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  • My Husband Is Deconstructing His Faith. How Do I Journey with Him?
    by Kimberly Penrod Pelletier on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    This Valentine’s Day, some of us are called to love unbelieving wives and husbands. In the fall of 2017, not long after we’d celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, my husband and I sat down for an evening chat after getting the kids to bed. The particulars of the conversation are hazy now, but this was clear: After 30 years of being a Christian and spending almost half of that in ministry, my husband was leaving the faith. The faith that formed our marriage vows; the faith our children were baptized in; the faith we held when we buried a stillborn son; the faith our community was built around; the faith that my vocation is centered around as a spiritual director, writer, and speaker—he was leaving that faith. I wanted initially to respect this news as his journey (even though it was mine, too), so I didn’t tell anyone. I also tried to keep the experience safe in my head so that I could think my way to answers in the newfound madness. My body, however, told a less cerebral story. I was driving home after a long day of errands when the full impact hit me: My eyes blurred with tears, and short breathes rolled through my chest. Two weeks had passed since my husband had dropped the “I don’t really believe there’s a God anymore” bomb. It took that long before I could even begin to feel the disorienting weight of his words and the betrayal, loss, and grief that came with them. This was clearly more than I could handle alone. As I shared the news with some close friends and pastors, I felt plagued with questions: How do I tell the kids? What does this mean for their spiritual formation? How do we connect? How do I like him again? How did he get here? Why didn’t he tell me earlier? Will we still go to church together? Will we ever feel normal again? In Letters to a ...Continue reading... […]

  • Unleashing the Gift of Evangelism in 2020
    by Desmond Henry on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    What is central to Jesus’ mission for us has become secondary to many Christians. Evangelism. Evangelist. Evangelize. Who knew that a word with an etymology relating to good news could become such bad news in our world? We all know that evangelism has fallen on hard times. What is central to Jesus’ mission for us has become secondary to many Christians. Not only does this one word evoke strong emotion (on either side), but it has become increasingly polarizing among evangelicals. There are few words that consistently cause such varied reactions globally. Some love it and engage in healthy evangelism, some are neutral and prefer to remain unengaged. Yet, others dislike what it entails and some are even unsure about its relevance. One thing is for sure: evangelism is not going anywhere, and more than ever, we need to reengage in conversation and dialogue around evangelism. Perhaps more than this, we need to embrace and unleash the power and gift of evangelism in our post-everything world. More than ever, Christians need to reaffirm their commitment to evangelism as a priority in their faith. Evangelism is...back? We seem to vacillate in popular opinion regarding the role and importance of evangelism in our faith. There are times when the evangelist is welcomed and there are times when evangelism becomes anathema to Christians—which seems ironic, I know. Irrespective of our feelings regarding the word itself, sharing one’s faith is an important aspect of the Christian faith. Evangelism is not a side activity for a busy church. Evangelism is not an optional extra. Evangelism is biblical. Evangelism is natural. Evangelism is necessary for Christ-centred, Spirit-filled, and Bible-believing Christians. John Stott states, “We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, ...Continue reading... […]

  • Revitalization, Part Three
    by Ed Stetzer on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Leadership in Church Revitalization In Parts One and Two, I talked about renewal movements that can help with revitalization and the importance of keeping an evangelistic focus. While these are true, here I articulate what cannot be ignored in church revitalization. Years ago, one of our research projects involved a study of churches that were successful in revitalization. Mike Dodson and I wrote a book called Comeback Churches to describe what we learned. As we wrote the book, I didn't want to focus on leadership. I wanted to see all the various factors involved in revitalization. But facts are our friends, and I couldn’t deny what the research revealed: successful revitalization is overwhelmingly about leadership. The study showed you simply can't overestimate the amount of influence the pastor and the pastoral leadership team have. These are the people who lead and are critical to the revitalization process if it is to be successful. The role of the pastor in particular is both evident and overwhelming. We studied over 300 churches from over a dozen denominations. We created a formula: you had to be declining for at least five years followed by growth between two to five years through church revitalization. We didn’t want churches who had only turned around for one year. One year could be an anomaly: they could have just had an unusually good year, or a church down the road could have split with some of their members coming to that church. Five years of decline followed by two to five years of growth was our standard. Here is what we found: about 60 percent of the time that growth came when a new pastor showed up and the old pastor left. Imagine writing that book. "Hey, here's your book on church revitalization. We found the key: quit ...Continue reading... […]

