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After years of debate, the line is blurrier than ever.

In the early years after its founding in 2004, Hands and Feet Project was climbing a steep learning curve as it sought to help vulnerable children in southern Haiti. Founded by then-members of the popular Christian band Audio Adrenaline, the Franklin, Tennessee-based group was, in most other ways, a typical upstart missions organization. It was grappling with the ins and outs of running a nonprofit, navigating government bureaucracies in two countries, raising funds to build children’s homes, and figuring out how to care for the abandoned kids who would occupy them.

Like many organizations, Hands and Feet Project brought in short-term volunteer teams. Twenty people might fly from the United States to Haiti to dig a ditch and paint some buildings on the ministry’s property, while equal numbers of Haitians stood outside the gates looking for work. Visitors stayed on the same property where sponsored children lived and could spend hours befriending and playing with the kids.

After the earthquake that leveled much of Port-au-Prince and surrounding communities in 2010, the ministry began reevaluating its approach to helping children. In particular, leadership asked what they could do to address the root causes of child abandonment, such as poverty, joblessness, and broken families. At the same time, the missions community in North America was being roiled by critiques of its poverty-fighting efforts and, in particular, of the short-term missions industry—due in large part to the success of the bestselling 2009 book When Helping Hurts. Those critiques reached the ears of Hands and Feet’s leadership.

“It took us a while to get our head up out of the sand,” said executive director Andrea McGinniss. ...

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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 ...

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The Amazon Prime series is personal for its starring actress Emma Elle Roberts.

Editor’s note: There are a few spoilers ahead for plot points in the Amazon Prime show Vindication .

I
n 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. ...

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“There is a revival in much of the Global South, and Latin America is a part of this revival.”

Ed: We are at the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month. Why does such a month matter?

Gabriel: Celebrating diversity is not a political or cultural agenda; it is part of a gospel-centered calling birthed at Pentecost and highlighted in John’s eschatological vision of a multitude of saints from every nation, tribe, and language.

Moreover, The United States is an increasingly diversifying mosaic that holds to the motto, “E Pluribus Unum”—out of many, one. Part of the DNA of this country, when it’s at its best, is to celebrate our diversity.

In a hyper-politicized and balkanized culture, the church is essential to moving the nation beyond division into a Pentecost moment where we hear and speak to each other for the sake of our Christian witness and mission.

The celebration of different heritages and cultures is a wonderful way to partner in mission, enrich our ecclesiology, deepen our fellowship beyond homogeneity, and broaden our worship beyond monolithic liturgy.

As American Christians, we are a part of a global church, and the better we are able to understand, celebrate and appreciate each other, the easier it will be to partner with the mission of God.

The Hispanic boom in the United States is undeniable; there are approximately 60 million Hispanics living in the United States. One out of every four babies born in the United States is Hispanic.

After Mexico, the United States has the 2nd largest country population of Hispanics in the world. By the way, there is no consensus on which term to use; Hispanic, Latino/a, Latinx are often used interchangeably. There are many reasons for these variations, but that would be an entirely other lengthy conversation.

The fastest growing group of evangelicals in ...

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In Oklahoma, a person’s ideas about faith more likely come from media than from the Bible.

When missiologists study North America, they usually use research conducted on a national scale to reveal cultural trends that shape ministry strategy locally. But recently, research was conducted in the heartland state of Oklahoma that is revealing insights that might shed light on what the unchurched think in other places as well.

A survey of 1,000 Oklahomans was conducted online using a curated scientific sample of the state’s estimated 2.3 million unchurched. Respondents were asked a wide variety of questions, including queries about their religious participation, esoteric and spiritual beliefs, worldview paradigms, and demographics.

A clear picture of the state’s unchurched emerged and was developed into a book, Hidden Harvest: Discovering Oklahoma’s Unchurched. The book is free and available to anyone online as an e-book download. Here are a few key findings.

A Snapshot of Religious Participation in Oklahoma

When most people think of Oklahoma, they might be tempted to think that state has been reached, or is over-churched. With what seems like a church on every corner, surely almost everyone there is a believer. But research reveals a different reality.

Statewide totals from the survey clarifies the spiritual orientation of the state, revealing that only 40 percent of Oklahomans have regular involvement with church, 31 percent were formerly involved with church, 23 percent are unaffiliated with any religion, and approximately 6 percent of the state’s unchurched are inactive members of a religious group other than Christianity.

