Christianity Today Magazine News and analysis from the world's leading Christian magazine.

  • I Was a Theological Drifter, Then a Reform Jew, Then an Orthodox Jew, Then...
    by Dikkon Eberhart on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    How I finally crossed the road to Christ. I came of age in an ardently literary family. My father served as United States Poet Laureate in the late 1950s, published more than a dozen books, and won most major literary prizes. I grew up surrounded by creative people, friends of my father. Their burning energy gave me a small, mirror-like glimpse into God’s creation of the entire universe. And, like Dad and them, I felt that I might be a writer too. I grew up in the Episcopal Church. But in my high teens and young twenties I drifted. At seminary in Berkeley, California, during the 1970s—a time and a place where anything you wanted went—I created my own religion. I called it Godianity. Certainly, I believed in the existence of God, hence the name of my religion. But I didn’t know much about that Son of God fellow, and the little I did know seemed impossibly weird. God and I were pals. We talked to one another, like the creatives we were, discussing my new books. I was sure, in fact, that he had dictated the final 60 pages of one of my novels—Paradise—during an 18-hour burst of ecstatic writing. Then something happened. I married a Jew. She was an atheist, and her family was mostly secular. My wife’s atheism and my Godianity coexisted comfortably enough, since my Godianity was a private credulity that didn’t war against anything else, not even against unbelief. At any rate, our passionate love triumphed over any possible squabble in the holy zone. Then my wife became pregnant. Nine months later, our first daughter squirmed in her mother’s arms. Here’s the sudden realization of an atheist: Such a perfect, urgent, demanding, and beautiful creature must be the gift of God, not the product of some random swirl of atoms. ...Continue reading... […]

  • On MLK Day, Be Still and Listen
    by Daniel Harrell on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Hearing each other is a miracle. We need to practice receiving it as such. Years ago I sat alongside a dozen pastors in a sun-baked, mud-caked church in rural northern Mozambique. They’d gathered to test a recent translation of Isaiah in Lomwe, their local dialect. The Isaiah passage was familiar to me, but not the language. Still, as we went around the circle—each pastor reading aloud to hear how the new translation sounded—I picked up enough to pronounce some words. When it came my turn to read, rather than pass, I plunged in and read a few verses myself. The Lomwe pastors heard me speaking their language even though I didn’t fully know what I was saying. They beamed with delight. A white American minister had traveled all the way to their village to understand them without insisting they first understand him. I can’t help but connect this experience to the first Christian Pentecost. In the wake of Jesus’ ascending to heaven and the Holy Spirit’s descent, Acts 2 reports new-and-improved Aramaic-speaking apostles speaking the gospel in the wide array of languages to the peoples gathered in Jerusalem (2:4). The crowds heard their own native tongues being spoken even though the apostles didn’t know the dialects (2:6). This is why we refer to Pentecost as a miracle of speech. But what if it was just as much a miracle of hearing? I counted on such miracles most Sundays in my many years as a preacher. After a sermon, a listener would thank me for saying “just what I needed to hear.” When I asked what it was that I said, the person would relay the words they heard—words I knew I never spoke (being the manuscripted preacher I am). This was the Holy Spirit’s doing, I believe, making my words work in ways I hadn’t dreamed they ...Continue reading... […]

  • Soccer Champ Baptized by Christian Teammate
    by Daniel Silliman on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Liverpool FC player Roberto Firmino says his biggest title is now the love of Christ.
 Millions of Christian fans are celebrating popular Brazilian soccer star Roberto Firmino’s latest move off the field: He has committed his life to Christ. Less than a year after scoring the winning goal at the FIFA Club World Cup, Firmino professed his faith and was baptized in a swimming pool by his Liverpool Football Club teammate Alisson Becker and Brazilian Christian musician Isaias Saad. Firmino shared video of the baptism on his Instagram Thursday, where it was viewed more than 3.2 million times in one day. “I give you my failures and I will give you my victories as well. My biggest title is your love, Jesus!” Firmino wrote in Portuguese. The 28-year-old plays striker for Liverpool, England’s Premier League team that won consecutive Union of European Football Champions League titles in 2018 and 2019, as well as the FIFA Club World Cup in 2019. Becker, who is also from Brazil, was named FIFA’s best goalkeeper in 2019. His Christian faith is well known. He attributes his success as a goalkeeper to hard work and faith. “You need to be very focused on football,” he said, “and I think faith is important too. If you believe in God, you know you have to do your best on the pitch and put love into everything you do in life.” When he got a chance to play on the Brazilian team in the World Cup, he took to Twitter to write “Realization of a dream!!!” in Portuguese. “Glory to God!” Becker was encouraged to talk about his faith by Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp. Klopp, a former German player and the former manager of the US Men’s National Soccer Team, had an experience where he decided to put his trust in God after his father’s death in 1998. ...Continue reading... […]

