days. For most, the volume of work and responsibility has not slowed down, but rather has found a new and higher gear. Work that once took minutes in the office, now takes much of the day in divided attention. There’s also church life to attend to. There are burdens to bear, video meetings to coordinate, people to love. Then there’s the mission that we’re called to embrace. People are dying, others are ill, still others grieving for economic loss or mental health setbacks. We know that we must attend to these needs and both declare and demonstrate the Good News with the hope Jesus brings.

But in these seasons of crisis, in our all-important busyness, there is often a subtle temptation to overlook the precious little lives that dwell in our very homes. We often forget that they are processing, perhaps for the first time, life in a broken world. They are coming to grips with a world where things like an invisible bug can wreak such havoc, and where death and destruction are suddenly normative realities. To neglect them in this season might be to miss our highest mission. To fail to engage them might be to miss the most formative season that we, as parents, caregivers, friends, and family may have to interpret the gospel with our children and disciple them to maturity.

Here’s a few suggestions on how to help your children to process the pandemic:

-Ask them individually about what they are feeling and thinking about the pain they observe so you can grow in attentiveness to their unique needs;

-Pray with and for your children and speak courageous words of hope as you pray;

-Take one day each week for family worship: share a Scripture passage that is relevant to the moment, provide a single point of application, allow the children to discuss their ideas, and pray together;

-Memorize Scripture together as a family—the message your kids need to hear is the same message you need as well;

-Model neighbor-love by finding strategic ways to care for your neighbors who are hurting or alone. Take time with your children to prepare a simple gift basket for neighbors, or pick up and deliver some necessary groceries;

-Teach children to be a blessing to others by making crafts, writing cards, or scheduling calls with those who may need an encouraging touch;

-As the economy reopens, frequent local businesses and allow your kids to hear stories of the impact of the virus on everyday people they see regularly. Offer to pray with employees in front of your kids;

-Make allowance for shortened attention spans if you are watching a church service online. Take time to pause the video and help children process what they are hearing with a question of personal application;

-Process grief with children—allow them to feel the emotions of life in a fallen world even if that is simply mourning the loss of school or a big event they were looking forward to; Prepare them for adulthood where disappointment is normal and maturity is reflected in the ability to persevere through pain;

-Look out for vulnerable children in your community who don’t enjoy the blessing of a stable family. Go out of your way to care for them and invite them into the rhythms of your family as opportunity allows;

-Allow your children to catch you finding ways to meet a need, so your children understand the personal responsibility they have in extending God’s kindness to all people;

-Limit how much you grumble or complain in front of your children, so they don’t simply equate this experience with frustration and loss, but learn to see opportunity;

-Participate in restorative disciplines with your children such as regular exercise, meaningful hobbies, and healthy eating;

-If possible, spend time outdoors together as a family—not only is experiencing God’s creation restorative, but being outside often creates opportunities for conversation that leads to mission;

-Learn to debrief experiences with children—as you experience shared evidences of grace or of brokenness, take time to process with your children about what these experiences say about God, or about the nature of our fallen world;

-Create anchor moments each day as a shared point of reflection—perhaps around breakfast, dinner, or bedtime. As a family, share ways you’ve seen God at work in the world that day;

-Invite children into the conversations that you are having with other members of the church and allow them to see how maturing believers process suffering and pain;

-In prayer, bring to the attention of your children the missionaries who are struggling under the weight of this pandemic in places where food scarcity and various public health crisis makes this experience even more overwhelming;

-Give generously in full view of your children—make more food than you need so you can share, tip extravagantly as you have opportunity, buy extra household supplies to give to neighbors.

-Actively trust God—teach children in word and deed that God can be trusted, and His faithfulness is never determined by circumstances.

This shared historical moment that you are experiencing as a family will undoubtedly leave an indelible and future-forming impression on your children – the question that remains; will it be one that increases or decreases your children’s passion for Christ? Spiritually wise parents will seize this opportunity to interpret, in ways their children can grasp, a myriad of teachable moments that will become foundational for their children’s spiritual and missional trajectory.

The little eyes, little ears, little bodies and tender souls that live in our homes are busy processing as best as they can. Our primary missionary-making pattern right now is to disciple these little hearts with the mind and mission of Christ. In doing so, we are equipping our children with the skills and habits that will disciple them through the inevitable storms of their future.

















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

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

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.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: Bladerunner on May 04, 2020, 10:32:12 pm



(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117169.png?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/20-ways-to-help-your-children-process-pandemic.html







20 Ways to Help Your Children Process the Pandemic











In these seasons of crisis, in our all-important busyness, there is often a subtle temptation to overlook the precious little lives that dwell in our very homes.


You’re not the only one feeling the press. Little eyes, little ears, little bodies and tender souls are doing their best to process this COVID-19 experience alongside their parents – with far fewer tools. Try as we might to conceal it from them, a new “homeschool life,” coupled with a new “work-from-home-world,” or worse, a “no-work-at-all-world” - positions often anxious children in full view of life’s troubling complications. While we likely have ways of processing the noise, it’s entirely possible that our children might be overlooked in the missionary equation that lies before them.

On one hand, this is to be expected. There is, after all, a lot to do in these days. For most, the volume of work and responsibility has not slowed down, but rather has found a new and higher gear. Work that once took minutes in the office, now takes much of the day in divided attention. There’s also church life to attend to. There are burdens to bear, video meetings to coordinate, people to love. Then there’s the mission that we’re called to embrace. People are dying, others are ill, still others grieving for economic loss or mental health setbacks. We know that we must attend to these needs and both declare and demonstrate the Good News with the hope Jesus brings.

But in these seasons of crisis, in our all-important busyness, there is often a subtle temptation to overlook the precious little lives that dwell in our very homes. We often forget that they are processing, perhaps for the first time, life in a broken world. They are coming to grips with a world where things like an invisible bug can wreak such havoc, and where death and destruction are suddenly normative realities. To neglect them in this season might be to miss our highest mission. To fail to engage them might be to miss the most formative season that we, as parents, caregivers, friends, and family may have to interpret the gospel with our children and disciple them to maturity.

Here’s a few suggestions on how to help your children to process the pandemic:

-Ask them individually about what they are feeling and thinking about the pain they observe so you can grow in attentiveness to their unique needs;

-Pray with and for your children and speak courageous words of hope as you pray;

-Take one day each week for family worship: share a Scripture passage that is relevant to the moment, provide a single point of application, allow the children to discuss their ideas, and pray together;

-Memorize Scripture together as a family—the message your kids need to hear is the same message you need as well;

-Model neighbor-love by finding strategic ways to care for your neighbors who are hurting or alone. Take time with your children to prepare a simple gift basket for neighbors, or pick up and deliver some necessary groceries;

-Teach children to be a blessing to others by making crafts, writing cards, or scheduling calls with those who may need an encouraging touch;

-As the economy reopens, frequent local businesses and allow your kids to hear stories of the impact of the virus on everyday people they see regularly. Offer to pray with employees in front of your kids;

-Make allowance for shortened attention spans if you are watching a church service online. Take time to pause the video and help children process what they are hearing with a question of personal application;

-Process grief with children—allow them to feel the emotions of life in a fallen world even if that is simply mourning the loss of school or a big event they were looking forward to; Prepare them for adulthood where disappointment is normal and maturity is reflected in the ability to persevere through pain;

-Look out for vulnerable children in your community who don’t enjoy the blessing of a stable family. Go out of your way to care for them and invite them into the rhythms of your family as opportunity allows;

-Allow your children to catch you finding ways to meet a need, so your children understand the personal responsibility they have in extending God’s kindness to all people;

-Limit how much you grumble or complain in front of your children, so they don’t simply equate this experience with frustration and loss, but learn to see opportunity;

-Participate in restorative disciplines with your children such as regular exercise, meaningful hobbies, and healthy eating;

-If possible, spend time outdoors together as a family—not only is experiencing God’s creation restorative, but being outside often creates opportunities for conversation that leads to mission;

-Learn to debrief experiences with children—as you experience shared evidences of grace or of brokenness, take time to process with your children about what these experiences say about God, or about the nature of our fallen world;

-Create anchor moments each day as a shared point of reflection—perhaps around breakfast, dinner, or bedtime. As a family, share ways you’ve seen God at work in the world that day;

-Invite children into the conversations that you are having with other members of the church and allow them to see how maturing believers process suffering and pain;

-In prayer, bring to the attention of your children the missionaries who are struggling under the weight of this pandemic in places where food scarcity and various public health crisis makes this experience even more overwhelming;

-Give generously in full view of your children—make more food than you need so you can share, tip extravagantly as you have opportunity, buy extra household supplies to give to neighbors.

-Actively trust God—teach children in word and deed that God can be trusted, and His faithfulness is never determined by circumstances.

This shared historical moment that you are experiencing as a family will undoubtedly leave an indelible and future-forming impression on your children – the question that remains; will it be one that increases or decreases your children’s passion for Christ? Spiritually wise parents will seize this opportunity to interpret, in ways their children can grasp, a myriad of teachable moments that will become foundational for their children’s spiritual and missional trajectory.

The little eyes, little ears, little bodies and tender souls that live in our homes are busy processing as best as they can. Our primary missionary-making pattern right now is to disciple these little hearts with the mind and mission of Christ. In doing so, we are equipping our children with the skills and habits that will disciple them through the inevitable storms of their future.

















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

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

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.

PJ ..Your doign a great job....Love this post....what a way to help the young.!

Blade
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 05, 2020, 09:27:45 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117183.jpg?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/cameron-strang-relevant-magazine-podcast-return-sabbatical.html






Relevant Details Missing as Cameron Strang Returns










The Christian magazine halted publication without informing subscribers and has shared little about its founder’s sabbatical.


Last month, Relevant Podcast listeners heard a familiar voice in their earbuds: founder Cameron Strang, returning to the show’s lineup—and to leadership at Relevant Media Group—six months after stepping away due to public criticism from former employees.

Though Relevant promised to be transparent with its efforts to address Strang’s alleged racial insensitivity and difficult leadership style, it did not bring up the process again until the April 10 update announcing his return as CEO.

In the meantime, the bimonthly Christian magazine has not sent out an issue to its 27,000 paid subscribers since Strang stepped away in September, leaving fans to wonder about its future.

Strang told listeners that he’s “excited to be back” for a new era at Relevant as it prepares to revamp and expand its podcast offerings, transition to a yearly print publication, and relaunch its website, all under an advisory board newly enlisted to oversee leadership of the 10-person staff.

Relevant’s loyal followers, some of whom have been around for its entire 20-year history, are excited to hear Strang’s voice again. But as much as they hope to see the kind of progress the company has promised and prayed for, a few have questioned the lack of communication.

“When the print issues stopped coming, I was disappointed but figured the company was trying to figure out how to move forward. I suspected they had lost a lot of advertisers & revenue,” wrote Erin Bird, an Iowa pastor, in a Twitter thread responding to the April update. “I’ve patiently walked thru this w/ you, actually prayed for you guys (& those hurt), & was hoping to see a repentance from Cameron that would show the world how to truly apologize.”

Bird, who subscribed to Relevant for 17 years, echoed what other fans said: He likes Strang and Relevant, which makes it even more disappointing that their response has fallen short and ultimately led him to stop reading and tuning in.

“Hearing an update that shared nothing about seeking relational reconciliation broke my heart,” Bird told CT. “All I heard was how difficult this season has been to Cameron, but not how grieved he was about the hard season he put others through as their boss.”

Strang’s sabbatical was prompted by accounts of racial insensitivity and poor leadership that previous editors, including Andre Henry and Rebecca Marie Jo Flores, say they experienced while working with the small staff at Relevant’s office in Orlando, Florida. Within a week of their criticism making headlines in late September 2019, Strang issued an apology and took a leave of absence to “engage a process of healing, growth, and learning.”

Strang, whose father Stephen Strang is the publisher and CEO of Charisma magazine, launched Relevant in 2000. He was 24 at the time, setting out to reach Christian 20-somethings and 30-somethings in a departure from cheesy or “culture wars” content targeted at young adults.

Its magazine, website, and podcasts—which now receive over 690,000 downloads a month, according to the company—offer a hip but faithful take on the world of pop culture and Christian life, with celebrity-clad cover stories and interviews with figures like Lecrae, Jim Gaffigan, and Lauren Daigle.

Strang declined to be interviewed for this article and instead directed CT to an April 17 podcast episode, in which he discussed his return with outgoing editor and producer Jesse Carey and writer and editor Tyler Huckabee. Carey, who served as publisher during Strang’s absence, did not respond to multiple requests sent by CT over the past two months.

“I decided to go away to handle this in a private way,” Strang said in the 23-minute podcast discussion. “I tried to learn from this. Honestly, whether I succeeded or not, I tried to set an example of humility and leadership and teachability.”

Strang’s reflections echoed points raised in his September apology, where the 44-year-old CEO lamented his own “unhealthy” and “toxic” leadership, as well as the recent update posted by Relevant, which cited the pace and workload of running the company as major stressors.

“As a small, independent company with big goals in an always-changing media ocean, Cameron often led RELEVANT like a constantly redlining speed boat, going fast and making quick turns with little margin,” the company’s statement said. “This recent season opened our eyes to how that approach led to stress and a lack of health in our organization, and for that both Cameron and the RELEVANT executive team wish to extend a sincere apology.”

On the podcast, Strang did not mention former staff members by name but said he was “deeply sorry for hurting people that were close to me” and asked concerned listeners “for the grace to walk this out” in the long term.

Right after Strang left last September, Carey assured listeners that they would “be transparent about how things are going and who are the leaders that are speaking into Cameron and speaking into Relevant.”

That didn’t happen over the sabbatical period, and the April updates don’t share specifics about how Strang has addressed the concerns raised or whether he has pursued reconciliation.

Henry said on Twitter that Strang has not reached out to make amends with him or, to his knowledge, with the 44 others who signed a statement confirming an “abusive” work environment at Relevant.

On the podcast, Strang brought up weekly counseling as a primary means for addressing the “core issues” that led to his unhealthy leadership and referenced taking to Christian leaders during his months away, but did not name any particular leaders, curricula, or programs he learned from.

With Strang’s return on April 15, the company’s announcement said, “he and the team have worked hard to internally address the criticisms in substantive and tangible ways.” Relevant Media Group appointed an advisory board to provide accountability and receive human resources complaints, which the company lacked before.

The board includes Carey (who recently left the staff but continues to appear on the podcast); author and activist Christine Caine; pastor Dharius Daniels; nonprofit leader David Docusen; and Bible Media Group president Tessie Guell Devore.

While Strang said on the podcast that he did not follow Relevant articles or podcasts during his sabbatical, he spent the time thinking big picture about his company’s future, including the decision to put the print magazine on hiatus because it had become unsustainable financially.

Relevant’s promotional material claims “in a recent survey, our readers say they keep the magazine on their coffee table for over 9 months.” Lately, though, subscribers haven’t had much choice; the most recent issue, featuring Malcolm Gladwell on the cover, came out eight months ago.

Several Relevant subscribers told CT they received no notification of the decision to pause the magazine, despite getting regular emails from the company and even having their subscriptions continue to auto-renew.

“The unplanned disruption to the magazine left some advertisers and subscribers unclear what the plan was, and where the magazine was, and we sincerely apologize for our lack of communication while we worked to sort everything out,” Relevant said in its April update.

And though Relevant confirmed that its print publication has been halted, users can still buy annual subscriptions online for $14.99. An email confirmation for the subscription reads, “Your first issue will arrive in 6-8 weeks!”

Relevant joined a slew of magazines, big and small, that have had to reduce their publication frequency or stop putting out print issues altogether due to rising production costs and slumping ad revenue. To maintain agreements with subscribers, these publications typically offer an equivalent perk, such as access to a member’s only site, said Caysey Welton, content director at Folio, which covers the industry.

Relevant subscribers will be transferred to an upcoming “Relevant+” membership for a new site slated to debut this fall and will have the option to request a refund.

Over the past several months, disappointed subscribers have requested refunds or cancellations of their subscriptions over the skipped issues, and they report receiving responses after complaining on Twitter. Depending on how an agreement is worded, there may not be legal liability for failing to deliver issues. (The bigger legal concern in the magazine world these days are fraudulent third-party auto-renew practices, now the subject of a string of lawsuits and crackdowns.)

Besides the financial constraints, the current restructuring allows Relevant to better target the audience they’ve been going after all along. “What would I do differently if was launching Relevant from scratch?” Strang wondered out loud on the podcast. “I probably, in 2020, wouldn’t be mailing paper to people’s houses if I’m trying to reach 25-year-olds.”

Welton at Folio agreed that publications skewing toward younger readers cannot rely on print, and Relevant has been moving that direction for years with its expanding lineup of popular podcasts. “If you’re trying to reach Gen Z to young Gen X, then if you’re leading with print, you’re probably already doing something wrong,” he said.

Particularly in light of the challenges accelerated by the coronavirus crisis, the new model of a single issue a year for a special-interest publication matches where the industry is going. Relevant describes its new annual print edition as “Relevant, but coffee table size like Kinfolk.”

“That’s what the future of print looks like,” Welton said. “That’s the kind of thing we’re going to see a lot more of. … Nicer paperstock, thicker book, fewer ads, if any, with just really good, engaging, evergreen content inside.”

The new business plan at Relevant, including more changes to address the concerns that emerged last year, will unfold over the next six months. The company said it plans to form additional advisory boards focused on mission and ministry, justice and diversity, and business strategy and culture.

On Easter this year, days before resuming his position as CEO, Strang posted on Instagram for the first time since last October, sharing pictures of his son and the puppy they got at the start of his sabbatical. More than a hundred people commented to say they had missed him and welcomed him back. They said they had been praying for Relevant and were excited to have him return.

Similar replies from subscribers rolled in when the publication shared an update on Twitter.

“This is an example of a Christian organization doing it right. He owned his stuff, stepped down, got counsel & accountability, and now huge, lasting changes are in place,” one person responded. “Super bummed about the print mag, but I understand consequences, & growth takes sacrifice. This is good news.”

Others still want more. When Strang left, Huckabee told Relevant’s audience that “We plan on doing everything we can to be an example of how to handle a situation like this. Lord knows we’ve tried to hold other institutions to the fire when they’ve done something wrong—both in what they did and their response to it—and now it’s our turn.”

Some expected that would mean more openness about the leadership and cultural change. “The @relevant team was not transparent throughout the process as promised. That is a massive problem in terms of trustworthiness,” one critic posted. “The statement essentially blames Camerons’s mistreatment and abuse of his employees on exhaustion.”

Another said, “there has been nothing about any of this that makes me want to give Cameron a second chance.”

Strang said he came back at the prompting of the new board, many of whom he’s known through Relevant or other channels—Devore, for example, used to be the executive vice president of his father’s publishing company, Charisma House.

Strang said in addition to rejoining the podcast lineup—now with popular podcaster Jamie Ivey and hip hop artist Derek Minor in the mix—his focus will be new partnerships for Relevant, including expanding devotional content.

“All I ask for people who have been concerned or even skeptical hearing my voice is for the grace to walk this out,” Strang said. “I can’t snap my figures and make everything right; this is a long-term process of healing and restoration and reconciliation.”
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 06, 2020, 12:07:12 pm
(https://www.kincoradoctorsurgery.com/media/content/images/pregnant.jpg)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-june/pregnancy-center-movement-shifts-pro-life-community.html





There’s a New Kind of Pregnancy Center on the Block








A new generation of Christian leaders is making the movement more effective by taking a broader look at community dynamics.


Savannah Marten is a pro-life activist who thinks like a missionary. When she became the director of the Pregnancy Center of Greater Toledo in 2016, she was frustrated by a suspicion that the community had no idea it existed. So she set up her office with trendy furniture and prints of hand-scripted Bible verses, then promptly left it.

“We can only show up and serve to the level that we understand the people that are walking through our doors,” Marten said. She took a roll of quarters to the local laundromat, started conversations with patrons, learned about the families in the neighborhood, and spread the word about the center.

She started church-hopping nearby. She networked with local organizations, connecting over shared concerns for Lucas County and offering to partner with them or serve on their boards. She worked with hospital systems to get the center direct scheduling access with more than a dozen ob-gyns, so pregnant clients could see obstetricians earlier in their pregnancies—a proven factor in combating infant mortality.

It’s been a few years, but Marten estimates she still spends about half of her working hours outside the center. Though she wasn’t new to pro-life advocacy or the pregnancy center movement when she took the director job, she was willing to listen to her community and try new strategies. That approach has been a crucial part of the center’s success—leading to a 22 percent jump in clients last year alone—and could be the key to making pregnancy centers more effective for a new generation.

The Pregnancy Center of Greater Toledo opened in 1984 as part of a wave of centers popping up all over the country in the decade or so following the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. After the landmark abortion ruling, “We started getting attacked by the pro-choice side saying, ‘You don’t care about women,’ ” said Roland Warren, current CEO of CareNet, one of the largest pregnancy center networks in the US. In response to the pushback, pro-life Christians shifted from protests and reaction to ministries and action.

Pregnancy centers—sometimes referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers” or “pregnancy resource centers”—became a big part of that response. Their original mission was profound but uncomplicated: to save babies. Philosophies differed back in the ’80s, and they still do. Some centers front evangelism, while some keep their faith affiliations in the background. Some offer certain medical services, but most rely on a volunteer-led counseling model.

Over the decades, these pregnancy centers—now numbering over 2,000 in the US, far more than abortion clinics—have served hundreds of thousands of women and babies despite outside scrutiny and legal challenges. Critics have accused them of being misleading (because they do not provide abortion referrals), coercive, or proselytizing. They’ve also borne the brunt of the criticism lobbied at the pro-life movement as a whole of having a singular focus on saving life in the womb rather than addressing the factors that lead to unplanned pregnancy in the first place.

The narrow focus was something that frustrated Angie Weszely and Denise Stein when they led a center in Chicago. The expectations resulted in too much baggage between the counselors and their clients. They saw well-meaning Christian volunteers stuck in the fog of their pro-life checklists: Is she going to keep the baby? Did we share the Four Spiritual Laws?

A wave of new leaders is realizing that some of the tried-and-true strategies for pregnancy centers—opening a gospel tract or printing a sonogram—might not be as effective as they or their predecessors assumed. As many directors in the founding generation retire, younger Christians have begun to test new methods to care for women and reduce the demand for abortion.

This shift could be partly out of necessity. Last year, a New Yorker investigation into rural pregnancy centers reported that as few as 4 percent of women who visited came for direction on whether to have their baby or abort. A majority, the magazine found, wanted social services and pregnancy testing, which are required to sign up for Medicaid.

