Politics remain divisive, but churches seek unity in prayer.
British evangelicals are divided over Brexit. The January 31 deadline for the nation’s departure from the European Union is fast approaching, and Thursday’s elections gave the Conservative Party a historic victory and “a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done,” according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. As evangelicals absorb the news, they are grappling with the political tumult, the ongoing uncertainty, and the question of what a Christian should do in these difficult times.
The Evangelical Alliance of the United Kingdom (EAUK) has been urging everyone to pray, posting a prayer to social media every Thursday “to ask God for His peace, grace and guidance.” It’s an effort at unity amid division. The EAUK has remained “studiously impartial” on Brexit, “to reflect the diversity of political opinions” among evangelicals, according to spokesman Danny Webster.
If there’s a chance to come together, Webster believes, it’s in prayer. “We can pray for wisdom for our leaders,” Webster told CT, “whether we agree with them or not.”
Britain itself has been deeply divided over the plans to leave the European Union. In 2016, 52 percent of the population voted for leave. Debates about how to do that, exactly, have roiled UK politics ever since, as two successive prime ministers struggled to negotiate a divorce with the EU that can also get approved by Parliament.
A slight majority of evangelicals voted remain. According to a 2016 study immediately before the vote, 51 percent supported staying in the EU, 27 percent wanted Brexit, and 22 percent were undecided. In the last three years, British evangelicals across the spectrum have expressed ...
More than anything else, and perhaps now more than ever, a seeking world needs to see the shibboleth of Jesus by the people who claim to represent his name.
In various ways, I’m often asked, “What is the most significant missiological issue hamstringing the church in North America today?”
My response is usually instinctive and immediate. It is the confusion caused by a quasi-Christian evangelical subculture sporting the team colors but seemingly playing for both sides. It is a tepid spiritual murkiness (Rev. 3:16) that clouds our witness emanating from a divided allegiance between the Kingdom of God and sacred cultural preferences.
It’s the spiritual disorientation stemming from a pathetic and powerless Jesus created in our own image and hoisted high to boldly declare tribal affiliations (2 Tim. 3:5).
It is somewhat bewildering to a lost world that the Jesus we claim to follow seems to be leading us to very shadowy places. And the confusion seems to be increasing exponentially.
Theological orthodoxy maintains that light and darkness come from opposite spiritual sources. The dominion of darkness and the Kingdom of God, although not equals, each demand exclusive loyalty, and fidelity produces very distinctive fruit.
Truth comes from God. Lies come from Satan. Fruit is derived from its essence. That’s easy.
But everything within evangelicalism isn’t so cut and dry. Subtle areas of murkiness of the heart require greater skills of discernment, but are no less devastating to our witness.
We now are recognized as a formidable and wealthy subculture with considerable cultural influence. Religious salesmen, politicians, and top-tier entertainers are now tripping over themselves to quote (or misquote) a Bible verse—knowing that this sacred act could endear them to the coveted evangelical machine.
From the outside, it would appear to be a good time to ...
Vietnam deserves a priority place on our prayer list as we lift our voices as spiritual advocates for the world.
Regardless of one’s politics, it is impossible not to be overwhelmed by the stories, artifacts, and pictures of the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. The horror of conflict they depict is tangible.
The veteran missionary couple who took me there could not complete the tour and said they would not come again. In picture after picture one can almost hear the pounding war machines leaving behind remnants of human destruction.
Against that backdrop, I joined with church leaders celebrating the amazing accomplishment of printing a million Bibles since 1994, when the communist government began permitting it. The pride of church leaders in raising up a national church countermands their long suffering at the hands of foreign influence.
The Vietnamese, a highly resilient and entrepreneurial people, are imbued with a spirit and energy that pushes them up from the ravages of war and destruction, turning their hope of life into energetic ideas and initiatives in a country still under authoritarian communism.
I recently met pastor Nhuong Pham who emerged from the most unlikely places. He’s a window, a way to see the Spirit at work. Let me tell you his story.
Nhuong’s home had no connection to Christian faith. Vietnamese worship their ancestors under the combined influence of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Their culture has no intrinsic connection to the monotheistic faith of Christianity.
Moreover, Nhuong’s world was communism, which was taught in their schools, everywhere framing life and the marketplace.
Added to that, in their not too distant past, they endured two brutal wars of national liberation against the French and Americans – two nations which most Vietnamese assumed were Christian. Any ...
In addition to historic recognition by US lawmakers, this week a new patriarch was finally elected in Istanbul, Turkey.
Following years of frustration, Armenian Christians worldwide received a double blessing this week.
For the first time in its history, the US Senate recognized the Armenian Genocide. And after 11 years of practical vacancy, the Armenian community in Istanbul, Turkey, elected a new patriarch.
“It is very emotional for the Armenian world, and anyone who wants to see the truth incarnated,” Paul Haidostian, president of evangelical Haigazian University in Beirut, Lebanon—the only Armenian university in the diaspora—told CT concerning the resolution.
