Saturday, 31 December 2016
Book recommendations from Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and Desiring God
Previously on The Exchange
Stand and Share: My Interview with Outreach Magazine
The Decline of Christian Evangelism … and What We Can Do About It | Ed Stetzer
Breaking the 200 Barrier: Monmouth Christian Church in Monmouth, Oregon
Church planted by pioneers seeks to reach hipsters. | Sean Bitzer
Church Planting and Commuting in the Mega-Regions
Leverage your commuting members to plant new churches. | Daniel Im
LifeWay Research: 89% of churches will have services on Christmas Day
What happens when Christmas falls on a Sunday? | Ed Stetzer
We were created for worship. | Ed Stetzer
Growing Up in Ministry
The grace of Jesus was not just offered to orphans and widows or rebellious pastors’ kids; it was for me. | Kristin Duran
When a Pastor is a Growth Barrier: The Value of a Strong Work Ethic
God made us to work; sin made work frustrating and difficult. | Ed Stetzer
Breaking the 200 Barrier: Heritage Park Baptist Church in Webster, Texas
Church in metro Houston reached neighbors after a hurricane. | Trent Henderson
Theology for Life: Launching a New Weekly Podcast I Am Co-Hosting with Wheaton Professor Lynn Cohick
Follow us on Twitter and iTunes. | Ed Stetzer
In December is it peppermint mocha?
Hanging Dog. Population 1,618.
It begins by recognizing the name above every name.
We’re having to write this two months before Inauguration Day. But one doesn’t need the gift of prophecy to project that Christians will divide over the new administration. Each side, in an attempt to support or challenge an unprecedented and tenuous administration, will inevitably find itself at odds with others. Some Christians will call for eternal vigilance, looking for signs that the new president is promulgating yet another injustice. Others will be tempted to defend his every move. Inevitably, the rhetoric will drift toward the apocalyptic and remain mired in the partisan, and the name that will continue to be above every other name will be Donald Trump.
“Love your neighbor” means we all are called to engage in our nation’s public life in one way or another. But when cultural engagement leads to ecclesial divorce, something has gone seriously wrong. More than ever, we evangelical Christians are finding it hard to live under the same roof. When asked about the family, we sneer, “We’re not like those Christians, those hardly worthy of the name.” Some have even filed for divorce with the evangelical adjective.
Can we then be mystified when news pundits and social media mavens identify us only by our allegiance to—or repudiation of—this king or that, instead of the King of kings? Some Christians have claimed that the evangelical vote for Trump has set back the cause of the gospel 50 years. Others are equally sure the gospel would have been set back by a different election outcome. One wonders if our raised fists and ugly rhetoric directed at brothers and sisters is the real scandal.
The early Christians took a decidedly different approach, under a regime that is ...
Pregnancy centers find common ground between Catholics and evangelicals.
First Image, which operates four Portland-area pregnancy resource centers and Oregon’s first mobile ultrasound unit, recently received four new ultrasound machines—a donation worth more than $120,000.
To do so, the evangelical ministry first had to overcome a theological barrier to forge a deeper partnership with pro-life Catholics.
As an affiliate of the Care Net network, First Image’s statement of faith is adapted from the National Association of Evangelicals. Those beliefs are “not completely in accord with Catholic faith and teaching,” according to the Archbishop of Portland, Alexander K. Sample.
Yet after more than a year of dialogue between First Image and the archdiocese, the two groups signed an agreement that made a way for Catholics to further support the evangelical ministry’s outreach while preserving their doctrinal distinctions.
“Our posture has always been to collaborate with as broad a swath as possible while holding to our evangelical core,” said Larry Gadbaugh, First Image CEO and a former pastor. “We wanted to further the mission that we had a common conviction about.”
Their collaboration allowed 4US, a charity founded by Catholics, to donate the machines to First Image despite the theological disagreements over its mission statement.
“It’s been both a blessing and an unfortunate reenactment of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation,” said Diego Wendt, co-founder of 4US, which has donated 44 machines to clinics across America. “When we’re dialoging, sometimes I feel like we’re going back 500 years. But it’s been a very beneficial walk.
“We are seeing the unity in the body of Christ that all of us prayed ...
God met me in the clarity of his Word—then came the hard part.
he “perspicuity” (clarity) of the Bible was real to me before I even knew what to call it. It was an experience long before it became a tenet of my faith. I started to read the New Testament just as I was about to enter college. With very few assumptions, and with no theological or spiritual commitments, I simply picked up the Bible and began to read.
