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

  • The Revolution Will Not Be Videoed
    by Dennis R. Edwards on May 29, 2020 at 7:07 pm

    What Paul and Silas might have said about George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and and and … For many of us, anger, sadness, frustration, and fatigue are not episodic responses but chronic conditions. In recent days we’ve all seen, heard, and read of the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery, the shooting of Breonna Taylor, the use of the police by a white woman to threaten Christian Cooper, Minneapolis police officers executing George Floyd, and of the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately harms black and brown people. I have been a pastor in Minneapolis, and my heart is heavy as people have taken to the streets to demonstrate against injustice. The videos have helped some white people to see a bit of what many black and brown people know: White America has long had its knee on our necks. I am sure that some who just read that sentence are saying, “Not all of white America.” But that’s the problem. It’s hard for people of color to feel that white America is with us and not against us. White America has not demonstrated the collective resolve to repent, rebuke, and reorient itself against racial injustice. That includes Christians. White Christians can opt out of outrage over racial injustice. The status quo works for them. Consider, for example, the tenacious support many evangelicals give to President Donald Trump, who told police on Long Island, New York, in 2017 to “not be too nice” with suspects. He appeared to encourage heavy-handedness, if not outright brutality. His then press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had to walk back the president’s comments, saying he was joking. Police brutality is not a laughing matter. White Christians are watching the screens, maybe shaking their heads, but largely immobile. Rather than justice overflowing (Amos 5:24), it trickles down, ...Continue reading...

  • An Appeal Letter to Governor Pritzker from Illinois Faith Leaders and Churches
    by Ed Stetzer on May 29, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    Governors care about the people; so do church leaders. We need to work together. May 27, 2020 Dear Governor Pritzker, On behalf of clergy and religious congregations across the State of Illinois, we the undersigned wish to express our deep gratitude for your thoughtful and energetic leadership during the crisis in which our State is currently immersed. The need for your strong leadership is unusually apparent to us, as our congregations have been greatly impacted by this crisis. Some of us have been personally present at the burial of victims of the novel coronavirus and all of us minister daily to vast numbers of people affected by the social and economic dislocations of this era. Because we are at the helm of churches that shape the opinions and behaviors of hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans, we are very eager to be an asset to you and the health of our State in this significant time. We feel this acutely now in light of the rising unrest increasingly surfacing among our constituencies. We want to work with you to counter this so that our communities do not become further conflicted and law enforcement is not required to deal with circumstances harmful to everyone. The growing resistance we are meeting emerges from a sense that the concerns of religious communities are not being taken into account with the seriousness with which the state is approaching other segments of the society. As pastors, we can assure you that the safety of our congregants and our surrounding communities are of the utmost concern to us. The current guidelines create an untenable position for us as churches, especially as we are eager to serve the spiritual and material needs of our communities. You have carefully consulted with medical health experts, business leaders, and civic authorities to craft a coordinated response to ...Continue reading...

  • Vulnerable Gulf Migrants Offered ‘God’s Karuna’ in Bible Society Outreach
    by Jayson Casper on May 29, 2020 at 5:23 pm

    In prayer, aid, and employment, Christian ministries struggle to adapt to the new coronavirus norms. There is no social distancing in a labor camp. Living in cramped conditions, sometimes 10 to a room, migrant workers in the Gulf are widely considered among the international communities most vulnerable to the new coronavirus. Seeking a share of the region’s petrodollars as remittances for their poor families and communities back home, migrant laborers far outnumber the Middle Eastern region’s citizen population—as high as 80 percent in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). And hailing primarily from Asian nations such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and India, they make up the great majority of the region’s more than 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Yet from one of their languages emerges a homonym that may birth hope for the languishing workers. “It is not corona, but karuna, which means mercy in Telugu,” said Prasad, a migrant worker from India, to the Bible Society in the Gulf (BSG). “God is giving us the opportunity to turn to Him.” There are 20 million Indian migrants worldwide, and 1.5 million are Telugu speakers working in the Gulf states. Many have lost their jobs or had their salaries reduced due to the economic shutdown. The Bible society seized on Prasad’s observation to publish a new booklet in Telugu and English, appropriately titled God’s Karuna. Its content reflects the upside-down nature of the COVID-19 world—and of God’s kingdom. There are frequent references to “humbled nations,” “greedy people,” and “exploitation of the poor.” Though reputable Gulf agencies exist to recruit and employ migrant labor, the BSG has been a frequent critic of the “slave-like conditions” suffered by many. “Even the strong ...Continue reading...

