Daily Archives

March 9, 2018

C. J. Mahaney Withdraws from T4G

Following Rachael Denhollander’s Sovereign Grace claims, the former SGM president once again says he wants to avoid distracting from the biennial conference. C. J. Mahaney announced today that he will back out of next month’s Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference to keep the controversy over Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC) away from the event. “Given the recent, renewed controversy surrounding Sovereign Grace Churches and me individually, I have decided to withdraw from the 2018 T4G conference,” Mahaney wrote. Over the past several weeks, Rachael Denhollander, the former gymnast whose Larry Nassar testimony went viral, has used her platform to address abuse in the church, particularly years-old allegations of abuse at Covenant Life Church, where Mahaney—the former president of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM)—had served as senior pastor. Though the 2012 case against SGM was dismissed in court, Denhollander has repeatedly challenged the church network’s claims, most recently in a 7,800-word statement posted on Facebook last Thursday. Currently the pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, Mahaney has continued to state that he is innocent of the claims made against him and that the ongoing characterizations of Sovereign Grace are untrue. “I categorically reject the suggestion that I have ever conspired to…

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How Will Hollywood Handle the Spiritual Themes in ‘A Wrinkle in Time?’

Fans of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel are wondering whether the film will do justice to the “cosmic questions” the book raises. You’ve heard the buzz: A Wrinkle in Time, based on the classic children’s book by Madeleine L’Engle (1918–2007), hits theaters this week as a $100 million Disney movie. A lot more than money is riding on the film’s success. Not only is the sci-fi novel beloved by millions of readers—since winning the 1963 Newbery Medal, it has sold upwards of 16 million copies—but its author was one of the most adored writers of Christian faith in recent history. As I’ve learned while writing her spiritual biography (A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, which releases in August), her fans among millennials and my own Generation X, in particular, are as vast as the cosmos she so loved. For many who struggle with faith and doubt, L’Engle has become a kind of patron saint for the wavering, the wondering, and the wounded. No pressure, Hollywood. This new adaptation of Wrinkle, directed by the irrepressible Ava DuVernay (Selma, 13th, Queen Sugar), stars no less than Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Chris Pine. Frozen’s Jennifer Lee adapted the…

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Jane the Uber Driver, and How God Uses Ordinary Events for Extraordinary Purposes

I recently had a good conversation with an Uber driver who is using her platform to share Jesus with others. Ed: How did you get into Uber driving? Jane: I got into Uber driving because my kids encouraged me to pick up a temporary job to make a little extra money as I am in real estate and things are a little slow right now. They thought that because I love to drive and I love being with people that this would be a great opportunity for me to get out of the house and be an encouragement to people. Ed: One of the first things I noticed was a Bible in your backseat. How do you start conversations with people about faith as an Uber driver? Jane: I usually will ask them some questions like, “How's your day going?” I will ask them, “Where are you going? Are you on your way to work?” As they share what they do, my first fishing throw at my hook is, "Oh, wow, that's such a blessing. Do you enjoy doing what you're doing?" So, I start with the word blessing. A lot of times the person will ask me, “Do you…

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Rick Warren: What I Learned from Billy

Focus. Integrity. And a God-directed heart. Billy Graham had a life-long influence on me as a person and as a pastor. It began in my childhood with my grandmother. My grandmother told me, "I pray for two people every day. I pray for Billy Graham, and I pray for you." She always wanted me to be a pastor. Today, I have no doubt that her prayers and the fact that Billy Graham was in our home every month with Decision magazine and every week on the radio did much to influence the direction my life took. As I grew older, I began to understand Graham's commitment to keeping his character clean. As a young pastor, I understood why he and his staff made the "Modesto Manifesto," a covenant to ensure the integrity of his ministry. Later, when I started Saddleback Church, our staff made similar covenants—the Saddleback Staff Ten Commandments—based on the same idea. The goal in everything we do at Saddleback is to make it easier for us to bring people to Jesus. You build bridges of friendship from your heart to theirs so Jesus Christ can cross that bridge into their life. Reaching out to those outside of…

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Feeling Loved by God Buffers Body Esteem in Men More Than Women

Two psychologists at Hope College respond to Christian young adults who struggle with body satisfaction. Throughout history, women’s bodies portrayed in the media of the day— from billboard ads to TV screens to mobile phones—have influenced what we think about our identities. According to Mary Inman, a psychologist at Hope College, the early 1970s marked a new age for female body image. The fashion model Twiggy took the stage and the norm of Marilyn Monroe, who had substantially more body fat, started fading. In 1979, Jean Kilbourne’s lecture-based film Killing Us Softly (and later, Jackson Katz’s work) documented the connection between media and “young women and men to think that the perfect body shape is thin for women and muscular for men,” said Inman. These messages “also communicate that the function of the body is to be an object of sexual desire for women and a tool of dominance for men.” Although today’s body-positive movement provides some pushback (and also attracts critique), nonetheless the same problems persist. In studying the issue, Inman and her colleague at Hope College, Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet, wanted to know: Does faith buffer a negative body image? In a recent study published in the Journal of Psychology…

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Pew: No Pope Francis ‘Effect’ Among US Christians

The pope remains popular, but hasn’t inspired people to join his church—or even roused Catholics to go to Mass more often. The “Francis effect”—a phrase used to describe the presumed positive impact of Pope Francis upon Catholicism—has been used so often that it has inspired a book, a podcast, and a documentary. But it hasn’t been enough to inspire Americans to join the Catholic church—or even to encourage US Catholics to go to Mass more often. A Pew Research Center survey released today found “no evidence of a rise in the share of Americans who identify as Catholics [22% in 2012 vs. 20% in 2017], and no indication of a Francis-inspired resurgence in Mass attendance [41% weekly in 2012 vs. 38% weekly in 2017].” In fact, while American Catholics are still mostly supportive of Francis (84% rate him favorably, compared to 85% in 2014), fewer said he was a major change for the better (58%, vs. 69% in 2015). And fewer said the pope was doing an excellent or good job at addressing sex abuse scandals (45%, vs. 55% in 2015), spreading the Catholic faith (70% vs. 84%), or standing up for traditional morals (70% vs. 80%). While Catholics still…

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Hero Making: The Story of One Man Who Invested in Billy Graham, Changing the Course of His Ministry

All of us can and should look for people to invest our time, efforts, and energy in. Many people have been talking about Rev. Billy Graham since his passing on February 21, 2018, and appropriately so. Having attended his funeral and hosted the radio coverage on many networks, I spent much time brushing up on Billy Graham history to share as color commentary during the radio broadcast. However, what was also helpful was that, in that preparation, I was able to share something at the Exponential Conference in Orlando related to ‘hero-making’. The Exponential Conference this year was built around the theme of people who have invested their lives in other people and were not themselves the heroes, but made other heroes. Now, let me say first that I think Billy Graham's ministry has largely been defined by pointing to someone other than himself. In my latest CNN article I explained that Billy Graham is famous largely for trying to make someone else (Jesus) more famous. In other words, his life was largely driven by the ministry of telling people about Jesus instead of talking about himself. Elner Edman as a ‘hero maker’ However, one of the stories that may…

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