Daily Archives

March 14, 2018

The Suffering Leader

I found new treasures in the field of suffering The suffering leader sounds like an un-American idea. In our paradigm, leaders flourish, whether on Wall Street or in the house church. Even in the spiritual realm, we are susceptible to expectations that flourishing leaders have flourishing lives—yet we know better. And as we read our Bibles, nowhere do we find that promise or that narrative. Suffering eventually touches all of us. A simple but wise woman once offered these folksy words to describe suffering: I always say that there are three things that can happen to you in life: Things you bring upon yourself Things that others do to you And the meteorites that hit you from afar She sums it up well. My meteorite was a terrible car accident that took the life of my husband Rick Ferguson, who was a pastor and catalytic church-planting leader. At age 45, I became a widow. That meteorite nearly took me under. Yet very quickly, God clearly showed me that I would be responsible for the stewardship of my pain. That, just like every other resource or experience God thrust into my life, I would be accountable for my suffering and for…

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Why Suicide Is Everybody’s Business

Society’s moral resolve hinges on the interdependence of the sick and the well. Just a few months ago, Britain announced the appointment of a Minister of Loneliness. The post reflects a rising epidemic that’s unique to 21st-century Western society: Many of us are hyperconnected online but simultaneously disconnected from substantive community. We have dozens of “followers” but few true friendships. We can connect with the world with the touch of a button—or the command of our voice—and yet we hardly know our neighbors. The net result? Loneliness. The increasingly common response: suicide. Each year, more than 44,000 people die by suicide in the United States. It is estimated that 25 times that number attempt suicide each year. And the numbers have steadily risen since 2006. Add to that the number of individuals who have chosen physician-assisted suicide—in 2015, 301 people died under Death with Dignity acts in the states of Oregon and Washington alone—and we’re facing a lot of people who have answered “Why not die?” with an empty silence. The vast majority of suicides of elderly or terminally ill people or those with disabilities occur quietly within homes and institutions, far from the media, the courts, and the public…

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What Is Evangelicalism?

A simple definition based in doctrine, history, or sociology won’t do. But a vibrant stream really does exist. Evangelicalism is one of the largest and most dynamic forms of Christianity in the modern world, but there is an amorphous quality to many words that end with the suffix “-ism,” and “evangelicalism” is no exception. “Evangelicalism” does not have the hard and crisp denotation of a concrete noun such as “Jesuit.” This confusion goes back to lexical roots. The English language uses the Anglo-Saxon noun “gospel” for the Greek “evangel” but retains the Greek root for the adjective “evangelical” and the abstract class-noun “evangelicalism.” There was a time when certain Protestants were called Gospellers, but the obvious link between “gospel” and “evangelical” has now been largely obscured. As an abstract noun naming things that cannot be heard, seen, or touched, “evangelicalism” seems always in need of more concrete definition. Here history helps to clarify the meaning. In common use, “evangelicalism” deals with the doctrines, practices, and history of a class of Protestants that emerged distinctively in the early modern period, endured for three centuries, and spread to five continents. “Evangelical” identified the churches of the Protestant Reformation and their teaching, especially…

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Babies Need Their Moms. But Moms Need Paid Leave.

“Conservatives love my family-first message, but you have to pay for that message,” says researcher. Erica Komisar is a social worker and psychoanalyst who believes young children are faring worse than they were even 30 years ago. In her practice, “I was seeing an increase in children with mental disorders, being diagnosed earlier and medicated at an early age.” After 13 years spent researching neuroscience, attachment theory, and psychoanalysis, Komisar linked this increase to a social devaluing of mothering and an inability for many women to be present to their children in the first three years of life. Such a diagnosis, Komisar says, has cheered social conservatives—until she gets to her policy solution: at least one year of federally mandated paid maternity leave, with part-time and flexible options for two more years. “All mothers and babies should have the right to be together in the first year.” In other words, babies need mothers, but mothers—especially single and working-class ones—need tangible, societal, and fiscal support in order to nurture their babies during such a crucial time. Komisar spoke with CT editor at large Katelyn Beaty about these and other themes found in her book, Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the…

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Resurrecting the Church Signs

Who says Christians aren't funny? Check out some of these signs. Thanks, @jwritebol! Thanks, @dirkwmiller! Thanks, @tombuck! Please tweet your church signs to @EdStetzer (or email to stetzerblog[@]gmail[.]com). 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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One-on-One with the Authors of Participating in God’s Mission: A Theological Missiology for the Church in America

The church, God's mission, and the challenges of a changing culture Ed: Why did you write this book? Craig and Dwight: It is our assessment that two great unravelings are occurring in America at the beginning of the 21st century. The first is the continued unraveling of the Enlightenment project that over several centuries provided for a ‘can do’ optimism and expectation of progress within U.S. culture. The erosion of confidence in the country’s ability to manage successfully its future in making life better for all is dramatically diminishing or being challenged by emerging generations. The second is the continued unraveling of the ‘churched culture’ built upon the expectation that the church was to have a major role to play in shaping the cultural ethos and providing moral values for shaping life. This expectation was inherent within the European tribal Christian faith traditions that immigrants brought to the colonies and which eventually became Christian denominations in America. There are many factors contributing to these two unravelings which are laid out in the book in detail. For example, changing immigration patterns and the overall composition of the population, declining influence of the Christian faith in society, membership decline or plateauing of…

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Interview: Billy in the Oval Office: A Story of Faith, Friendship, and Temptation

Journalist Nancy Gibbs recalls Graham's relationship with six decades of American presidents. In 2007, Time magazine veterans Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy coauthored The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House. The best-selling book chronicled Graham's influence on American presidents from Harry Truman to George W. Bush. On April 25, 2010, Graham hosted Barack Obama at the Graham family home in Montreat, North Carolina, making Obama the 12th chief executive to interact with Graham, something no other religious leader has done. The two of them prayed for each other during their 35-minute meeting, according to reports. (Donald Trump attended Graham’s 95th birthday party in 2013.) Graham's relationships with different presidents varied widely. He skinny-dipped in the White House pool with Lyndon Johnson, played golf with John F. Kennedy, and counseled the Clintons after the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But Graham acknowledged that his relationship with Richard Nixon, tainted by partisan politics, was the one most harmful to the evangelist's gospel mission. Timothy C. Morgan, director of Wheaton College’s journalism program, interviewed Gibbs before Graham's death. As journalists, Michael Duffy and you had rare opportunities to interact one on one with Billy Graham. How would you describe him in…

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Do You Really Care about Evangelism? If So, You Need To Do More Than Pray

Prayer is the starting point, not the endpoint, of our journey in helping people from darkness to light. We are likely all familiar with Jonah, who was a prophet of the Lord. Jonah lived during a time of relative prosperity for the nation of Israel; however, there was, of course, some trouble brought on by a certain city: Nineveh. As the capital of the Assyrian empire, Nineveh and those residing within her walls were known throughout the ancient world for their infatuation with brutality and violence. Every Israelite from the tall to the small knew that the Ninevites were bad news— and so did Jonah. That’s why when God told him to go to the city to preach a prophetic message, he looked the other way. Many of us read this story of the legendary man who spent time in the belly of the whale and wonder how he managed to disobey God so blatantly. We pat ourselves on the back whilst enthusiastically reassuring ourselves that we could never manage to behave that badly. After all, if God called us to go and share his word we’d eagerly go, right? The Ninevite in the Mirror If we’re being honest, each…

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