“But it is very obvious this was the opportune moment to be bipartisan.”
Led by Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, the unanimous passage yesterday drove his co-sponsor Sen. Robert Menendez to tears.
“I’m thankful that this resolution has passed at a time in which there are still survivors of the genocide,” said the Democrat from New Jersey, pausing for 20 seconds before being able to continue. “[They] will be able to see that the Senate acknowledges what they went through.”
About 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1923, as the defeated Ottoman Empire transitioned into the modern Republic of Turkey. Less than half a million survived.
The resolution also mentions the Greek, Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac, Aramean, Maronite, and other Christian victims who lived in Asia Minor and other Ottoman provinces at the time.
Turkey concedes that many Armenians died in the fighting and aftermath of World War II, though it believes the numbers are inflated. It calls for a joint academic commission of Turkish and Armenian scholars. But it rejects the term “genocide.”
The Senate’s Resolution 150 is a duplicate ...
Mix up your holiday listening with releases from Phil Wickham, Audrey Assad, and others.
If your Christmas playlist needs another voice—someone besides Mariah Carey to get you in the spirit of the season—there are plenty of varieties of carols, hymns, and festive tunes to choose from.
Even the newest Christian Christmas albums offer a shiny array, from jazzed-up classics and sing-along worship songs to haunting seasonal reflections.
Here are six recent releases that have earned their place among our beloved favorites. (And check out this Spotify playlist to hear all the recommendations from the picks below.)
Fragile by Nichole Nordeman
This is not an album that candy-coats the holidays. Nichole Nordeman’s title track “Fragile” is an intelligently woven medley that wistfully draws the favorite carol “What Child Is This?” into conversation with Sting’s “Fragile.” The result is a remarkably fresh version of this age-old tune and particularly relevant to contemporary life. The entire 41 minutes of production is silky smooth, and its movement in mood is sublime. Lyrics dive deep into the struggle with reconciliation and loss: “So I will swallow hard to say this / It might be a little rough / If the world wants peace for Christmas / Might it not begin with us?” But it still finds room for joy as well as plenty of beloved carols in Nordeman’s iconic style, including “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Cue up this album as your soundtrack for drinking cocoa on Christmas Eve and catching up with family while candles flicker in the background. Or, even better, give it to a neighbor to start a conversation about faith, doubt, and life.
Christmas by Phil Wickham
Phil Wickham’s guitar-led Christmas ...
Before we look at strategy or plans, let’s first look to Jesus and to what he wants to do in and through us. After all, he led us into ministry, and he can give us the strength and guidance to help us continue, and finish well, no matter how long the journey ahead.
In the first article we dealt with four lies pastors can easily believe. Here are four more that can deceive pastors if we aren’t careful.
5. I just need to love God better!
This one is so easy because, like so many lies, it has an element of truth to it. We do want to love God with our heart, soul, and strength. But we tend to get this wrong because of our innate tendency toward self-justification and self-righteousness.
Whenever we put ourselves or our performance at the center, things go sideways in a hurry. It’s not about you loving God. It’s about God loving you. We love the One who first loved us.
This is why grace is so amazing: God loved us when we were unlovely. To paraphrase Jonathan Edwards, the only thing you brought to salvation was your sin. And yet God loved you so much Jesus died for you. You are his child; he’s not mad at you.
Try as you might, even if you did everything right, you would still be an imperfect person trying to love God better. Take some time to just rest in the knowledge that God loves you.
Sometimes pastors do a better job of telling others the truth about who they are in Christ than believing the same truth they teach others also applies to them. Understanding our identity in Christ may be the most important issue for the church in our changing times today.
Who you are in Christ defines you, not what you have or haven’t accomplished, or how well you love. Drew Hyun reminded us at the Summit, “What you do matters, but who you are matters more.”
6. God is disappointed in me for not doing _______ .
We have a tendency to think of God like we do people. We have anthropomorphized him such that our default mindset is of a towering figure shaking his finger at all ...
Psychology suggests why we shouldn't look down on the faith of the young.
A version of this article was first published in the Advent Series from Science in the Church. To sign up for content like this, please visit the website.
“A 14-year-old girl is pregnant. What should she, what should one, consider and do?”
This question was posed by a premier wisdom researcher a couple thousand years after Mary and Joseph may have faced a similar quandary. We don’t actually know Mary’s age when she became pregnant with Jesus because the Gospel accounts don’t tell us, but many scholars suggest she was a teenager, and perhaps in the first half of her teenage years.
If this question seems hard to answer now, it was difficult then, too. Artists may put a halo over the baby Jesus to represent his divinity, but he also was birthed into the gritty human reality of a confusing and conflictual world brimming with hard questions. To be fully human is to live amidst the difficulties of embodied life, where wisdom is required of us every day.
