Monthly Archives

February 2018

How Do We Respond When Someone Mocks Us For Our Faith? [Gospel Life Podcast]

Start each week with this encouragement to show and share the love of Jesus. How Do We Respond When Someone Mocks Us For Our Faith? Today, Karen Swanson, Director of the Institute for Prison Ministries at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, talks about how it feels when people mock you or make fun of you because of your faith in Jesus. How do we respond? From Jeremiah to Jesus, we are in good company and have all we need to endure and press forward. Although we don’t seek opportunities to be mocked, as we are faithful in our evangelism, insults are likely to come. But these times can actually build our faith, and make our lights shine even brighter. Subscribe to the Gospel Life podcast on iTunes. Follow the Billy Graham Center on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. The Gospel Life podcast is produced by Laurie Nichols. Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. Continue reading…

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Unlike the Bible, ‘Living Biblically’ Plays It Safe

Despite the provocative concept, the CBS sitcom avoids offense as well as true humor. Can a rabbi, a priest, and a TV writer known for edgy comedies like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia make a network sitcom about the Bible that everyone will want to watch? That’s what CBS is betting with the new half-hour sitcom Living Biblically, which premieres tonight. The show is based on A. J. Jacobs’s The Year of Living Biblically, the 2007 bestseller that journaled the author’s experiences interacting with religious communities and attempting to follow scriptural prescriptions in a modern-day context. The book was a hit with Christians when it debuted more than a decade ago. Books & Culture reviewed the release, and Jacobs was interviewed multiple times in Christianity Today about how the experiment—which he called “an ethical makeover”—taught him about faith and showed him more of the evangelical world. There was a little something for everyone in Jacobs’s endeavor: some Christians appreciated his interest in understanding and obeying the Bible, others applauded him for recognizing where legalism can fall flat, and nonbelievers saw him as calling out the seemingly ridiculous aspects of some Old Testament rules. The creators of the Living Biblically TV…

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Pew: White Evangelicals Want Stricter Gun Laws Too

Even America’s most gun-friendly religious group agrees with the rest of the nation on certain proposals to limit access. White evangelicals hold the same views as most Americans on many proposals to restrict access to guns, but are also among the biggest advocates for a more divisive idea that has come up following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting: arming classroom teachers. Along with Americans across religious groups, white evangelicals strongly support laws to prevent people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns and to require background checks to purchase firearms at gun shows or through private sales, according to 2017 Pew Research Center data provided to CT. Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) of both white evangelicals and Americans overall endorse mental illness restrictions, while about 8 in 10 white evangelicals (80%) and Americans overall (84%) favor the expanded use of background checks. Though white evangelicals tend to be less eager to see the government adopt stricter gun laws, they actually show similar levels of support for individual policy measures as the rest of the country. White evangelicals resemble Americans on average when it comes to banning gun sales to those on federal no-fly or terrorist watch lists (86% vs. 83%) as…

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Can Multi-Site Work in a Rural Context?

Many churches have embraced a multi-site strategy with a lot of success. When people find out that I pastor a church in rural South Dakota that has four multi-site locations (in South Dakota, Illinois, and Jamaica) as well as an online, iCampus, they are often quite surprised. I have a feeling if I told them our church was in Dallas or Atlanta, they wouldn’t think that much of it. But the thought of a small church reaching a rural context with a multi-site strategy is somewhat of an unusual concept, although that’s beginning to change). Over the last decade or so, we have seen many churches embrace a multi-site strategy with a lot of success. But often, we see that playing out in larger churches in urban and suburban areas. We assume that for multi-site to work, it needs to come from a large congregation with numerous staff, lots of money, expensive technology, and skilled people to operate that technology. Essentially, the thinking is that because of the challenge of limited resources almost all small-town and rural churches face, utilizing multi-site to reach a region beyond their small town is simply out of the question. I’m here to tell you…

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Why I’m Happy My Son Married at 20

In a world of hookups and cohabitation, he took a leap—and made an act—of faith. Our firstborn got married this past July, and we are overjoyed for him and his wife. They’d dated long-distance for two years. After hours-long Skype conversations and scads of money spent on air travel, they were more than ready to tie the knot and start their life together. All four of us newly minted in-laws are in full support of this marriage. We have watched our children bloom within this relationship. We see them bring out the best in the other. We know they are earnestly following Christ. And they are very young: He is 20, and she is 21. These details have garnered more than a few raised eyebrows. Surely they would have been best served by his finishing his undergraduate degree before they married. He may want to attend graduate school. Isn’t it a bit early for marriage? Weighing the Risks We live in a highly educated area with several universities just down the road. My husband and I both have graduate degrees. The truth is, we don’t come from a demographic that generally supports marriage at this point in a person’s life….