Some centers are adapting their offerings, providing pregnancy testing, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases, and even contraceptives. Others are sticking to pregnancy counseling but are adjusting their language and setup to cater to a different clientele.

The landscape has challenged the pregnancy center movement to take a closer look at its mission, at whether to prioritize spiritual salvation or abortion prevention, and at the lengths to which it should go to achieve either. On the abortion end, many Christians are looking upstream at factors that can throw a pregnancy into crisis: poverty, social isolation, insufficient medical care, and the lack of a committed partner.

Weszely and Stein cofounded a ministry, ProGrace, to separate abortion from politics—particularly the pro-life and pro-choice labels—and equip churches to support women in crisis pregnancies before they make their way to a clinic. Other Christian organizations, inspired by their convictions around life and family, are stepping in with resources beyond what a pregnancy center could offer.

Overall, the church’s response is becoming more strategic, holistic, and comprehensive—a community endeavor that extends far beyond a center itself.

Neighborhood Culture
In Toledo, it started with paint color.

When “a bunch of white, middle-aged women who don’t live in the neighborhoods” were making all the decisions, “it looked like Joanna Gaines had set up the center,” said Marten. “But what we were hearing from our clients was that it felt like a hospital.”

A stylish, fast-talking 30-something with a pixie cut and a wide smile, Marten wasn’t going to let culture clash keep the center from reaching women in need. She enlisted leaders from Toledo’s African American and Latina communities to serve on a cultural competency advisory committee.

Members agreed to a two-year term, during which they’d advise the center on everything from the decor to the paperwork. The advisers didn’t have to be Christian or even pro-life; they just had to understand that the center was both of those and be willing to help.

At their recommendation, the center now takes its design cues from the colorful murals in the neighborhood, and hardly two walls are the same color. The lobby is a peaceful forest green. One of the client rooms contains a giant, multicolored floral mural painted by students at Toledo School for the Arts. Others have neon modular furniture and inspirational prints on the walls (“You are an awesome woman!”).

The committee also advised the center to space out the chairs in its cozy lobby—women coming in who have lived in poverty often need to protect their personal space and could feel uneasy sitting so close to someone else. The center transitioned intake paperwork to mobile-friendly online forms and shifted the questions based on adviser feedback.

“We realized we were asking about the father of the baby before we were asking about rape and sexual abuse,” Marten said. The center’s intake paperwork now asks about abuse first. Marten said it helps counselors discern whether bringing up partner support or marriage is even appropriate or whether a counselor might instead encourage a woman to speak to police.

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The small changes are making a big difference. In 2019, the center saw a 22 percent jump in appointments, performed 200 additional ultrasounds, and increased attendance at parenting classes by 8 percent. A greater portion of its clientele came back for multiple visits, allowing the staff to foster deeper relationships—and providing more chances to show them the love of the gospel.

Over 500 women who came through the doors had a baby last year, and staff know of only 8 who went ahead with an abortion.

Marten is bringing what she has learned in Ohio to a national CareNet conference for the second time this year, urging fellow directors to consider adding their own cultural competency advisers.

Racial Biases in Health Care
Down in Dallas, Cessilye R. Smith began Abide Women’s Health Services with fellow women of color in mind. In an area south of downtown that some call South Dallas, some call Fair Park, and some, like Smith, call “the hood,” she has set out to extend the work of the pro-life pregnancy center movement by addressing infant and maternal mortality among women of color.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black babies in the US are nearly twice as likely to die before their first birthday as white babies, and African American and Native American women are nearly three times more likely to die than white mothers during pregnancy or after giving birth.

Combating racial biases in health care is Abide’s first priority, and Smith believes it needs to be a bigger part of the pregnancy center movement as a whole. She said when black women turn up at hospitals to deliver after not being able to see an obstetrician regularly throughout their pregnancies, doctors may make assumptions that affect their standard of care. For example, they may think that black moms aren’t as interested in nursing and not offer robust breastfeeding support, or that they suffer from addiction and reduce their pain meds.

Since Abide opened its doors in 2017, providing free childbirth classes, support groups for new moms, and breastfeeding education, 90 percent of its clients have been black or Hispanic. Most of the staff members are also women of color, and the 25 women who volunteered last year began with training in implicit bias and cultural humility and diversity.

Smith has shifted her own approach to pro-life activism. No longer does she repeat the statistics about black abortion rates. Instead, she points to the factors behind them and the racial disparities in care, advocating for maternal justice through Christian outlets like the And Campaign.

“When the public eye sees the pro-life movement fighting to end abortion without looking at the root, then you will always get the side-eye from the black community,” she explained to Catholic theologian and ethicist Charles Camosy.

Abide’s goal is to open a free maternal health clinic next year, then eventually a birthing center designed for women of color. In the meantime, Smith—whose home birth inspired her to become a doula—offers scholarships covering books, classes, and even bills to black students who want to become licensed midwives. The involvement of midwives and doulas (non-medical labor assistants) correlates with better birth outcomes, but women of color are far less likely to access such support. Black and Hispanic women currently make up less than 5 percent of licensed midwives in the United States.

Care Past Nine Months
Tammy Abernathy also has a personal connection to the women she sets out to serve at Hope Women’s Center in Phoenix. After raising her own children as a single mom, she got involved in the ministry to offer better support to women in similar situations.

In 2013, she took the helm of a network of four regional centers as they moved away from the medical offerings emphasized by others in the movement (think ultrasound techs and doctor referrals) to provide a broader range of counseling support instead.

“Women were coming with so many other coexisting things they were dealing with,” Abernathy said.

Her team is trained in trauma-informed care and works with women and teen girls who are dealing with poverty, domestic abuse, and unintended pregnancy—often all at once. Hope’s broader scope means Abernathy sees a higher percentage of clients return for ongoing support than she did in her previous work at a more traditional pregnancy center, she said.

Hope is part of the ProGrace network, which focuses on long-term outreach, so that women have a place to go both during and after a pregnancy.

ProGrace founders Weszely and Stein partner eager churches with pregnancy centers. They are clear about their convictions: While the organization does not advocate for abortion, stating that “God’s design for pregnancy was to intertwine a woman and a child,” they believe that “for the church to be a safe place, Christians need a way to respond that is outside of the debate,” Weszely said.

For churches, that means pastors must acknowledge that women within their congregations are intimately familiar with abortion—it’s not just something that happens “outside” the church—and that Christians who oppose abortion not look to politics as the only fix. For centers affiliated with ProGrace, that means no “pro-life” or “pro-choice” talk, no marches, no endorsing candidates. For Abernathy, the ProGrace paradigm allows her to focus on the women in her centers rather than on the surrounding politics, she said.

The Evangelism Question
Evangelicalism has historically dominated the pregnancy center landscape, and the vast majority of today’s centers are affiliated with Protestant networks and churches. But even among Christian centers that share core beliefs, networks can have different approaches to when and how to incorporate the gospel.

CareNet, with its network of more than 1,130 Christian pregnancy centers, uses the mantra of being not just pro-life but “pro-abundant life.” Its leaders want to see families transformed through their relationship with God and the church. Yet affiliates are not required to share the gospel with each client. The hope is that it would come up organically.

There are no Christian symbols or Bible verses in the public spaces of Marten’s center in Toledo. But her office is full of them (“Be Still and Know That I Am God,” a print above her desk proclaims). Her conversations are peppered with Scripture in a way that sounds less like a script and more like wisdom she received from a friend.

“The gospel is so ingrained into everything we do,” she said. “But for us, the form is just as important as the message.” Marten shares CareNet’s philosophy: Don’t start by opening a tract. Start by meeting the women.

The same goes for another network, Heartbeat International. Its 2,500 affiliates list relationship building as a prerequisite for sharing the gospel, training volunteers to first “listen and learn.”

On the other side of the debate is Hope National, an association started by National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) cofounders Jim and Pat Dundas. The Hope National manual reads: “It has been the instruction in some pregnancy center volunteer training programs to make the gospel of secondary importance and/or practice in counseling the client. This is in direct opposition to the teaching of Christ.”

In certain circumstances, focusing on evangelism can cost pregnancy centers federal funding through the Title X Family Planning Program at a time when more are looking to partner with state programs for maternal health. Some Title X centers violate the Dundases’ approach in order to comply with federal guidelines: They wait until after a client’s intake visit to ask permission to share the gospel.

Faith in the Background
Whether centers prioritize evangelism informs other aspects of their operation, including offering contraception. Christian pregnancy center networks have traditionally avoided doing so, worrying that it implicitly endorses sex outside of marriage. But some, stepping in as alternatives to Planned Parenthood, believe it allows them to reach more women.

The Source, a network of eight Christian pregnancy centers in Texas, made headlines late last year when it announced it would offer hormonal and other birth controls at its centers.

The Source CEO Andy Schoonover said the strategy is meant to reduce unplanned pregnancies (and thereby reduce the demand for abortion). “Women who are sexually active and not using contraceptives are approximately eight times more likely to have an abortion than those who are using contraceptives,” he said, citing CDC data.

The network also sees offering contraceptives as a way to establish relationships with women in their local communities.

“If they don’t get it from us, they will go somewhere else to get it,” Schoonover said. “Do we want to develop and maintain that relationship with the patient or would we prefer a different organization, which is more than likely not ideologically aligned, develop that relationship?”

In New York City, where the abortion is rate is double the average of the rest of the country, a pregnancy center called Avail strategically distances itself from evangelical pressures and expectations. Avail calls itself a nonprofit “with a Christian orientation” but says its goal is to offer a supportive place for women to take a breath and make a decision—not be swayed toward or away from a certain outcome.

“If you are facing an unexpected pregnancy, you may fear being judged or pressured,” Avail’s website reads. “At Avail, you will find the opposite. Our staff and volunteers strive to treat others the way they would want to be treated and are non-judgmental, respectful, and supportive.” The strategy is meant to make women in what could be the most progressive, pro-choice city in the country feel welcome walking in. (The ProGrace team gave an in-person training session at Avail last year.)

At its Times Square office space, Avail also invites men to participate in the decision-making process around unintended pregnancies, with male counselors to meet with one on one as well as options for support after an abortion. It’s an approach also being used nationwide through CareNet, which now offers outreach for men at 65 percent of its centers. After its research found that the biggest influence on a woman’s decision about abortion is often the man who got her pregnant, CareNet’s Joseph Project partnered with the National Fatherhood Initiative to engage more men in parenting classes and mentoring.

Abortions Next Door
The Pregnancy Center of Greater Toledo also runs an after-abortion counseling center called the Haven House. Like the center, the Haven is eager to work with its neighbors—even though it’s next door to Toledo’s only remaining abortion clinic, with just a narrow parking strip between them.

Others may not have the same situation with location, but it’s easy for Christians in pro-life ministries to feel surrounded by the abortion-rights movement. Abortion clinics are closing at record rates, but Americans are becoming more vocal in their support of abortion itself.

Some pro-life activists have concentrated their efforts on the legal space or on protesting around the remaining clinics. But like those who launched their movement in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, pregnancy center leaders today feel a deep calling to make a difference in the lives of women who could find themselves facing unintended pregnancies and desperate for assistance.

They want to do more than bring a woman in and show her an ultrasound or offer a gospel tract. (Most clients, Marten points out, are moms already and know the reality of the beating heart inside them.) Ministries are asking these women bigger questions like “What do you need?” and are stepping in to help.

The pregnancy center movement increasingly isn’t only about the baby, or even the baby and the mom, but about the whole family, neighborhood, and community.

Every once in a while in Toledo, an unwitting woman comes into the Haven to check in for her abortion appointment next door. In the interest of honesty and maintaining a positive relationship with the abortion clinic, Haven staff reluctantly redirect these women to the building across the parking lot.

“But we also tell them we don’t believe they walked through our doors by accident,” said Marten, who has made some inroads in pro-choice circles and was given a woman of the month award last year by a feminist group in Toledo.

Before the mistaken woman leaves the Haven for her appointment, she is asked if she wants to talk about anything and is invited back.

Marten and her team pray earnestly to meet her again. They pray they’ve done enough to earn her trust. And, like pregnancy center workers past and present, they grieve over every lost baby and every forever-changed woman.










Maria Baer is a contributing writer for CT and is based in Columbus, Ohio.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 10, 2020, 02:14:52 pm
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117278.jpg?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/darrin-patrick-died-seacoast-journey-st-louis-acts-29.html






Died: Darrin Patrick, Who Used His Fall and Restoration to Help Struggling Pastors






(UPDATED) The St. Louis pastor spoke up about the difficulties faced by leaders and critiqued “celebrity culture” in ministry.


Darrin Patrick, a megachurch pastor, author, and speaker, has died.

Patrick was a teaching pastor at Seacoast Church, a multi-site megachurch based in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and the founding pastor of the Journey Church in St. Louis, where he lived.

In a Friday evening update, Seacoast Church stated: “Darrin was target shooting with a friend at the time of his death. An official cause of death has not been released but it appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No foul play is suspected.”

Patrick’s unexpected death came as a shock to friends and colleagues. Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist, in Hendersonville, Tennessee, said that Patrick was scheduled to speak at his church next weekend.

“I just talked to him Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Gallaty. “This is the second close friend I have lost in a year.”

Gallaty first met Patrick in 2015 and had invited him to speak the following year at a men’s ministry event at Long Hollow. Just before the event, he said, Patrick called and said he was leaving the ministry.

At the time, Patrick had been a rising star among Reformed evangelical circles and was serving as vice-president of the Acts 29 church planting network. He was fired from Journey for what church elders called misconduct including “inappropriate meetings, conversations, and phone calls with two women” and an abuse of power.

Despite Patrick’s fall from ministry, the two stayed friends. Patrick admitted his faults and got counseling. He went through a restoration process that lasted 26 months, according to a 2019 blog interview posted at Christianity Today. He returned to the ministry as a preacher but not as a senior pastor of a church.

“You generally don’t see guys bounce back,” said Gallaty.

Gallaty said his friend was “passionate about the Lord” and about helping people grow and overcome adversity and that he will be missed. His sudden passing has hit Gallaty hard.

Last fall he lost his friend, Jarrid Wilson, a pastor and mental health advocate, who took his own life. Now another friend is gone.

“These are two friends who have sat at my dining table,” he said. “Now both are gone.”

Gallaty said pastors are great at helping other people but often don’t know what to do when they struggle. They try to keep up appearances, he said, and try to handle their struggles on their own.

“We don’t feel like we can ask for help,” Gallaty said.

Chris Surratt, a Nashville-based ministry consultant and coach, heard about Patrick’s passing through a late-night text from his brother, Greg, who is pastor at Seacoast.

“My answer was, ‘oh, no,’” said Surratt.

The two met not long after Patrick was ousted from his church and became friends. Both were from St. Louis and had planned this month to go to a St. Louis Cardinals game together before Major League Baseball put its season on hold. Patrick had once been a chaplain for the team and was a longtime fan.

“He was one of those guys I could reach out to when I need someone to talk to,” he said. “He was just a good guy.”

Bob Oesch, a member of Journey Church, said that Patrick had been a great help to him. Despite his failings, Patrick’s influence in St. Louis can still be seen, he said.

“He was good at recognizing leaders and freeing people to lead out of their own strengths,” said Oesch, who 15 years ago, with Patrick’s support, started an innovative program called Theology at the Bottleworks, a monthly discussion group at a local microbrewery. He continues to run it today.

Oesch recalled that Patrick would often ask people who “lived without God in their lives”: “How’s that working for you?”

“And that was a great way of getting people to see the value of putting God in their lives,” Oesch said. “I still call it ‘the Darrin question.’”

Recently, Oesch said he was watching a Journey member’s backyard concert on Instagram—as has become popular during this time of social distancing—when he saw that Patrick had also tuned in. The two exchanged greetings.

“Glad I did,” said Oesch.

Patrick talked about losing his church in a podcast interview that was published this week. He talked about being part of a group of young pastors who became celebrities with book deals, speaking gigs, fame and money but little spiritual maturity.

“It was a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Patrick said his early success led to an obsession with keeping up his image rather than his soul.

“I was spending a lot of energy creating and sustaining my image,” he told podcast host Charles Smith. “It’s so subtle; I am trying to influence people for the gospel — you have to have a social media presence, you have to speak at conferences.”

Patrick said he eventually became isolated from many of his friends when he was pastoring Journey Church.

“I stopped pursuing friendships,” he said. “Another way to say that, I stopped being known. And that was the beginning of the end.”

In the years since his fall, Patrick said he'd spent a great deal of time trying to rebuild friendships. As part of his restoration plan, Patrick also said he apologized to people he had hurt as a pastor.

“Another very impactful part of the plan was the privilege to sit in front of dozens of people, honestly regarding how I had hurt them, and being able to apologize specifically for my sin,” he said in a 2019 interview. “Though incredibly painful, I'm very grateful that I had the opportunity to do that.”

Seacoast Church announced Partick's passing in a statement on Friday, calling him a “loved member of the Seacoast family, the teaching team, and pastoral staff.”

“God allowed Seacoast to be a part of Darrin’s story in a time when he needed a family," the statement read. “He was a gift to us and we are thankful for the time the Lord gave him to us. His influence and impact cannot be measured. We are surrounding the Patrick family with our prayers and support during this time.”

Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, said he talked to Patrick, a longtime friend, a few weeks ago. They were hatching plans to work together in the future, said Stetzer.

“His last text to me was, ‘let’s do something together,’” said Stetzer.













Stetzer interviewed Patrick and his wife, Amie, and his spiritual mentor, Greg Surratt, about Patrick’s fall and restoration for his blog in 2019. He said Patrick wanted to tell his story so people could learn from his mistakes.

“No failure is ever a success story. But it can be a redemption story. That’s what Darrin wanted people to know.”
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 10, 2020, 02:18:22 pm
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117289.png?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/remembering-darrin-pastors-mental-health.html







Darrin Patrick’s Death, His Love for Pastors, and How We Need One Another





Darrin’s death is not the last word on his life. His love for pastors—and his concern for their mental health and thriving—can be part of our response today.


Darrin Patrick has died.

Darrin is probably best known for planting The Journey Church in St. Louis in 2002, eventually growing to six locations. He was a husband, father, speaker, and author.

Darrin and his spiritual mentor Greg Surratt led the Pastor's Collective podcast and he was serving as a teaching pastor at Seacoast Church.

But, most importantly, Darrin was married to Amie and they have four children.

Darrin’s Journey and Focus

Darrin was very open about his journey—and specifically asked me to help share his story a little over a year ago. His story of leaving the Journey is painful and messy, but he wanted people to know about it.

He wanted people to learn from his pain.

Darrin died from a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.” I know that has caused some people to want more details—to use language that is more precise and to provide added details. And, as you can tell from the statement, the situation is confusing. Seacoast Church shared, ““Darrin was target shooting with a friend at the time of his death. An official cause of death has not been released but it appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No foul play is suspected.”

Thus, it is important to let families communicate the way they are comfortable. Families grieve in complex ways—and right now, they owe nothing to the rest of us. We just owe them our prayers.

The family is grieving and I am respecting their grief and their communication choices.

And, from there, I am going to take Darrin’s admonition from a year ago and fast forward it until now—hoping that even this moment might be a catalyst for pastors to get help that Darrin always wanted them to get.

Darrin and I talked recently and his last text to me (after our call) says, “Let’s do something together!!”

I focused on those two exclamation points for some reason while I cried. We talked about caring for pastors and he ended our conversations with the enthusiasm he often had, particularly as he cared for pastors.

He ended with those exclamation points.

!!

Our Friendship

The journey of our friendship was both fun and life-giving.

We would laugh that our early friendship led to a motion to investigate me from the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention. We were in a fight back then, and battles often bring people together. It did then, but that was not the last battle we’d walk through. Years later, we sat and cried together in a St. Louis restaurant after his removal from The Journey Church.

We talked a lot. We cried together more than once.

Since learning of his death, I’ve cried. A lot.

And, I remembered what Darrin’s passion was—helping pastors in hard times. His death has been hard for many of us, coupled with the stress and pain of the times we are in.

So, I’ve thought about pastors and church leaders who are struggling with burnout and mental illness and isolation. A lot.

The only thing I can think of to do right now is to do what Darrin dedicated his last few years to do—to press on through the pain, helping all of us remember that our pastors are not immune to stress, burnout, and mental health issues. To honor Darrin, I want to remind all of us that we don’t have to walk this journey alone.

Do not think his final moment is the last word on his life. He cared about pastors and his death reminds me that we need to care about them as well.

Pastors and leaders are struggling. Many of those pastors and leaders keep silent in their struggles for the sake of their churches, their families, or (at times) even their own pride. Whatever the reason, too many of our leaders are simply not finding the care and resources they need. Many seem to have it all together—but they don’t.

I don’t—and as I write this through tear-clouded eyes, I am guessing you don’t either.

The reality, though, is that our pastors are people who hurt, too, and who don’t have it all together.

And the devastating reality is that the struggles that many have with burnout and mental health are compounded by the COVID-19 crisis. We feel more alone than ever.

To honor Darrin, let me share two important truths I want our churches and leaders to implement immediately and embrace wholly.

First, don’t always believe what you see.

It may seem like your pastor or leaders have it all together. But it’s important to remember that we can’t assume anything. In 2002, Darrin planted The Journey Church, which experienced remarkable growth and launched a number of multisite campuses. But in 2016, he was confronted by the elders of that church.

You might ask, “Why tell that now?” Well, because Darrin asked me to, and I walked through some of that pain right here on The Exchange. You can read more of Darrin’s story here, Amie’s story here, and Greg’s story here. He wanted these published and we walked through them together.

Darrin wanted his pain to help you.

To help me.

The truth is that pastors and leaders have daily struggles that are constantly pressing on them. This comes in the form of taking care of themselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically, as well as caring for their churches and staff they lead. Many also feel pressures from family and friends. And most caring burdens of others who confide in them to a degree that many of us cannot fathom.

Like all of us, Darrin still struggled. We talked some about those struggles—his and mine, actually.

If you think your pastor is okay, make sure. Keep asking and praying. Offer opportunities for retreat and for spiritual care. How can your pastor or leader have accountability and support? Mentorship and care? Never assume.

Second, make soul care a priority.

I understand that our churches are under pressure to balance a number of priorities—discipleship of our people, solid teaching, good worship, thriving small group ministries, our children and youth, our outreach, hospitality… the list goes on.

But, to be frank, a church is only as healthy as its leaders. When our leaders suffer, we all suffer. Last year the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center hosted the GC2 Summit on leadership, burnout, and mental health. (You can see the sessions here.)

