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  • LGBT Rights-Religious Liberty Bill Proposed in Congress
    by Daniel Silliman on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Fairness for All advocates hope legislation makes compromise seem possible. Congressman Chris Stewart doesn’t expect his bill to pass. But he is proposing the Fairness for All Act anyway. It’s a step of faith for Stewart, a Republican who represents Utah’s second district, and a marker on the bet that it’s possible to find a compromise that protects both religious liberty and LGBT rights. “Congress can be a frustrating place to be because it’s so polarized. But I don’t think we can throw up our hands and quit,” Stewart told Christianity Today. Smith proposes the Fairness for All Act in Congress Friday. Advocates of the idea of finding common ground for religious liberty and LGBT rights, led by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), have spent three years planning, discussing, and strategizing for this moment. The law would prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation, including retail stores, banks, and health care service providers. Currently, under federal law and in the majority of states, LGBT people can be evicted from rental property, denied loans, denied medical care, fired from their jobs, and turned away from businesses because of their sexual orientation. The Fairness for All law would offer LGBT people substantially the same protections as the proposed Equality Act, a bill LGBT advocates have long promoted and Democrats in the House passed earlier this year, only to see it stall in the Senate. The Equality Act, however, includes no exemptions for religious organizations. “The Equality Act was written in such a way that a religious person like myself couldn’t vote for it,” said Stewart, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “[Democratic ...Continue reading... […]

  • Died: Reinhard Bonnke, Record-Setting Evangelist to Africa
    by Kate Shellnutt on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Founder of Christ for All Nations, the German Pentecostal held one of the biggest evangelism crusades in history. German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, whose record-setting crusades led him to be nicknamed “the Billy Graham of Africa,” died Saturday at age 79. His ministry, Christ for All Nations (CfaN), claims that more than 79 million people came to Christ as a result of Bonnke’s career, which spanned from 1967 until his retirement in 2017. The Pentecostal evangelist preached a prayerful message of Christ’s transforming power while also boasting miracles and healings. “Those who knew him off-stage can testify to his personal integrity, genuine kindness, and overflowing love for the Lord,” said his successor, CfaN evangelist Daniel Kolenda. “His ministry was inspired and sustained by his rich prayer life, his deep understanding of the Word, and his unceasing intimacy with the Holy Spirit.” Christianity Today reported from Bonnke’s largest in-person event, where 1.6 million gathered on a single night to hear him preach in Lagos, Nigeria. CT featured Bonnke and his ministry in an issue the following year, calling him “one of the continent’s most recognizable religious figures.” Historians have said that no Western evangelist spent as much time in sub-Saharan Africa as Bonnke. Following his death, many African Christians offered their condolences on Twitter, saying “Rest well” and “Africa will never forget you.” The government of Nigeria stated that President Muhammadu Buhari, who is Muslim, “joins Christendom at large in mourning the passing of renowned evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke, 79, describing his transition as a great loss to Nigeria, Africa & entire world.” Kenyan politician Esther Passari shared how “I spoke in tongues ...Continue reading... […]

  • Samoa Bans Kids from Church as Measles Outbreak Kills 63
    by Griffin Paul Jackson on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Advent will be “mellow” on South Pacific island as government restricts public gatherings amid vaccination campaign. Children in Samoa have been temporarily banned from attending church services and other public gatherings, due to a growing measles outbreak that has claimed more than 60 lives and threatens to cancel Advent celebrations. The government of the South Pacific island nation was closed today and yesterday, as officials and public health workers turned all their attention to an immunization campaign. Prior to the outbreak, less than a third (31%) of the island’s population of about 200,000 were protected by a measles vaccine, according to Reuters. After cases were reported and a national emergency was declared in mid-November, nearly another third received immunizations in the following two weeks. As of yesterday (Dec. 5), 82 percent of infants and children up to 4 years old have been vaccinated, along with 93 percent of those between 5 and 19 years old. Even so, more than 4,300 Samoans have been diagnosed with measles and at least 63 have died. Of those, all but 3 were children; 55 were 4 years old or younger. About 20 more children are in critical condition. In a nation where many are not vaccinated, the prime minister made it clear that Christian leaders are needed to encourage their countrymen to get vaccinated. “The government needs the support of all the village councils, faith-based organizations, and church leaders, village mayors, and government women representatives,” said Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in a state address last Sunday. “Let us work together to encourage and convince those that do not believe that vaccinations are the only answer to the epidemic. Let us not be distracted by the promise of alternative cures.” Indeed, many Samoans had never received childhood immunizations, either out ...Continue reading... […]