  • When Pastors and Pews Disagree on Churches Reopening
    by Compiled by Kara Bettis on May 29, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    Pastoral submission amid a pandemic: Who should Christians heed when following Romans 13 and Hebrews 13 seems to conflict? As churches around the country begin to cautiously reopen, many parishioners may feel caught between their government’s advice and their pastor’s. As parishioners decide whether to return to reopened churches or are frustrated with a lack of movement to reopen, how should they respond? What do we do when we disagree? CT asked a variety of Christian leaders to weigh in. Aaron Reyes, lead pastor, Hope Community Church, and dean, Vida House Hebrews 13:17 says “have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority.” But submission, or “yielding” (as it implies in the Greek), doesn’t mean blind obedience. Regardless of what choice pastors make about reopening churches, we must all still act according to our conscience. Respecting our leaders doesn’t mean we can’t freely choose whether or not to worship in an actual building on Sunday morning. Rather, it means choosing, for example, to stay home until we feel it’s safer to be in public, while not openly criticizing your leader’s decision. We shouldn’t reach out to fellow church members, explaining why the leadership is wrong and trying to stir up distrust. Instead, kindly express your stance to the leadership. Lovingly inform them of your decision and continue to love the church whether you’re near or far. Daniel Patterson, executive vice president, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Regardless of whether you think your church is overly eager or overly cautious, it could be that the best place to start is simply with a resolve to assume the best of one’s pastors and church leaders. There are no courses on pandemics and contagions in seminary, nor are there easy answers or one-size-fits-all ...Continue reading...

  • Understanding, Engaging, and Deploying the Generations, Part 2: The Baby Boomers
    by Ed Stetzer on May 29, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    The Boomers came in the early stages of a technological and innovation revolution, which also influenced the church. Several things happened in the year 2000. We made it to January 1 without the fears of the Y2K bug being realized. The Millennial generation was filling up college campuses. And Tom Brokaw published a book called The Greatest Generation. He described the Builder generation who fought World War II, survived the Great Depression, and sacrificed greatly to build America. You could say the Builders made America great back then. They also gave us the biggest generation in U.S. history following World War II, until the Millennials came along later. The Baby Boomers were named for their population boom: from 1946-1964, some 77 million Boomers were born, making up 40 percent of the U.S. population at one point. This is the second of six articles on generations. For this one, I want to give credit to one of those Builders who influenced countless people. Elmer Towns was an early hero to me, and a friend of decades. Elmer has written over 140 books, which basically means he has no unpublished thought! Elmer Towns and the Five B's of the Boomers I remember attending the first of what we might consider a church growth seminar taught by Towns called “How to Reach the Baby Boomer.” I was a very young GenXer learning how to reach the then-young Boomers! I believe it's still the best-selling church growth seminar of all time. Towns described things that shaped the Boomer generation in terms of the five B's. I want to walk you through these to think about Boomers. First, Towns spoke of bucks. The Boom refers to its size, but this generation also experienced an incredible increase in wealth in one generation. Some Baby Boomers had parents who grew up without electricity or with dirt floors in their homes. But Boomers’ ...Continue reading...

  • Have Pentecostals Outgrown Their Name?
    on May 29, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    More than a quarter of the global church falls under new and debated label: “Spirit-empowered Christianity.” “Are you Pentecostal?” Todd Johnson, co-director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, couldn’t quite place the Chinese Christians he met at a conference in South Africa. Theologically, they seemed Pentecostal, so he asked. They responded: “Absolutely not.” “Do you speak in tongues?” Johnson said. “Of course.” “Do you believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” “Of course.” “Do you practice gifts of the Spirit, like healing and prophecy?” “Of course.” Johnson said that in the United States, those were some of the distinctive marks of Pentecostals. But maybe it was different in China. Why not use the term? “Oh, there’s an American preacher on the radio who is beamed into China,” the Chinese Christians explained. “He’s a Pentecostal, and we’re not like him.” Names can be tricky. What do you call a Pentecostal who isn’t called a Pentecostal? The question sounds like a riddle, but it’s a real challenge for scholars. They have struggled for years to settle on the best term for the broad and diverse movement of Christians who emphasize the individual believer’s relationship to the Holy Spirit and talk about being Spirit-filled, Spirit-baptized, or Spirit-empowered. Globally, the movement includes 644 million people, about 26 percent of all Christians, according to a new report from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. The study was done in collaboration with Oral Roberts University, named for one of the most famous Pentecostal evangelists in the 20th century, to be shared at the Empowered21 conference, featuring 70 ...Continue reading...

  • George Floyd Left a Gospel Legacy in Houston
    by Kate Shellnutt on May 29, 2020 at 12:00 am

    As a person of peace, “Big Floyd” opened up ministry opportunities in the Third Ward housing projects. The rest of the country knows George Floyd from several minutes of cell phone footage captured during his final hours. But in Houston’s Third Ward, they know Floyd for how he lived for decades—a mentor to a generation of young men and a “person of peace” ushering ministries into the area. Before moving to Minneapolis for a job opportunity through a Christian work program, the 46-year-old spent almost his entire life in the historically black Third Ward, where he was called “Big Floyd” and regarded as an “OG,” a de-facto community leader and elder statesmen, his ministry partners say. Floyd spoke of breaking the cycle of violence he saw among young people and used his influence to bring outside ministries to the area to do discipleship and outreach, particularly in the Cuney Homes housing project, locally known as “the Bricks.” “George Floyd was a person of peace sent from the Lord that helped the gospel go forward in a place that I never lived in,” said Patrick PT Ngwolo, pastor of Resurrection Houston, which held services at Cuney. “The platform for us to reach that neighborhood and the hundreds of people we reached through that time and up to now was built on the backs of people like Floyd,” he told Christianity Today. Ngwolo and fellow leaders met Floyd in 2010. He was a towering 6-foot-6 guest who showed up at a benefit concert they put on for the Third Ward. From the start, Big Floyd made his priorities clear. “He said, ‘I love what you’re doing. The neighborhood need it, the community need it, and if y’all about God’s business, then that’s my business,’” said Corey Paul Davis, a Christian hip-hop ...Continue reading...