I know in Covid years that was a long time ago, but it was just five months back, and we were talking about the struggle and pain that pastors walk through.

That GC2 summit on pastors and mental health sold out. If you weren’t there, I wish you could have felt the energy in the room. Our pastors need care. Many are burned out or on the edge of burnout. Many face challenges in their leadership teams and in their congregations.

And, then Covid came and it got worse.

Darrin would want us not just to know that but to do something about it. And, caring for pastors is what Darrin and I talked about in our last phone call, the follow up text I shared earlier.

Pastors are not immune and do not have to be alone

Darrin would want you to know that, especially during this season of more isolation, we must press into caring for our pastors. It cannot be optional. Here at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, we have partnered to launch the Resilient Church Leadership initiative because we see a growing wave of burnout and pastoral crises.

Darrin openly shared about his struggles, and in a sense he represents thousands of other pastors and leaders who are struggling. How can our churches prioritize caring for these leaders? Let’s make caring for leadership a high priority.

I cried more on Friday than I have in many years. I cried again today.

When I told Donna, we remembered the last time we went to dinner, the four of us, and laughed about the Enneagram and our kids. And, we talked about the struggles we all had.

Now, I cry for the end of a faithful, joyful, and authentic life. And I cried for the church. God’s church.

Let’s press forward together as God’s family, caring well for those who shepherd us well as though they were our very own family. Because they are.

Darrin, I love you, friend. I hope this counts as doing something together.












Ed Stetzer leads the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. The WCBGC has partnered to create ResilientChurchLeadership.com. Laurie Nichols and The Exchange team contibuted to this article.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 10, 2020, 02:22:09 pm
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117247.jpg?w=940)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/coronavirus-pandemic-hits-americans-spiritually-weak.html






This Pandemic Hits Americans Where We’re Spiritually Weak






Our cultural values are making us sad: money, mortality, and fear of missing out.


In a video chat last night, a friend admitted, “I’ve been crying a lot, and I’m not sure why.” COVID-19 has given us many reasons to weep. We’re out of our routines, the stock market has plunged, and we imagine millions dying. This virus and economic crisis punch us squarely where our spiritual armor is weakest: mortality, money, and our fear of missing out.

In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul distinguishes between two kinds of sorrow—a sorrow that “leads to death,” and a “godly sorrow.” The latter “brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (v. 10). Godly sorrow, he writes, produces “earnestness,” eagerness to repent, and a “longing” and “readiness to see justice done” (v. 11). The question the church faces now is which kind of sorrow COVID-19 will bring.

We are in the midst of the most widespread societal upheaval that many people alive today have ever experienced. Already our institutions, habits, relationships, and culture are shifting before our eyes. Frank M. Snowden, author of Epidemics and Society, shared with the New Yorker, “Epidemics are a category of disease that seem to hold up the mirror to human beings as to who we really are.” The question we are facing is not whether we will experience sorrow and change; the question is how. As biblical prophets walked with people through catastrophes, their advice was never to just endure until it ends. Instead they focused on proactively changing relationships with each other and with God.

As a cultural anthropologist who grew up in a middle-class white United States home and then lived for much of my adult life in Nicaragua, China, and South Africa, I study the ways cultures adapt and change. Social scientists dub people like me WEIRD—Western and educated, from industrialized, rich, and democratic countries. My home culture is especially weird compared to much of the Majority World in our responses to loss and unpredictability. Yes, we WEIRD people have much that will help us against the coronavirus—well-funded research labs, hospitals, and democracy. But dealing with financial, mortal, and daily uncertainties is not our strong suit. This current upheaval slams us up against some of our deepest lies and idols. It demands strong muscles that many of us have let atrophy. Identifying how our culture has left us poorly prepared for this can move us toward the kind of sorrow that produces repentance and justice.

Mortality and the myth of perpetual productivity
In America we learn that we are what we do. We treat those who aren’t productive, young, or fashionable as not worth our attention. Everything in us has been taught to recoil at two of the most pressing realities of COVID-19: lost productivity and dying people.

In middle-class white America, introductions nearly always involve the question “What do you do?” Jobs, college majors, and contributions to an ever-churning productive economy come to define who we are. I have been taught to love schedules, precision, and hard work. Time is our commodity to use or save, not waste or spend. Economists account for human value by measuring wages and the goods we produce, and this seeps into everyday thinking.

Meanwhile, we idolize youth and treat death as the final failure. “No one in America ever looks forward to growing old,” anthropologists Lowell Holmes and Ellen Rhodes Holmes write in an anthropological analysis of American culture. Our magazines, advertisements, and media portray young people as productive, important, and beautiful. Youth are people who matter. As theologian and social worker Joyce Ann Mercer points out, we find it “almost impossible to imagine what vocation means or what forms it might take in older adulthood.” In a culture that shows little regard for the aging or the otherwise seemingly unproductive, COVID-19 forces us to re-account for their value as we face losing them.

In our glorification of youth, we recoil from death. In Nicaragua, I remember learning that someone died when a woman ran past our home wailing with grief. In South Africa at the height of the AIDS pandemic in 2006, a friend told me she had attended a funeral every week for nearly a year. I believe I have attended only two funerals in ten years. In many parts of the world, mourning is a public event, wrapped in widely shared rituals of care. In such cultures, death is still unwelcome, but unlike in my culture, death is familiar and shared in community.

For people who have learned to avoid death and rest at all costs, how might this pandemic lead us to a godly sorrow of repentance? The Christian view of rest and death is radically different from what pervades our culture. Theologian Norman Wirzba writes that “Sabbath is not an optional reprieve in the midst of an otherwise frantic or obsessive life. It is the goal of all existence.” COVID-19 is bringing some people long hours, others temporary waiting, and others layoffs. All need the message that work does not define us. We are made also to rest. The prophet Jeremiah told Israel that for all the time they had refused to practice Sabbath rest, disaster would force rest upon them (2 Chron. 36:21). Are we pushed now into receiving the rest we have neglected to give ourselves?

Death, our final rest, is also not an enemy to fear. In the context of telling his disciples “Do not worry about your life,” Jesus reminded them that God cares even for the grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, and all the more for humans (Matt. 6:25, 30). We do not escape worry by ignoring death, but by facing it with Christ. Accepting godly sorrow in this time might mean learning from experts like medical doctor Atul Gawande about how to start conversations about mortality. Rather than cling desperately to longevity, we can ask God for the life that is truly life. That life includes receiving rest even now.

Money and the expectation of human progress
An estimated $3.6 trillion disappeared in one week as the stock market collapsed. The impact will be felt most not by stockholders but by those at the bottom of social ladders through layoffs, closed nonprofit organizations, and evictions.

Our sorrow as the market crashes is not just about lost money. Americans are not so much addicted to money as we are addicted to progress. Social scientists agree that the narrative of time as a steady movement toward an ever-better future is deeply influential in Western cultures. “The constant pursuit of material wealth is not so much a desire to have things for their own value as to provide evidence for one’s friends and neighbors that one is succeeding and getting ahead,” write anthropologists Holmes and Holmes. This economic crisis strikes fear not just because we imagine layoffs and homelessness (which might motivate us to genuine concern for neighbors) but because our narrative of relentless human betterment is destabilized. Suddenly we find that things are not getting better.

We believe this metanarrative of a perpetually improving future not because God works that way but because we tell ourselves that human-made technology works that way. Since the industrial revolution and the Enlightenment, Western people have grown to trust in human innovation and the upward trend of capitalist growth. We expect economic prosperity because humans will make it so.

The economic pattern of most of the Bible is not upward growth. More often, prosperity comes and goes in cycles or sudden interventions. In the metanarrative of the Bible, God oversees the rise and fall of civilizations. Individuals and societies thrive not because their cleverness mitigates all risk, but by the gracious care of God. Human innovation has an important role to play in coping with COVID-19, but the pandemic has also exposed our over-reliance on human ingenuity for protection.

Godly sorrow as we face the lie of human-made progress will mean remembering the source of Christian hope. Many Americans traveling to the Majority World incorporate “hope” into organizational names like “building hope” and “bringing new hope.” Over the years, though, I have learned that my Majority World brothers and sisters often have the kind of hope that comes of suffering, endurance, and character (Rom. 5:3–5). Hope I grew up with was often an imitation built of privilege, a thriving economy, and a modernist narrative of progress. Living paycheck to paycheck or with no paycheck has the potential to produce hope that is like gold refined by fire (Rev. 3:18). The hope we need now will be built on a God who meets the desperate.

Fear of missing out and human attempts at authenticity
The past weeks brought a flood of emails reading “canceled.” Losing these activities hurts not just because we will miss seeing friends or keeping busy but because our culture teaches us that these activities make us us. Long before the coronavirus, we were living in an epidemic of what Harvard Business School writer Patrick McGinnis dubbed FOMO: fear of missing out.

The cultural commentator David Brooks diagnoses this condition using Kierkegaard’s term “the aesthetic life.” A person in this aesthetic lifestyle lives to “rack up experiences,” becoming “eventually paralyzed by self-consciousness.” “You tell yourself that relationships really matter to you—scheduling drinks, having lunch—but after you’ve had twenty social encounters in a week you forget what all those encounters are supposed to build to.” As we consume both purchases and activities, we have what theologian William Cavanaugh calls a detachment problem. Rather than being too attached to the stuff we buy, we are too quick to discard what matters. We gorge ourselves on activities and products, ever eager to have what’s next.

Many cultural analysts have pointed out that American consumption is fueled by a desire to prove who we are. Whether filling our lives with stuff or activity, we are “concerned primarily with what other people of our social position or age-set have, think, or do,” according to anthropologists Holmes and Holmes. Tim Keller and others note that Westerners use consumption and activity to claim and display their “authentic self.” In contrast to much of the world, Americans use consumption rather than tradition or family as a primary source of identity. Historian Meic Pearse writes in Why the Rest Hates the West, “Only an abundance of riches such as no previous generation has known could possibly console us for the emptiness of our lives, the absence of stable families and relationships, and the lack of any overarching purpose.”

As we give up sports tournaments, concerts, parties, and coffee dates, we are not just missing opportunities to see friends; we are destabilizing our sense of identity and purpose. According to Richard Rohr, fear of death often reveals an even deeper fear of never having really lived. The combination of a novel virus plus canceled activities means we have to face that fear.

What does godly sorrow look like in the face of FOMO? Now can be a time to recognize what makes life good. Have we sought the good life by chasing ever newer and greater experiences? Are we striving to craft some truly authentic self by what we buy and do? Now is a time to stop spending money and labor on what does not satisfy. Instead this is a time to learn to receive from God “what is good,” that “your soul will delight in the richest of fare” (Isaiah 55:2).

As we confront the ways this pandemic has caught us spiritually unprepared, there is no promise that we will feel any less sorrow. But we do determine what this sorrow will produce. In this time of cultural upheaval, our shared sorrow has the potential to spread repentance. Now is the time to replace our reliance on productivity, progress, and social standing with a longing and readiness to see justice done.














Christine Jeske is a professor of cultural anthropology at Wheaton College. She is the author of three books, including the forthcoming The Laziness Myth (Cornell).
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 10, 2020, 02:25:31 pm
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117241.jpg?w=940)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/mothers-day-good-advise-skip-mommy-blogs-look-to-christ.html






For Good Mothering Advice, Skip the Mommy Blogs and Look to Christ








Parenting children requires a rich understanding of God’s nature.


Mothers today face an onslaught of mixed messages about how best to parent in the 21st century. Podcasts, blogs, and books on mommy-ing abound, but many of them indulge regularly in shallow parenting advice and fallacies about excessive self-care or “me-time.”

In the midst of the coronavirus quarantine, moms on social media often advise diametrically opposed strategies: Take regular mental health breaks while your children gorge on Netflix, or schedule out every minute of children’s at-home education so they don’t fall behind in productivity. The message seems to be either “love yourself first” or “pour all your energy into your children’s future.”

Neither side answers the more important question: How do we mother like Jesus Christ during this particular cultural moment? In the words of an overused adage, “What would Jesus do?”

In Motherhood: A Confession, Natalie Carnes, associate professor of theology at Baylor University, attempts to answer this question by sharing her personal experience of raising three daughters. She follows the structure and style of Augustine’s autobiography, Confessions, and elevates the conversation about motherhood from the self-centered to the spiritual without ever losing touch with the beauty of the ordinary. Part memoir and part theological study, Motherhood: A Confession explores “how motherhood, infancy, and children disclose what it means to be human in relation to the divine.”

Carnes’s core argument is that mothering imitates God. We birth forth disciples, hand down tradition, and grow our children into the church. By knowing the maternal attributes of God, we better mother our own children, and we also discover how the concept and practice of motherhood fuels a flourishing body of Christ.

In Scripture, God refers to himself as “the God who gave you birth” (Deut. 32:18), and in Isaiah, he compares himself to a nursing mother (Isa. 49:15). In the New Testament, Jesus adopts this metaphor for himself when he speaks to Jerusalem: “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matt. 23:37). Throughout church tradition, too, Christian writers from Origen to Bonaventure have drawn theological insight from imagining God as our mother.

We also find Jesus using birthing imagery to talk about salvation: “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3). Although preachers and biblical scholars are familiar with this birthing metaphor, they rarely dwell on its significance. Carnes offers a corrective by meditating on what this metaphor means for discipleship and what it reveals about God’s nature. Whereas the early church dramatized this birth image with baptismal fonts shaped like wombs, in the contemporary church, “women and children have remained largely absent from talk of divinity and humanity,” writes Carnes. “But what if their lives were taken as significant sites for theological work?”

If motherhood reveals God’s divine nature, it also reveals our own humanity. Many of us who’ve read Augustine’s Confessions relates to the fourth-century bishop not because of his portrait of holiness but because he authentically relays his struggle with ordering his often disordered loves—sexual desires, pride in his intellect and accomplishments, and the like. So, too, Carnes bares herself before her reader.

When she writes about how motherhood has divided her will in “an unhealable way,” I feel as though she’s telling my story and that of many other women like me. “I yearn for you, but I feel the pull of my work,” she confesses to her daughter. “I have only the episodic negotiations of my divided self [and] I am forced to face my limitations of time and energy.”

Although the enigmas of motherhood and work are left mostly unanswered in the book (as they should be), Carnes offers robust insights into the practice of Christian parenting. If we are to mother like Christ, she says, we must prepare our children “for a cruciform life.” Although it’s tempting to make parenting an end in itself—are we sleep training well, potty training right, educating successfully, raising good citizens, and training moral, upright individuals?—we need to direct our attention to the Cross. Our children belong first and foremost to God, as we all do. The God who bore us into existence also became “as an infinitesimal zygote,” showing how we mothers will become children again to our children. “As we age,” writes Carnes, “we all become our daughter’s daughters.”

The cruciform life is humbling, even humiliating, as we who are currently in authority over our children will someday become needy of their care. In the meantime, we teach our children to pray “not my will, but yours” (Luke 22:42) by first praying this prayer ourselves. We get on our knees and remember that God is the primary parent to us all. He “mothers us to life,” says Carnes, and draws us toward “the expectant Mother Church [that] labors for us all to reborn as little christs.”

By renewing our understanding of God’s maternal qualities, Carnes hopes to help us be better parents, yes. But ultimately, she wants to “help fashion the church’s imagination” to better love the Lord. That is God’s deepest desire for us. As mothers, it’s also our deepest desire for our own children.















Jessica Hooten Wilson is an associate professor of humanities at John Brown University and the author of three books, Giving the Devil His Due: Demonic Authority in the Fiction of Flannery O’Connor and Fyodor Dostoevsky; Walker Percy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the Search for Influence; and Reading Walker Percy’s Novels.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: Chaplain Mark Schmidt on May 10, 2020, 10:31:20 pm
I really do have to agree with this article.  Motherhood like fatherhood should have God as part of it.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 12, 2020, 08:44:57 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117289.png?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/remembering-darrin-pastors-mental-health.html






Darrin Patrick’s Death, His Love for Pastors, and How We Need One Another






Darrin’s death is not the last word on his life. His love for pastors—and his concern for their mental health and thriving—can be part of our response today.


Darrin Patrick has died.

Darrin is probably best known for planting The Journey Church in St. Louis in 2002, eventually growing to six locations. He was a husband, father, speaker, and author.

But, most importantly, Darrin was married to Amie and they have four children.

Darrin and his spiritual mentor Greg Surratt led the Pastor's Collective podcast and he was serving as a teaching pastor at Seacoast Church.

Darrin was very open about his journey—and specifically asked me to help share his story a little over a year ago. His story of leaving the Journey is painful and messy, but he wanted people to know about it.

He wanted people to learn from his pain.

Darrin died from a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.” I know that has caused some people to want more details—to use language that is more precise and to provide added details. And, as you can tell from the statement, the situation is confusing. Seacoast Church shared, ““Darrin was target shooting with a friend at the time of his death. An official cause of death has not been released but it appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No foul play is suspected.”

Thus, it is important to let families communicate the way they are comfortable. Families grieve in complex ways—and right now, they owe nothing to the rest of us. We just owe them our prayers.

The family is grieving and I am respecting their grief and their communication choices.

And, from there, I am going to take Darrin’s admonition from a year ago and fast forward it until now—hoping that even this moment might be a catalyst for pastors to get help that Darrin always wanted them to get.

Darrin and I talked recently and his last text to me (after our call) says, “Let’s do something together!!”

I focused on those two exclamation points for some reason while I cried. We talked about caring for pastors and he ended our conversations with the enthusiasm he often had, particularly as he cared for pastors.

He ended with those exclamation points.

!!

Our Friendship

The journey of our friendship was both fun and life-giving.

We would laugh that our early friendship led to a motion to investigate me from the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention. We were in a fight back then, and battles often bring people together. It did then, but that was not the last battle we’d walk through. Years later, we sat and cried together in a St. Louis restaurant after his removal from The Journey Church.

We talked a lot. We cried together more than once.

Since learning of his death, I’ve cried. A lot.

And, I remembered what Darrin’s passion was—helping pastors in hard times. His death has been hard for many of us, coupled with the stress and pain of the times we are in.

So, I’ve thought about pastors and church leaders who are struggling with burnout and mental illness and isolation. A lot.

The only thing I can think of to do right now is to do what Darrin dedicated his last few years to do—to press on through the pain, helping all of us remember that our pastors are not immune to stress, burnout, and mental health issues. To honor Darrin, I want to remind all of us that we don’t have to walk this journey alone.

Do not think his final moment is the last word on his life. He cared about pastors and his death reminds me that we need to care about them as well.

Pastors and leaders are struggling. Many of those pastors and leaders keep silent in their struggles for the sake of their churches, their families, or (at times) even their own pride. Whatever the reason, too many of our leaders are simply not finding the care and resources they need. Many seem to have it all together—but they don’t.

I don’t—and as I write this through tear-clouded eyes, I am guessing you don’t either.

The reality, though, is that our pastors are people who hurt, too, and who don’t have it all together.

And the devastating reality is that the struggles that many have with burnout and mental health are compounded by the COVID-19 crisis. We feel more alone than ever.

To honor Darrin, let me share two important truths I want our churches and leaders to implement immediately and embrace wholly.

First, don’t always believe what you see.

It may seem like your pastor or leaders have it all together. But it’s important to remember that we can’t assume anything. In 2002, Darrin planted The Journey Church, which experienced remarkable growth and launched a number of multisite campuses. But in 2016, he was confronted by the elders of that church.

You might ask, “Why tell that now?” Well, because Darrin asked me to, and I walked through some of that pain right here on The Exchange. You can read more of Darrin’s story here, Amie’s story here, and Greg’s story here. He wanted these published and we walked through them together.

Darrin wanted his pain to help you.

To help me.

The truth is that pastors and leaders have daily struggles that are constantly pressing on them. This comes in the form of taking care of themselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically, as well as caring for their churches and staff they lead. Many also feel pressures from family and friends. And most caring burdens of others who confide in them to a degree that many of us cannot fathom.

Like all of us, Darrin still struggled. We talked some about those struggles—his and mine, actually.

If you think your pastor is okay, make sure. Keep asking and praying. Offer opportunities for retreat and for spiritual care. How can your pastor or leader have accountability and support? Mentorship and care? Never assume.

Second, make soul care a priority.

I understand that our churches are under pressure to balance a number of priorities—discipleship of our people, solid teaching, good worship, thriving small group ministries, our children and youth, our outreach, hospitality… the list goes on.

But, to be frank, a church is only as healthy as its leaders. When our leaders suffer, we all suffer. Last year the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center hosted the GC2 Summit on leadership, burnout, and mental health. (You can see the sessions here.)

I know in Covid years that was a long time ago, but it was just five months back, and we were talking about the struggle and pain that pastors walk through.

That GC2 summit on pastors and mental health sold out. If you weren’t there, I wish you could have felt the energy in the room. Our pastors need care. Many are burned out or on the edge of burnout. Many face challenges in their leadership teams and in their congregations.

And, then Covid came and it got worse.

Darrin would want us not just to know that but to do something about it. And, caring for pastors is what Darrin and I talked about in our last phone call, the follow up text I shared earlier.

Pastors are not immune and do not have to be alone

Darrin would want you to know that, especially during this season of more isolation, we must press into caring for our pastors. It cannot be optional. Here at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, we have partnered to launch the Resilient Church Leadership initiative because we see a growing wave of burnout and pastoral crises.

Darrin openly shared about his struggles, and in a sense he represents thousands of other pastors and leaders who are struggling. How can our churches prioritize caring for these leaders? Let’s make caring for leadership a high priority.

I cried more on Friday than I have in many years. I cried again today.

When I told Donna, we remembered the last time we went to dinner, the four of us, and laughed about the Enneagram and our kids. And, we talked about the struggles we all had.

Now, I cry for the end of a faithful, joyful, and authentic life. And I cried for the church. God’s church.

Let’s press forward together as God’s family, caring well for those who shepherd us well as though they were our very own family. Because they are.

Darrin, I love you, friend. I hope this counts as doing something together.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 15, 2020, 03:50:41 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117311.jpg?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/coronavirus-faith-tech-show-up-now-ianacare-christian-apps.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+christianitytoday%2Fctmag+%28CT+Magazine%29







How Christians Are Hacking Their Way to Coronavirus Help












Introducing new technology to connect patients and families, an app to support for caregivers, and more opportunities for crowdfunding.


When Michelle Brock’s grandmother passed away in early April, it wasn’t due to COVID-19 complications. But the global pandemic kept her family from filling her hospital room with loving presence the way they longed to.