Wisdom for the Christian Life
Several years ago, one of my doctoral students with prior theological training announced that he wanted to do his dissertation on wisdom. I replied, “Paul, that’s a great idea, but psychologists don’t really study wisdom.” He went to the library and proved me wrong. It turns out there is a vibrant science of wisdom. In the last part of the 20th century, much of it occurred at the University of Berlin, where researcher Paul Baltes and his colleagues developed a way to measure wisdom by asking people to respond to challenging questions, such as the one about a 14-year-old pregnant girl. That research continues today at places like the Center for Practical Wisdom at the University of Chicago.
Pastors are called on constantly to help people fix their lives, because pastors minister to people who are broken. But pastors are broken people, too.
Pastoring is difficult. Ask any pastor how the day is going and about 360 days of the year you’ll hear at least one challenge that day—relational, spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental. Roughly five days a year we feel like we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Those are precious days when so many are filled with defeat, discomfort, or discouragement.
Pastors are called on constantly to help people fix their lives, because pastors minister to people who are broken. But pastors are broken people, too. It’s easy to want to come up with the quick fix, the perfect remedy. I just need a plan! we muse to ourselves. I just need a strategy, or, I wish I could stay committed to the strategy I have, we think. Or, I need more sleep. I need more sabbath-ing.
I want to give eight lies pastors believe—those which can pull us off the beaten path traveled by godly leaders in generations past. Part One looks at the first four.
1. I just need more plans and strategies, and I will be a better leader.
Pastors tend to be doers, and in our doing we can forget that who we are in Christ matters far more than what we do for Christ. Derwin Gray summed up the recent G2 Summit’s focus succinctly: “The greatest work God wants to see done is not ministry THROUGH you, but ministry IN you.”
When pastors give and minister to the point of mental or emotional exhaustion we can begin to believe the lie that the answer to every challenge is a new plan or strategy: just give me the one strategy, the “magic bullet” I can use to lead my church to do ______, and I am set. There is no magic bullet. We don’t need a magic bullet. We need Jesus.
The only way to lead better is by letting God love you better. ...
An interview with Phil Chorlian of the Vineyard Churches.
Ed: Why did you decide to organize a group of pastors to work through Breaking the 200 Barrier in their churches?
Phil: The Vineyard has about 600 churches in the U.S. and 75 percent of them are under 200. One of the things that we’ve noticed through the years is that Breaking the 200 Barrier releases a lot of fruit.
Conversions go up, baptisms increase, first time guests, stewardship, leadership, small groups, all of the key indicators of a thriving, missional church kick into overdrive once a church breaks the 200 barrier.
So we thought, “What if we sowed into churches that were between 100-200 attenders and see if we could help some of them break through this barrier?” We did a launch meeting in Phoenix where we invited all the Vineyard churches that were between 100-200 to this 2-day event.
The conference was free, but they had to pay for travel and lodging. Given how pricey that can be, I was very pleased by the response. Some senior pastors came alone, but many came with some key leaders or even a team.
We had about 170 pastors and leaders from about 70 different churches travel to Phoenix. I think there’s something that happens when you get people together in a room who are after the same thing.
Plus, since we’re the Vineyard, we like to have the opportunity to engage in prayer ministry with folks so it’s not just about receiving more information, but hopefully about having something spiritually imparted.
We gave people options concerning the level of engagement they could choose. If they just wanted to come to a “Breaking the 200 Barrier” 2-day conference and have that be the end of it, they could just attend. For those who wanted more, they could purchase your “Breaking ...
Or is it faith? Or some complex combination of both?
The evangelist Billy Sunday wasn’t afraid to try something new. He would jump on top of a pulpit if he thought it would get attention. He would sell shares of a revival tabernacle, complete with “stock certificates” guaranteeing the bearer a portion of the proceeds, if he thought it would bring in enough money to fund the business of preaching the gospel.
He was a man who believed in innovation. But this was surprising even for him.
In 1934, Sunday was deciding who would publish his next book. He had two publishers, William Eerdmans and Pat Zondervan, come meet him at the same time. Each man was surprised to find the other in the meeting. Then Sunday asked them both to pray out loud. In a prayer competition. Which he would judge. The two men did pray, Sunday judged that Zondervan’s extemporaneous prayer was best, and he awarded the 25-year-old’s company with the contract for Billy Sunday Speaks!
The story is kind of a parable of American evangelicalism. As a parable, it raises a question: Which of these men acted out of faith and which from commercial interest?
Daniel Vaca, an American religious historian at Brown University, offers a clear answer in his new book, Evangelicals Incorporated: Books and the Business of Religion in America. He says all three. All three were acting out of faith. All three were acting out of commercial interest. In fact, when looking at the history of contemporary American evangelicalism, it doesn’t make sense to distinguish between the commercial and the religious.
“Evangelicalism exemplifies what I describe as ‘commercial religion,’” Vaca writes. “Religion that takes shape through the ideas, activities, and strategies that typify commercial ...
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