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  • Syrian Christians Brave Insecurity to Stay Behind and Help
    by Jayson Casper on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Preemptive Love’s Jeremy Courtney says despite the Turkey deal, “This crisis shows no sign of letting up, and we can’t either.” Though most of the fighting has stopped for now, Turkey’s incursion on Kurdish-controlled northern Syria has left another humanitarian crisis in its wake. Local churches as well as Christian organizations like Open Doors and Preemptive Love Coalition have prioritized caring for the citizens who took the risk to stay behind and helping the displaced return. Last Saturday night, after three days of Turkish bombing, the Alliance Church of Qamishli met to make a decision. Would they flee for safety, or remain and help? To some degree they had no choice. Fadi Habsouna, a father of two, was injured when missiles hit his home and ruined his shop. His wife is in critical condition. His grandfather’s home was destroyed by a bomb. The pastor housed them in church-owned property, and decided to remain to assist the family, and others suffering similarly. The church agreed; only eight families would leave. “These are extremely brave people who want to be salt and light in their communities,” said David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, who relayed this story from his field staff. “They want to maintain the presence of Jesus and reach out.” Open Doors is better known for its advocacy work on behalf of the persecuted; Syria ranks no. 11 on its World Watch List of places hardest to be a Christian. Its local partners keep a low profile in order to provide on the ground assessment. But the crisis in Syria has driven them to humanitarian aid. It is not the first time. Following the rise of ISIS in 2014, Open Doors helped 150,000 Christians located in camps along the Turkish and Lebanese borders. Now their community hubs are providing food, medical care, hygiene kits, and temporary shelter in the northeast Syrian towns ...Continue reading... […]

  • You Can Make A Difference and Change the Trend with Young Adults
    by Mary Lederleitner on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    There are ways we can help twenty-somethings find their place in their faith community. In part because of Pew Research findings about “the rise of the nones” and what is happening as many western nations move into a pluralistic and post-Christian era, it is easy for people to begin thinking there is little they can do to turn the tide. For many, there is a sense that we are losing the next generation of young adults because of forces beyond our control—and that there is hardly anything we do which will make a real difference. However, in my dissertation research I examined what was helping and hindering twenty-somethings from staying engaged spiritually and finding their places in faith communities after graduating from college. Through that research, I realized there are key actions people who care about the next generation can take that will make a significant difference. What follows are a few of those ideas. I have also made the dissertation available for free online for anyone who wants to delve into the research more deeply. First, intentionally focus on their next transition. Most churches in the United States have Junior High and High School ministries. While resources for the next stage of life are not as prolific, if young people attend university, then there are thousands of campus workers from groups like InterVarsity, Cru, Navigators, etc., along with a wide array of denominational ministries that focus on helping them grow in their faith. There are also Christian colleges and universities across the country to help them develop as well. While many people doing ministry in those settings often feel like resources are lacking to adequately address the needs of students in their contexts, what struck me in the research was the profound dearth of resources and focus on the next leg ...Continue reading... […]

  • Algeria Forces Christians Out of the Country’s Largest Churches
    by Kate Shellnutt on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The North African faithful are holding sit-ins and prayer rallies to protest a government campaign that’s shut down a third of Protestant congregations. The Algerian government shut down three churches this week, including the two biggest congregations in the North African country. Authorities forced Christians from their buildings and arrested some who continued to protest the crackdown. Members of the largest Protestant congregation in Algeria—the 700-member Church of the Full Gospel in Tizi-Ouzou—were warned their church would be sealed by the government this Wednesday. When they met for prayer and worship on Tuesday, the gathering was raided by the national guard. The crowd at the Church of the Full Gospel panicked as they were ordered to leave. Some refused and were forcibly dragged out. When leaders—including pastor Salah Chalah, head the Protestant churches in Algeria (L’Église Protestante d’Algérie), and pastor Tarek Berki—tried to intervene, they were beaten, Morning Star News (MSN) reported. The second-largest congregation, the 500-member Source of Life Church in Makouda, was shut down the same day, followed by 100-member Light Church (L’eglise Tafat) in Tizi Ouzou. At least 15 Protestant churches—out of only about 46 in the country—have been shuttered since January 2018, according to the Christian advocacy group Middle East Concern. The country, home to just 125,000 Christians, fewer than 1 percent of the population, ranks 22nd on Open Doors’ World Watch List. Christian congregations struggle to register with the government agency tasked with regulating non-Muslim worship, per a 2006 law. It never convenes and has not issued a single approval. When they’re shut down, the congregations are sealed with a wax seal and a notice is posted saying the buildings are not authorized for religious ...Continue reading... […]