“I wasn’t able to travel back to Florida to where my grandparents live, and it was a really hard time knowing that even my grandpa couldn’t be there,” Brock said.

This desire to prevent anyone else from feeling alone in their final moments prompted Brock to join a COVID-19 hackathon hosted by FaithTech, a platform focused on bridging the gap between faith and technology.

Though Brock is a graphic designer and documentary filmmaker who doesn’t consider herself tech-savvy, the hackathon connected her with a team whose skills complemented hers. Together, they dreamed up a solution to the predicament Brock and so many others had encountered during the pandemic.

The result of their teamwork was Sound of Your Love, a service that collects voice recordings from friends and family that can be played with a single tap, which is easier than accessing voicemail or arranging FaceTime calls.

“Even if you get to the point in your illness where you’re too weak to hold a screen up or have a conversation, we still wanted there to be a really easy way for people to leave a message,” Brock explained.

With Sound of Your Love, friends and family can dial in and leave a voice message that will be looped into a “soundtrack of love.” Its interface makes it simple for caretakers or medical professionals to hit play one time rather than navigate individual recordings or calls from loved ones.

While it’s a simple solution, it represents just one way that Christians are combining compassion and technological know-how to address the unique challenges brought on by the coronavirus. Rather than using business acumen to fatten their own wallets in the midst of the crisis—as currently some titans of industry are doing—a few Christians are instead thinking like entrepreneurs to provide services to others at little or no cost.

Beyond the hackathon, which generated a dozen winners and 55 projects to connect neighbors, the elderly, health care workers, pastors, and volunteers, Christians are starting grassroots projects to meet needs from a distance.

Christian author and speaker Jefferson Bethke, who has half a million followers on Facebook, created a public spreadsheet at the beginning of the pandemic to connect followers in need with financial gifts from strangers.

The project ended up helping over 700 people and drew in fellow leaders to get involved with creating a new platform. Now Bethke—in partnership with activist Christine Caine, author Ann Voskamp, photographer Esther Havens, and entrepreneur Jessica Kim—has evolved the initiative into Show Up Now, a website, app, and social campaign that encourages peer-to-peer generosity just like the original spreadsheet did, but with an added layer of prayer and outreach. Since launching, the Show Up Now website has fielded 1,157 requests for financial help and a few hundred requests for prayer.

“A lot of times in pandemic or crisis moments, the world operates out of scarcity,” Bethke said. “But Christians are meant to operate out of abundance.”

The movement taps into a wider trend of people using peer-to-peer fundraising to get their needs met in this moment of economic distress. Popular crowdfunding site GoFundMe is in more demand now than it’s ever been in its 10-year history, with coronavirus-related campaigns on the site raising over $60 million at the end of March. Though it offers an imperfect answer to complex problems, crowdfunding remains a popular option for people who need help immediately and can’t wait for more systemic solutions to emerge.

In addition to a financial component, Show Up Now encourages other forms of practical action by partnering with Ianacare (which stands for “I Am Not Alone Care,” but is pronounced like “eye on a care”), an app developed by Kim and her business partner Steven Lee. Originally launched last summer as a way to support family caregivers, Ianacare is designed to rally a social network to help check in emotionally, send gift cards or meals, volunteer to get groceries, provide pet care, and more.


(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EWpPUEWWoAAOwjD?format=jpg&name=small)


The pandemic has made this mission feel all the more pressing, Kim said. In addition to the surge of medical needs around the virus, those offering care for non-coronavirus illnesses are still doing so. Ianacare has tailored some of its options for “caring without contact” responses.

“COVID-19 has increased the demand for care at home, because we cannot go into the hospital,” she said. “A lot of organizations and nonprofits are no longer operating. So people who are caregiving need help, but their resources have become even more limited. That’s where friends and family need to really show up. Because we are the only option right now for people who are caregiving.”

Float Me Through is another platform connecting people who have pandemic-induced financial needs with those willing to give a little spare cash.

Put together by a team at Useful Group, a marketing and advertising agency that frequently works with Christian publishers, Float Me Through was born from a small coalition of people wanting to do more to help those around them. According to chief creative officer Nick Rynerson, the agency was “lucky” to escape the financial hardships hitting many other small businesses. And though the company took on some pro bono work for nonprofits addressing the crisis, Rynerson and his coworkers wanted to do more.

“We almost immediately started thinking, ‘What can we do that would actually be helpful to other people?’” Rynerson said.

Though the government and nonprofits have provided some avenues for financial relief, Rynerson loved the idea of a no-strings-attached form of giving that would be more immediate and personal. His first thought was like Bethke’s: create a simple Google form where people with needs could ask for help and people who wanted to help could sign up to donate. It soon evolved into a slightly more sophisticated website where people could enter their needs in dollar amounts, with the option to add comments, and they would be matched in the back end with someone willing to help.

“We just wanted to make it so that if people needed help, they could get help without red tape,” he said. “And if somebody wanted to help another person but didn’t know where to start or everybody in their network was doing okay, it would be a place where they could jump in and help people.”

For now, the site is limited to Illinois residents to keep the initiative local and encourage neighbors caring for neighbors. But if there’s enough interest from other locations, the Useful Group team could create sister sites that accomplish the same function in other places, Rynerson said. He’s not invested in whether the project lasts a few weeks or a few years—he just hopes it facilitates generosity in new ways.

“A lot of people who have resources aren’t super used to direct giving,” he explained. “If this spurs them to help people they know outside the platform better and then they never use the platform again, great.”

These sites and apps might look like straightforward tech solutions to coronavirus-created problems. But they’re all driven more by a desire to connect people to one another than they are by a propensity for slick bells and whistles.

And the faith and empathy driving the people who created them provide useful insight for church leaders or anyone looking for creative ways to serve their communities in a time of crisis.

From Bethke’s perspective, the key is collaboration. He highlights his experience working with a team to come up with creative solutions as more meaningful than what he might have done on his own. Brock believes Christians have a unique call to be a “non-anxious presence” in the context of a world fighting panic. And Kim thinks getting as close as possible to the person you’re trying to serve is the best way to make sure any solutions you offer actually address the most pressing pain.

Though no person will balance all of this perfectly, Rynerson believes that Christians have been prepared for moments just like this one to serve and love a hurting world.

“As a faith community, both liberal and conservative, we’ve been talking about these things for 2,000 years—what it means to love your neighbor and to sacrifice for them,” he said. “I think the church can be champions of the call to love each other and to love our communities in this unique time.”

Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 15, 2020, 03:54:02 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117347.jpg?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/evangelicals-trump-media-public-health-response-coronavirus.html






Where Do White Evangelicals Get Their Coronavirus News? The White House







While most agree with the response from public health officials, confidence in the Trump administration outweighs the news media.


With claims of a “plandemic” and other conspiracy theories swirling, the need to communicate accurate, trustworthy information about the coronavirus is becoming more crucial.

Leaders like Ed Stetzer have called on Christians to be discerning in what they believe and share, worried that promoting false information “can end up harming others and … hurt your witness,” as he wrote on his CT blog The Exchange.

So where are believers looking for information on the spread and risks of COVID-19? Recent survey data indicates that white evangelical Protestants’ go-to sources don’t always line up with the rest of the population.

While a majority of both evangelicals and the population overall believe public health officials have gotten a lot right in their response, evangelicals are more confident in the Trump administration’s response and less confident in the media than non-evangelicals are, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted last month and provided by the Roper Center.

Evangelicals were more divided over how the media has covered the pandemic, with 60 percent saying it was covered well and 40 percent saying it was not covered well. (Among the rest of the population, the split was closer to three-quarters and one-quarter, respectively.)

Overall, white evangelicals were more likely to believe that the severity of the COVID-19 threat had been exaggerated by a range of sources.

Around two-thirds of white evangelicals said the news media had greatly or slightly exaggerated the risks posed by COVID-19. Just under half (44.5%) said the same of Democrats in Congress.

Almost two thirds of white evangelicals, though, believe that President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus has been “about right.” They are more confident in the president’s response than in any other group’s, including public health officials like those with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just 3 in 10 respondents who were not white evangelicals think that the president’s response was “about right.”

In comparison, the group that the general public thinks has “gotten it about right” is public health officials, with nearly two-thirds (63.9%) approving of their messaging. Non-evangelicals were almost twice as likely to say that the media had covered the outbreak properly (42.4%) compared to white evangelicals (23.7%).

The Trump administration was named by white evangelicals as the source they would most likely rely on as a major source of news. That was followed by national news networks and local news outlets. Public health officials were the fourth most consulted source.

For the rest of the population, national news ranked at the top, followed by public health officials and local news. Compared to non-evangelicals, white evangelicals were less likely to turn to state elected officials like governors for pandemic information.

Looked at broadly, white evangelicals express a greater skepticism of the news media than the general public. Two thirds believe that the news media has exaggerated the risk of the coronavirus. They also express less confidence in public health experts to accurately convey information about the pandemic (53.6% versus 63.9% of the rest of the population).

Politics is a factor. Since most white evangelicals align with the Republican Party, they are inclined to take a more positive view surrounding Trump and a more negative view toward sources like Democratic lawmakers and the media, which Trump frequently criticizes.

The politicization of the virus is something that public health officials were concerned about during the early stages of the outbreak. Before the current coronavirus outbreak, survey data indicated that political ideology was a bigger influence on coronavirus concerns than faith. As I wrote in mid-March: “Politically conservative Protestants who attend church frequently are far less concerned with a major epidemic. …”

If people are receiving conflicting messages and cannot agree on the severity of the coronavirus, slowing its spread and finding a cure could prove to be much more difficult.














Ryan P. Burge is an instructor of political science at Eastern Illinois University. His research appears on the site Religion in Public, and he tweets at @ryanburge.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 15, 2020, 03:57:15 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117340.png?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/salem-media-radio-economic-stock-crisis-coronavirus.html








Largest Christian Radio Company Faces Financial Crisis Due to Coronavirus Downturn







Salem Media makes cuts as more churches and ministries pull spending during the pandemic.


The largest Christian radio company in the United States suffered a major financial blow as ongoing industry challenges collided with the economic impact of COVID-19.

Salem Media Group reaches an estimated 298 million weekly listeners on 3,100 stations branded as The Fish, The Answer, Faith Talk, and more. The megabroadcaster rose to dominance with a revenue model that protected it from some of the ad volatility suffered by its secular counterparts, but that hasn’t been enough in this recent downturn.

Salem’s share price has dropped from a high of about $30 in 2004 to about $6 in 2018 and to 80 cents on Monday. The company’s investment value has been downgraded to “poor quality” and “high risk” by Moody’s, a top credit ratings agency.

On Tuesday the board of directors announced that it would temporarily suspend quarterly payments of dividends to shareholders. The top executives’ salaries were cut by 10 percent.

Financial analyst Michael Kupinski, who specializes in media and entertainment companies, wrote that he expects Salem to “weather the storm,” but not without taking drastic measures. According to Kupinski, that could include “asset sales and aggressive cost cutting,” such as selling off some of the 100 stations owned by Salem or laying off some of its more than 1,400 employees.

Salem did not respond to Christianity Today’s requests for comment. In its most recent financial filing, vice president and chief financial officer Evan Masyr wrote that “it is impossible to predict the total impact that the pandemic will have on our business.”

Salem airs religious programing from teachers such as Chuck Swindoll, John MacArthur, Tony Evans, Eric Metaxas, and the late J. Vernon McGee, as well as contemporary Christian music and conservative political commentary from Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, Mike Gallagher, and Sebastian Gorka.

The business of ‘block programming’
Christian radio has long been seen as more financially stable because of its intimate relationship with listeners and a business model pioneered by Salem to sell airtime to churches and ministries to broadcast their own recordings.

Traditional radio stations make about 95 percent of their income from advertising. Christian radio companies sell spots to advertisers, but also make money from selling “block programming” to preachers who want reliable access to the airwaves.

In 2019, Salem netted $48.5 million from sales of block programing to David Jeremiah, Charles Stanley, Focus on the Family, and other major Christian ministries. The company made an additional $30.5 million from block programming sales to local churches and ministries. The same year, Salem made $16.4 million from national advertising and $51.8 million from local advertising, financial records show.

But with the economic impact of the pandemic, the company saw declines in both advertising and block programming sales. Experts expect a 40-percent decline in radio ad revenue and a drop in charitable giving that puts pressure on churches and ministries to cut back on their spending.

Salem notified shareholders that COVID-19 was going to impact profits at the end of March.

More listeners in crisis
Though revenue is down, the size of the audience has grown since the start of the pandemic. More than a quarter of Americans say they are listening to more radio because of COVID-19, according to market research from the Nielsen Corporation. In the same survey, 60 percent said they trusted radio to give them reliable information and connect them to their communities.

That’s especially true for Christian outlets, according to Jennifer Epperson, a member of the National Religious Broadcasters board of directors and chair of its radio committee.

“People need facts, but they can get fact fatigue, so they want comfort,” said Epperson, a 30-year veteran in the industry. “With the Christian radio station, you can do both.”

Salem was founded by Edward Atsinger III and Stuart Epperson (distantly and indirectly related to Jennifer Epperson). The two met at Bob Jones University and then moved to California and bought a radio station in Oxnard. The station gave them access to the Los Angeles market, the second-largest radio audience in the country.

According to a Forbes profile, Atsinger and Epperson realized that with a market that big, they wouldn’t have to pay preachers to record programs they could broadcast. Preachers would pay for access to their giant pulpit. And they could continue to produce their own programs and sell advertising too.

Salem’s reach became clear in 1988, when one LA station started calling for a protest of Martin Scorsese’s new movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, which many conservative Christians found offensive. So many people showed up at the entrance of MCA Universal Studios that the protest shut down the highway.

By the early 2000s, Salem stations reached an audience of about 100 million listeners, and they were major players in the largest markets across the country, giving Christian preachers access to loyal listeners in major metro areas. The company went public and expanded into conservative talk radio.

Salem dominated Christian radio and set industry standards. Other Christians in the industry sometimes complained about Salem’s emphasis on business and accused the company of treating nonprofit radio ministries and smaller Christian companies as rivals rather than co-laborers for the gospel. Some Christians leaders also complained about Salem’s outsized influence on evangelicals—criticizing the company for promoting right-wing politics, contemporary worship music, and self-help theology.

Challenges of media changes
The company’s share price peaked in 2004 and has been on a downward trajectory since then as the media market has evolved and radio has had to compete with podcasts, streaming music, and other new media. Salem has diversified, expanding into online content and publishing, and found ways to cut costs. In 2019, Salem brought in $265 million. The company entered 2020 expecting a slight decrease in revenue, before the market was disrupted by the pandemic.

Despite the recent downturn, the founders of Salem are investing more in the company. Financial records show that since the beginning of March, Atsinger has acquired more than 170,000 additional shares of Salem stock, and Stuart Epperson more than 300,000.

Jennifer Epperson said there is reason to be optimistic about the future of Christian radio, despite the current crisis.

“I don’t think radio is going away anytime soon,” she said. “Radio is an intensely personal medium. You can hear someone breathing with that microphone. And someone that close—that’s a friend. … As a radio host you welcome people with your tone and walk along with your listener as a friend, even through disaster and COVID. You really do life together, and that’s the beauty of radio.”

Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 15, 2020, 03:59:53 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117348.png?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/states-not-talking-to-churches-we-can-find-better-way.html






When States Don't Talk with Churches about Covid Timetables, Tensions Increase








Follow up from my article for the Religion News Service.


Governors are leading the conversation about opening up now— and that’s led to mixed responses depending on the state.

In our divided time, one governor's response is considered reasoned by one news network and reckless by another. Fox News has repeatedly praised Governors Abbott of Texas and Kemp of Georgia, while CNN has valorized Governor Cuomo of New York and Governor Pritzker of Illinois.

I live and serve in Illinois, where Governor Pritzker announced on May 5 the Restore Illinois plan, dividing the state into four geographical regions. Each region must go through these five phases based on certain markers in order to be reopened completely:

Rapid Spread: What the state was in from March 21 to April 30.
Flattening: Began May 1, allow "nonessential" retail businesses to open for curbside pickup and delivery, state parks to open, among others.
Recovery: Manufacturing, offices, salons, and others with capacity restrictions; no more than 10 may gather.
Revitalization: Restaurants and bars can reopen with limitations on capacity; gatherings of 50 or fewer allowed.
Restored: The economy is fully reopened. This only happens when there is "a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period.”
While there are already questions about how the plan will impact businesses, my concern here is its impact on churches. Under this plan, no gatherings over 50 will be allowed until Phase 5, which will likely be many months or a year or more. I believe this fails to acknowledge how churches function, and (unlike how businesses are being treated) does not show the kind of partnership and communication we need right now.

It is important to note that Illinois is the outlier, both in its timetable and its lack of communication. Other states have similar, though not quite the same, struggles. (Note, Pritzker may have had some conversation with the Catholic church.)

On the other hand, some states are partnering with their churches, using percent capacity and other means to talk about an opening timetable. While no state is responding perfectly and each has unique challenges in fighting the virus, this model of partnership between churches and government officials needs to be.

Circling back to my recent Religion News Service article, I want to outline in more detail why Illinois needs to engage its churches and work on a better plan that reflects the reality of church.

Let me again be clear: I do not believe Illinois needs to open now or soon. I do believe that governors need to work with and better understand the plans churches can make-- now or soon.

Times and Spaces Rather Than a Fixed Number

We need to move forward with caution and care, particularly as this has impacted our communicates of color disproportionately. In my article, I mentioned two pastors who have similar concerns and would love to work with the governor (and, I should add, they want to also work with the mayor of Chicago).

James Meeks is a key leader in the African American community and Wilfredo de Jesus in the Latino community. Pastor Meeks shared with me this morning:

Nobody loves our church members like we do. We are capable of developing plans that protect our members. We’d like to share with the governor what our plans are-- our social distancing may be better than most places. We are not going to put our mothers, brothers, and others in harm’s way.

Recognizing the spirit in which Pastor Meeks was writing, Governor Pritzker's recent comments show a focus on group size, not spacing and mitigation, and represents the wrong approach for churches.

As I wrote about this plan:

It will not only hurt churches’ ability to survive this crisis but could also exacerbate the mental health struggles beginning to take hold across the country. Pastors are impatient to engage the increased suffering of people in the churches and in their communities. That work often involves meeting with people in person.

For Christian leaders who want to wait, it is becoming increasingly difficult to persuade them to hold tight and remain distant from those who need their help— particularly with what appears to be no communication and little understanding of how churches function.

The example I gave was Moody Church-- an outlier itself, but an easy illustration of the point. Limiting the group to 50 people in a room that seats almost 4000 makes little sense.

The issue is not a fixed number like groups of less than 50; times and spaces are the two critical metrics. Fifty people in a church that seats 50 is obviously a problem. Fifty people in a church building that seats 300—properly distanced and practicing appropriate mitigation—provides more opportunities for safety. As does 400 people in a room that seats 4000.

Many churches are more than capable of adding service times and creating safe spaces for worship. Typically, the space between pews means that skipping every other row creates a six-foot space. Marking off a space three seats (24") apart on the rows to be used will allow the spacing in terms of width, with the exception of families who can sit together.

These are not demands, but rather ideas aimed at generating discussion. But, we need to have that discussion in IL, CA, and beyond.

Keep in mind, I was among the first to argue in a national publication (March 12 in RNS as well, and before President Trump acted to shut down the country for 15 days) that we should consider not meeting when it was still a controversial question, writing,

God will bring us back together, stronger and more on mission than ever…Listen to your health department. See what your local schools do. Consider the age of your congregation. And then, decide accordingly…We love gathering in person — with feet and faces — but for now, we may best love our neighbor by gathering via electrons and avatars.

Even as some media outlets have focused on fringe churches resisting lockdowns in late March and April, the overwhelming majority of pastors have been quick to listen to medical experts. But after two months it is time to at least have a discussion about how churches can make the social distancing limitations work in a way that meets the needs of our communities.

Not tomorrow. Not next week. But not wait without end.

The Costco Comparison

The title of my RNS article was, “If Costco can reopen safely, why not Illinois churches, Gov. Pritzker?”

Anyone who has written for a publication knows that writers don’t pick the titles (although they did run it by me). Not ones to pass up the opportunity, several people online were ready to pounce: Retail is different! You are in and out! There’s no talking!

Ironically, most of the people focused on the customer experience—as if the only person in the Costco situation was the consumer. That certainly is a position of privilege, but one single person mentioned the employees. Those employees are working eight or more hours a day, interacting with dozens, if not hundreds, of customers at checkouts and in the aisles. Their opening had less to do with the nature of the industry than with its essentialness to our society.

Moreover, my point wasn’t a direct comparison, but rather the underlying mentality that went into opening Costco and other grocery stores. Recognizing their importance, government officials worked with grocery store owners, union representatives, and medical experts so that Costco could open with appropriate measures. We need to talk about how churches might do the same— with medical experts to work through the issues.

Given the unprecedented nature of this crisis and the ambiguity about the correct pathway forward, dialogue has proven a far more fruitful aim than blanket pronouncements either for or against opening.

I just think it is time for the conversation in partnership, like businesses have already have had. If Costco can make it work— for not just their shoppers, but their employees— let’s start a conversation about how churches can.

When we don’t have that partnership and conversation, we can end up like California, where 2,000 churches plan to open in defiance of the governor’s orders.

Partnership is a better way.

An Opportunity for Vision and Leadership

I don't think we can have this kind of open-ended restriction for months or years among churches without sustained discussion. Left in the dark and out of the process, some churches have already begun to push on these issues. I don’t want them to make irresponsible decisions, but I understand their frustration when they are given little hope and no voice.

Rather than putting the state at odds with churches, we hope to continue to be co-belligerents with our officials against this disease. The most successful leaders during this time are those who have been able to convey a vision of unity—one that demonstrates that we are truly in this together. As I mentioned at RNS, Pritzker has already declared churches a critical, indeed essential, component of tens of millions of Americans’ lives.

We must graciously and lovingly speak up and say that if churches have been important for 2,000 years, then they are still vital today.

I am not asking for an opening now, or an opening at an irresponsible time. I am asking for conversations with the governor aimed at a plan that reflects the reality of churches better.

I can get churches in the Zoom room with the governor and anyone he designates. Members of Congress have championed this request and we are happy to coordinate with synagogues, mosques, temples, and more. There is an opportunity here for vision and leadership—an opportunity for us to find common ground aimed at finding ways we can serve one another and our community in a culture that more often incentives division.

Illinois has a ways to go before churches can meet, but friendly conversations with public health officials about how they could make it work, along with a more realistic timeline, would be an encouraging step.

