Daily Archives

March 26, 2018

Empathy & Evangelism

Empathizing with others leads to greater effectiveness in evangelism. In his bestselling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey explains that empathy is a key to effectiveness. He exhorts us to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” It’s so easy to jump right into the point that we want to get across, but if we don’t first take the time to understand where others are coming from, there can easily be unintended miscommunication. Cultivating the ability to empathize with others leads to greater effectiveness in all forms of communication, including evangelism. In fact, Jesus himself models this as he empathizes with our brokenness. Hebrews 4:15 explains that “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” After emphasizing that Jesus can empathize with our weakness, the writer of Hebrews goes on to say “Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). The fact that Jesus stepped into our…

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Mother Mary Is a Sanctuary—and So Are We

Annunciation Day invites us to be vessels of Christ in the world. This Sunday marks the Feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary with an outrageous announcement: that she would carry a human child who would also be the child of God. For many Christians, Annunciation Day—which lands exactly nine months before Christmas Day—marks the moment when Christ became incarnate and entered Mary’s womb. Mary has been a controversial figure throughout the centuries and not just in Protestant circles. For some feminists, she represents the subservience of women in the Christian faith. More recently, however, she has come to represent the opposite: the liberation of the oppressed. Mary’s Magnificat, otherwise known as the Song of the Theotokos, stands for resistance. A poor, obscure woman spoke for those on the margins when she said, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:46–55). Mary’s traditional title of Theotokos, or “God-bearer,” may feel awkward for many Protestants, but it was affirmed by the third ecumenical Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 (That council also reaffirmed the…

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Why Russian Protestants Voted for President Putin

Though evangelicals’ freedom has worsened, Putin remains their best, or only, option. Even as persecution climbs for Protestants in Russia, most of its evangelicals continue to support President Vladimir Putin, who won his fourth six-year term in last week’s election. Given Putin’s stronghold in the former Soviet state, they don’t really have another choice. The incumbent Russian president drew in 75 percent of the vote Sunday, up from 64 percent in 2012. With a popular leading critic, Alexei Navalny, forced out of the race, Putin soundly beat out Pavel Grudinin, a millionaire entrepreneur from the Communist Party; Vladimir Zhirinovsky, an ultranationalist with a military background; and Ksenia Sobchak, a former TV host. For Protestant voters, who make up only about 1 percent of the heavily Orthodox nation, “their support for Putin would be only a bit below the national average,” according to William Yoder, spokesman for the Russia Evangelical Alliance. “They would not vote for a communist, or a nationalist like Zhirinovsky, and not for a movie-starlet like Sobchak.” Like their Orthodox neighbors, Russian evangelicals prioritize family values such as traditional marriage, said Yoder. But leaders do not often speak out to address politics—especially not from the pulpit. Pastor Alexei…

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