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  • Put Not Your Trust in Credentials
    by Collin Huber on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Chris Arnade’s moving account of “back-row America” made me reconsider my own definition of success. A Pharisee and a tax collector enter the local temple to pray. The Pharisee begins by thanking God that he is not a murderer, thief, adulterer, or (while peeking between clasped hands at the other parishioners) like that tax collector. As a postscript, he adds that he fasts two times each week and faithfully tithes a tenth of all his proceeds. In stark contrast, the tax collector makes an embarrassing scene. Standing at a distance, he proceeds to pound his chest, begging loudly between heaving sobs that God would grant mercy to him, a sinner. On a surface level, neither man’s prayer is inherently insidious. The Pharisee rightly thanks God for the grace that has guarded him from various unsavory lifestyles and fueled his righteous behavior. The tax collector cries out to God for the mercy that only he can offer to sinners. What makes this parable startling is how Jesus concludes it: “I tell you that this [tax collector], rather than the [Pharisee], went home justified before God” (Luke 18:14). The reason being that the interior motives of the Pharisee poisoned his prayer. Rather than expressing gratitude to God out of humility, he endeavored to exalt himself based on his apparent righteous exterior. And that divided him from the tax collector, who depended solely on the mercy of God. It’s a sobering illustration of how our views of righteousness divide us from one another, but it also demonstrates how our measures of success accomplish the same result, an argument at the heart of Chris Arnade’s new book, Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America. When we define success in a way that differs from our neighbors, we run the risk of looking down on what they value and potentially dismissing their ...Continue reading... […]

  • Leaving the Faith by Losing the Focus, Part 1
    by Josh Laxton on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    There is a common thread between the recent denouncements of faith by Christian leaders. Another high-profile Christian voiced his decision to “fall away” from faith. To be fair, Marty Sampson did walk back the position, saying that “he hasn’t renounced the faith.” Nevertheless, both Sampson and Josh Harris chose to invite the public in their season of struggle and straying. As one would imagine, such public displays of de-affection has led to a range of reactions from the social media sphere—support, shock, and outrage, to name just a few. As we all wrestle with such public vulnerability and rawness, we must always begin with prayer for those who are struggling, and those who have laid the proverbial line in the sand regarding their denial of the Christian faith. As we pray, there are two particular things I believe those secure in the faith can do. First, we can seek to understand why such people fall away. Second, we can discern and devise ways we can strengthen our discipleship environments to allow the full spectrum of seekers and strugglers have safe environments to belong, become, and believe (and keep on believing). To help our understanding of why people wander or are tempted to wander from the faith, we can look at the Book of Hebrews, which addresses the need for endurance to not fall away and the environment that tempts one to fall away. The Endurance to Not Fall Away The writer of Hebrews addresses believers who were undergoing severe persecution to the point that they were tempted to waver in the faith. So the author writes a letter aimed at encouraging them to endure. In Chapter 11, we find the “Hall of Faith”—and these words: Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For by it our ancestors won God’s approval. ...Continue reading... […]

  • Southwestern Distances Itself from Paige Patterson in Sex Abuse Lawsuit
    by David Roach on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    He was the face of Southern Baptist seminary. Now the school keeps taking steps to separate from his legacy. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s response to a lawsuit alleging the school failed to protect a female student against sexual assault has spotlighted ongoing tension between the seminary and its former president, Paige Patterson, who also is named as a defendant in the case. In addition to leading Southwestern for 15 years until trustees fired him last year, Patterson, 76, was among the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Conservative Resurgence, a grassroots effort in the late 20th century to return America’s largest Protestant denomination to its theologically conservative roots. Southwestern’s attempts to distance itself from its once-celebrated president come as a generation of younger Southern Baptists grapple with the legacy left by their predecessors. They want to honor the Resurgence, said Baptist historian Barry Hankins, but still distance themselves from negative revelations surrounding its leaders. “We’re seeing a generational transition in the Southern Baptist Convention from an old way of doing things,” Hankins, professor of history at Baylor University, said in an interview with Christianity Today. Southwestern trustees terminated Patterson in May 2018, citing, among other factors, his “handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during” his “presidency of another institution.” The Washington Postreported Patterson had told a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which he led from 1992 to 2003, not to report an alleged rape to the police. Lawsuit and response The lawsuit against Southwestern, filed in federal court last May, alleges that pseudonymous plaintiff “Jane Roe,” a former ...Continue reading... […]

