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  • Why It Feels So Disappointing to Sing to the Lord a Remote Song
    by Kelsey Kramer McGinnis on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Lessons from a year without corporate worship. One year ago, my husband and I were still learning how to get out the door on Sunday morning for church with a two-year-old and a five-month-old during the coldest weeks of the Iowa winter. Now, like so many others, we enjoy slower Sunday mornings “attending” church over Zoom, usually sitting on the couch or floor with our restless toddlers. I sometimes enjoy the conveniences of our new Sunday morning routine, but there are pangs of sadness every week when my daughter hears music, turns to the screen, and almost immediately loses interest. I recall how engaged she was in the sounds, sights, and vibrations of congregational worship during the “before times.” I recall how much more engaged I was, too. “Worship isn’t about you” is a cliché that sums up the idea that we sing as an act of worship and sacrifice for God alone. I’ve seen this sentiment newly animated over the past year as worship leaders seek to help their congregations learn to worship as part of a body that they can’t hear or see. Brooke Ligertwood writes in a blog post for Hillsong, “Who is worship for? Spoiler alert: worship is not for people. It’s for the Lord.” Similarly, Justin Rizzo of International House of Prayer tells worship leaders, “God alone will be present at your worship times. You will have no choice but to actually minister before an audience of one . That one alone is worthy of your worship. Worship has always been about Him.” It’s understandable that worship leaders would encourage us to focus on God over gathering at a time when we cannot be together. The emphasis on a personal form of worship—one on one with God—is in some ways beneficial ...Continue reading...

  • Growing Hair for Jesus, German Village Plans for 2022
    by Ken Chitwood on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    World-famous Oberammergau Passion Play prepares for post-pandemic return. Bavarians rushed to get their hair cut last week as Germany eased some of its toughest coronavirus restrictions and opened barbershops and salons for the first time since December. But Frederik Mayet didn’t join the newly shorn and shaven throngs. In fact, Mayet plans to keep growing his hair and beard for another year, so he can be more like Jesus. “With the hair growing,” he explained, “you start to grow into your role as well.” Mayet will play the starring role of the Savior in the 42nd Oberammergau Passion Play season in 2022, after a two-year pandemic postponement. The village, about an hour south of Munich, has put on the theatrical reenactment of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection every 10 years since 1633, when the town was famously spared from the bubonic plague. In the intervening years, it’s only been canceled a few times: once for the Franco-Prussian War, once for each of the World Wars, and last year, because of COVID-19. Mayet and more than 2,000 other locals spent months preparing for the 2020 performance, before it—like much of the rest of the world—was unceremoniously canceled by the pandemic. “We worked really great together as a village being on stage for half a year before the lockdown, and then suddenly, from one day to the next, you don’t see anyone for weeks and months,” Mayet told Christianity Today. “I’m really looking forward to see people coming together again.” The passion play is now set to run May 14 to October 2 next year. The actors of the village formally began to prepare last month on Ash Wednesday, when director Christian Stückl put out an official “hair and beard decree.” The decree ...Continue reading...

  • Iraq’s Evangelicals Use Pope Francis’s Visit to Press for Equality
    by Jayson Casper on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Historic papal trip seeks peace between Christians and Muslims. Unregistered evangelicals say peace between Iraq’s Christians is needed first. Pope Francis traveled to war-torn Iraq today “as a pilgrim of peace, seeking fraternity [and] reconciliation.” The trip’s official logo, written in three languages, comes from Matthew 23: “You are all brothers.” Iraq’s evangelicals, therefore, have asked for the pope’s help. “The other churches don’t want us, and accuse us of everything,” said Maher Dawoud, head of the General Society for Iraqi National Evangelical Churches (GSINEC). “But we are churches present throughout the world. Why shouldn’t the government give us our rights?” Dawoud sent a letter to the Vatican, asking Francis to intercede—on behalf of evangelical Christians—with the Catholic church in Iraq, and ultimately with the government in Baghdad. The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) had gone straight to the United Nations, long before. One year ago, the WEA filed a report with the UN Human Rights Committee, protesting the denial of legal recognition for Iraqi evangelicals. Fourteen other denominations are currently counted within the Christian, Yazidi, and Sabaean-Mandaean Religions Diwan (Bureau). Now estimated at less than 250,000 people, Christians are a small minority of Iraq’s 40 million population, 97 percent of which is Muslim. Evangelical numbers are even smaller. The Chaldean Catholic Church represents 80 percent of the nation’s Christians, with 110 churches throughout the country. Syriacs, both Catholic and Orthodox, constitute another 10 percent, with 82 churches. Assyrians, primarily through the Church of the East, have a 5 percent share, and Armenians, 3 percent. (Other estimates count 67 percent for the Chaldeans, and 20 percent for the Assyrians. Their ...Continue reading...