Even that coordinated timeline can change as we follow the science, knowing that the disease is ultimately setting the timetable. However, the lack of a plan that takes into account the unique characteristics of churches—from size to questions of singing and much more— does not create the kind of partnership we will need to beat this disease.

Governors can do better. Churches care for their people and can work with the government to look at safe timing and safe practices so that, if and when that time comes, people are protected and congregations continue their good work.

It’s not the time to open in Illinois or in many other states, but it is time for governors to talk to churches and strategize together on the metrics and the times when we can.













Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. The Exchange Team contributed to this article.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 17, 2020, 10:15:20 pm
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117357.jpg?w=940)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/evangelical-philosophy-liberty-closed-fired-flourishing.html






Despite Bad News, Evangelical Philosophy Is Flourishing








And that’s good news, because it helps us pursue goodness, truth, and beauty.


Philosophy is vital for Christians today. It equips us to love God with our hearts and minds. It teaches us to think well and cultivate Christian character. It helps us to understand the history of the faith and the development of foundational doctrines, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation. And it enables us to engage the culture.

As C. S. Lewis put it, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” I would add that good philosophy must also exist to help us to pursue goodness, truth, and beauty, which are all grounded in the nature of our great God.

My experience studying philosophy at Talbot School of Theology continues to shape me not only as a philosophy professor, but as a member of my local church, husband, father, soccer coach, and friend. Whatever intellectual and moral virtues I possess, I owe in large part to my training in philosophy.

That’s why I was dismayed to hear that Liberty University has dissolved its philosophy department. What terrible news for the five excellent scholars and teachers who will no longer be employed as of June 30; for the students who will miss out on the transformative experience of studying philosophy at a Christian school; and for the American church, which needs more evangelicals trained in philosophy, not fewer.

Any university worthy of the name—especially a Christian one—needs philosophers to do what they do in the classroom and beyond. As Baylor University’s Francis Beckwith put it:

Liberty’s decision reflects something of a trend in higher education. Philosophy and other fields in the humanities aren’t seen by some as essential to a university education. People mistakenly think graduates in these fields are unable to find gainful employment, even though the data show otherwise, and they completely disregard the role philosophy and the humanities can play in the spiritual growth of students, regardless of their major.

As the president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, I’m disappointed when Christians don’t see the value in the pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful. But I also see a picture broader than the most recent news of a department closing. While the prospects of philosophy departments are grim in some cases, evangelical philosophy is also flourishing.

There has been a renaissance in Christian philosophy since the 1960s, and evangelical philosophers have been a significant part of this movement. Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga, Eleonore Stump, Robert and Marilyn Adams, and William Alston were instrumental. Evangelical philosophers like William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, Doug Geivett, and Jerry Walls have been a part of it as well.

Now a new generation of evangelicals continues this work, both in the United States and around the world. Evangelical philosophy is flourishing at places like Biola University, Houston Baptist University, and Tyndale University, to name just a few.

Seminary students can receive a top-notch philosophical education at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Denver Seminary, or Talbot School of Theology. Palm Beach Atlantic University has just announced a new Master of Arts degree in philosophy of religion, opening in the fall of 2021.

Evangelical philosophers also publish in all areas of philosophy. The Evangelical Philosophical Society has numerous conferences around the United States every year, with hundreds of scholars and apologists in attendance. The society’s journal, Philosophia Christi, publishes excellent philosophical work by evangelicals, other Christians, and our secular colleagues.

Kent Dunnington at Biola and Ross Inman at Southeastern Seminary are representative of the many evangelicals who have published excellent scholarly works with top academic presses. Dunnington’s Humility, Pride, and Christian Virtue Theory and Inman’s Substance and the Fundamentality of the Familiar are just two examples of the fine work that scholars are doing today.

And evangelical philosophers write for the church, making our work accessible to the people in the pews. We write on a wide variety of topics, exploring the implications of our faith for all of life. We engage the culture for the sake of the kingdom, help equip people in our churches, and seek to shape the hearts and minds of our students for a lifetime of serving God in the home and in their vocations.

For example, Paul Gould’s award-winning book Cultural Apologetics expands our view of what apologetics is, how it can help build the church, and the ways it can be used to truly reach others with the gospel. My own just-released book, God and Guns in America, uses philosophy alongside theology and biblical studies to address the gun debates in the United States from a thoroughly Christian point of view.

But arguably the most important work done by many evangelical philosophers happens in the classroom. That work takes different forms. I’m a professor at a public university, so I strive to love my students and help them think carefully and well about life’s big questions. At Christian institutions, evangelical philosophers help their students integrate their faith into all of life. They train future doctors, nurses, teachers, filmmakers, pastors, missionaries, business professionals, and university professors to see their personal and professional lives in the light of Christ. They teach them how to think hard, and think well, in a Christlike way.

That matters to the life of the church. If you’ve ever bemoaned the lack of discipleship in American evangelicalism, philosophy can help us with this, because it can help those who study it develop intellectual and moral virtue. A slow and careful reading of Plato’s Republic, Augustine’s Confessions, Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, or contemporary philosopher Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung’s Glittering Vices can be a fruitful exercise in Christian spiritual formation.

At its best, a Christian philosophical education helps us love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It equips us to love our neighbors as ourselves in ways that we might not be able to do without philosophical training. You don’t need a philosophy class or degree to love God and your neighbor, of course, but it can help you do those things in some wonderful and unique ways.

Practical education is important, but given the pace of change in our world, the practical soon becomes passé. Students with a philosophical education, however, know how to think. Because of this, they are able to adapt to changes in industry. They can adapt to changes in the culture that impact how to do ministry well in a given context.

In fact, philosophy is intensely practical. This might sound ludicrous, but philosophers explore issues like the character of God, the true nature of justice, the proper application of scientific knowledge, the structure of good arguments, and the nature of virtue and its connection to human flourishing. All of this is obviously relevant to our daily lives.

In a culture where humility is in short supply, where people who can give sound but also winsome arguments seem rare, evangelical Christian philosophy has much to offer. We must not cast it aside. We should do what we can to encourage its impact in the culture, growth in the church, and continued presence in our Christian institutions of higher education.














Michael W. Austin is the president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He teaches philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and his latest book is God and Guns in America.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 17, 2020, 10:27:07 pm
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https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/q-ideas-lyons-joshua-axe-immunity-coronavirus.html







Q Hosts Nutritionist Who Promotes ‘Building Immunity’ Over Vaccines








Joshua Axe’s talk at last month’s virtual event has raised concerns among experts.


The founders of Q have hosted talks promoting what experts say are unfounded claims that alternative health methods such as practicing gratitude and consuming essential oils can combat or even prevent contracting the novel coronavirus, sparking pushback from at least one ally of the group.

The talks took place on platforms affiliated with Gabe Lyons and his wife, Rebekah, both of whom are influential evangelical Christian authors and speakers. The two founded Q, which is described on its website as “a learning community that mobilizes Christians to advance the common good in society.” The organization hosts an annual conference that resembles TED Talks and features prominent Christian speakers, as well as business leaders, politicians and entertainers. Videos of the talks and affiliated podcasts are distributed via apps to digital devices such as Apple TV.

Lyons recently hosted two coronavirus-themed conversations with Joshua Axe, who is listed as a chiropractor and nutritionist on his website, which sells a wide variety of alternative health supplements such as essential oils. The website does not describe Axe as an expert on epidemiology, but it does boast that his company, Axe Wellness, has won accolades in Tennessee. The nature of his practice is unclear: the state’s Department of Health lists his chiropractic license as expired as of 2013.

The first conversation occurred on a February 28 episode of the “Rhythms for Life” podcast, a reference to Rebekah Lyons’s book Rhythms of Renewal, which is described as outlining methods to “overcome anxiety with daily habits that strengthen you mentally and physically.”

In the podcast conversation with Gabe Lyons, Axe downplayed the threat of the novel coronavirus by claiming “we’ve actually had worse threats in the past;” suggested the pharmaceutical industry and “the media” benefit from “driving fear” around the pandemic; and claimed he has “complete confidence” that he could either avoid infection from the coronavirus or defeat it in a few days by boosting his immune system through alternative methods such as ingesting ginger tea and oregano oil.

“I’m in complete confidence that if I’m exposed to the coronavirus that either I won’t get it, or if I do get it, that, hey, it will be a few days and I’ll be fine afterwards,” he said. “Because when your immune system is strong—God designed our bodies to fight viruses. And that’s the thing: For me, it’s an attitude and mentality of faith over fear.”

Axe did not discuss vaccines other than to argue that pharmaceutical companies “are developing a vaccine around” the pandemic and that there is “a big industry there.”

At no point did Gabe Lyons challenge Axe’s claims, which appear to be directly refuted by a statement published on the website of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, operating underneath the National Institutes of Health. (It was to this statement that the NIH directed an inquiry from Religion News Service when asked to comment on the contents of Axe’s talks.)

“The media has reported that some people are seeking ‘alternative’ remedies to prevent or to treat COVID-19,” the statement reads. “Some of these purported remedies include herbal therapies, teas, essential oils, tinctures, and silver products such as colloidal silver. There is no scientific evidence that any of these alternative remedies can prevent or cure the illness caused by COVID-19.”

Rebekah Lyons posted about Axe on Instagram shortly after his appearance on the podcast, saying “Who do you call to get insight on boosting immunity in light of the Coronavirus? (Axe) of course!”

Gabe Lyons hosted Axe again during the Q 2020 Virtual Summit that took place April 22-23, featuring speakers such as conservative commentator Eric Metaxas, theologian Tim Keller, and hip-hop artist Lecrae. Axe was originally listed in a session titled “Fighting Pandemics” but, according to correspondence acquired by RNS, appears to have changed the segment to “Building Immunity” after encountering pushback from independent researcher Jake Dockter.

Neither Gabe Lyons nor Axe returned RNS requests for comment or to verify the exchange.

Axe’s presentation at the conference occurred immediately after a short question-and-answer session between Gabe Lyons and a physician on the topic of the coronavirus. Q 2020 featured multiple segments that appeared to follow a similar setup: two differing or opposing perspectives on one topic—such as a later debate between Metaxas and columnist David French on whether Christians should vote for Donald Trump.

After the Q&A with the physician, Lyons introduced Axe by asking, “Is all our confidence going to be in future medicine or vaccines, or is there anything we can be doing as people—is there any way in which we can live, and the way God has designed us—to fight off viruses?”

Axe then launched into an 18-minute talk in which he promoted “herbal and natural forms of medicine,” argued that positive emotions are crucial to health, suggested “the media” has caused more disease than helped people by promoting “fear” during the pandemic and declared “the ultimate way to protect yourself and your family during any health crisis is to put your faith in God and follow the health principles laid out in the Bible.”

Axe also criticized White House coronavirus response coordinator Anthony Fauci by putting up a slide in which he quotes the doctor as saying “our Ultimate Hope is a vaccine.”

“A vaccine—again, that’s not the ultimate solution,” Axe said. “The ultimate solution is God, and also, secondarily, supporting this body God has given us, strengthening our immune system so we can fight off not only this virus, but every virus we’re exposed to in the future.”

The precise origin of the Fauci quote is unclear. While the White House adviser has said similar things in the past, there is no indication he capitalizes “ultimate hope” or that the phrase is meant to be a religious reference.

The segment triggered minor backlash from some viewers on Twitter and from Tearfund, an evangelical Christian relief and development agency based in the United Kingdom. A vice president of Tearfund USA, the group’s US-based arm, spoke at a previous Q gathering and was listed as one of the 2020 speakers as well.

“The Q Ideas forum brings together many perspectives, which we value,” read a tweet from the group. “But in this case we were extremely disappointed. As soon as the talks streamed we immediately raised our concerns with them. We hope they’ll exercise better judgment in the future.”







[Editor’s note from CT: A Q&A on the Q site includes the caveat that participants may encounter perspectives they disagree with. “At Q, we pride ourselves on providing Christian leaders with a wide range of viewpoints on every issue we cover, so that you can be sure you’re getting a full perspective. This means you might not agree with every talk or speaker you see on Q Media, but that’s the point—we want to help you see the complexity of each issue so that, whatever your viewpoint, you can engage this cultural moment well.”]





According to Gabe Lyons’s exchange with Dockter, the head of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, was also reportedly invited to address the Q conference. But Dockter told RNS that he contacted Collins to raise questions about Axe’s appearance on the same program. According to correspondence obtained by RNS, Collins responded: “Many thanks for providing this information, which certainly gives me pause.”





Collins did not speak at the Q 2020 conference; his office did not respond to requests from RNS to verify the authenticity of the emails or the invitation to speak.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 18, 2020, 11:58:26 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117372.jpg?w=940)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/mount-st-helens-gods-voice-during-disaster-pandemic.html







The Wonder and Terror of Hearing God’s Voice in a Disaster








When Mt. St. Helens erupted, plants returned amid ruin. This pandemic holds the same glory.


In late March 1980, while walking through the cabin of a passenger ship on the Salish Sea, I noticed a newspaper on a table and stopped in my tracks, surprised by a dramatic photograph under a headline reporting a small eruption on the summit of Mount St. Helens. I was returning from a college work week at a Young Life camp in British Columbia. The eruption on March 27 was the first indication that Mount St. Helens had awakened after its last eruption in 1857.

Later, on the top deck of the ship, I joined some other students gathered around two guitar players. They were singing “God, Make Us Your Family” by The Fisherfolk—a rousing, inspiring chorus and haunting, evocative verses about God’s restoration of the earth and the family of all mankind. I felt somber and thoughtful, standing on the upper deck in the dark as we passed under the lights of the Lion’s Gate Bridge along the downtown Vancouver waterfront.

Everyone in the Pacific Northwest knew that they lived near volcanos. Mount Hood, Mount Rainier, and Mount Baker are prominent and stunning features on the horizons of Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. But no one (except geologists) spent any time thinking about what their presence really meant. They were supposed to be extinct, weren’t they?

Now in the global COVID-19 pandemic, a question that seemed distant and perhaps irrelevant when everything was going well for us has risen to the surface—where is God in all of this anyway?

The eruption

Everyone in the region remembers where they were when the unthinkable happened on a Sunday morning, May 18, 1980. I was in Bridle Trails State Park, a large forested park in Bellevue, Washington, again working for Young Life. I stood in the quiet forest with other staff waiting to start an orienteering course. Suddenly we heard this mysterious and massive BOOM at 8:32 a.m. like a cannon shot. A few of us joked, “Maybe Mount St. Helens blew up!” We found out later that day that it was indeed Mount St. Helens erupting 100 miles south.

After our course finished, we drove to Seattle for another Young Life session, listening to the radio’s blizzard of breaking news about the eruption, which in a matter of hours had basically shut down the entire state. The Interstate 5 freeway to the south was closed at the Toutle River Bridge, which was in imminent danger of being washed away by lahars—torrents of melted glaciers and snowfields mixed with enormous amounts of volcanic ash, rock, and downed trees. The lahars had blown out every other bridge on the river from the mountain to the freeway.

Later that day, the flood of ash-laden meltwater reached the Columbia River and shut down all shipping traffic from Portland, Oregon (and upriver ports), to the Pacific Ocean. The mountain passes to the east were closed due to zero-visibility conditions and black skies at midday due to falling volcanic ash. At our afternoon session, some the staff at the training weekend who had traveled from Oregon and Eastern Washington discovered they were now stranded, unable to return home to Yakima and Portland. As they say, then and now, we were all in uncharted territory.

The initial blast event resulted in impressive destruction. It was triggered by an earthquake, which caused the north side of the mountain to collapse in the largest landslide (two billion tons of rock, glacial ice, and snow) ever recorded. This then released gases, steam, and lava from below in an enormous blast, sending an ash cloud 12 miles into the sky. Winds blew the ash plume east, and significant ash fell on Eastern Washington.

In coming days, the ash cloud would travel across the entire United States, eventually circling the globe. The top 1,300 feet of the mountain were lost, replaced by an enormous crater that opened to the north. Fifty-seven people were killed, 200 homes were damaged or destroyed, and 27 bridges were taken out by the debris flowing down the Toutle River valley. The largest lahar filled the floor of the river valley for 14 miles downstream to an average depth of 150 feet. Hot, hurricane-force (pyroclastic) winds carrying rock debris flattened 143 square miles of forest in a large arc north of the volcano, and an additional 42 square miles of forest was killed with the dead trees left standing upright. A large area at the base of volcano was turned into a plain of pumice rock. Spirit Lake, a deep, pristine, cold-water lake was filled with hot ash and mud, its surface covered with a raft of dead trees.

Translation help
Several years ago, I found the gravestone of the poet Denise Levertov (1923–1997) in Lakeview Cemetery in Seattle while attending the funeral of a close friend and rector of my former church. After the service, I looked up Levertov online and read several books of her poetry. Her words in the poem “Immersion” struck me:

There is anger abroad in the world, a numb thunder,
because of God’s silence. But how naïve,
to keep wanting words we could speak ourselves,
English, Urdu, Tagalog, the French of Tours,
the French of Haiti …

It concludes:

God’s abstention is only from human dialects. The holy voice
utters its woe and glory in myriad musics, in signs and portents.
Our own words are for us to speak, a way to ask and to answer.

Some years later, I bought another of Levertov’s books. In it, the essay “Janus” recounts an evocative memory when she and several neighbor girls trespass onto the grounds of an apparently abandoned house. Perched atop a garden’s brick wall, they are struck with awe by a flowering tree. The caretaker of the house runs out of the house and yells at them to leave. She reflects: “Wasn’t it one of the earliest intimations of how close to one another are beauty and terror, how intimately related?”

The words fear, dread, and awe, when studied for their modern and archaic meanings, point to a fusion of terror and being wonder-struck with awe—two sides of the same coin. Perhaps this is why every time angels appear in the Bible, they preface their message with “Do not be afraid!”

The aftermath
Ten days after the eruption, the first three scientists from the US Forest Service arrived at the blast zone by helicopter. They knew the event would be an unequaled chance to document the return of life after a major disturbance. Their general expectations were that the destruction would be total: Trees, plants, and animals would not return to the site for perhaps decades or centuries, and initial colonization of the blast zone would consist of invasive species coming in from the edges of the zone. Their assumptions were proved wrong almost immediately:

So it was that [ecologist Jerry] Franklin opened the helicopter’s side door and hopped out. His boots sent up little puffs of ash when they hit the ground. He glanced down, but instead of the gray he expected, he saw a bit of green poking up next to him. He knelt. It was a plant shoot, maybe 2 or 3 inches tall. ‘I’ll be damned,’ Franklin thought. It was Chamaenerion angustifolium, a plant much more widely known by its common name, fireweed.

As Franklin discovered, some of the first plants to come back were fireweed and pearly everlasting, which grew back rapidly from underground rhizome-like root systems that survived the blast. In his new book about the eruption, Eric Wagner writes that in England, fireweed is called rosebay willowherb or bombweed because it was the first plant to colonize the blast zones in London after the Blitz. Another group of plants to return quickly to Mount St. Helens was legumes such as lupines and low-growing red alders, which have nitrogen-fixing bacteria on their root systems, allowing them to colonize the nutrient-poor tephra (fine volcanic ash) deposits.

Article continues below
These “early-successional” plants were the first stage in a series of relatively transient ecosystems that will ultimately give way to the restoration of a conifer forest “climax community” similar to what existed before the eruption. The process is called “succession” by ecologists. Return of old-growth forests will take centuries—if not interrupted by new volcanic events.

This was the just the start of extensive research into the eruption’s effects that continue today. Mount St. Helens has become the most studied volcano in the world. The results of studies at the site have changed the science of ecology, now that we know life returns to a highly disturbed area in diverse and unexpected ways. In another line of Levertov’s poem, she sees God’s voice in “the poor grass returning after drought, timid, persistent.” Not unlike Franklin’s fireweed growing in volcanic ash.

Our current crises
The COVID-19 pandemic and a historic economic collapse, like flash photographs—brightly illuminate and expose everything and everyone, revealing realities we rarely care to think about: food supply lines supported by low-paid workers in poor conditions; injustices of health care access; salary disparities; the vulnerabilities of immigrants and the homeless; conditions in nursing homes that spread disease; and on and on. The effects of these intertwined crises also relate to how we approach the underlying and accelerating global climate change. But perhaps God is speaking to us in this current emergency in the manner Levertov articulated: “The holy voice utters its woe and glory in myriad musics, in signs and portents.”

Since the end of February, we have seen the heroic and inspiring stories of medical professionals and ordinary people responding to the pandemic—treating COVID-19 patients, sewing face masks, distributing food from closed schools, shopping for elderly neighbors—the very kinds of selfless actions documented by Rebecca Solnit in her book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster. Solnit describes the aftermath of several famous disasters, including the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906; the London Blitz in 1940-41; the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City; and Hurricane Katrina in late 2005. She discovered in her research that most people, contrary to expectations, when confronted with disaster, embrace it with a kind of joy and pitch in to improvise and help the victims and themselves survive and recover—like plants springing from ash.

Also in recent weeks, remarkable occurrences in nature have resulted from essentially the whole world being at a standstill. As Levertov writes: “the unearned retrieval of blessings lost forever”—yet another word from God? Significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions have been reported in every nation. Air quality has dramatically improved in all the world’s most polluted cities: Delhi, Beijing, and Los Angeles. Residents in Northern India are seeing the Himalayan Mountains on the horizon for the first time in decades. Wild animals have been returning to areas normally crowded with tourists—bears appearing in Yosemite Valley, lions in South Africa taking naps on roads. In the Pacific Northwest, orcas, dolphins and whales have returned to waters usually transited by freighters, tankers and cruise ships, benefiting from the drop in underwater noise. The canals of Venice have become clear and filled with marine life.

The entire world has borne witness to these glories, as Levertov might say. Could it be that God speaks—reminding us that our collective actions affect both human civilization and the natural world for good or for ill? How can we play a role in the culmination of God’s kingdom—a civilization more equitable, just, and prosperous for both humans and nature? We can reimagine, rethink and restructure our economy, energy sources, natural resource utilization, and more. In the words of the song I heard on that evening 40 years ago, “Let the prayer of our hearts daily be: God, make us your family.”













Gerald Erickson is a marine scientist and writer in the Seattle area. His outlook on life has been formed from being present on the interfaces between his ecumenical Christian faith, science, and the arts.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 18, 2020, 11:54:01 pm
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https://www.christianitytoday.com/partners/gloo/pastoring-in-pandemic.html






Pastoring in a Pandemic








Empower your people. Mobilize the church.