  • Even for Christians, Trump Has Become a Dating Deal-Breaker
    by Megan Fowler on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    More American couples set out to be “equally yoked” on political matters too. True love waits … for a political match? Half or more of white evangelicals say it would be impossible or very difficult to date someone with another view on abortion, religious freedom, or gun rights—their top dating deal-breakers, according to a new survey from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). The poll also found that most Americans—and most Christians across traditions—would be unwilling to date someone who had a different stance than them on President Donald Trump. For decades, married couples have become increasingly united on political issues, and dating has taken a particularly partisan turn under the current administration. For believers, the instinct to make political party a prerequisite for a relationship is complicated. “If a person prioritizes political leanings as much as faith, that’s not biblical,” said Greg Smalley, a Christian counselor and vice president of marriage at Focus on the Family. “God doesn’t prioritize politics. He prioritizes that we are equally yoked.” Smalley advised Christian daters to determine what issues are the most important to them—starting with their basis in Scripture—and look where there might be room for compromise, realizing that the goal is not for couples to march in lockstep on every issue. Religious freedom and abortion are the top issues for self-identified white evangelicals, with more than 6 in 10 saying it would be difficult to impossible to date someone who disagreed on either issue in the AEI’s American Perspectives Survey, conducted last month. Among other traditions, 44 percent of black Protestants and other Christians agreed that it would be difficult to impossible to date someone with ...Continue reading... […]

  • Revitalization, Part Two
    by Ed Stetzer on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    When Renewal Isn’t Enough In Part One, I talked about the types of renewal movements that can help revitalization. They can help, but they don’t always actually help. There’s an ingredient that has to be part of a renewal movement for it to move a church forward in revitalization: the renewal must lead to a renewed focus on reaching people. For years, Rick Warren said, "It's not about church growth, it's about church health." He’s right. But understand what he meant. In his view of church health, a healthy church reaches new, and non-Christian, people. If you get a healthy church, it will grow, he argued, because healthy things grow. A healthy church, like a healthy fruit tree, will produce fruit like it. A healthy church is made up of Christians, and the fruit of a local church is more Christians. What is church health? Basically, you're revitalizing your leadership structure, you're renewing spiritual formation, and a missional focus would be in that conversation. But you can’t leave out the fact that healthy churches are evangelistic churches. However, in regards to church revitalization, sometimes evangelism gets omitted from the discussion. We all want to see renewal come to our churches. But not all renewal leads to reaching out. Remember, for a church to change, it takes two things: 1) wanting to change (the easy part) and 2) being willing to pay the price to change (not so easy). It is obvious that a lot of church revitalization planning is built around the general idea of making the church better. We have to ask the question: If it doesn't reach people, is it actually better? Evangelism and Renewal We have to be aware that sometimes renewal can happen that neglects evangelism. There is a kind ...Continue reading... […]

  • Willow Creek and Harvest Struggle to Move On
    by Abby Perry on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    The departures of Bill Hybels and James MacDonald leave churches waiting for new leadership and hoping to rebuild trust. It’s been 22 months since Bill Hybels resigned from Willow Creek Community Church, and the Chicago-area megachurch—one of the biggest in the country—is still without a senior pastor. The multisite congregation, once celebrated as a model and training ground for Christian leaders, has struggled to transition to steady leadership in the aftermath—leaving the well-being of its eight locations and thousands of congregants at stake as attendance and tithes dip. In the fallout of Hybels’s departure over sexual misconduct allegations, the esteemed megachurch lost other top leaders: The church’s elders, as well as Steve Carter and Heather Larson, who were slated to be Hybels’s heirs, resigned the same year. Steve Gillen, who has served as interim senior pastor since then, recently announced his plans to step down next month. And there’s no successor in sight. The new elders said in late January that after narrowing a months-long search down to two senior pastor candidates, they decided to release both and start over. (The announcement came with another blow as elders confirmed claims of inappropriate behavior by Hybels’s mentor, Gilbert Bilezikian, and the church allowed “Dr. B” to continue serving and teaching despite knowing the reports against him.) The elder board has passed its goal of naming a senior pastor by the end of 2019 but hasn’t announced a public timeline for the continued search, only stating that “filling this pastoral role is the top priority.” The current tumult at Willow Creek and at its greater Chicago neighbor, Harvest Bible Chapel, showcase how long lasting the effects of a fallen pastor can be. “Dear Bill Hybels,” tweeted ...Continue reading... […]

  • Church Revitalization, Part One
    by Ed Stetzer on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Renewal Movements and Church Revitalization One doesn’t have to be a missiologist to recognize the need for many churches to experience revitalization. One of the more powerful ways to experience church revitalization is through a renewal movement. Study the great awakenings and you will see stories of revitalization birthed in the midst of revival. Jonathan Edwards’ church at Northampton is a well-known example, but there are thousands of stories from history of churches being revitalized as a part of these larger movements. But we don’t have to have a great awakening to see churches revitalize, either! Here are some types of renewal movements that can help bring revitalization today. First, there is a missio-renewal, with churches who are rediscovering the mission of God. They realize John 20:21 applies to them, "As the father has sent me, even so send I you." This means a renewal of the place and role of mission, as in the missional church. Many churches are experiencing a missional renewal. They might not use that word, but they're discovering a sense that we're all called on mission. We see greater engagement in community. We see a greater number of people serving others. We have to be careful, however, because we can see a passion for community engagement and yet not see men and women come to faith in Christ and be changed by the power of the gospel. More about that in Part Two. Second, we can also talk about a leadership renewal. Churches and leaders can get excited about the subject of leadership and that's a good thing. I'm a professor of leadership among my roles at Wheaton; I love teaching leadership and see the lights go on. Kotter's eight-step change management process is something I find to be helpful for church ...Continue reading... […]