  • National Association of Evangelicals’ New President Hopes to Bring Together a Movement in Crisis
    by Kate Shellnutt on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Walter Kim, PCA pastor and former Park Street Church minister, becomes the first leader of color at the helm of the 77-year-old organization. As the evangelical label becomes more contentious and political polarization challenges the future of the movement, the namesake organization for evangelical Christians in the US has appointed a new leader. Walter Kim, a Presbyterian pastor with a background as a scholar and chaplain in the Ivy Leagues, was elected president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) at a board meeting Thursday. He’ll assume the new role in January, succeeding Leith Anderson, who is retiring after 13 years at the helm of the interdenominational network. Over the past few years, the NAE—which connects dozens of denominations, schools, and nonprofits and represents a constituency of millions of US churchgoers—has sought to remain a center ground for American evangelicals. Anderson and others have tried to keep the movement’s name from being hijacked as merely a political marker. It hasn’t been an easy job. Now Kim takes on these challenges, which have intensified during Donald Trump’s presidency. Christians are increasingly and explicitly asking what it means to be an evangelical today, with recent releases like Who Is an Evangelical? and Still Evangelical?, both brandishing giant red question marks on their covers. “The sheer number of books and articles on evangelicals and evangelicalism reveals that this movement is confronting an identity crisis. Yet, in this crisis there is genuine hope,” said Kim, who is also a board member for Christianity Today. “The NAE is uniquely positioned to draw people together, and I am eager to guide this labor. We seek a Spirit-filled renewal that demonstrates a winsome, thoughtful evangelicalism showcasing the truth and beauty of the gospel.” And ...Continue reading... […]

  • One-on-One with Joel Dillon on Serving Families Raising Children with Disabilities
    by Ed Stetzer on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    “Families raising children with intellectual disabilities are an unreached people group.” Ed: What is Jill’s House? Joel: Jill’s House is a Christian non-profit that loves and serves families raising children with intellectual disabilities. We do this through short-term, overnight respite care as well as holistic family support services. Several times throughout the year, parents send their children with disabilities to our “respite resort” outside of Washington D.C. or to one of our camp locations around the country for 24-48 hour stays. The kids get an amazing experience in a safe, fun, loving, and celebratory environment. Meanwhile, their parents get a break. They get to sleep through the night. They get to go on a date. They get to give undivided attention to their other children. Most families (mine included) take these things for granted, but for Jill’s House families, these are rare and precious gifts—they’re a lifeline. We seek to love the whole family (mom, dad, kids with disabilities, and siblings). We do this in simple ways (gathering for a meal, book clubs, Bible studies, etc.) and in more “formal” ways (retreats for the whole family, retreats for single moms, retreats for dads, support groups, workshops for typical siblings, etc.). At Jill’s House, all families are welcome. We serve Mormons and Muslims, Jews and Christians, Buddhists and Hindus, black and white people, rich and poor people, straight people and gay people. As long as someone’s child has an intellectual disability and can safely stay at Jill’s House, they will be unconditionally welcomed, loved, and served. Ed: Why does a ministry like this matter? Joel: There’s a lot to say here, but I’ll limit it to three points: First, rest isn’t a luxury. It’s ...Continue reading... […]

  • The Puritans Had Two Shots at Building a Godly Society
    by Robert W. Caldwell III on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    In both England and America, their political experiments collapsed. But they left behind a spiritual legacy that still inspires. How are evangelically minded Christians supposed to think about their place in society? Are they to keep their religion and politics to themselves, or should they seek to transform the structures of the world through an exercise of political and cultural power? A new book by Michael Winship explores how the Puritans—those “pre-evangelical” English Protestants of the 1600s—pursued the latter course. Remarkably, they were given not one but two chances to shape their worlds based upon their intensely biblical vision of a godly society. In both arenas—that of England and New England—their political experiments collapsed, but they left behind a legacy of personal piety, pastoral purity, and theological rigor that many Christians today rightly find both challenging and inspiring. Remaking Church and Society Hot Protestants: A History of Puritanism in England and America offers a fresh interpretation of the rise and fall Puritanism. Winship, who serves as the E. Merton Coulter Professor of History at the University of Georgia, has constructed a thoroughly researched, up-to-date narrative of transatlantic Puritanism that is eminently readable and deeply informative. Puritanism was a movement born in England after the Reformation, when many Protestants came to believe the reforms that the Church of England had embraced were insufficient. The approach they pursued is readily recognizable to evangelicals today. They emphasized Christian conversion and evangelistic preaching, and they preferred zealous, godly living over varieties of Christianity that they believed were formal and ritualistic. Because they believed the Bible contained very words of life, they put themselves on a steady diet of Scripture ...Continue reading... […]

  • Why Minority Churches Matter in the Multiethnic Church Discussion
    by Ed Stetzer on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Minority churches can't be decimated in the name of building multiethnic churches. When you say, “majority culture church” where I live, that means predominantly white—a majority white/Anglo/Caucasian cultural context. In that context, many churches are (rightly) trying to be more multicultural. A multiethnic church is, usually, the best expression (and picture) of the kingdom of God and that vision of “every tongue, tribe, and nation” in the Book of Revelation. The multiethnic church matters. Actaully, I will join over a thousand other people at the Mosaix Multiethnic Church conference in Dallas later this year. And, we’ve already announced an academic parntershp cohort with the Mosaix team. In other words, we believe in the multiethnic church. Minority Church What about the minority church? Should the historic black church, the Hmong language church, and the Latino congregation all pursue that multiethnic expression of church? Maybe. In this article, ‘majority churches’ refer to American churches that are primarily white, as Caucasians make up the cultural majority in America. Minority churches are those whose population is primarily made up of people of non-white backgrounds. So, if my church has to diversify, how come the black church does not? Well, it may. And it is great if it does. But we also have to consider why it exists. I once had an African American church leader say to me, “The only place I get to be myself is when I’m at my African American church on Sunday. I’ve got to put up with you white people all week. Leave me alone on Sunday.” Now, this leader and I are good friends, and he was (mostly) joking with me, but the deeper question at the core of his words struck me: How do we encourage and develop churches that look like a ...Continue reading... […]