As the COVID-19 crisis drags on, many church leaders find themselves tired, discouraged, and anxious regarding the long-term implications of this pandemic. Pastors are wondering how they can apply biblical roles and goals for pastoral ministry in such a radically altered context. Such work requires savvy shepherds—those who take responsibility for their task in its new and present form.

While the goals and definitions of pastoral ministry haven’t changed, the context surrounding shepherding has shifted dramatically, morphing in ways that are impossible to see while we’re still in the midst of it. As the pandemic took hold, church leaders were faced with an unfamiliar task: pastoring people from a distance. The work, which seemingly demands personal presence, now must occur in cyberspace. Dinner invitations and hospital visits are replaced with an endless stream of videos, emails, texts, and phone calls. Work that was once shoulder to shoulder is now device to device. And pastors are expected to adapt quickly and continue indefinitely.

To better see and meet their congregations’ unique needs, pastors and lay leaders have embraced social media, creatively cared for their members, led countless Zoom meetings, and taught to video cameras in empty rooms. But serving an entire congregation can be extremely challenging, and the long-term effects on congregational shepherds are still unclear.

The Weekly People Check-in is a five-minute assessment from Gloo and Barna that lets people share their experiences with church leadership, providing pastors with a status report on how their congregants are doing with their health, relationships, job, finances, and faith in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Alongside temperature-taking tools like this, pastors are leaning on wise counsel and firm boundaries to serve people while maintaining some level of personal sanity.

Care through a mobilized church
At the outset of the shutdown in North America, many pastors’ first goal was to ensure their people felt embraced with loving care. Of course, the need for hope has always been there. Forms of suffering that long predated the onslaught of COVID-19 have not stopped. People still have cancer. Marriages still collapse. Sin still crushes.

The pandemic has brought new causes for despair all its own: more parishioners facing physical illness, more of them grieving lost loved ones, more of them teetering on economic destruction, more of them burdened with anxiety and depression. The need to care for others, then and now, has always been the same.

But pastor burnout is a predictable outcome, particularly for those running at a sprinter’s pace for what is likely a marathon. According to Gloo’s data, church leaders are desperate to pass on a message of faith and hope, but the means of communicating that message are difficult to determine. The responsibility to care well from afar for a hurting congregation weighs heavily, draining emotional and spiritual reserves. When pastors can’t access the tools people find most reassuring—eye contact, bedside prayers, and physical presence—bridging that physical divide when comfort is sorely needed feels like a daunting, demanding task they are doomed to fail.

How are pastors to combat such a fate? The answer, at least in part, lies in a mobilized church. A singular pastor or program won’t do—we need every member tasked to care for one another, whether that be through prayer, communication, encouraging notes, or acts of service. Dwayne Milioni, pastor of Open Door Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, and chair of the board of The Pillar Church Planting Network, has experienced the positive effects of his church’s intentionality: “We have actually found ourselves connecting with our members more during the quarantine.” Pastors are pouring out themselves for members, and these members are following suit by caring for others. Sanity comes in leaning on the saints.

Many churches have rallied to the crisis, finding even more ways to empower members. Clint Darst, pastor of King’s Cross Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, has hope for his congregation’s involvement. “I’ve been encouraged by the creativity of our people to come up with ways to minister to each other,” he says. “Carpool lines in front of houses to say happy anniversary, college students offering to grocery shop for the elderly, older saints modeling gratitude and faith to the younger saints via online platforms they’ve never used before, generosity in giving to our benevolence fund, phone calls to saints in retirement homes. I could go on and on.”

This member-to-member focus protects pastors from shouldering the sole weight of care during crisis. The endurance of pastors increases when they depend less on themselves and programmatic forms of care and begin to entrust God’s people to the care of mobilized church members who are finding strategic ways to bear the burdens around them.

Discipleship through equipped leaders
As this pandemic has required more intentionality to connect, it’s clear that person-to-person ministry from leaders to congregation members, be it face-to-face or virtual, is the necessary means of discipling today. All too often, however, the definition of leader is synonymous with the office of pastor, which again contributes to an oppressive, overwhelming responsibility for those in that role. In order for pastors to have sustainable, healthy relationships with their congregations, more lay leaders—not pastors—must take spiritual responsibility for the growth and maturation of others.

In this moment, the work of pastors is largely the task of equipping these leaders to foster discipleship via technology or one-on-one conversations with fellow members. This work lies squarely within the purview of the pastoral responsibility to “equip [Christ’s] people for the work of service” (Eph. 4:11–12). Ultimately, those who have ecclesial bottlenecks that relegate ministry function to only a few select leaders are struggling, while those who equip and empower a greater number of leaders are thriving. Preexisting structures providing care and connection for members, such as small study groups or Sunday school environments, have allowed leaders to leverage those already-existing relationships as they take on higher levels of responsibility.

Yes, it will require more effort to train leaders how to teach and train others than it does to write a clear, expositional sermon, but this effort will multiply influence in the long-run. In order to avoid burning out later, as pastors we must extend ourselves now as we talk with potential leaders and disciple and pray with those we can influence. Once these leaders are equipped, we can be confident that our leaders are echoing truth to one another through Zoom calls, text messages, and walks around the neighborhood, even when the church can’t gather in person.

As social distancing restrictions phase out, these empowered leaders also provide hope through multiple, smaller gatherings, perhaps in homes, until allowance is made for larger, communal gatherings. For this to happen, pastors must encourage leaders to foster nourishing, spiritual relationships—a task that will require great humility and wisdom from the average pastor who is often at the center of much of the disciple-formation that takes place in the church. Yet, such steps are vital for pastoral sustainability. Delegation is difficult, but without an abundance of leaders, the weight of this next season of ministry will be too much too bear. And finding creative ways to train an army of members to carry the weight of church life together will surely aid in the health of the church long after the pandemic passes.

Training through reproducible tools
Finally, consider the value of new formats and reproducible tools. The weekly sermon format must adjust to meet our current moment. By necessity, most churches are putting their services online—a daunting task for many. But without the feedback loop of in-service responses and post-service conversations, preaching to an iPhone leaves many wondering how to discern whether the message, or the medium, is effective. Such a void can leave pastors dismayed.

More difficult questions come as pastors wrestle with the challenge of what form this online presence should take long-term: Should it seek to embody the weekly gathering as much as possible, or should it act as a filler to bide time until the church can gather together physically once again? The longer the potential time until the church can wholly regather, the more likely that pastors will choose to offer suitable substitutes for various elements, such as live question and answer time before or after the sermon, online webinars about topics like depression and anxiety, daily or weekly devotional excerpts from pastoral leaders, drive-in services, or even live sermons by pastors or lay leaders to smaller home gatherings. Each church, and the pastors entrusted with its care, will have to determine to what degree these online presentations or home gatherings continue when society reopens.

By God’s grace, however, the conversation will move far beyond whether to retain or heighten one’s online presence as a church. This season of disorientation can foster ingenuity and creativity surrounding how we train disciples—one common theme of successful, thriving churches is a desire to find simple means of distilling truth. Small groups are gathering around basic themes of gospel truth and connecting those truths to their church community, current context, and their mission in the world. Some of the best tools for training people are those that are easy to understand, apply, and duplicate. Once again, this is a hopeful note for the future of the church. Producing simple, reproducible content that the average member can understand and share with others will surely enhance the culture of discipleship.

The task of a shepherd is never easy. But we need not despair, nor should we attempt to shoulder the weight ourselves. Our theology is our greatest comfort. We do not shepherd alone. Our Good Shepherd—the one who gave his life for his sheep—loves his church far more than we do, and he is, at this very moment, leading his church and beckoning us to have faith and follow wherever he might lead.











Matt Rogers, PhD is a pastor in Greenville, SC who also serves as an Assistant Professor of North America Church Planting at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Church Health Strategist with The Pillar Network. He is also the author of a number of reproducible tools for disciple-making such as the Seven Arrows for Bible Reading.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 19, 2020, 09:33:41 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117331.jpg?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/ravi-zacharias-death-cancer-rzim-apologist.html






Ravi Zacharias Dies of Cancer









The famous apologist was 74.


Apologist Ravi Zacharias died Tuesday, two months after he announced he had been diagnosed with cancer. He was 74.

The popular author and Christian teacher was known for his work through Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), which focused on apologetic arguments for the existence of God and the reasonableness of Christianity.

He preached in more than 70 countries and authored more than 30 books in his 48-year career, teaching Christians to engage with skeptics and arguing that the Christian worldview has robust answers to humanity’s existential questions.

Zacharias was born in India and raised in an Anglican family. He recounted that his conversion to Christianity came while reading the Bible in the hospital after a failed suicide attempt as a teen. He immigrated to Canada at the age of 20.

Zacharias started his ministry with the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA). A graduate of Ontario Bible College (now Tyndale University) and Trinity International University, he was commissioned as a national evangelist for the United States in 1977 and ordained in the CMA in 1980. He founded RZIM in 1984, and the organization has grown to about 200 employees in 16 offices around the world, with 20 traveling speakers.

His best-selling book, Can Man Live Without God?, sold about 500,000 copies in 1995. His most recent book, The Logic of God: 52 Christian Essentials for the Heart and Mind, won the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s 2020 Christian book award in the Bible study category.

Late in his ministry career, Zacharias faced claims that he overstated his academic background and implied he had earned a doctorate degree. Over the years, RZIM and Zacharias’s publishers revised his biographies to clarify that he has received honorary doctorates and removed references to “Dr. Zacharias.”

Zacharias was also involved in a legal dispute over “sexually explicit” communication with a woman he met through his speaking ministry. Her lawyer said Zacharias had groomed and exploited her. Zacharias sued, and the lawsuit was settled out of court with a non-disclosure agreement.

Earlier this year, doctors discovered a malignant tumor on Zacharias’s sacrum as he underwent back surgery. He began receiving treatment for sarcoma at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The ministry posted an update on May 8 saying Zacharias’s cancer was deemed untreatable, and he was sent home to Atlanta to be with his family. On social media, a wide range of Christians including Lee Strobel, Tim Tebow, and Christine Caine posted tributes with the hashtag #ThankYouRavi.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret, and their three children.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 19, 2020, 09:37:03 am
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https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/martin-luther-coronavirus-black-plague-alien-work-of-god.html







Martin Luther Helps Us See Divine Love in Pandemic Suffering






The German reformer would call COVID-19 an "alien work of God."


If we could ask Martin Luther how to make sense of the current pandemic, he would likely encourage us to view it as the “alien work of God.” The phrase appears in his earliest lectures on the Psalms and again in his lectures on Romans and Hebrews, where he develops the defining contours of his evangelical theology. It directly informs the advice he gives in his much-quoted “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague” and is central to the way he interprets suffering and misfortune.

Luther believed that God is utterly sovereign over all things, including suffering of various kinds. God is even sovereign over the Devil, whose diabolical plots in the world the Wittenberg reformer took quite seriously. Luther was very honest about the reality of suffering in the world, along with the pain and despair that it causes—there is nothing Pollyannaish about his theology.

But Luther firmly believed that God is good. God’s very nature is ardent, self-giving love—this is foundational for Luther. Human beings, on the other hand, are deeply sinful and strongly prone to self-deification in all things. Even Christians have to engage in a daily, life-or-death battle with the “old Adam” (or “old Eve”), which they can only win by divine grace. Many are also prone—as he himself was prone—to see God as an angry judge who is easily provoked to wrath. Luther knew firsthand that when such souls experience suffering, they nearly always view it as divine punishment for sin.

The phrase “alien work of God” was Luther’s pastoral response, putting all of these beliefs and concerns together and offering some comfort in the midst of overwhelming suffering. The term expresses Luther’s desire to assure Christians that God is for them, never against them, despite appearances to the contrary.

According to Luther, suffering is God’s work. That is, God is its ultimate cause, although not necessarily its immediate cause—God can sovereignly use the Devil or other agents as tools to accomplish his larger redemptive purposes in the world. But suffering is not God’s proper work, which is always to love and save. Suffering is alien to God in the sense that it is foreign to his nature and intentions, even though he is still sovereign over it.

This means that in the midst of suffering, faithful Christians shouldn’t read their lives for signs of God’s attitude toward them. Rather, they should trust what Scripture says about God—that he is good—not what fallen reason concludes—that he is not. Luther thought that if people relied on their own unaided efforts to find and understand God in the midst of the reality of suffering, they would wind up concluding that God is absent or that God doesn’t love humans. But by faith, Luther believed, we can see through suffering to the true nature of God.

Luther’s emphasis on suffering as the alien work of God was connected to his larger conviction that God is mostly hidden from our view in this life. God can be discovered, however, in the last place fallen human reason would expect to find him—the Cross. In fact, Luther once asserted, drawing directly on 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:5, that “God can be found only in suffering and the cross.”

According to Luther, God hides from view to confront us with our sin, which necessitates this veil, and to drive us to know him by faith, which is itself a divine gift. Luther refers to such faith as kunst—an “art” or “craft”—stressing that while faith is essential to the Christian life, it is also difficult, requiring daily practice in surrender to God.

In his Treatise on Good Works, Luther explains how such faith rescues the Christian from despair during suffering:

It is an art to have a sure confidence in God when, at least as far as we can see or understand, he shows himself in wrath, and to expect better from him than we now know. Here God is hidden, as the bride says in the Song of Songs [2:9], “Behold there he stands behind our wall, gazing in through the windows.” That means he stands hidden among the sufferings which would separate us from him like a wall, indeed, like a wall of a fortress. And yet he looks upon me and does not forsake me. He stands there and is ready to help in grace, and through the window of dim faith he permits Himself to be seen. And Jeremiah says in Lamentations 3 [vv. 32–33], “He casts men aside, but that is not the intention of his heart.”

Luther, the father of evangelical Protestantism, would want the faithful Christian to know that COVID-19 is not the proper work of God. Rather, it is the alien work of God that summons us to know the true intentions of his heart by the art of faith, even as it is working to conform us to the image of Christ and his self-sacrificial love. Luther would want to console us with these words, especially those of us who are inclined to doubt and despair.

The current pandemic is dark and menacing for many of us, and it is easy to wonder whether there is a good and sovereign God in heaven or not. Luther would welcome and even encourage such honest questions. But he would finally want to teach us how to glimpse our loving yet hidden God as he beholds us in grace through the window he has placed in this wall of suffering. This window is faith, “dim faith,” which clings passionately yet always imperfectly to the Word and its promises that God loves us in all things, including suffering.

Dim faith may be all we can muster in these difficult days. It’s frequently all I can muster. But it can suffice to assure us of what we most need to know: Our God is with us and for us in this crisis; he does nor forsake us but eagerly seeks to help us, for this is his true heart. All of this may seem strange to us, but such is the alien work of God.



Ron Rittgers holds the Erich Markel Chair in German Reformation Studies at Valparaiso University. He is the author of The Reformation of Suffering: Pastoral Theology and Lay Piety in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany, along with other book chapters and articles on Christian responses to suffering in the past.
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Martin Luther: Whether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague










Read in full the famous reformer’s advice on Christian faithfulness amid pandemics like the coronavirus.


[Republished with permission of Fortress Press]

To the Reverend Doctor Johann Hess, pastor at Breslau, and to his fellow-servants of the gospel of Jesus Christ (1527 A.D.):

Grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Your letter, sent to me at Wittenberg, was received some time ago. You wish to know whether it is proper for a Christian to run away from a deadly plague. I should have answered long ago, but God has for some time disciplined and scourged me so severely that I have been unable to do much reading or writing. Furthermore, it occurred to me that God, the merciful Father, has endowed you so richly with wisdom and truth in Christ that you yourself should be well qualified to decide this matter or even weightier problems in his Spirit and grace without our assistance.

But now that you keep on writing to me and have, so to speak, humbled yourself in requesting our view on this matter so that, as St. Paul repeatedly teaches, we may always agree with one another and be of one mind (1 Cor. 1:10; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 2:2). Therefore we here give you our opinion as far as God grants us to understand and perceive. This we would humbly submit to your judgment and to that of all devout Christians for them, as is proper, to come to their own decision and conclusion. Since the rumor of death is to be heard in these and many other parts also, we have permitted these instructions of ours to be printed because others might also want to make use of them.

To begin with, some people are of the firm opinion that one need not and should not run away from a deadly plague. Rather, since death is God’s punishment, which he sends upon us for our sins, we must submit to God and with a true and firm faith patiently await our punishment. They look upon running away as an outright wrong and as lack of belief in God. Others take the position that one may properly flee, particularly if one holds no public office.

I cannot censure the former for their excellent decision. They uphold a good cause, namely, a strong faith in God, and deserve commendation because they desire every Christian to hold to a strong, firm faith. It takes more than a milk faith to await a death before which most of the saints themselves have been and still are in dread. Who would not acclaim these earnest people to whom death is a little thing? They willingly accept God’s chastisement, doing so without tempting God, as we shall hear later on.

Since it is generally true of Christians that few are strong and many are weak, one simply cannot place the same burden upon everyone. A person who has a strong faith can drink poison and suffer no harm, Mark 16:18, while one who has a weak faith would thereby drink to his death. Peter could walk upon the water because he was strong in faith. When he began to doubt and his faith weakened, he sank and almost drowned. When a strong man travels with a weak man, he must restrain himself so as not to walk at a speed proportionate to his strength lest he set a killing pace for his weak companion. Christ does not want his weak ones to be abandoned, as St. Paul teaches in Romans 15:1 and 1 Corinthians 12:22.

To put it briefly and concisely, running away from death may happen in one of two ways. First, it may happen in disobedience to God’s word and command. For instance, in the case of a man who is imprisoned for the sake of God’s word and who, to escape death, denies and repudiates God’s word. In such a situation everyone has Christ’s plain mandate and command not to flee but rather to suffer death, as he says, “Whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven” and “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” Matthew 10:28, 33.

Those who are engaged in a spiritual ministry such as preachers and pastors must likewise remain steadfast before the peril of death. We have a plain command from Christ, “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep but the hireling sees the wolf coming and flees” (John 10:11). For when people are dying, they most need a spiritual ministry which strengthens and comforts their consciences by word and sacrament and in faith overcomes death. However, where enough preachers are available in one locality and they agree to encourage the other clergy to leave in order not to expose themselves needlessly to danger, I do not consider such conduct sinful because spiritual services are provided for and because they would have been ready and willing to stay if it had been necessary. We read that St. Athanasius fled from his church that his life might be spared because many others were there to administer his office. Similarly, the brethren in Damascus lowered Paul in a basket over the wall to make it possible for him to escape, Acts 9:25. And also in Acts 19:30. Paul allowed himself to be kept from risking danger in the marketplace because it was not essential for him to do so.

Accordingly, all those in public office such as mayors, judges, and the like are under obligation to remain. This, too, is God’s word, which institutes secular authority and commands that town and country be ruled, protected, and preserved, as St. Paul teaches in Romans 13:4, “The governing authorities are God’s ministers for your own good.” To abandon an entire community which one has been called to govern and to leave it without official or government, exposed to all kinds of danger such as fires, murder, riots, and every imaginable disaster is a great sin. It is the kind of disaster the devil would like to instigate wherever there is no law and order. St. Paul says, “Anyone who does not provide for his own family denies the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). On the other hand, if in great weakness they flee but provide capable substitutes to make sure that the community is well governed and protected, as we previously indicated, and if they continually and carefully supervise them [i.e., the substitutes], all that would be proper.

What applies to these two offices [church and state] should also apply to persons who stand in a relationship of service or duty toward one another. A servant should not leave his master nor a maid her mistress except with the knowledge and permission of master or mistress. Again, a master should not desert his servant or a lady her maid unless suitable provision for their care has been made somewhere. In all these matters it is a divine command that servants and maids should render obedience and by the same token masters and ladies should take care of their servants. Likewise, fathers and mothers are bound by God’s law to serve and help their children, and children their fathers and mothers. Likewise, paid public servants such as city physicians, city clerks and constables, or whatever their titles, should not flee unless they furnish capable substitutes who are acceptable to their employer.

In the case of children who are orphaned, guardians or close friends are under obligation either to stay with them or to arrange diligently for other nursing care for their sick friends. Yes, no one should dare leave his neighbor unless there are others who will take care of the sick in their stead and nurse them. In such cases we must respect the word of Christ, “I was sick and you did not visit me ...” (Matt. 25:41–46). According to this passage we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.

Where no such emergency exists and where enough people are available for nursing and taking care of the sick, and where, voluntarily or by orders, those who are weak in faith make provision so that there is no need for additional helpers, or where the sick do not want them and have refused their services, I judge that they have an equal choice either to flee or to remain. If someone is sufficiently bold and strong in his faith, let him stay in God’s name; that is certainly no sin. If someone is weak and fearful, let him flee in God’s name as long as he does not neglect his duty toward his neighbor but has made adequate provision for others to provide nursing care. To flee from death and to save one’s life is a natural tendency, implanted by God and not forbidden unless it be against God and neighbor, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 5:29, “No man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” It is even commanded that every man should as much as possible preserve body and life and not neglect them, as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:21–26 that God has so ordered the members of the body that each one cares and works for the other.

It is not forbidden but rather commanded that by the sweat of our brow we should seek our daily food, clothing, and all we need and avoid destruction and disaster whenever we can, as long as we do so without detracting from our love and duty toward our neighbor. How much more appropriate it is therefore to seek to preserve life and avoid death if this can be done without harm to our neighbor, inasmuch as life is more than food and clothing, as Christ himself says in Matthew 6:25. If someone is so strong in faith, however, that he can willingly suffer nakedness, hunger, and want without tempting God and not trying to escape, although he could do so, let him continue that way, but let him not condemn those who will not or cannot do the same.

Examples in Holy Scripture abundantly prove that to flee from death is not wrong in itself. Abraham was a great saint but he feared death and escaped it by pretending that his wife, Sarah, was his sister. Because he did so without neglecting or adversely affecting his neighbor, it was not counted as a sin against him. His son, Isaac, did likewise. Jacob also fled from his brother Esau to avoid death at his hands. Likewise, David fled from Saul, and from Absalom. The prophet Uriah escaped from King Jehoiakim and fled into Egypt. The valiant prophet, Elijah, 1 Kings 19:3, had destroyed all the prophets of Baal by his great faith, but afterward, when Queen Jezebel threatened him, he became afraid and fled into the desert. Before that, Moses fled into the land of Midian when the king searched for him in Egypt. Many others have done likewise. All of them fled from death when it was possible and saved their lives, yet without depriving their neighbors of anything but first meeting their obligations toward them.