  • Prison Fellowship Sells Colson’s Campus to Alliance Defending Freedom
    by Kate Shellnutt on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    COVID-19 accelerates ministry moves and shifts work arrangements. The sizable suburban Washington, DC, campus that headquartered Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship will soon belong to another evangelical nonprofit: the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The ministries announced plans Friday to sell the 11.3-acre property in Lansdowne, Virginia. Back in 2005, Colson’s ministry—which then included Prison Fellowship, BreakPoint, and the Colson Center—built the campus for around $19 million, including a three-story office building, a two-story hospitality center for conference guests, recording studios, and event space. Of Prison Fellowship’s 245-person staff, 70 percent worked remotely before the pandemic, a part of an organizational strategy to move its workforce into the field. During COVID-19, the rest adjusted to work from home, with just around a dozen coming into the 90,000-square-foot office. Meanwhile, the Arizona-based religious liberty advocacy group ADF has been expanding and praying for years about adding another office, wanting to prioritize in-person collaboration for the sake of fellowship and the physical proximity required for its legal work. “When ADF came along, the heart of the board, if you will, leapt,” said Prison Fellowship president and CEO James J. Ackerman. “They thought, ‘This would be so awesome if God’s work could continue on the land dedicated to the Lord’s work by Chuck Colson himself.’” Ackerman declined to share the terms of the sale, but said that ADF made an offer within the range of the property’s appraisal value. Demand for commercial space—particularly for medical facilities—is growing in the Lansdowne area, about an hour outside DC. In advocating for conservative ...Continue reading...

  • Died: Larry Crabb, Christian Counselor Who Kept Exploring
    by Daniel Silliman on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Author of ‘Effective Biblical Counseling,’ ‘Inside Out,' ‘Shattered Dreams,’ and ‘SoulTalk’ taught that aching souls long for the Triune God. Larry Crabb, a popular Christian counselor who went looking for a deeper approach to spiritual care, died on February 28 at the age of 77. Crabb was a clinical psychologist who turned to biblical counseling and then to spiritual direction. He authored more than 25 books in the process, writing the popular textbook Effective Biblical Counseling and then more than a dozen titles, including Inside Out, Shattered Dreams, Pressure’s Off, and SoulTalk, teaching people to see their own brokenness as a longing for God and new creation. “An aching soul is evidence not of neurosis or spiritual immaturity but of realism,” Crabb wrote. “Beneath the surface of everyone’s life, especially the more mature, is an ache that will not go away. It can be ignored, disguised, mislabeled, or submerged by a torrent of activity, but it will not disappear. And for good reason. We were designed to enjoy a better world than this.” Crabb popularized biblical counseling and then introduced many evangelicals to spiritual direction through his organization NewWay Ministries, weeklong summer seminars, and his extensive tenure at Colorado Christian University (CCU). “To know Larry Crabb was to know a man who wrestled honestly and often in messy ways with his interior world, and the world around him,” wrote Jim Cress, a Christian counselor mentored by Crabb. “He never knew what it meant to merely settle personally and professionally. … His calling, passion, integrity, and vision would not tolerate a shampoo bottle philosophy of ‘Wash. Rinse. Repeat.’”Continue reading...