  • What Do Pastors Need Today? Assessing Our Status in Order to Move Ahead
    by Andrew MacDonald on May 28, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    Pastor, you’re not doing well as you want to be… and that’s ok. This past week we hosted our Amplify Conference and my notepad is filled with ideas not only for evangelism but also how to think through conferences and gatherings during this unique season. One thing that particularly emerged across multiple breakouts and plenary sessions was a thankfulness among those who joined at the opportunity to be refreshed. This refreshment came in many forms: for some it was the space to be vulnerable in their questions, while for others it was the recognition that they were not alone in feelings of exhaustion or loneliness. We knew going into Amplify that this season had been particularly difficult for pastors and ministry leaders. In a study we conducted with Exponential on the impact of COVID-19 on the church, we found 3 out of 5 have reported a significant increase in workload with over a third adding that the pace has either remained or continues to grow. Moreover, only 22 percent reported no increase at all. This is not surprising when we consider the many hats pastors wear not only in their organization but in their community. Consider the organizational, ministry, financial, and pastoral dimensions of leading a church in this season. Like many other organizational leaders, pastors have had to move their staff online. Many leaders have found that the challenge of learning how to hold remote meetings, manage projects while disconnected, and install operating and communication policies that are healthy and productive is far more difficult than they believed. Just as challenging has been the transition of church ministries and the Sunday services to online. More than just creating engaging services, this transition for churches comes with many complications in learning how to reinvent small groups, ...Continue reading...

  • ‘You are a Compromised Coward’—Discussing How to Resume Gathered Worship
    by Ed Stetzer on May 28, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    Leading your church to decide about when to meet. I recently tweeted: “If you open your church, you don’t love your neighbor. If you don’t open your church, you’re a compromised coward. False dichotomies dividing the body of Christ. Local situations are different and responsible pastors will follow appropriate guidelines. Have some grace, folks.” For a lot of pastors, this is what they are hearing from their congregations. Not simply a wide range of opinions on when and how to begin gathering again, but an intensity that often spills over into accusations of sin. A graphic is going around in pastor text chats—several have sent it to me, but there was no source. It gets at the challenge. Now, I do not know of one pastor who signed up for a life in ministry thinking everyone would like every decision. But the uncertainty of this crisis combined with our polarized culture has led us to this moment when pastors face one of the most contested decisions in the life of their church. One that will be weighed and measured for years to come regardless of how the pandemic plays out. In the next few months, pastors will face the task of leading divided congregations to make unified decisions. I don’t know when, and that’s a local decision, but what I do know is this: as of now, it seems we are running headlong into a very divisive time. And that’s why we need good leaders. This is the reality for many: Leadership Leadership is defining reality. At no time is this more important than in a time of crisis or confusion. As churches edge toward more in-person gatherings in various states, how do we best decide and then communicate important decisions impacting our people while we seek to lead well in a fluid and divided time? I want to encourage ...Continue reading...

  • The Church Proved It Can Get Creative. Let’s Not Stop Adapting.
    by Bethany McKinney Fox and Rosalba Rios on May 28, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    How rethinking worship can improve accessibility for people with disabilities. Over the past few months, faith communities around the world have adapted to gather and worship remotely during the pandemic. While doing church online has had a learning curve, it has also removed barriers for some people with disabilities, allowing access to communities and spaces that were inaccessible before. Yet, some disabled churchgoers have remarked how frustrating it is that it took a global crisis for many churches to offer more inclusive and accessible options for their full involvement and participation. As the whole church is now reexamining what church means and how we do it, Christians have an opportunity to create communities of true access and welcome. This moment invites us to be flexible with how we structure our church meetings for the sake of including more members of Christ’s body. When I (Bethany) worked as the director of a seminary’s accessibility office, I encountered people at all points in their disability journeys. Being a self-advocate and navigating unwelcoming structures are things many people with disabilities have to learn as a basic survival skill, but they can also take time to develop. Some students expressed what tremendous effort it took just to contact the accessibility office in the first place. Some did not have a disability you would notice upon meeting them and didn’t use mobility aids, but the need to walk on uneven terrain or climb stairs made some environments inaccessible to them. Point being, there may be people in your community for whom meeting in homes (or potential other new spaces or models for gathering that church leaders may choose in the interim) will make it impossible for them to participate—because of literal steps to enter the space or another ...Continue reading...