Yes, you may reply, but these examples do not refer to dying by pestilence but to death under persecution. Answer: Death is death, no matter how it occurs. According to Holy Scripture God sent his four scourges: pestilence, famine, sword, and wild beasts. If it is permissible to flee from one or the other in clear conscience, why not from all four? Our examples demonstrate how the holy fathers escaped from the sword; it is quite evident that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob fled from the other scourge, namely, hunger and death, when they went to Egypt to escape famine, as we are told in Genesis 40–47. Likewise, why should one not run away from wild beasts? I hear people say, “If war or the Turks come, one should not flee from his village or town but stay and await God’s punishment by the sword.” That is quite true; let him who has a strong faith wait for his death, but he should not condemn those who take flight.

By such reasoning, when a house is on fire, no one should run outside or rush to help because such a fire is also a punishment from God. Anyone who falls into deep water dare not save himself by swimming but must surrender to the water as to a divine punishment. Very well, do so if you can but do not tempt God, and allow others to do as much as they are capable of doing. Likewise, if someone breaks a leg, is wounded or bitten, he should not seek medical aid but say, “It is God’s punishment. I shall bear it until it heals by itself.” Freezing weather and winter are also God’s punishment and can cause death. Why run to get inside or near a fire? Be strong and stay outside until it becomes warm again. We should then need no apothecaries or drugs or physicians because all illnesses are punishment from God. Hunger and thirst are also great punishments and torture. Why do you eat and drink instead of letting yourself be punished until hunger and thirst stop of themselves? Ultimately such talk will lead to the point where we abbreviate the Lord’s Prayer and no longer pray, “deliver us from evil, Amen,” since we would have to stop praying to be saved from hell and stop seeking to escape it. It, too, is God’s punishment as is every kind of evil. Where would all this end?

From what has been said we derive this guidance: We must pray against every form of evil and guard against it to the best of our ability in order not to act contrary to God, as was previously explained. If it be God’s will that evil come upon us and destroy us, none of our precautions will help us. Everybody must take this to heart: first of all, if he feels bound to remain where death rages in order to serve his neighbor, let him commend himself to God and say, “Lord, I am in thy hands; thou hast kept me here; thy will be done. I am thy lowly creature. Thou canst kill me or preserve me in this pestilence in the same way as if I were in fire, water, drought, or any other danger.” If a man is free, however, and can escape, let him commend himself and say, “Lord God, I am weak and fearful. Therefore I am running away from evil and am doing what I can to protect myself against it. I am nevertheless in thy hands in this danger as in any other which might overtake me. Thy will be done. My flight alone will not succeed of itself because calamity and harm are everywhere. Moreover, the devil never sleeps. He is a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44) and tries everywhere to instigate murder and misfortune.”

In the same way we must and we owe it to our neighbor to accord him the same treatment in other troubles and perils, also. If his house is on fire, love compels me to run to help him extinguish the flames. If there are enough other people around to put the fire out, I may either go home or remain to help. If he falls into the water or into a pit I dare not turn away but must hurry to help him as best I can. If there are others to do it, I am released. If I see that he is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself by doing so. A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor. He will always reckon with the possibility that doing so will bring some disadvantage and damage, danger and loss. No neighbor can live alongside another without risk to his safety, property, wife, or child. He must run the risk that fire or some other accident will start in the neighbor’s house and destroy him bodily or deprive him of his goods, wife, children, and all he has.

Anyone who does not do that for his neighbor, but forsakes him and leaves him to his misfortune, becomes a murderer in the sight of God, as St. John states in his epistles, “Whoever does not love his brother is a murderer,” and again, “If anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need [yet closes his heart against him], how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:15, 17). That is also one of the sins which God attributed to the city of Sodom when he speaks through the prophet Ezekiel 16:49, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” Christ, therefore, will condemn them as murderers on the Last Day when he will say, “I was sick and you did not visit me” (Matt. 25:43). If that shall be the judgment upon those who have failed to visit the sick and needy or to offer them relief, what will become of those who abandoned them and let them lie there like dogs and pigs? Yes, how will they fare who rob the poor of the little they have and plague them in all kinds of ways? That is what the tyrants do to the poor who accept the gospel. But let that be; they have their condemnation.

It would be well, where there is such an efficient government in cities and states, to maintain municipal homes and hospitals staffed with people to take care of the sick so that patients from private homes can be sent there — as was the intent and purpose of our forefathers with so many pious bequests, hospices, hospitals, and infirmaries so that it should not be necessary for every citizen to maintain a hospital in his own home. That would indeed be a fine, commendable, and Christian arrangement to which everyone should offer generous help and contributions, particularly the government. Where there are no such institutions — and they exist in only a few places — we must give hospital care and be nurses for one another in any extremity or risk the loss of salvation and the grace of God. Thus it is written in God’s word and command, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and in Matthew 7:12, “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”

Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together (as previously indicated) so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another. First, we can be sure that God’s punishment has come upon us, not only to chastise us for our sins but also to test our faith and love — our faith in that we may see and experience how we should act toward God; our love in that we may recognize how we should act toward our neighbor. I am of the opinion that all the epidemics, like any plague, are spread among the people by evil spirits who poison the air or exhale a pestilential breath which puts a deadly poison into the flesh. Nevertheless, this is God’s decree and punishment to which we must patiently submit and serve our neighbor, risking our lives in this manner as St. John teaches, “If Christ laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

When anyone is overcome by horror and repugnance in the presence of a sick person he should take courage and strength in the firm assurance that it is the devil who stirs up such abhorrence, fear, and loathing in his heart. He is such a bitter, knavish devil that he not only unceasingly tries to slay and kill, but also takes delight in making us deathly afraid, worried, and apprehensive so that we should regard dying as horrible and have no rest or peace all through our life. And so the devil would excrete us out of this life as he tries to make us despair of God, become unwilling and unprepared to die, and, under the stormy and dark sky of fear and anxiety, make us forget and lose Christ, our light and life, and desert our neighbor in his troubles. We would sin thereby against God and man; that would be the devil’s glory and delight. Because we know that it is the devil’s game to induce such fear and dread, we should in turn minimize it, take such courage as to spite and annoy him, and send those terrors right back to him. And we should arm ourselves with this answer to the devil:

“Get away, you devil, with your terrors! Just because you hate it, I’ll spite you by going the more quickly to help my sick neighbor. I’ll pay no attention to you: I’ve got two heavy blows to use against you: the first one is that I know that helping my neighbor is a deed well-pleasing to God and all the angels; by this deed I do God’s will and render true service and obedience to him. All the more so because if you hate it so and are so strongly opposed to it, it must be particularly acceptable to God. I’d do this readily and gladly if I could please only one angel who might look with delight on it. But now that it pleases my Lord Jesus Christ and the whole heavenly host because it is the will and command of God, my Father, then how could any fear of you cause me to spoil such joy in heaven or such delight for my Lord? Or how could I, by flattering you, give you and your devils in hell reason to mock and laugh at me? No, you’ll not have the last word! If Christ shed his blood for me and died for me, why should I not expose myself to some small dangers for his sake and disregard this feeble plague? If you can terrorize, Christ can strengthen me. If you can kill, Christ can give life. If you have poison in your fangs, Christ has far greater medicine. Should not my dear Christ, with his precepts, his kindness, and all his encouragement, be more important in my spirit than you, roguish devil, with your false terrors in my weak flesh? God forbid! Get away, devil. Here is Christ and here am I, his servant in this work. Let Christ prevail! Amen.”

The second blow against the devil is God’s mighty promise by which he encourages those who minister to the needy. He says in Psalm 41:1–3, “Blessed is he who considers the poor. The Lord will deliver him in the day of trouble. The Lord will protect him and keep him alive; the Lord will bless him on earth and not give him up to the will of his enemies. The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed. In his illness he will heal all his infirmities.” Are not these glorious and mighty promises of God heaped up upon those who minister to the needy? What should terrorize us or frighten us away from such great and divine comfort? The service we can render to the needy is indeed such a small thing in comparison with God’s promises and rewards that St. Paul says to Timothy, “Godliness is of value in every way, and it holds promise both for the present life and for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). Godliness is nothing else but service to God. Service to God is indeed service to our neighbor. It is proved by experience that those who nurse the sick with love, devotion, and sincerity are generally protected. Though they are poisoned, they are not harmed. As the psalm says, “in his illness you heal all his infirmities” (Ps. 41:3), that is, you change his bed of sickness into a bed of health. A person who attends a patient because of greed, or with the expectation of an inheritance or some personal advantage in such services, should not be surprised if eventually he is infected, disfigured, or even dies before he comes into possession of that estate or inheritance.

But whoever serves the sick for the sake of God’s gracious promise, though he may accept a suitable reward to which he is entitled, inasmuch as every laborer is worthy of his hire — whoever does so has the great assurance that he shall in turn be cared for. God himself shall be his attendant and his physician, too. What an attendant he is! What a physician! Friend, what are all the physicians, apothecaries, and attendants in comparison to God? Should that not encourage one to go and serve a sick person, even though he might have as many contagious boils on him as hairs on his body, and though he might be bent double carrying a hundred plague-ridden bodies! What do all kinds of pestilence or devils mean over against God, who binds and obliges himself to be our attendant and physician? Shame and more shame on you, you out-and-out unbeliever, for despising such great comfort and letting yourself become more frightened by some small boil or some uncertain danger than emboldened by such sure and faithful promises of God! What would it avail you if all physicians and the entire world were at your service, but God were not present? Again, what harm could overtake you if the whole world were to desert you and no physician would remain with you, but God would abide with you with his assurance? Do you not know that you are surrounded as by thousands of angels who watch over you in such a way that you can indeed trample upon the plague, as it is written in Psalm 91:11–13, “He has given his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up lest you dash your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the adder, and trample the young lion and the serpent under foot.”

Therefore, dear friends, let us not become so desperate as to desert our own whom we are duty-bound to help and flee in such a cowardly way from the terror of the devil, or allow him the joy of mocking us and vexing and distressing God and all his angels. For it is certainly true that he who despises such great promises and commands of God and leaves his own people destitute, violates all of God’s laws and is guilty of the murder of his neighbor whom he abandons. I fear that in such a case God’s promise will be reversed and changed into horrible threats and the psalm will then read this way against them: “Accursed is he who does not provide for the needy but escapes and forsakes them. The Lord in turn will not spare him in evil days but will flee from him and desert him, The Lord will not preserve him and keep him alive and will not prosper him on earth but will deliver him into the hands of his enemies. The Lord will not refresh him on his sickbed nor take him from the couch of his illness.” For “the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Matt. 7:2). Nothing else can come of it. It is terrible to hear this, more terrible to be waiting for this to happen, most terrible to experience it. What else can happen if God withdraws his hand and forsakes us except sheer devilment and every kind of evil? It cannot be otherwise if, against God’s command, one abandons his neighbor. This fate will surely overtake anyone of this sort, unless he sincerely repents.

This I well know, that if it were Christ or his mother who were laid low by illness, everybody would be so solicitous and would gladly become a servant or helper. Everyone would want to be bold and fearless; nobody would flee but everyone would come running. And yet they don’t hear what Christ himself says, “As you did to one of the least, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). When he speaks of the greatest commandment he says, “The other commandment is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself ” (Matt. 22:39). There you hear that the command to love your neighbor is equal

to the greatest commandment to love God, and that what you do or fail to do for your neighbor means doing the same to God. If you wish to serve Christ and to wait on him, very well, you have your sick neighbor close at hand. Go to him and serve him, and you will surely find Christ in him, not outwardly but in his word. If you do not wish or care to serve your neighbor you can be sure that if Christ lay there instead you would not do so either and would let him lie there. Those are nothing but illusions on your part which puff you up with vain pride, namely, that you would really serve Christ if he were there in person. Those are nothing but lies; whoever wants to serve Christ in person would surely serve his neighbor as well. This is said as an admonition and encouragement against fear and a disgraceful flight to which the devil would tempt us so that we would disregard God’s command in our dealings with our neighbor and so we would fall into sin on the left hand.

Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. They say that it is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.

If one makes no use of intelligence or medicine when he could do so without detriment to his neighbor, such a person injures his body and must beware lest he become a suicide in God’s eyes. By the same reasoning a person might forego eating and drinking, clothing and shelter, and boldly proclaim his faith that if God wanted to preserve him from starvation and cold, he could do so without food and clothing. Actually that would be suicide. It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.

No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.

Moreover, he who has contracted the disease and recovered should keep away from others and not admit them into his presence unless it be necessary. Though one should aid him in his time of need, as previously pointed out, he in turn should, after his recovery, so act toward others that no one becomes unnecessarily endangered on his account and so cause another’s death. “Whoever loves danger,” says the wise man, “will perish by it” (Ecclus. 3:26). If the people in a city were to show themselves bold in their faith when a neighbor’s need so demands, and cautious when no emergency exists, and if everyone would help ward off contagion as best he can, then the death toll would indeed be moderate. But if some are too panicky and desert their neighbors in their plight, and if some are so foolish as not to take precautions but aggravate the contagion, then the devil has a heyday and many will die. On both counts this is a grievous offense to God and to man — here it is tempting God; there it is bringing man into despair. Then the one who flees, the devil will pursue; the one who stays behind, the devil will hold captive so that no one escapes him.

Some are even worse than that. They keep it secret that they have the disease and go among others in the belief that by contaminating and poisoning others they can rid themselves of the plague and so recover. With this idea they enter streets and homes, trying to saddle children or servants with the disease and thus save themselves. I certainly believe that this is the devil’s doing, who helps turn the wheel of fate to make this happen. I have been told that some are so incredibly vicious that they circulate among people and enter homes because they are sorry that the plague has not reached that far and wish to carry it in, as though it were a prank like putting lice into fur garments or flies into someone’s living room. I do not know whether I should believe this; if it is true, I do not know whether we Germans are not really devils instead of human beings. It must be admitted that there are some extremely coarse and wicked people. The devil is never idle. My advice is that if any such persons are discovered, the judge should take them by the ear and turn them over to Master Jack, the hangman, as outright and deliberate murderers. What else are such people but assassins in our town? Here and there an assassin will jab a knife through someone and no one can find the culprit. So these folk infect a child here, a woman there, and can never be caught. They go on laughing as though they had accomplished something. Where this is the case, it would be better to live among wild beasts than with such murderers. I do not know how to preach to such killers. They pay no heed. I appeal to the authorities to take charge and turn them over to the help and advice not of physicians, but of Master Jack, the hangman.

If in the Old Testament God himself ordered lepers to be banished from the community and compelled to live outside the city to prevent contamination (Leviticus 13–14), we must do the same with this dangerous pestilence so that anyone who becomes infected will stay away from other persons, or allow himself to be taken away and given speedy help with medicine. Under such circumstances it is our duty to assist such a person and not forsake him in his plight, as I have repeatedly pointed out before. Then the poison is stopped in time, which benefits not only the individual but also the whole community, which might be contaminated if one person is permitted to infect others. Our plague here in Wittenberg has been caused by nothing but filth. The air, thank God, is still clean and pure, but some few have been contaminated because of the laziness or recklessness of some. So the devil enjoys himself at the terror and flight which he causes among us. May God thwart him! Amen.

This is what we think and conclude on this subject of fleeing from death by the plague. If you are of a different opinion, may God enlighten you. Amen.16

Because this letter will go out in print for people to read, I regard it useful to add some brief instructions on how one should care and provide for the soul in time of death. We have done this orally from the pulpit, and still do so every day in fulfillment of the ministry to which we have been called as pastors.

First, one must admonish the people to attend church and listen to the sermon so that they learn through God’s word how to live and how to die. It must be noted that those who are so uncouth and wicked as to despise God’s word while they are in good health should be left unattended when they are sick unless they demonstrate their remorse and repentance with great earnestness, tears, and lamentation. A person who wants to live like a heathen or a dog and does not publicly repent should not expect us to administer the sacrament to him or have us count him a Christian. Let him die as he has lived because we shall not throw pearls before swine nor give to dogs what is holy (Matt. 7:6). Sad to say, there are many churlish, hardened ruffians who do not care for their souls when they live or when they die. They simply lie down and die like unthinking hulks.

Second, everyone should prepare in time and get ready for death by going to confession and taking the sacrament once every week or fortnight. He should become reconciled with his neighbor and make his will so that if the Lord knocks and he departs before a pastor or chaplain can arrive, he has provided for his soul, has left nothing undone, and has committed himself to God. When there are many fatalities and only two or three pastors on duty, it is impossible to visit everyone, to give instruction, and to teach each one what a Christian ought to know in the anguish of death. Those who have been careless and negligent in these matters must account for themselves. That is their own fault. After all, we cannot set up a private pulpit and altar daily at their bedside simply because they have despised the public pulpit and altar to which God has summoned and called them.

Third, if someone wants the chaplain or pastor to come, let the sick person send word in time to call him and let him do so early enough while he is still in his right mind before the illness overwhelms the patient. The reason I say this is that some are so negligent that they make no request and send no message until the soul is perched for flight on the tip of their tongues and they are no longer rational or able to speak. Then we are told, “Dear Sir, say the very best you can to him,” etc. But earlier, when the illness first began, they wanted no visit from the pastor, but would say, “Oh, there’s no need. I hope he’ll get better.” What should a diligent pastor do with such people who neglect both body and soul? They live and die like beasts in the field. They want us to teach them the gospel at the last minute and administer the sacrament to them as they were accustomed to it under the papacy when nobody asked whether they believed or understood the gospel but just stuffed the sacrament down their throats as if into a bread bag.

This won’t do. If someone cannot talk or indicate by a sign that he believes, understands, and desires the sacrament—particularly if he has willfully neglected it—we will not give it to him just anytime he asks for it. We have been commanded not to offer the holy sacrament to unbelievers but rather to believers who can state and confess their faith. Let the others alone in their unbelief; we are guiltless because we have not been slothful in preaching, teaching, exhortation, consolation, visitation, or in anything else that pertains to our ministry and office. This, in brief, is our instruction and what we practice here. We do not write this for you in Breslau, because Christ is with you and without our aid he will amply instruct you and supply your needs with his own ointment. To him be praise and honor together with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.

Because we have come upon the subject of death, I cannot refrain from saying something about burials. First of all, I leave it to the doctors of medicine and others with greater experience than mine in such matters to decide whether it is dangerous to maintain cemeteries within the city limits. I do not know and do not claim to understand whether vapors and mists arise out of graves to pollute the air. If this were so my previously stated warnings constitute ample reason to locate cemeteries outside the city. As we have learned, all of us have the responsibility of warding off this poison to the best of our ability because God has commanded us to care for the body, to protect and nurse it so that we are not exposed needlessly. In an emergency, however, we must be bold enough to risk our health if that is necessary. Thus we should be ready for both — to live and to die according to God’s will. For “none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself,” as St. Paul says, Romans 14:7.

It is very well known that the custom in antiquity, both among Jews and pagans, among saints and sinners, was to bury the dead outside the city. Those people were just as prudent as we claim to be ourselves. This is also evident in St. Luke’s Gospel, when Christ raised from the dead the widow’s son at the gates of Nain (for the text of Luke 7:12 states, “He was being carried out of the city to the grave and a large crowd from the city was with her”). In that country it was the practice to bury the dead outside the town.

Christs tomb, also, was prepared outside the city. Abraham, too, bought a burial plot in the field of Ephron near the double cave where all the patriarchs wished to be buried. The Latin therefore employs the term efferi, that is, “to carry out,” by which we mean “carry to the grave.” They not only carried the dead out but also burned them to powder to keep the air as pure as possible.

My advice, therefore, is to follow these examples and to bury the dead outside the town. Not only necessity but piety and decency should induce us to provide a public burial ground outside the town, that is, our town of Wittenberg.

A cemetery rightfully ought to be a fine quiet place, removed from all other localities, to which one can go and reverently meditate upon death, the Last Judgment, the resurrection, and say one’s prayers. Such a place should properly be a decent, hallowed place, to be entered with trepidation and reverence because doubtlessly some saints rest there. It might even be arranged to have religious pictures and portraits painted on the walls.

But our cemetery, what is it like? Four or five alleys, two or three marketplaces, with the result that no place in the whole town is busier or noisier than the cemetery. People and cattle roam over it at any time, night and day. Everyone has a door or pathway to it from his house and all sorts of things take place there, probably even some that are not fit to be mentioned. This totally destroys respect and reverence for the graves, and people think no more about walking across it than if it were a burial ground for executed criminals. Not even the Turk would dishonor the place the way we do. And yet a cemetery should inspire us to devout thoughts, to the contemplation of death and the resurrection, and to respect for the saints who rest there. How can that be done at such a common place through which everyone must walk and into which every man’s door opens? If a cemetery is to have some dignity, I would rather be put to rest in the Elbe or in the forest. If a graveyard were located at a quiet, remote spot where no one could make a path through it, it would be a spiritual, proper, and holy sight and could be so arranged that it would inspire devotion in those who go there. That would be my advice. Follow it, who so wishes. If anyone knows better, let him go ahead. I am no man’s master.

In closing, we admonish and plead with you in Christ’s name to help us with your prayers to God so that we may do battle with word and precept against the real and spiritual pestilence of Satan in his wickedness with which he now poisons and defiles the world. That is, particularly against those who blaspheme the sacrament, though there are other sectarians also. Satan is infuriated and perhaps he feels that the day of Christ is at hand. That is why he raves so fiercely and tries through the enthusiasts to rob us of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Under the papacy Satan was simply “flesh” so that even a monk’s cap had to be regarded as sacred. Now he is nothing more than sheer “spirit” and Christ’s flesh and word are no longer supposed to mean anything. They made an answer to my treatise long ago, but I am surprised that it has not yet reached me at Wittenberg. [When it does] I shall, God willing, answer them once again and let the matter drop. I can see that they will only become worse. They are like a bedbug which itself has a foul smell, but the harder you rub to crush it, the more it stinks. I hope that I’ve written enough in this pamphlet for those who can be saved so that — God be praised — many may thereby be snatched from their jaws and many more may be strengthened and confirmed in the truth. May Christ our Lord and Savior preserve us all in pure faith and fervent love, unspotted and pure until his day. Amen. Pray for me, a poor sinner.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 119–38.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 20, 2020, 09:52:22 am
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https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/covid-19-and-rural-work-around-world.html






COVID-19 and Rural Work Around the World









I had the opportunity to talk to missionaries serving around the world in rural areas concerning the impact COVID-19 is having on their lives and their ministries.


When COVID-19 struck in the U.S., the church sprang into action. Alternative plans were hastily developed and Zoom calls and conferences sprang up overnight. It is now possible to watch video conferences all day long on how to handle the COVID-19 crisis. Because of this worldwide event, the church in the U.S. has been dissected and examined in excruciating detail.