  • Which Is Worse: the Guilty Freed or the Innocent Punished?
    by Rebecca Randall on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    New study examines how your race and view of Scripture shape your answer. Speaking this week on behalf of an Oklahoma death row inmate who claims he did not commit the murder for which he’s served 20 years in prison, pastor T. D. Jakes said, “If Jesus acquitted the guilty, then surely he would advocate for the innocent.” Jakes is among a group of Christian leaders, including Sojourners’ Jim Wallis, who are advocating for clemency for Julius Jones. A December study found that both race and views of the Bible may impact how Christians approach mistakes made by the justice system. White Americans who believe the Bible should be read literally are most likely to see acquitting guilty people as a greater injustice than convicting the innocent, according to sociologists Samuel Perry and Andrew Whitehead, the authors of the study published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Meanwhile, black Americans, regardless of their view of the Bible, agree that convicting innocent people is the worse of the two mistakes. A majority of both white evangelicals (59%) and black Protestants (63%) in the General Social Survey—the basis for the recent analysis—were biblical literalists, but the white Americans who held that position were twice as likely as black Americans to prefer wrongful conviction over letting a criminal go free. Of those surveyed, 21 percent said letting the guilty go free is worse, 64 percent said condemning the innocent, 13 percent couldn’t choose and almost 2 percent did not answer. The justice question, along with the one on biblical literalism, have been asked in four different years of the General Social Survey between 1985-2016. There is no difference over time. “It was fascinating to us to see how punitive attitudes were so strongly ...Continue reading...

  • Pat Sawyer: Cautions Regarding CRT II
    by Pat Sawyer, Ph.D. on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The third and final post of Dr. Sawyer's thoughts and concerns on CRT. In this third and final article in our three-part series on critical race theory, I want to offer three more cautions regarding CRT, a salient concluding point, and a final exhortation. Caution 6) CRT Tenets 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 14 alongside applications of standpoint theory (knowledge is situated; the marginalized see more clearly) can lead one to believe that white pastors need to essentially ‘sit down and shut up’ when it comes to offering and contributing insight regarding racial issues and solutions. It can lead one (falsely) to believe the following category of persons doesn’t exist: non-racist (no apologies to antiracism discourse), white, male pastors who are fully equipped by the Holy Spirit to lead their ethnically diverse congregation on matters of race as well as make meaningful and notable contributions about race to the Church and society. While wisdom will dictate that those who have more direct experience of racism will be sought ought out for their particular insight and understanding, it does not follow that a lack of a certain experience of racism, or worse, a lack of melanin, disqualifies one for speaking into issues of race. It is the quality of the idea versus the quality of the identity of the person offering the idea that should dictate the counsel honored and the course of action taken. Duly called pastors have authority in the churches they oversee, regardless of their ethnicity or the ethnic make-up of their members, and are empowered to speak to any matter the Scriptures speak to (Acts 20:27; 1 Timothy 3:2-5; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Moreover, the Church is diverse (Revelation 5:9; 7:9) and consequently local churches are expected to reflect the diversity of the communities in which ...Continue reading...

  • Pat Sawyer: Cautions Regarding CRT
    by Pat Sawyer, Ph.D. on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The second of three posts on Dr. Sawyer's thoughts and concerns about CRT. In this second article of our three-part series, I want to offer five of eight cautions regarding critical race theory. As we get into concerns about CRT, we must understand that the postmodern nature of CRT allows for the receiver of the CRT text to partly determine how he or she wants to interpret and embrace the CRT text. To put it another way, the authority of determining what a particular CRT tenet means lies to some extent with the one reading and receiving the tenet and not exclusively with the one authoring and offering the tenet. While it is certainly the case that one could interpret a CRT idea in a way that is ultimately ‘wrong’ and diametrically against the spirit of the knowledge area, it is still nevertheless true that the knowledge area is a reflexive, and to some degree, contested space that makes room for diverse interpretations and applications that are still considered within the realm of CRT. With that said, what follows are concerns that are rooted in a legitimate understanding and application of CRT. This does not mean that everyone will have these identical takeaways when engaging the ideas of CRT, but it does mean that these takeaways are not only genuinely possible but are in fact happening with a number of people who name the name of Christ in various quarters of the larger Church. Again, it is possible to understand aspects of some of these tenets in ways that are not opposed to biblical Christianity, but my concern is the ways in which these tenets can possibly lead people into false societal and cultural viewpoints and, most importantly, into heterodoxy. As I unpack the following cautions, bear in mind that the individual tenet associated with each caution may only have a minor or ...Continue reading...