  • More Multiracial Churches Led by Black, Hispanic Pastors
    by Adelle M. Banks in Keller, Texas – RNS on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    But the task of stewarding diverse congregations remains a challenge, emotionally and spiritually. For four hours at a megachurch outside of Dallas, pastors of color shared their personal stories of leading a multiethnic church. One, a lead pastor of a Southern Baptist congregation in Salt Lake City, recalled the “honest conversations” he had with his 10-member leadership team before it agreed that he would present “both sides” of the controversy over quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protests at NFL games. A founding elder of a fledgling Cincinnati congregation expressed satisfaction with her “phenomenal church,” but said “Lift Every Voice and Sing”—a hymn often called the “black national anthem” that most African American churchgoers learn in childhood—is so rarely featured at her multiethnic church that her younger daughter learned it instead from Beyonce’s version. A pastor of a church in Atlanta adapted his multicultural services so that its prayers, food, and sermon illustrations included not only traditions of blacks and whites but those of a member from India, who had noted that his culture had not been acknowledged. Those leaders, who met at Mosaix Global Network’s Multiethnic Church Conference in November, are part of a decades-long, still burgeoning movement to integrate Christian worship services, aiming to refute the oft-quoted saying by Martin Luther King Jr. that Sunday mornings are the most segregated time of the week in the United States. In 1998, 6 percent of congregations of all faiths in the US could be described as multiracial; in 2019, according to preliminary findings, 16 percent met that definition. In that time frame, mainline Protestant multiracial congregations rose from 1 percent to 11 percent; their ...Continue reading... […]

  • One-on-One with Andrew Peterson
    by Ed Stetzer on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Christ’s love enables us and calls us to do more than just create. It enables us, by his power, to redeem. Ed: What prompted you to write Adorning the Dark? Andrew: In the beginning, it was a writing discipline. I was in the thick of a new album at the time, and wondered if it might be helpful to journal about the process, in real-time, to get the juices flowing. It wasn’t long before I wondered if other people might find it helpful, too. One thing led to another, and I realized I had a book’s worth of thoughts and opinions. (This will come as no surprise to those who know me and have suffered my rants.) Ed: For whom did you write this book? Can those who don’t work in the arts and may not consider themselves a creative person use this? Andrew: This isn’t a technical “this is how you write a song” kind of book. There are plenty of those, and I don’t happen to think they do much good. I wanted to write something that would be helpful to all manner of disciplines: songwriters, novelists, poets, painters, and pastors—but also parents and teachers and accountants and carpenters. One of my soapboxes in the book is that everyone’s creative. Everyone. And my hope is that the principles I cover in Adorning the Dark can be helpful no matter what field you’re in. Ed: What is one thing you have learned about creativity and the Christian life in your 20 years as a singer/songwriter that you wish you could go back and tell your younger self? Andrew: The first thing I’d say is this: “Success (or failure) isn’t going to change anything about who you are in Christ. Relax. Be led by the Spirit, not your ambition.” The second thing I’d say is this: “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” (These two things are closely related.) Ed: How does our calling as ...Continue reading... […]

  • Trump Pledges to Protect ‘Right to Pray’ in Public Schools
    by Collin Binkley and Elana Shor – AP, with additional reporting by CT on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Updated guidance reaffirms First Amendment protections and provides new pathways for complaints. Days after promising to “safeguard students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in our schools” in an evangelical campaign rally, President Donald Trump backed school prayer and proposed new rules for religious organizations receiving federal funding. The announcements correspond with Thursday’s annual White House proclamation for Religious Freedom Day. This is first updated guidance on school prayer from the Education Department since 2003. The directive orders states to verify that school districts have no policies limiting constitutionally protected prayer and to refer violators to the Education Department. That’s much like the earlier guidance, but the directive goes further in requiring states to provide ways for making complaints against schools. Students can pray on their own or together during lunch or other free times, for example, and student speakers can pray at assemblies or sports games as long as they weren’t chosen to speak based on their religious perspectives, according to the guidance. The president hosted more than a dozen students and teachers in the Oval Office for the announcement, including Teachers Who Pray founder Marilyn Rhames, who CT featured in 2018. Her organization gathers teachers for prayer and spiritual formation outside of classroom instruction time. “There’s a myth out there that what Teachers Who Pray does … is not legal, and it absolutely is,” she said during the presidential gathering. “I’m here to tell teachers we need to pray … We need to do what we have to do for our kids because if we’re not strong, we can’t make them strong.” Public schools have been barred from leading ...Continue reading... […]

  • Worship God: Start a Hobby
    by Brianna Lambert on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Lately, hobbies have become a metric of personal success. But their core purpose is to help us pause and praise. If there were ever an “age of hobbies,” this might be it. Changes in technology have made it easy for anyone seeking recreation. You want to know how to knit? There’s a YouTube video for that. You want to branch into acting? For a small fee, you can sit under the great Samuel L. Jackson in a MasterClass. Interested in making soap? There are several Facebook groups ready to teach you about the art of suds. Although these leisures tease us with rest, we often turn them into burdens. Hobbies have become nothing more than another sphere to master. We run to reach our weight goal, paint and make some side money, or pick up backpacking and start our own YouTube channel in the process. And we love the measurable results: the Fitbit on our arm, the “likes” on our article, or the number of items crossed off our bucket list. They give us the metrics we crave to reap the reward we’re working toward. Progress is our game—even with pleasure—and we ingrain ourselves in the cycle that Nathan Stucky calls “work, reward, repeat.” However, a recent Vox article suggests that people are starting to rethink this approach to hobbies. Hope Reese writes that “our hustle culture leaves us with no moment unaccounted for, because we feel that even our ‘free’ moments must involve the pursuit of excellence, money, self-improvement, and ‘growth.’” Her solution: “ignore insidious competition culture.” Writing for the fashion blog Man Repeller, Molly Conway also cautions against the urge to turn hobbies into hustles. “Every time we feel beholden to capitalize on the rare places where our skills and our joy intersect,” she writes, “we ...Continue reading... […]