  • Ministering to International Students
    by Ed Stetzer on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    God has chosen this moment to bring hundreds of thousands of international students to our shores. We have a great opportunity here in North America for ministry—one that, I suspect, few followers of Christ have ever considered: ministry to and among international students. Right now, in the United States and Canada, there are about 1.8 million people studying at academic institutions that are not from either of these two countries. Students are coming to these two places from all over the world to learn, grow, and prepare themselves for careers in a wide variety of industries. We are seeing countries from across the globe sending their best and brightest to North America to get their degrees. Now, you may ask, why does this matter to the church? First off, these students themselves matter. The informal number people in the field quote says that three out of four international students never set foot in a North American home during their time in school. (I can’t find any original statistics to verify it, but most people in the movement say it is true and fits their experience.) If accurate, that’s concerning. These students come from all over the world and we’ve been given an incredible opportunity to show them hospitality. But as far as I can tell, most of our families are not taking advantage of it. Now I love hospitality, but what I love even more is when people have the chance to hear the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the (many) reasons why we should be grateful to have international students on our college campuses here in North America is that their proximity to our homes gives us the opportunity to share that message with them. Many students are coming from countries where it’s illegal to be a missionary. In some places, Christians are losing their lives even trying to practice ...Continue reading... […]

  • My High School Classmates’ Obituaries Taught Me to Love Them
    by Ed Stych on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Honoring the deceased can shape even those who didn't know them. This year was a big anniversary for my high school class, as it’s been 40 years since we graduated from Traverse City Senior High School in northern Michigan. For our July reunion, I agreed to create a memorial honoring our classmates who have died since that June day in 1979. The project turned out to be more difficult and time consuming than I expected, as I spent hours scanning the internet for clues about the 40-some classmates (that we know of) who have died—trying to confirm each death while also trying to find an obituary and a photo. In some cases, I had to rely on microfilm at the local library to find pre-internet-era obituaries. But God never wastes our time (Rom. 8:28). In fact, God used my two months of reading obituaries to teach me to love all 750 of my classmates—and to love most of them for the first time. The Old, Old Obit Obituaries—or at least death notices—have been around since 59 B.C., when Julius Caesar ordered the publishing and distribution of the Acta Diurna (Daily Events), which included Roman government and court news, as well as news on births, marriages, and deaths of prominent people. Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the mid-1400s led to the first newspapers, but even with such advancements in information technology, obituaries remained reserved for the most prominent and wealthiest people of the community. It wasn’t until America’s Civil War in the 1860s that the deaths of common men began to be reported in the nation’s newspapers, as communities wanted to know about the demise of local soldiers who had left home for faraway battlefields. Today as newsrooms continue to shrink, fewer obituaries are being written by journalists. But ...Continue reading... […]

  • Babel and More Speaking in Tongues
    by Ed Stetzer on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    There are hopeful implications embedded in this Old Testament story. The Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel is one that many of us often overlook in terms of its implications on the life of the church. Honestly, for those of us reading the Bible in our modern context today, the storyline itself can sound quite confusing. A group of men and women conspire together in the same language to form a great civilization. As the writer of Genesis conveys in chapter 11, the people said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). In these moments, self-glory and hedonism manifest themselves quite overtly. This ancient cohort wanted to assert their own will and make their name great; it wasn’t about honoring God or seeking his guidance, but about finding a way to hold and keep power for themselves. So, in Genesis 11:9, God scattered the people and they stopped building this city they had so carefully schemed to construct. While it might be easy to assume that this story has no bearing on the people of God living thousands of years later after the coming of Christ, that would miss a key part of the point. In fact, we see an important linguistic thread throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament. What flows out of the Tower of Babel is quite significant: nations are created and then, eventually, Israel becomes a missionary to the nations. The prophet Isaiah proclaims this in Isaiah 2:2: “In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.” The idea in the Old Testament was that ...Continue reading... […]

  • The Critical Connection Between Context and Culture
    by Ed Stetzer on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Here are a few factors that make leaders effective at shaping the right culture for an organization. I’ve started churches, served more established congregations, and been the vice president of a half-a-billion-dollar company. Now, I am privileged to lead the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. In my roles, I have seen leaders who overwhelmingly succeed and those who phenomenally fail. One of the key differentiators of success for leaders that I have observed is their ability to create, protect, shape, and embody an appropriate culture that matches the goals and purposes of their organization. In the discussion about culture, it is easy to make broad, sweeping statements about the need to shape culture. But good leaders go awry when they try to shape the culture into one they personally enjoy instead of the culture that is appropriate for their context. Every leader will naturally embody the things he or she believes and the values she or he cares about. And that is good and should be cultivated. But in the nuance of a specific role or a specific place, leaders must be adaptable and intuitive enough to know the right culture to shape in the right places and the right times in an organization’s history. Here are a few factors that make leaders effective at shaping the right culture. 1 – Good leaders know the value of context Where some good culture-shapers stall is forgetting the value of place. Location and context matter immensely when shaping culture, and I’ve often seen the dichotomy of a good leader shaping unhealthy cultures in education or church leadership. It frequently comes from successful business leaders who make the switch to nonprofit leadership. They are often hired for their leadership acumen and provide great benefits to spaces where practitioners (educators/professors and pastors/theologians) ...Continue reading... […]