  • ‘The Mandalorian’ Can Teach Us How to Navigate Crises of Faith
    by Alexandra Mellen on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The Golden Globe nominee shows us what happens when “the Way” really isn’t. The galaxy can be a complicated place. Din Djarin, the title character of the Disney+ show The Mandalorian, learns this quickly. Played by Pedro Pascal, the stoic gunslinger has led Star Wars fans into unexplored corners of the much-loved franchise and become the world’s favorite foster dad. As Din travels to various planets tracking down the mysterious alien child Grogu (better known as Baby Yoda) and eventually seeking a good home for him, he meets people whose beliefs severely challenge his own. Din’s soul-searching becomes the heart of the show, and his willingness to question his worldview makes a good example for us as well. Trained as a bounty hunter by a secretive religious community of Mandalorians on a backwater planet, Din thinks he knows everything about his culture and his personal convictions. His people even have a mantra to remind them to hold fast to their beliefs: “This is the Way.” But what, exactly, is the Way? Is it protecting the Mandalorians’ covert on the planet Nevarro at all costs? Is it keeping his face hidden from even his own people? Is it caring for foundlings, orphans who are rescued and reared to preserve Mandalorian culture? What if fulfilling one of these tenets jeopardizes another? Worse, what if some of them aren’t essential for a Mandalorian to follow? Suddenly, Din feels pretty relatable. As Christians, we may be confident in our convictions until a leader we admire is exposed as not the role model we knew them to be. Or until we meet people who challenge our private stereotypes. Or until a community we belong to starts expressing values we don’t hold. We find ourselves feeling pulled in two directions, torn between beliefs that no longer agree or ...Continue reading...

  • Lent Lifts Us Up Where We Belong
    by Jen Pollock Michel on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    These 40 days of self-denial might seem painful during a pandemic. But the habits of “tedious love” are just what we need right now. After the world shuttered last March, I turned to my kitchen. I made cinnamon rolls and blueberry muffins. I fried doughnuts and braided Finnish coffee bread. For many, bread-baking was our collective, cloistered privilege. We had time to watch something rise. But those days, dusted in flour, now seem remote. Hundreds of thousands have since died. Businesses have closed, never to reopen. Many children have never returned to school. Many churches, including my own, have never re-opened for corporate worship. Our pandemic year, while experienced differently, has whittled all of us down and apprenticed us in losses of many forms. It begs the question: How can we rouse the will to practice Lent—its deprivations, its renunciations—after a long Lenten year? On the surface, these 40 days of self-denial might seem like the very last thing we need. And yet I would argue the opposite. Our pandemic lives have brought us face to face with the same temptation that plagued the monks centuries ago—the sin of acedia. It’s the inability to “rouse yourself to give a damn” as Kathleen Norris writes in Acedia & Me. In that context, the structure of Lent offers us not a millstone but a lifeline. It provides a way out of the dark waters of acedia. During the fourth century, Evagrius of Pontus identified the first formal list of eight deadly vices that were common to the desert hermetic. Among that list of recognizable sins—gluttony, lust, greed, pride—Evagrius also included sadness and sloth, which centuries later came to be understood together as acedia. Rebecca DeYoung explains in Glittering Vices that acedia is not laziness as we might traditionally conceive of it. It comes in twin forms. It’s ...Continue reading...