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Jerusalem Christians Unite … to Close Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Against centuries of precedent, Holy City authorities pursue $186 million in church taxes. Update (Feb. 27): Israel has suspended Jerusalem’s tax collection effort, so the famous church will reopen. In an action not seen in more than a century, the leaders of Jerusalem’s churches closed the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday in a show of united protest. The dramatic decision comes in response to moves by Jerusalem authorities to begin collecting tens of millions of dollars in taxes from churches, as well as proposed legislation to confiscate church-owned land. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre—considered by many Christians to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, tomb and resurrection—is jointly managed by a cadre of Orthodox and Catholic churches. It is one of the most-visited sites in Israel, and its closure came as a sudden shock, especially with Easter celebrations approaching. In a defiant statement released at the time of the closure, church leaders called the municipality’s new policy a “systematic campaign against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land,” according to The Jerusalem Post. “Recently, this systematic and offensive campaign has reached an unprecedented level as the Jerusalem Municipality issued scandalous collection…

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One-on-One with Brian Stiller on the World Evangelical Alliance

Ed Stetzer talks with Brian Stiller about World Evangelical Alliance important happenings. Ed: Tell us a little about the World Evangelical Alliance and some of what you are up to around the world. Brian: The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) was founded in the 1840s as a way for Evangelicals to connect globally. (It is estimated there are up to 600 million Evangelicals today.) Connections happen around a variety of issues, including evangelism, religious persecution, missions, slavery of all kinds and public engagement. There are 130 National Alliances, formed to serve as a voice and presence within their respective countries. Ed: We often run “Dispatches from the World Evangelical Alliance” on The Exchangem where you talk about your visits to various countries and what God is up to. Where do you see God moving powerfully and how is that playing out? Brian: For example, in 1900 there were 50,000 Evangelicals in Latin America. Today, that has jumped to 100 million. Not long ago, there were just a handful of Christians in Nepal. Today, that is closer to 1.5 million. While numbers keep growing, the real stories are about how the transformative presence of the Christ is bringing healing and witness in…

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The Case for a No-Filter Prayer Life

Why we, as God's friends, can speak to him freely. Sometimes I talk out loud when I’m sitting in the chair by my book table in the morning or when I’m driving alone in my car. If someone happens into the room, I feel a bit sheepish about these outward aspects of prayer. But I find that talking to God audibly helps me concentrate. It’s becoming a habit of friendship. As it goes with any conversation between friends, the topics between Jesus and me meander from practical tasks to specific hopes and deeper questions. “Will you remind me to swing by the post office?” “I’m so grateful for Rhodes’s fourth-grade teacher this year.” “I feel alone today. Would you help me to know and believe that you are with me?” I wonder if David spoke out loud when he first wrote his psalms? I’ve heard that the psalms were sung for many generations before they were ever recorded in written form. I’m thankful for written prayers and for hymns that give me words to speak my heart and teach me to pray. But the art of spontaneous, audible conversation with God feels like a distant practice. Is it far-fetched to…

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Preaching Redemption Amidst Racism: Remembering Billy Graham

Carl Ellis, Jr. reflects on the impact of Rev. Billy Graham on race relations and culture today. When I was a young campus minister working with Tom Skinner Associates, I had the honor of meeting Dr. William Franklin Graham twice. I remember him as an approachable man, not given to living out the greatness of his own press. I actively participated in his evangelistic crusades whenever they were in or near my city, and I would do so again today without hesitation. Although several of Dr. Graham's early Southern crusades were racially segregated, he came to see segregation as inconsistent with the gospel. In the early 1950s, he began refusing to speak in some segregated auditoriums. Before the start of the 1953 Chattanooga Crusade, he personally took down the ropes intended to enforce segregation, telling two of the ushers, "Either these ropes stay down or you can go on and have the revival without me." [1] Yet after that, he acquiesced to preaching in segregated venues in Asheville, North Carolina, and Dallas, Texas. At times, Rev. Graham made statements that seemed to reveal a lack of awareness of the connection between segregation and sin. At other times, he forcefully condemned…

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How Billy Graham Brokered World Peace Between Evangelism and Social Justice

The evangelist partnered with John Stott on the Lausanne Movement and helped revive the World Evangelical Alliance. In 1974, Billy Graham convened an enormous conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. “I traveled the whole world meeting such wonderful leaders,” Graham later told Lausanne global executive director Michael Oh. “But I found that they didn’t know each other.” Graham wanted to assess the way political, ideological, and theological world issues affected evangelism, and to bring evangelical leaders to a common vision for both evangelism and social justice. He invited about 2,400 evangelical leaders from 150 countries. The meeting turned out to be outrageously important. Not only did the participants make up “possibly the widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held” and signal the rising strength of conservative Christians worldwide, it also delivered unity on the most divisive issue of the day—whether social justice should be as highly prioritized as evangelism. And it kicked off the Lausanne Movement. “No one else did as much to turn evangelicalism into an international movement that could stand alongside—and ultimately challenge—both the Vatican and the liberal World Council of Churches for the mantle of global Christian leadership,” wrote George Washington University professor Melani McAlister for TheAtlantic. Her forthcoming book…

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