  • Defining Leadership: What Is It and Why Does It Matter in Church?
    by Ed Stetzer on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Leadership is a key component in the health of any church or ministry. “Great men lead people,” Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ said. “But greater men train leaders.” As leaders we are called not only to raise up followers, but also to equip leaders. How we define Christian leadership is the crucial starting point. When I teach leadership, I walk through a few definitions, including: “Leadership is a dynamic process in which a man or woman with God-given capacity influences a specific group of God’s people toward His purposes for the group.” (Robert Clinton) “Leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less.” (John Maxwell) “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” (Peter Drucker) “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” (Warren Bennis) Here is the definition I use today: Christian leadership is a process of influencing a community to use their God-given gifts toward a goal and purpose as led by the Holy Spirit. But, how does this work? And, how is Christian leadership different? A Skill? A common debate about leadership involves whether leaders are made or born. On the one hand, some believe leadership is simply a skill to be developed. On the other, some think there are natural born leaders, with no refining or development necessary. The answer lies in between these two extremes. There’s no doubt some are born with a combination of characteristics that easily opens doors for leadership. However, there are additional skills of leadership one can learn. In his book Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin observes how we’ve overestimated the importance of being born with great ability—leadership, sports, music, or other areas—and underestimated the power of ...Continue reading... […]

  • Nobodies Were the First to Know
    by Daniel Darling on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    When God announced the birth of Christ to sweaty, uncouth shepherds, he signaled something important about the kind of Messiah he was sending. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to appear on a top-rated national morning show. When I got the email confirming my appearance, my stomach tightened a bit, and I think my feet lifted off the ground. My first thought was, Wow, this will sell a ton of books. And my second thought was, Do I need to buy a new suit? I was excited and yet very, very nervous. Somehow I managed to get through the experience without totally embarrassing myself. Being on a big-time television news show is one of the best ways to try to announce big news. Public-relations professionals work hard at securing these opportunities, trying to get their guests in front of millions of eyeballs. But when God announced the birth of Jesus to the world, he used the opposite approach. He didn’t send Jesus to 30 Rock, but sent the host of Heaven to a common field outside Bethlehem. And the people he chose as his spokesmen were unpolished, sweaty, uncouth shepherds. Today shepherds are romanticized in nearly every Christmas pageant. Many of us have donned a modified pillowcase and grabbed a walking stick to appear in a Christmas pageant at church or school. But in the first century, nobody thought shepherds were cute. And certainly nobody thought they were important. But there they were, the first to know at Christmas. A Kingdom for Outsiders Shepherds were not really considered part of polite society in those days. They were required to tend their flocks outside the city gates. The only reason shepherds had any significance was because sheep were a valuable commodity, especially as it got closer to Passover, when many lambs would be sacrificed in the temple. The work of shepherds was (and still is) extraordinarily difficult. They had to wrangle obstinate ...Continue reading... […]

  • Amid Christian Crackdown, China Recognizes Missionary Lottie Moon’s Church
    by David Roach on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The historic designation comes as the government shuts down fellow Christian congregations in the province, leaving advocates to wonder whether it represents propaganda or progress. As the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) collects its annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, China has designated a church attended by the offering’s namesake a protected historical and cultural site. But a religious liberty watchdog wonders if the designation is part of an effort to deflect attention from religious persecution in the Shandong province. China’s decision to protect the historic Southern Baptist missionary’s church “is ironic,” given Shandong’s status as “one of the worst places in China” for Christian persecution, said Massimo Introvigne, editor in chief of Bitter Winter, a magazine that monitors religious liberty in China. But “it makes sense” in “the framework of international propaganda.” “At a time when everybody is talking about religious repression in China,” Introvigne, an Italian sociologist of religion, told Christianity Today, the government may be attempting to state, “You say we are persecuting Christianity in Shandong, but exactly in Shandong we are honoring Lottie Moon.” News of the historical site designation for Wulin Shenghui Church of Penglai in Shandong broke last month in the Chinese publication China Christian Daily and made its way to the US via a release from the SBC’s International Mission Board, which has received $4.5 billion through the Lottie Moon Offering since its inception 120 years ago. The IMB’s Week of Prayer for International Missions this year is December 1–8. Wulin Shenghui Church was constructed in 1872 by Southern Baptist missionaries but was closed to foreigners for decades before reopening in the late 1980s. Preserved within the church ...Continue reading... […]

  • Egypt’s Christian Women Treated Like Muslims in Inheritance. Until Now?
    by Jayson Casper on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Meanwhile, Coptic activist who insists true religious equality does not yet exist goes to prison on terrorism charges. Coptic lawyer Huda Nasrallah may have won a great victory for Christian women in Egypt. Last week, a Cairo court ruled in her favor, dividing the family inheritance equally between her and her two brothers. But a few days earlier, Coptic activist Rami Kamel may have suffered a great setback for all Egyptian believers. He was arrested for his reporting of sectarian tension, and accused of joining a terrorist group. How should these events be interpreted? Nasrallah’s verdict followed the decision of two other courts to reject her appeal on the basis of the sharia law stipulation that a male heir receive two-thirds of the inheritance. This past summer, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) took up her cause. In a campaign called “Christian on ID card, Muslim in Inheritance,” it claimed millions of Coptic women suffer similarly. Coptic men are sometimes all too willing to go along with it, Nasrallah told the Associated Press. But she is “thrilled” by the verdict, and hopes it will inspire other women. “It is not really about inheritance; my father did not leave us millions of Egyptian pounds,” she said. “If I didn’t take it to court, who would?” Many have. A similar verdict was issued in 2016, but it did not succeed in establishing a precedent. Girgis Bebawy, a Coptic lawyer, has failed dozens of times, though according to the AP one of his current cases is due to be argued before the Constitutional Court, the nation’s highest. Might Nasrallah’s novel approach make a difference now? Rather than appealing to civil, secular equality, Nasrallah based her case on religion. Egypt’s 1938 Coptic Orthodox personal status regulations state that inheritance ...Continue reading... […]