  • Should Environmental Concerns Be a Major Priority for a Christian Business Owner?
    by Compiled by Jeremy Weber on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Experts weigh in from the Lausanne Movement’s Global Workplace Forum. This summer, the Lausanne Movement gathered more than 700 Christian leaders from 109 nations in Manila for its Global Workplace Forum. Among the many topics discussed was where creation care should rank among other Christian concerns like evangelism and discipleship. Should environmental concerns be a major priority for a Christian business owner? Here are the answers of Lausanne leaders: Ed Brown, executive director of Care of Creation and Lausanne Catalyst for Creation Care (United States): Yes! Without question, for two reasons. The first is uniquely Christian: obedience. Taking care of God’s world by responsibly caring for God’s creatures (Genesis 1) and by “tending the garden” (Genesis 2) was our first assignment from God. Lausanne’s Cape Town Commitment appropriately calls caring for God’s world “a gospel issue under the lordship of Christ.” This first task has never been taken away from us. Christian business owners are to be more than sound financial stewards and Christlike shepherds of our workforce; we’re called to be keepers of God’s garden. The second is not uniquely Christian, but important nonetheless: survival. Business owners need to be concerned for the survival of the business, but also for the survival of the human race, including their community, customer base, and their own children and grandchildren. Yes, profit is needed for economic survival, but profit can’t be made in a collapsing world. Economic activity is a root cause of the environmental crisis, and wise businesspeople recognize that environmental collapse threatens their own business’ future, as well as the lives of their own grandchildren. Those who can run their businesses ...Continue reading... […]

  • Methodists Cancel Plans for First Big Meeting Outside US
    by Emily McFarlan Miller – Religion News Service on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The UMC has decided to relocate its 2024 General Conference from Manila, Philippines. The United Methodist Church has scrapped plans for its first General Conference meeting outside the United States. The global denomination had been planning to hold the 2024 meeting of its decision-making body in Manila, capital of the Philippines. But plans for a meeting there, first announced in 2015, are now off. Sara Hotchkiss, business manager for the Commission on General Conference, said organizers could not find convention space available for two full weeks to host the gathering of United Methodists from around the world. So the General Conference will be held elsewhere. “No one has done anything wrong, or there's no reason not to go. It's just simply when we did a bid process, the facilities needed for the length of our conference were not available,” Hotchkiss said. The business manager said the commission, which chooses the locations for and plans the denomination's quadrennial meeting, had not received any bids from facilities it had contacted during the bid process to host the meeting. Those bids were due in early July, she said. Bishop Rodolfo Alfonso “Rudy” Juan of the Davao Area in the southern Philippines — the commission member who initially had invited the General Conference to the Philippines — told the United Methodist News Service (UMNS) the decision made him “sad.” “I spoke passionately about my disappointment in this decision,” Juan said. “I did not support the cancellation, but I respect the decision.” Finances and the “current climate in the church” did not play a role in that decision, the Gary George, secretary of the commission, said in the UMNS report. The United Methodist Church is the second-largest Protestant ...Continue reading... […]

  • Bibles Escape Trump’s Tariff Fight with China
    by Jeremy Weber on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    America’s Christian publishers no longer have to render to Caesar an extra 10 percent. The Good Book got good news from the Trump administration today: America’s Bibles—most of which are printed in China and imported to the United States—are now exempt from the burgeoning trade war between the two nations. With a 10-percent hike on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods looming next month, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) posted two long lists of items: one of imports from China that will become subject to tariffs on September 1, and one of imports whose proposed tariffs will now be delayed until December 15. It also noted that “certain products are being removed from the tariff list based on health, safety, national security, and other factors.” Missing from both lists: Bibles. “Bibles and other religious literature are among the items removed from the tariff list and will not face additional tariffs of 10 percent,” USTR confirmed to CT. The news came as a relief to Christian publishers in the US, who warned this summer that the “Bible tax” would make some translations too costly to produce. China is the world’s largest Bible publisher, thanks to Nanjing-based Amity Press which has printed almost 200 million since 1988 in partnership with the United Bible Societies. For example, the publishing arm of America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), spends 31 percent of its total printing costs in China. “For the past several months, there has been great concern among the Christian publishing community that our important work would be threatened by proposed tariff schedules,” Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, told CT. “Today's announcement by [USTR] has ...Continue reading... […]