  • In Tennessee, One Christian College Breaks Enrollment Records, While Another Fights Declines
    by Liam Adams on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Bryan College and Trevecca Nazarene University navigate competitive higher ed landscape. Two Christian colleges in the same state, both holding to similar religious commitments, and both trying to recruit similar students, are seeing very different results. Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville just announced record-breaking enrollment figures, while Bryan College in Dayton has been struggling to attract students and is now lowering tuition rates. Enrollment rates and retention are critical for small Christian schools. The experiences of Trevecca and Bryan call attention to how important it is for a college to cultivate a niche identity—without creating any controversy that might make prospective students or their parents leery of the institution. In some ways, the schools are very similar. Both recruit large portions of their student body from Tennessee, and are especially appealing to conservative Christians. Trevecca, a 118-year-old liberal arts college affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene, emphasizes the importance of biblical inspiration and has a conservative sexual ethics policy. Bryan—named for William Jennings Bryan, the creationist hero of the famous Scopes Trial—takes a similar moral stand on sex and sexuality, and celebrates its connection to the historic defense of biblical literalism. Yet full-time enrollment at Trevecca has grown by 3 to 6 percent each year since 2013, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). This fall, the campus newspaper TrevEchoes reported the school has 1,433 students on campus. In that same time frame, Bryan saw enrollment decline. The number of full-time undergraduates decreased between 6 and 13 percent in 2013, 2014, and 2015, according to IPEDS. Enrollment numbers rebounded a bit in 2016, but then declined again in ...Continue reading... […]

  • The Early Church Thrived Amid Secularism and Shows How We Can, Too
    by Gerald L. Sittser on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The pre-Christendom church managed to avoid both isolationism and accommodationism. Their model gives us a map for post-Christendom challenges. I attended seminary in the 1970s. I had to take several classes in the history of Christianity, though in those days it was called “church history.” My professor taught the course largely as a history of Christian thought. We studied orthodoxy and heresy in the early Christian period, monastic and scholastic theology in the medieval period, the Reformation controversies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the evangelical awakenings of the eighteenth century, and the liberal theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as its major twentieth-century critics (Barth and Bonhoeffer). In general, we learned church history from a Christendom perspective. Questions of correct belief loomed largest, at least as I remember it. We studied it as a kind of history of the Christian family, which was our family. In the beginning of my teaching career, I taught the history of Christianity in much the same way. My primary interest was Reformation theology and the evangelical awakenings, though I never totally neglected to tell the larger story. Students seemed interested enough, at least for a while. But then students began to change, and their interests shifted. They started to question the attention to doctrinal precision that emerged during the Reformation period. They wondered about the emotion of the evangelical awakenings. Doctrinal faith seemed too abstract and narrow, emotive faith too fragile and insecure. I was teaching a Christendom course, but my students were asking for something different. I discovered that they needed something different because they were (and still are) growing up in a world very different from the one that existed only a generation ago. Together we—professor and students—found ...Continue reading... […]

  • Faith-Based Show ‘Vindication’ Displays Realities of Sexual Abuse
    by Josh M. Shepherd on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The Amazon Prime series is personal for its starring actress Emma Elle Roberts. Editor’s note: There are a few spoilers ahead for the Amazon Prime show Vindication. In a time when the American church is grappling with a steady flow of sexual abuse allegations, the co-star of a new faith-based TV show says she relied heavily on personal experience and her faith to approach the topic with gravitas. Independently produced Amazon Prime crime drama series Vindication premiered late this summer and revolves around skeptical police investigator Gary Travis, portrayed by Breaking Bad alum Todd Terry. The show begins as a toned-down police procedural, though the detective’s family life becomes more integral with each consecutive episode. Family tensions hit a climax in episode eight when Travis’s estranged college-aged daughter Katie (Emma Elle Roberts) has returned home to reveal her pregnancy. Viewers learn along with Travis that Katie had been raped. Actress Emma Elle Roberts shared that the scene mirrors her own life. She was violated as a teen, in events that still have a ripple effect a decade later. “I had a really hard experience where I was taken advantage of when I was about 17,” Roberts said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “To be able to retell that story and know where it’s going, it was actually really cathartic for me.” While she appeared in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and Insurgent, Roberts has often chosen roles that reflect her evangelical beliefs. In the recent pro-life film Unplanned, her character stands outside a local Planned Parenthood facility to pray for those entering the clinic. Now her latest role depicts redemption—with a personal slant. “There’s a lot that I relate to with Katie,” she said. “In Revelation, ...Continue reading... […]