The survey segmented the responses and identified two main groups of unchurched: the Nones and the Dechurched. The two groups are defined by the research:

The Dechurched: People ...

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The current debate over what happened to Bathsheba forces us to think deeper about motives and power.

As a kid growing up in the church, I certainly heard a lot about Jesus. But just short of the Savior, I heard countless stories about King David: stories of bravery, courage, power, trust, risk, battle, war, triumph, and conquest.

Christians have always recognized David’s brokenness to an extent, particularly his pursuit of Bathsheba, which has typically been considered (and decried as) adultery. Lately, there has been quite the debate over what exactly happened between David and Bathsheba, and whether it should be characterized as rape.

This is not a new conversation, which is always important to remember in our age of hot takes. Denny Burk, Boyce College professor and president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, points to a journal article by Alexander Abasili that addressed this question in detail in 2011, years before the scrutiny of the #MeToo movement.

Not all interest in this issue is a result of current cultural pressure or capitulation; there is a legitimate, significant question over how we understand David in this story.

I agree with Abasili’s analysis that the story doesn’t include the details that seem to be specific to instances of a Hebrew understanding of rape—namely, the use of direct physical force and the victim crying out in anguish for help. And yet, the story of David and Bathsheba appears to many modern readers, including me, to meet contemporary definitions of rape.

So how should we think of it? Did David indeed rape Bathsheba? And why does it matter that we, as Christians, get this right today?

Jesus Expands the Law

While Abasili establishes that the David and Bathsheba story does not meet the criteria of rape detailed in biblical law, Old Testament professor David ...

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God used Bill Tinsley's book to transform discouragement into lifelong passion.

To meet your hero can be an utterly profound thing. To spend precious moments with a life-altering personality that you had followed only from a distance has a curious way of sifting one’s thoughts. To meet the very person whose writings have made such an indelible imprint on your own life’s trajectory must be one of life’s greatest privileges.

And I had that joy.

Several years ago, I was speaking at a large gathering of church planting leaders where I was sharing something of the story of how we had seen God do amazing things in our church planting work in the Greater Toronto area.

During one of the meal breaks, I was loading my plate at the buffet, and across from me, below the “sneeze guard,” I could see a name tag which read, “Bill Tinsley.” Losing all interest in my immediate task, I cautiously asked, “Excuse me sir, are you the Dr. William Tinsley who wrote the book, Upon This Rock?

He said, “Well, yes I am. Please call me Bill.”

I pressed further. “Would you have a few minutes to chat?” Bill gestured to the tables, “Why don’t we eat together?”

And so we did. With a sense of holy anticipation, I began to relate to Dr. Tinsley where I was spiritually and emotionally before reading his book—and how God used it to change everything about my present, and the trajectory of my future. If there was one man, one book, that God used more any other, it was the man across the table from me.

Let me explain.

As I write this, I am traveling to a global church planting conference in Thessaloniki, Greece. Church planting leaders from 95 countries around the world will be gathering in the very city where Paul requested prayer for the “gospel ...

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Christianity has been a multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic movement since its inception.

I met Senganglu Thaimei (Sengmei to her friends) in New Delhi, India. Born to the Rongmei tribe in the extreme northeast of India, she teaches English literature at Delhi University and writes stories reimaging the tales of her tribe through the eyes of marginalized women. Sengmei is keen to preserve tribal culture, and preservation is necessary. The Naga tribes were reached by Western missionaries in the 19th century. Christianization brought westernization. Today, over 80 percent of the Rongmei are Christian, and tribal traditions are declining.

For many, this would be one evidence among many that Christianity is a white, Western religion forcibly exported to other cultures and leaving a trail of cultural destruction in its wake. But the rest of Sengmei’s story complicates the picture. Raised in a nonreligious home, she started following Jesus as a teenager through the witness of a Rongmei friend. Today, she is a passionate Christian and her husband (from a kindred tribe) pastors a multiethnic church.

What’s more, as we discussed the history of her tribe, Sengmei warned me not to give Western missionaries too much credit. Westerners saw only a handful of Naga converts, who then effectively evangelized their tribes. And while Sengmei deplores the ways Western culture was illegitimately packaged with Christianity, she is equally clear about the positive effects of Christianization, especially for tribal women.