  • Celibate Priests: What You Need to Know
    by CT Editors on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    After the Amazonian Synod, the Catholic stance on clerical celibacy remains unchanged. Here's how CT has covered this issue over the years. One of the most significant and contentious issues under discussion during the Catholic Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region, held in October 2019, was the question of whether to allow married men in that region to become priests. The reason for this consideration is the significant shortage of priests among indigenous people groups in the Amazon region. Due to the shortage, many indigenous Catholics in that region are unable to regularly celebrate the Mass and receive other forms of pastoral care. After months of reflection, Pope Francis responded to the synod in Querida Amazonía without directly addressing the issue of allowing married men to become priests, thus leaving the current expectation of clerical celibacy unchanged. What Scripture Says The Bible affirms the value of celibacy for both lay Christians and church leaders, most notably in 1 Corinthians 7. In this passage, Paul speaks of his own unmarried state (vv. 7–8) and commends celibacy as a way to focus on pleasing the Lord (vv. 32–35). Paul emphasizes the liberty unmarried Christians have in contrast to the obligations married Christians have to their families. Paul’s reference to avoiding entanglement in “civilian affairs” in 2 Timothy 2:4 is also thought to refer, at least in part, to singleness and celibacy. It is important to note that, alongside its discussion of celibacy, 1 Corinthians 7 also clearly affirms Christian marriage. Further, multiple passages of Scripture speak directly about married church leaders, including specific instructions about married bishops or overseers (1 Tim. 3:2), elders (Titus 1:6), and deacons (1 Tim. 3:12). Celibacy in Church History Priestly celibacy was discussed and debated by ...Continue reading... […]

  • Christian College Grads Care More About Helping, Less About Money
    by Daniel Silliman on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    Study suggests religious schools should emphasize distinctives. Christian college graduates are different from their peers at non-religious schools. When they think about work and finding a job, they value making a difference more and making money less. According to a new study from the Christian think tank Cardus, two-thirds of graduates from private religious colleges and universities say it is important to them to find a job that “directly helps others”—10 percentage points higher than graduates from public schools or private nonreligious schools. About 70 percent of Christian school alumni said it was important to them to have a job that pays well, but that was 6 percentage points lower than other college graduates. Graduates from religious schools also have a strong sense of moral obligation, according to the study. About 85 percent said it was important to “take action against wrongs and injustice in life.” Almost 80 percent said they should “help people in other countries in poverty or victims of injustice.” This is slightly higher rate than reported by other graduates: About 65 percent of public school alumni and about 73 percent of private non-religious grads feel obligated to oppose foreign poverty and injustice. Graduates from religious schools are also a little more likely than their peers to feel a moral commitment to caring for the environment. More than 90 percent said that was very important to them. Cardus, a nonpartisan Canadian-based organization that tries to “translate the richness of the Christian faith tradition into the public square for the common good,” has long been committed to demonstrating the value of Christian schools. This study, “What Do They Deliver?,” was co-authored by Albert Cheng, a professor ...Continue reading... […]

  • Google, Tyson, and Target Rank as Top Corporations for Religious Inclusion
    by Megan Fowler on January 1, 1970 at 12:00 am

    List highlights the minority of Fortune 100 companies that include faith in diversity initiatives. Karen Diefendorf starts her days at Tyson Foods by checking in with the human resources and nursing staff at the Springdale, Arkansas, facility. After getting any personnel updates and taking care of emails, she puts on personal protective equipment and hardhat affixed with her title: CHAPLAIN. Diefendorf, who comes out of the independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ movement, wore the chaplain badge during her 24-year career in the Army before she began her work at Tyson, where she now does daily rounds to meet with employees. It’s so noisy on the production floor that she relies on a thumbs up, thumbs down system to see who might need counsel, prayer, or guidance. “If I get a thumb sideways, thumbs down, for sure I’m going to meet them in the break room and see what that’s about,” said Diefendorf, a graduate of Lincoln Christian College and Lincoln Christian Seminary. “If I need more than the 15-minute break or have multiple people I need to see, any chaplain is free to go to that person’s supervisor and work a time to get them off the line.” Diefendorf leads a team of 100 chaplains—mostly Christian—who provide spiritual support to 122,000 Tyson employees at nearly 400 locations. Tyson’s chaplain program is unique among big companies, and it earned the food processing giant the No. 2 spot on the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation (RFBF)’s religious inclusion rankings, released last month. HR experts consider chaplaincy a way for companies to see and support their employees as “whole people,” to signal that they don’t have to pretend to leave their hurt at home when they come to work. Done right, these programs—and ...Continue reading... […]