Likewise, churches in large, urban areas around the world have experienced a similar flood of resources to evaluate their situations and to make plans on how to move forward. However, our Christian brothers and sisters in rural and remote areas across the globe have not been afforded as much attention or help.

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk to missionaries (via a video conference call) serving around the world in rural areas concerning the impact COVID-19 is having on their lives and their ministries. While it was a great time of encouragement and a great source of firsthand information, it was also a time of somber reflection as many people around the world in rural areas are suffering because of this terrible disease.

The Negative Effects of COVID-19 Imposed Lockdowns

I listened to nearly 80 missionaries talk about rural work around the world. The recurring theme was that few people in rural areas are suffering from the disease itself. COVID-19 is still being seen in most rural areas around the world as an urban disease.

However, many rural peoples are suffering greatly because of government, and sometimes local community, imposed lockdowns.

As cities went into lockdown mode, jobs dried up around the world. The result was devastating as migrant peoples were forced to leave their city jobs and return to their homes in the countryside. With this kind of job loss, the primary worker loses an income, but the extended family also loses because many people in the countryside survive from one city person’s job.

Many missionaries serving in rural areas mentioned that farmers are not able to plant crops this year due to the lockdown. The inability to purchase seeds, go the fields, and plant crops has left many farmers in dire straits.

The implications of fallow fields mean no crops this year, no money from the harvest this fall, and no food until the fall of 2021. (The next opportunity to plant again is in the spring of 2021 and the harvest of that crop will not be until late summer of 2021, nearly 16 months away.)

Gospel Opportunities in Rural Areas

On a positive note, I learned that many rural missionaries are ramping up humanitarian relief projects such as food distribution, setting up hand-washing stations, and providing masks for people living in rural areas.

These humanitarian efforts are opening doors for the gospel in many places where penetration with the good news had previously made little progress. While their urban neighbors are often afraid and unwilling to help, local religious groups are self-isolating, and many secular relief organizations are pulling out due to fear of infection, Christians are going in to serve the people in greatest need.

While many very resistant areas with people opposed to the gospel remain, stories of openness due to the virus and the good work of Christians willing to sacrifice to serve people where they live are springing up around the world. There may not be a great revival yet, but God is at work in areas that had previously been resistant to the gospel.

Disruption to Short-term Missions

COVID-19 is also wreaking havoc on summer plans for short-term mission trips from churches in North America and for the field itself. As groups cancel due to travel restrictions, rural overseas missionaries are struggling to find ways to fill in the blanks where they had planned to utilize these groups.

For many missionaries, short-term groups provide vital support to their work, and the cancellation of these groups seriously impacts their evangelism, discipleship, and leadership training possibilities.

However, many rural missionaries shared how national partners are stepping up in new ways to take the gospel where the missionaries can no longer go. For many nationals, taking the gospel to a lost world is a very real risk. They may face government opposition, family opposition, and village opposition.

They could also face the risk of catching the coronavirus as they step out of their houses and communities to serve God. Yet, they are going, serving, and sharing in greater numbers than ever before and people are listening and believing.

God is at work among rural people around the world. Missionaries serving in some of the most remote places on earth often do not get recognition for their sacrifices and their hard work in the face of difficult situations.

I am thankful I was able to listen to these men and women as they recounted how God is blessing in rural areas. I am also thankful to share with you the needs and the victories of rural work across the world.















Jeff Clark is the Rural Missiologist for the Rural Matters Institute as well as the Project Leader for the Global Research Department with the International Mission Board. He has served as a Strategy Research Associate in East Asia. He has also served on the state Baptist Conventions of Montana and West Virginia. Jeff holds a Doctor of Ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.

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The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 20, 2020, 11:27:30 am
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https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/pandemic-as-gods-judgment.html






The Pandemic as God’s Judgment











Does the biblical pattern of disaster and discipline with a call to repent apply to COVID-19?


Is this pandemic God’s judgment against us? This is a difficult question to ponder. To ask it, I do not presume ourselves to be under either the blessings and curses of theocratic Israel or the apocalyptic doom of Revelation. However, I do see patterns of biblical teaching indicative of God’s ongoing engagement in the affairs of human life and his willingness to use extreme measures to accomplish his purposes.

When confronted with disaster, Scripture calls us to look to God for both comfort and self-censure. Prophets from Moses to Malachi point to sin and the need for repentance as reasons behind various disasters. Likewise, John the Baptist and Jesus launch the New Testament with prophetic warnings and calls to repentance.

Early in Romans, the apostle Paul observes, “the wrath of God is being revealed … against all ungodliness and unrighteousness” (1:18, ESV). To the Corinthians, Paul holds up Old Testament patterns of judgment as “types,” “examples to us”—historic precedents to heed (1 Cor. 10:1–12; Rom. 11:20–21). When chastising the Corinthians for desecrations of the Lord’s Supper, Paul warns, “why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [have died]” (1 Cor. 11:30). Paul labels sickness and death as a “judgment” (v. 29), even for these New Testament believers. Hebrews 12, citing Proverbs, tells believers in the same vein, “‘do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, ... for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant” (Heb. 12:5, 11, ESV).

It is important to clarify that God’s wrath comes with mercy (Hab. 3:2; 1 Chron. 21:13). We can discern his mercy in the pattern of smaller catastrophes preceding greater ones, granting opportunity for repentance sooner rather than paying larger consequences later. The ten plagues of Egypt increased in severity in part because, early on, Pharaoh and his people “did not listen,” but rather “turned and went into his house with no concern even for this.” (Ex. 7:22–23, NASB). How quick are we to dismiss extraordinary acts of God as quirks of nature, forces we can harness with enough resilience and resourcefulness? Scripture labels this mindset hardening the heart (Ex. 8:19; Prov. 28:14). It is dangerous.

Some will demand prophetic confirmation of any divine judgment. But given the full and clear teaching of canonical Scripture at our stage in redemptive history, we are owed no more prophetic confirmation than the rebuff of such expectation at the end of Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:27–31).

Nevertheless, the Lord has raised up poignant prophetic voices in our midst, from Jeremiah Wright, Jim Wallis and Diane Langberg to John Piper and James Dobson. While none of them claims inerrant inspiration, each has sounded loud notes of biblical warning. Jeremiah expressed God’s frustration at how his people stubbornly closed their ears to (mostly unnamed) prophets “sent again and again” (Jer. 25:4, 29:19). Perhaps this indicts us too.

God may disrupt the human cycle of selfishness by awful means and call us to account. Global pandemics thankfully are rare, but when they do occur, they usually spread through trade routes of prosperous, powerful nations—inherently prone to prideful pursuit of profits and indifference toward God (Deut. 8:10–14). Is this pandemic part of a larger pattern? Consider other catastrophes that have struck North America over the past 20 years: 9/11; Superstorm Sandy; hurricanes Katrina, Maria, Irma, and Harvey; California wildfire; Midwest tornado spikes; swine flu, and now COVID-19. Have we hardened our hearts so as to write off a warning as mere acts of nature? Shouldn’t we rather ask if we could be under divine judgment?

We need not look far for reasons. God opposes the proud and uses catastrophe to undermine arrogance. James 4:13–17 calls out the “sin” of living life as functional atheists, operating as though God is paying us no real attention, presuming our security lies simply in planning and protecting our profits. James 5 calls down severe judgment on the rich—in our day, we who put “In God we trust” on our mammon had best take heed.

God’s passionate concern is for the vulnerable—the orphan, the widow, the immigrant, the refugee. The Lord will not allow prosperity devoid of such concern to stand (Ex. 22:21–24; Deut. 10:16–20; Isa. 10:1–4; Jer. 5:28–29; Amos 4–8; Mal. 3:1–6). “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered” (Prov. 21:13).

If this pandemic is a judgment from God, our response should not be to point a sanctimonious finger at others but to lament and repent, with prayers like unto Daniel 9:3–19, where the person of God owns and confesses “our sins” and pleads for God to “forgive us” (2 Chron. 6:36–39, 7:12–14). In such moments we are most in sync with prophets like Habakkuk and Jeremiah. Sharing their lamentations, we also are put in position to observe: “And yet, your mercies are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:23).

Human sin in such times can be redeemed by God for greater purpose. Besides instilling fear of the Lord, plagues historically have prompted people to prepare for the afterlife. Jesus underscored the transience of material things and the foolishness of building one’s life on such sand (Matt. 7:24–27). Christians need not fear death. Confidence in Christ and eternity has led many to give their own lives to minister to the sick and dying, a visible witness to resurrection hope.

Followers of Christ are not called to pronounce God’s condemnation but rather to examine themselves. Our own repentance serves as one aspect of our larger kingdom mission to relieve suffering, mourn with the grieving, care for the sick, encourage the weak, and comfort the afflicted even as we plead for God’s mercy. With this pandemic, I see the seriousness of God’s demand for repentance and receive any discipline God may intend as coming from the hand of my loving Father.














Todd Mangum is Clemens Professor of Missional Theology, Missio Seminary.

Speaking Out is Christianity Today’s guest opinion column and (unlike an editorial) does not necessarily represent the opinion of the publication.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 22, 2020, 09:38:37 am
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https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/charles-cotherman-think-christianly-study-centers.html






Amid the Stresses and Strains of Higher Education, Christian Study Centers Are Thriving












How a postwar evangelical movement to unite mind and heart spread to campuses across the country.


In the May 1972 issue of Christianity Today, Frank Nelsen, a history professor from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, proposed creating “evangelical living and learning centers for undergraduate students [to] be built on private property near large state universities.” These centers would provide students with space to pursue “an intellectually honest investigation of the Christian faith and its relation to secular disciplines.”

Nelsen suggested the idea—targeting a niche between campus ministries, local churches, and Christian liberal arts colleges—as a solution to what CT had identified a year earlier as the “Crisis in Christian Education.” The postwar boom in higher education was waning, and evangelicals were unprepared to respond. Rather than stick to an aging model, Nelsen asked: “Is there an educational alternative to the private college for evangelicals to consider in the light of current economic stresses and strains?”

The question is, unfortunately, as timely in May of 2020 as it was in May of 1972. Once again, universities—both public and private—are facing a tidal wave of new “economic stresses and strains.” And what of Nelsen’s proposal? In the almost-half-century since, “evangelical learning centers” have popped up on dozens of college campuses, from flagship public institutions such as the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin–Madison to elite private schools including Yale and Duke. The 30 or so individual centers have formed a national Consortium of Christian Study Centers, founded in 2008. While the details of Nelsen’s proposal never came to fruition (he suggested separate Christian dormitories and accredited coursework), the idea took on a life of its own.

The path from CT article to national consortium was anything but straightforward. Charles Cotherman’s new book, To Think Christianly, is the first comprehensive history of the Christian study center movement and its many roots in postwar evangelicalism. Focused on an influential, if small, class of educated evangelicals pursuing deeper cultural engagement with contemporary thought, To Think Christianly carefully reconstructs a vast web of intellectual networks and institutional struggles that most recent histories of postwar evangelicalism ignore, resisting the dominant narrative of evangelical cultural engagement since World War II.

Two New Frameworks
To Think Christianly may be the first time many readers encounter the institution of the Christian study center. Cotherman, it should be clear, is exclusively concerned with the genealogy of “evangelical learning centers.” In the 19th century, organizations like the YMCA and the Chautauqua movement fulfilled a similar role for lay Christians. Catholics have built a vast Newman Center network, and mainline Protestants founded centers like the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland, in the late 1940s. Even Christian Science Reading Rooms resemble Christian study centers. Cotherman ignores this wider Christian history in favor of explaining contemporary evangelical study centers in particular. This may rankle some readers, but the choice also sharpens his focus on a distinct evangelical engagement with culture that remains understudied.

Evangelical Christian study centers trace their roots to two progenitors: Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri community in Switzerland and Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. While both were founded outside of the United States, they were deeply attuned to midcentury American evangelical concerns. Founded in 1955 in the Swiss Alps, L’Abri became a destination for travelers and wanderers to learn at the feet (or more often at the cassette tape) of ex-fundamentalist Francis Schaeffer. A one-time missionary, Schaeffer and his wife, Edith, recognized the growing appeal of hosting young travelers in their home. As Cotherman observes, L’Abri’s “home-based hospitality” of open-ended stays, communal work, and eating together made it “a working, living, studying, praying community before communal living became a countercultural standard.”

L’Abri’s “radical hospitality” helped to popularize Schaeffer’s novel conservative Protestant engagement with art, philosophy, and culture. By the late 1960s, Schaeffer was a best-selling author with speaking tours across the United States. Yet there were limitations. Especially as he became a leader in pro-life politics in the 1970s, he developed a guru-like aura among his followers. Rather than engage directly with other thought leaders, he maintained an insular circle of intellectual partners. While most historical accounts of Schaeffer linger on this later phase of political activism, Cotherman emphasizes how a generation of intellectually inclined evangelicals were inspired by Schaeffer’s earlier period at L’Abri.

If L’Abri’s hospitality modeled a new type of evangelical community, Regent College suggested a novel framework for evangelicals to pursue academic knowledge. Initiated by a circle of educated Plymouth Brethren in Vancouver, Regent started as a graduate school for lay Christians, eventually affiliating with the University of British Columbia. Regent’s founding in 1970 was shaped by its first principal, James M. Houston, a Scottish geographer who left Oxford for the job. Houston quickly assembled an impressive faculty, including J. I. Packer and W. Ward Gasque, which led to growing enrollment.

One of Houston’s early struggles was to maintain Regent’s focus on relational lay theological training and to resist developing Regent into a large seminary. As Cotherman puts it, Houston wanted education “to do away with the trappings of technocracy in favor of personal relations.” There were many benefits to this approach. With its mission to lay Christians, Regent was more welcoming to women (predominantly as students) in an era when it was almost impossible for women to enroll in evangelical seminaries. Regent encouraged women and men alike to become theological thinkers.

Why so much attention directed to this pair of institutions? In Cotherman’s telling, the twin legacies of L’Abri and Regent “helped sow an emphasis on hospitality and relationship” for the study centers that would follow. Moreover, the majority of later study center founders had some connection to L’Abri or Regent. These common evangelical roots were revealed through overlapping interpersonal networks and a shared intellectual agenda. The relationship of knowledge to faith—of “mind and heart”—was the umbrella under which each new generation could contemplate certain core questions: What role does Christian faith play in the pursuit of academic knowledge? What does it mean to have a faithful Christian presence in a modern university community? How should Christian thought form an engineer, a doctor, an architect?

Cotherman’s other examples—R. C. Sproul’s Ligonier Valley Study Center in Stahlstown, Pennsylvania, and New College Berkeley near the University of California (now affiliated with the Graduate Theological Union)—diverged from the early models. Ligonier eventually became a national cassette and video tape ministry that relocated to outside of Orlando, Florida. New College Berkeley nearly folded in its attempt to gain accreditation in the 1980s, deciding instead to embed itself in an existing network of seminaries and theological centers in the San Francisco Bay area. More closely linked to the contemporary Christian study center movement is the Center for Christian Study on the campus of the University of Virginia, which under the leadership of Andrew Trotter in the 1990s and 2000s developed the cooperative model between university and study center that now dominates the movement. (Trotter would become the first director of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers in 2009.)

Carrying the Torch
Cotherman’s story largely sidesteps the familiar culture-war and Christian-right themes that currently receive so much attention from journalists and historians. Study centers themselves are scattered across the political spectrum. Schaeffer played a crucial role in the Christian right until his death in 1984, while New College Berkeley’s roots are in the evangelical left of the 1970s.

This diversity does not mean, however, that Cotherman overlooks the areas where Christian study centers overlapped with conservative evangelical politics. Many study centers pitched (and still pitch) themselves as a “shelter” and specialize in apologetics, creating Christian “bubbles” of students floating in secular campuses. The US Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling on Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, which allowed universities to implement far more muscular anti-bias regulations, only hardened this posture. According to Cotherman, the decision aided a “reactionary and isolationist strain” that can work against stated missions of cooperative academic engagement. And while the study centers that followed in Regent’s path were substantially more accessible to women than evangelical seminaries, most often they have been founded and led by white men.

Cotherman’s narrative choice is refreshing, suggesting an alternate story of postwar evangelical cultural engagement that is challenging, insightful, and, at times, inspirational. Like all histories, this one is shaped by the questions asked of the past. The Consortium of Christian Study Centers has recently experienced remarkable growth, as more than half of its 30 member centers were founded after 2010. To Think Christianlyreflects this narrative of growth, tracking the movement’s shift from an “innovation” mindset to a “multiplication” mindset. It remains unclear if the movement will continue to grow, or what its broader influence on evangelical thought will be. Observers beyond Cotherman, including historians Mark Noll and Molly Worthen, have highlighted study centers as potential bright spots in an intellectual landscape darkened by the multiple crises afflicting evangelical intellectual life and higher education.

These cycles of educational crisis, voiced by Nelsen in 1972, are, admittedly, here to stay. “Crises are nothing new for the Christian colleges,” he observed, “their histories are replete with them.” Cotherman’s excellent book illustrates how there has been and will continue to be an evangelical impulse to care for the mind, body, and spirit of these university communities. Whatever crises lay on the horizon, we can expect a host of Christian study centers to build creatively on the foundations laid by previous generations, carrying the torch of evangelical cultural engagement with the same verve and resilience.























Daniel G. Hummel is an honorary research fellow in the history department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a staff member at Upper House, a Christian study center based there. He is the author of Covenant Brothers: Evangelicals, Jews, and U.S.-Israeli Relations (University of Pennsylvania).
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 22, 2020, 09:54:58 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117413.jpg?w=940)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/whats-up-with-ascension.html






What’s Up with the Ascension?












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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




David M. Moffitt is Reader in New Testament Studies, University of St Andrews, Scotland
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 22, 2020, 10:00:20 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117374.png?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/how-fall-affected-evangelism.html







How the Fall Affected Evangelism









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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You won’t evangelize if you live in shame.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You won’t evangelize if you experience relational strife.

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

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

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

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

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


















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

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The views of the blogger do not necessarily reflect those of Christianity Today.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 22, 2020, 10:22:15 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117438.jpg?w=940)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/manhattan-new-york-food-pantry-fathers-heart-coronavirus.html







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













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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She finished the prayer with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


















Rita Omokha is a freelance journalist based in New York City. She is an alumna of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 22, 2020, 11:28:40 pm
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117446.jpg?w=940)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/covid-free-in-christ-to-defy-state-closures-latino-churches.html







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









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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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















Rodolfo Galvan Estrada III is the director of institutional research and adjunct professor of the New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. His most recent book is A Pneumatology of Race in the Gospel of John.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 23, 2020, 07:51:07 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117452.png?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/president-trump-governors-and-churches.html







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









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


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

That’s not really the question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There, the question is capacity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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









If you are an Illinois pastor and are interested in seeing and signing a letter to the governor (still being drafted), just send an email to IllinoisChurches@Gmail.com and we will get you the letter for your consideration next week.
Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. The Exchange Team contributed to this article.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 23, 2020, 07:54:43 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117450.jpg?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/trump-church-reopening-essential-religious-freedom.html







Trump Declares Churches ‘Essential’ as CDC Releases Reopening Guidelines







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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 25, 2020, 02:21:06 pm
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117460.png?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/jesus-re-shaping-of-post-pandemic-church.html







Jesus’ Re-Shaping of a Post-Pandemic Church










So, now what?


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

But not for all.

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

So, now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about the one that you lead?














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

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.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 28, 2020, 01:01:54 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117488.png?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/george-floyd-central-park-911-call-and-all-places-cameras.html







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







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


It happened again yesterday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anger

How can we not be angry about this?

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

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

I am weary. And I am mad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Brother’s Keeper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When No One Is Looking

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

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

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

My friend and colleague Esau McCaulley tweeted this response:

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

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

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

What Real Power Looks Like

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
















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

Laurie Nichols is Director of Communications for the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz, and she blogs at Not All Those Who Wander. Laurie is currently working on a book called The Making of a Hero: How you and those around you are changing the world.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 29, 2020, 07:30:06 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117499.jpg?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/george-floyd-ministry-houston-third-ward-church.html







George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston












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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“If you fast-forward 2,000 years, there’s another innocent sufferer whose blood spoke of better things than Abel’s. … Jesus’ blood says he can redeem us through these dark and perilous times,” Ngwolo said. “I have hope because just like Abel is a Christ figure, I see my brother [Floyd] as a Christ figure as well, pointing us to a greater reality. God does hear us. He hears his cry even from the ground now. Vengeance will either happen on the cross or will happen on Judgment Day.”
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 30, 2020, 11:12:23 am
(https://www-images.christianitytoday.com/images/117322.png?w=700)
https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/may/leaning-into-grief.html






Leaning into Grief










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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are times of deepened trust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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








Jimmy Dodd is Founder and CEO of PastorServe, strengthening the church by serving pastors. He is part of the leadership team of the Resilient Church Leadership initiative.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 30, 2020, 11:17:07 am
More than a quarter of the global church falls under new and debated label: “Spirit-empowered Christianity.”


Are you Pentecostal?”

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

They responded: “Absolutely not.”

“Do you speak in tongues?” Johnson said.

“Of course.”

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

“Of course.”

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

“Of course.”

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This argument is always going on,” said Nimi Wariboko, a Pentecostal theologian at Boston University. “What they are trying to capture is the move of the Spirit. Americans often want a term that reminds people of the umbilical cord to the West. But the essence is not geographical origin. The essence is not history and the essence is not doctrine and the essence is not the numbers. It’s the Spirit. And the Spirit moves.”
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 30, 2020, 11:20:07 am
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https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/may-web-only/dennis-edwards-george-floyd-revolution-will-not-be-videoed.html







The Revolution Will Not Be Videoed








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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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











Dennis R. Edwards is associate professor of New Testament at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago and author of Might from the Margins: The Gospel’s Power to Turn the Tables on Injustice (September 2020). In addition to his academic work in biblical studies, Dennis has served as a pastor in Brooklyn; Washington, DC; and Minneapolis.
Title: Re: Christianity Today Magazine - May 2020
Post by: patrick jane on May 31, 2020, 03:22:10 am
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https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/may/supreme-court-churches-covid-19-state-limits-california.html







Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Coronavirus Limits on Church Services







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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The court also rejected an appeal from two churches in the Chicago area that objected to Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s limit of 10 worshipers at religious services. Before the court acted, Pritzker modified the restrictions to allow for up to 100 people at a time. There were no recorded dissents.