  • What Does the Bible Have to Say about Leadership?
    by Ed Stetzer on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    We must allow Scripture to guide us as leaders without losing sight of all the other wisdom the Bible provides to us.  When Jesus washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, he reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call me teacher and Lord, and you are speaking rightly since that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:12) In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives us perhaps the best definition of what biblical leadership should look like. He shows us the importance of servant leadership, laying it out for us in Scripture. Before diving deeper into more Scripture that discusses servant leadership, I want to emphasize that the Bible is not our personal book on leadership. There are biblical texts that teach us about leadership, and leading without the guidance of Scripture is not a healthy idea, but the Bible was not intended to be a leadership textbook. In this way, we must allow Scripture to guide us as leaders without losing sight of all the other wisdom the Bible provides to us. With that said, I want to look at a few passages where we get a better image of what biblical leadership should look like. The Gospels: Being among our people Luke 22 teaches us that leadership means walking alongside our people. As the disciples debate who should be considered the greatest among them, Jesus reminds them that they should not follow leadership styles of the time. Instead, they should be among their people, serving them, just as Jesus did when he walked among us on Earth. In the same way, in John 21 Jesus tells Peter to feed his sheep. “‘Do you love me?’” Jesus asks. “Feed my sheep,’’ he instructs. This is another example of Jesus reminding us that as leaders, we need to live life with ...Continue reading... […]

  • What It Means that Jesus Was ‘Without Sin’
    by Daniel J. Cameron on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    It is central to our faith that Jesus shared our nature. Does that include its fallenness? As the lights flashed and the music blared out something caught my attention. It wasn’t the flashing lights nor was it the blaring music. As I stood excitedly at my first Chris Tomlin concert I was struck by the lyrics to his song “Jesus Messiah,” a song I was familiar with and had sung in my church many times, but this time, the well-known worship song was different to me. As the opening chords played, Tomlin began to sing, quoting 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He became sin, who knew no sin. That we might become His righteousness.” I had heard the lyrics before, in fact I had the verses memorized, but for the first time, I found myself asking, “What does this actually mean? What does it mean that Jesus became sin?” This passage had been explained to me as a simple summary of the Gospel—in one sentence!—and yet I suddenly realized something those who explained it to me rarely admitted: it contains a stunning amount of complexity. Did Tomlin know what he was singing? Did I? So, what connection does Jesus “becoming sin” have to do with my “becoming the righteousness of God?” Misunderstanding sin? To answer this question, we must rethink how we understand sin and salvation. Modern theological language surrounding this topic tends to be forensic in nature, meaning that it is focused on laws and ethics. To be a sinner is to be disobedient, to “miss the mark,” to break the law. Therefore, to be “saved” is to be forgiven of our transgressions. While there are forensic aspects to sin and salvation, it is reductionistic to claim that sin is merely the transgression of a law and salvation is merely legal forgiveness of said transgressions. This ...Continue reading... […]

  • 629 Pakistani Girls Trafficked to China as Brides
    by Kathy Gannon - Associated Press on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Poor Christians were a new target of brokers in 2019, AP investigation finds. LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Page after page, the names stack up: 629 girls and women from across Pakistan who were sold as brides to Chinese men and taken to China. The list, obtained by The Associated Press, was compiled by Pakistani investigators determined to break up trafficking networks exploiting the country’s poor and vulnerable. The list gives the most concrete figure yet for the number of women caught up in the trafficking schemes since 2018. But since the time it was put together in June, investigators’ aggressive drive against the networks has largely ground to a halt. Officials with knowledge of the investigations say that is because of pressure from government officials fearful of hurting Pakistan’s lucrative ties to Beijing. The biggest case against traffickers has fallen apart. In October, a court in Faisalabad acquitted 31 Chinese nationals charged in connection with trafficking. Several of the women who had initially been interviewed by police refused to testify because they were either threatened or bribed into silence, according to a court official and a police investigator familiar with the case. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution for speaking out. At the same time, the government has sought to curtail investigations, putting “immense pressure” on officials from the Federal Investigation Agency pursuing trafficking networks, said Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist who has helped parents rescue several young girls from China and prevented others from being sent there. “Some [FIA officials] were even transferred,” Iqbal said in an interview. “When we talk to Pakistani rulers, they don’t pay any attention.” Asked ...Continue reading... […]