I read and re-read the Gospels, and then the whole New Testament. I was without instruction in almost any of the historical, cultural, political, or theological issues of the text. I was by no means sure there was a god, nor was I sure that this text and its apparent claims were true or relevant to some possible divine being. It simply seemed to me that a literate person should be acquainted with the Bible, and so it all began.
The portraits of Jesus presented in the Gospels astonished me. The four distinct angles of vision invited me to look carefully through a set of lenses at the most important figure in the New Testament. I had feared that religion made life small and insignificant. Petty religion was repellent. I didn’t need religion to help me have a small heart or a pathetically self-interested worldview. I knew my own capacities in these areas were more than sufficient!
As I read, heard, and meditated on the witness of Scripture, I came to discover that what Jesus offered was in fact the antidote to smallness: the kingdom of God. The smallness that pervades much of our natural human enterprise, whether it is business, education, politics, or religion, was the problem of a shrunken heart and mind. By contrast, the kingdom of God—life under the reign of God’s grace and truth in Jesus Christ—expands and unleashes our heart, mind, soul, ...
Friday, 30 December 2016
It's that time of year.
This post from Valentine’s Day 2014 asked Are Christian divorce rates the same, or even higher, than the rest of the population? Is a happy marriage possible?
(9) What Do White Evangelicals Owe People of Color in Trump’s America They Helped Create? (November 11, 2016)
This post from March 2012 was a follow-up to incorrect reporting by the Orange County Register.
(2) Alcohol Abuse, Perry Noble, and the Church’s Response—What Now? (July 2016)
(1) Evangelicals: This Is What It Looks Like When You Sell Your Soul for a Bowl of Trump (November 2, 2016)
A better way to read the bizarre story of Elisha and the bears.
Three times last year I asked a Christian audience this question: Which story in Scripture bothers you most? There are numerous candidates—the flood, the destruction of Sodom, the Passover, the conquest of Canaan—most involving large numbers of people being killed. But each time, I got the same answer: the passage about Elisha and the bears (2 Kings 2:23–25, ESV used throughout).
It is certainly a bizarre story. Elisha is heading to Bethel when a group of young lads come out of the city and jeer at him: “Go up, you baldhead!” So Elisha curses them in the Lord’s name, and two bears come out of the woods and maul 42 of them. Then Elisha heads off to Mount Carmel. As I said: bizarre.
What should we conclude? That God is happy to kill children for making a joke? That biblical prophets have no sense of humor? That, as one British newspaper columnist put it, God is the sort of deity who “feeds children to bears”?
Yet by reading the story through modern eyes, there are several elements we are likely to miss. For instance, we probably imagine a group of kindergarten boys having harmless fun. But the Hebrew word for “small boys” used in verse 23 applies to Joseph when he is 17, to Joshua when he serves in the tabernacle alongside Moses, to Abimelech’s armor-bearer, and to David as he goes to fight Goliath. Solomon calls himself a “little child” in 1 Kings 3, despite being both married and the newly crowned king of Israel. So we’re probably not talking about a bunch of 6-year-olds.
And don’t neglect the fact that these young men are coming from Bethel. In Elisha’s day, Bethel was one of two key centers of idolatry in Israel. Jeroboam had established ...
Islam and Christianity share Second Coming hopes. Can this be a bridge?
Jesus did not show up to defend ISIS—and the first to celebrate was a Muslim.
“The [ISIS] myth of their great battle in Dabiq is finished,” Ahmed Osman, a Free Syrian Army officer, told Reuters in October after coalition forces drove more than 1,000 extremists from the backwater Syrian city known as the Armageddon of Islamic eschatology. The jihadists had expected the Messiah to appear and bloody his lance on approaching Christian crusaders.
Muslim belief in the end-times return of Jesus may seem surprising, but according to recent polls, they expect him with greater anticipation than do many American Christians.
A Pew Research Center survey in 2012 found that more than half of Muslims in Iraq, Lebanon, and Tunisia—and just under 50 percent in Morocco and the Palestinian territories—believe in the “imminent return” of Jesus. Outside the Arab world, more than half of Muslims in Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Thailand say Jesus will return to Earth in their lifetime.
By contrast, a 2015 poll by the Brookings Institute found that only 12 percent of US evangelicals believe that Jesus will return in their lifetime.
Past polls communicate a greater expectancy. In 2010, Pew found that 27 percent of US Christians expected Jesus to definitely return within the next 40 years, while another 20 percent found it probable. Among white evangelicals, 34 percent said “definitely” while 24 percent said “probably.”
The Qur‘an alludes to the return of Jesus (accompanied by a figure called the Mehdi), who on the Day of Resurrection will be a witness against Christians who claim him as the Son of God. But Muslim eschatology is derived primarily from Islamic traditions that have ...