I visited India to meet with 12 Christian academics. Ten came from Naga tribes. Between them, they spoke seven indigenous languages. But they spoke with one voice when it came to Christianity. Cultural anthropologist and Naga tribe member Kanato Chophi stated it most starkly: “We must abandon this absurd ...

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How should Christians engage with the “Ahabs” and the “Rehoboams” of today?

Negotiating with countries on issues such as persecution and violation of human and religious rights is complicated. We are constrained or motivated by bias, which often means we end up supporting one political regime while rejecting what another is doing, when in reality, both may appear similar. Inadvertently, we choose one side in one situation, even though it is opposite to how we may have chosen formerly. We end up holding our nose, pretending there is no discrepancy.

Wissam al-Saliby, a liaison officer with the WEA in our Geneva Office of Global Advocacy, explains how this works in an article published on Ethics Daily:

A Swiss journalist recently asked me, during an interview, “Should Christian organizations be neutral towards governments?” when the killing of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was brought up. The implications of neutrality were that business can continue as usual as a form of Christian witness. The alternative could be the breaking down of relationships between Christians and those rulers. My response was something like this: “Is God neutral? Certainly not. As Evangelicals we want to imitate God as revealed in the person of Jesus. God is on the side of the widows, the orphans, the strangers, and the poor. We cannot remain neutral if we want to be in harmony with the heart of God.”In my work with the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) in Geneva, we interact with diplomats from all sorts of countries, including countries under strong scrutiny for their human rights record. Globally, our WEA leaders meet with ministers, presidents and other senior politicians from all over the world. Evangelical and Christian leaders more broadly regularly meet with leaders, ambassadors, foreign ...

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We've come a long way from a plea for marriage equality.

Watching the Equality Town Hall on CNN yesterday was both instructive and disconcerting.

It was instructive because I really did want to see where we were as a nation—and how divided we might be on questions related to religious liberty, the LGBTQ+ community, and the need for us to all live together in one democracy.

I was struck by the fact the debate was regularly interrupted by protestors. What we all need to acknowledge is that many people who identify as LGBTQ+ have felt marginalized and discriminated against, and have seen violence as a part of their reality.

That should leave us all with a deeper sense of compassion and concern. People spoke of their lives being at stake; as Christians, we should be the first ones to hear and honor their anthem of desiring safety and protection.

Furthermore, I left surprised at the level of change that is taking place in the Democratic Party— this is not President Obama’s party anymore. Barack Obama actually broke his campaign promise and allowed faith based partners to, well, keep their faith central throughout their ministries, even when partnering with the government. His (limited) accomodations to people of faith simply would be far from the converstaions last night.

We’ve come a long way in a short time.

And, because of that, I left with religious liberty concerns.

Religious Liberty

I’m concerned with the clear and complete disregard around religious liberty. This term was used a few times, often with the phrase “so called” tacked on. Candidates would say they affirm religious liberty, but then describe exactly how they did not.

Elizabeth Warren was asked a revealing question: How would she respond if an "old fashioned" voter told her ...

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Join us December 6th as we face the hard truths and challenges of pastoral ministry.

Less than two years ago I wrote an article on The Problem of Suicide. In it, I stated:

Each year, 44,193 Americans die by suicide which, on average, amounts to 121 suicides per day. For many of us, these figures don’t feel too far off. We can picture the faces and remember the names of those in our own communities who’ve taken their own lives.

As a young pastor, I too came face to face with the harsh realities of suicide and the pain brought on by watching those I loved experience such deep suffering. Particularly, I remember a man named Jim in our congregation who was struggling with mental illness. For a while, he fought the good fight and did what he could to spend time in prayer and read Psalms to find comfort. Eventually, however, filled with despair, he took his own life.

I was devastated. At the time, I was unprepared, idealistic, and largely unsure how to handle the events that had just transpired in the church community I was shepherding. Unfortunately, I think many churches today fit that same description. They are trying to figure out how to help people struggling with mental illnesses and care for loved ones in the aftermath of loss but don’t really know quite what to do.

Before and since that time I have written often on mental illness among church leaders in particular, most recently upon the passing of Jarrid Wilson. Jarrid and I were friends. More and more we are hearing about church leaders struggling—in their leadership, in their personal lives, in their understanding of themselves and our world.

We are struggling emotionally, spiritually, and physically. This is in no small part due to growing awareness that the demands on pastors and church leaders today are outpacing the self care ...

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