  • Four Important Reminders for Pastors Dealing with Mental Health Issues
    by Ed Stetzer on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Sometimes, we hurt ourselves here because we don’t reach out for help when we know we need it. Sometimes, we feel guilty because we think we aren’t “spiritual enough” to make it without help. Mental health issues in general and burnout in particular are real issues for pastors and leaders as we minister today in our complex world. We can’t ignore them. It’s easy to say, “I would never struggle with this” without realizing how much people actually do. This topic is so important that this past December the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, in partnership with the Wheaton College School of Psychology, Counseling, and Family Therapy, hosted a GC2 Summit on Facing Hard Truths & Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Below I want to share four ways to think about these issues. First, pastoral balance is a myth, but seasons without balance almost always destroy. Ministry is not the kind of role where we get to create the balance that is in our lives. We may establish some regular routines or prioritize our lives in the order of disciple, husband, father, and then pastor. That’s great in theory, but it doesn’t work that way in everyday life. There are times when that phone call comes: a tragedy has happened, and you have to switch those things around, and your routine is rerouted. You don’t plan four funerals in one week, but sometimes they happen. Learning to say no when possible can help, but there are times when you have to drop everything and go. Pastoring comes in waves. Waves come in, and waves go out. If you’re always at high tide, your ministry won’t last. Or to change the metaphor, we need both a thermometer and a thermostat in our lives to help us with the ebb and flow of ministry. The thermometer says, “I’m burning a fever, doing too much, too fast, too soon.” It alerts us when we are about to crash. We also need a thermostat to help ...Continue reading... […]

  • Should Christians Kill Animals for Sport?
    by David A. Currie on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    A new book presents a range of arguments on the moral legitimacy of hunting. I am a Christian and an academic. I am also a hunter. At first blush, this might seem peculiar, given that members of first two circles I inhabit aren’t always hospitable toward members of the third. Two stories—one actual, the other apocryphal—give a sense of the prevailing attitudes toward hunting that I’ve encountered. The first occurred on a Sunday after Thanksgiving at the church in the small Western Pennsylvania town where I grew up. The new pastor, just arrived from the east coast, gathered the children on the steps at the front of the sanctuary and asked, “Girls and boys, we’re about to enter a special season. Do any of you know what season it is?” Before the pastor could call on anyone, one little boy blurted out, “Deer season! And I get to go to huntin’ camp with my dad and granddad, and when we get a buck…” He then proceeded to describe in graphic detail how he helped to field dress a deer. The pastor’s mouth gaped open in stunned silence. He had been prepared to counter the expected answer of “Christmas” with an explanation of Advent, but he was unaware that the first Monday after Thanksgiving, the opening day of deer season in Pennsylvania for generations, was a far holier day to many in my community than the beginning of the liturgical year. The second story is a variant of the proverbial interview at the pearly gates with St. Peter after a person dies. When a group of three new arrivals shows up, Peter announces: “Before you can proceed, I just need to make sure that everything is in order in your files. One of the things we check is your IQ, so I’ll be asking you a question to confirm that your test results are accurate.” ...Continue reading... […]

  • US Court Ruling Renews Iraqi Christians’ Deportation Fears
    by Griffin Paul Jackson on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Lead plaintiff wins permission to stay while others could be redetained as soon as next month. The Iraqi Christian at the center of a class-action suit challenging the detention of fellow Iraqi nationals in the Detroit area was granted a major victory in court Tuesday and will be allowed to stay in the US and become a citizen. The decision in favor of Sam Hamama comes days after a legal setback for hundreds of others who had been detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and released more than a year ago so they could litigate their individual cases. Last Friday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the classwide decision freeing the Iraqis from detention, potentially leading to redetainment and a renewed threat of deportation. “The whole point of the federal litigation was to give people time to fight their individual immigration cases,” Margo Schlanger, one of the lead counsels in thecase, told CT. “Hundreds of people assisted by the class action have done that, and, while some have lost, lots of them have won. For many others, the individual immigration cases are still pending. So Sam’s victory is one of many, we’re happy to say.” In 2017, more than 1,400 Iraqis living in the United States, most of whom had either overstayed visas or have criminal convictions, were living under “final removal orders” that made them targets for deportation. Hundreds of these Iraqi nationals were rounded up in ICE raids and held in detention facilities meant to house them until they could be deported. The move was part of a policy shift spurred by the Trump administration’s travel ban, as Iraq agreed to begin accepting deportees in exchange for being removed from the list of banned countries. But the process faced a major obstacle. America has committed itself ...Continue reading... […]