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A new biography helps us come to terms with the unsavory side of the great revivalist’s mission to America.

On the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, there sits a statue of one of the school’s co-founders: George Whitefield, the 18th-century British evangelist and hero of the Great Awakening. Underneath it, one finds a quote from Benjamin Franklin, the school’s other co-founder (and Whitefield’s longtime friend): “I knew him intimately upwards of thirty years. His integrity, disinterestedness and indefatigable zeal in prosecuting every good work I have never seen equaled and shall never see equaled.”

Peter Choi’s biography, George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire, explores various ways that Whitefield’s zeal for good works not only put him on a pedestal but also entangled him in a war against Catholicism and the promotion of race-based slavery. By exposing less-than-uplifting facts about Whitefield, the book illuminates unhealthy aspects of 18th-century evangelicalism’s intimate relationship with the British Empire.

Choi, who is a pastor of spiritual theology at City Church, San Francisco, and director of academic programs at the Newbigin House of Studies, is not out to undermine Whitefield’s reputation for piety or drag his work as a revivalist down into mere politics. Instead, Choi offers a revealing case study of evangelicalism’s “entanglement” with its host culture. The book is a good example of the maturity of evangelicalism’s scholarship about itself. Although some prefer to emphasize the heavenly side of evangelicalism’s history, the truth is, as Jesus taught in the parable of the wheat and the tares, the heavenly and earthly grow together until the final harvest.

Encounters and Entanglements

Anglo-American evangelicalism was ...

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The World Evangelical Alliance champions human rights and religious freedom within the United Nations.

As I walked into the United Nations building in New York to meet Secretary General Antonio Guterres, I recalled a preacher who predicted that this world body was the coming world government, as he said had been prophesied in The Revelation.

Added to that ominous prediction of its coming role, many view the United Nations as deeply flawed: often biased in its analyses and lacking ability to muster sufficient authority to mediate armed conflicts, such as Rwanda. Particularly disturbing is its Human Rights Council, which is comprised of representatives from countries guilty of violating human-rights such as Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

Even so, this is what national governments turn to for help in times of humanitarian crises and military debacles flowing from its mandate to promote peace, justice and human rights, even as they are doing today in Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar.

Here, the world community airs it grievances.

As a quasi-form of government that encompasses the world, it holds no executive power. Keep in mind that the five permanent members of Security Council has veto powers and can resort to the use of military force, yet the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council (HRC) work independently from the Security Council.

Because the HRC can’t resort to armed force, countries can refuse to collaborate with their investigations. Even so, the Security Council is so conflicted that it would be quite impossible for the members to join together in a world takeover as some allege is a possibility.

As influential as the UN is, it isn’t the only or ultimate source of settling human rights violations. While it does possess moral and legal authority as permitted by member countries, apart from intervention by the Security Council, ...

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“Only when we “go vertical” and connect in a relationship with God through Jesus will we find the true joy that we are looking for.”

Ed: On your 10-year wedding anniversary, you two felt very differently about your marriage. Dave, you thought your relationship couldn’t get any better, and Ann, you were hanging on for dear life and told Dave you had lost your feelings for him. Can you share a little bit about that night and how it changed your relationship?

Dave: Our 10-year anniversary was a chance to celebrate our love and life away from the kids and the pressures of ministry. I was crazy busy trying to start our new church, as well as leading the Detroit Lions ministry as the team chaplain. I was never home. Ann was leading the home all by herself and overwhelmed with raising two very busy toddlers.

When she told me that she had lost her feelings for me, I knew that I had to find out why and how. As she shared her heart about moving from bitterness to numbness, I felt a strong nudge—probably more like a shove—from the Holy Spirit, that said, “Shut up and listen.”

Ed: Dave, what made you respond with prayer rather than reaching for your planner to persuade Ann that she was wrong?

Dave: I actually was about to pull out my daily planner to prove that I was home more than Ann thought when I sensed God saying to zip my lip and just let her talk. As I listened, I heard God say one more thing: “Repent.”

I knew that God was revealing to me that my relationship with Jesus had become lukewarm. I was so busy doing ministry for God that I had left God behind. God was saying that our horizontal marriage would never be what we wanted it to be unless I put Jesus back in first place.

So I got on my knees right there in the front seat of our Honda Accord and put Jesus back in control of my life. Ann did the same, and it was the start ...

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Pulled right and left by various factions of the global church, the UMC’s decision-making body meets this weekend to pick a path forward.

One of the world’s largest Christian denominations faces potential fracture as United Methodist leaders gather to finally decide how to navigate deep divisions over gay marriage, ordination, and ministry.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) meets Saturday through Tuesday to weigh options to address the differing convictions on the issue, including some that would lead one side or the other to leave the denomination.

This special session of its General Conference, a denominational decision-making body made of around 1,000 delegates, represents the culmination of years of passionate debate about the application of scriptural teachings, particularly when it comes to issues around sexuality.

There’s a lot at stake. Beth Ann Cook, a UMC minister and clergy delegate, said the issue comes down to “how we interpret and apply Scripture in our daily lives,” and she’s praying that “delegates fully and honestly face the depth of our divisions.”

“While this General Conference is about much more than LGBTQ justice and inclusion for the United Methodist Church, we are at this juncture because of the discrimination against LGBTQ people in the church,” said Jan Lawrence, whose Reconciling Ministries Network advocates for the UMC to change its longstanding policies and language around homosexuality.

Since its first official statement on homosexuality in 1972, the denomination has tried to mark out a middle ground of grace and traditional orthodoxy, stating that “homosexuals no less than heterosexuals are person of sacred worth” while still considering “the practice of homosexuality … incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Decades later, with half the 12.5 million-member ...

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How Christians care for one another when their leaders fall.

Last weekend was the first time Harvest Bible Chapel gathered for worship without James MacDonald as its senior pastor.

Days after firing the church’s founder, the elders of the Chicago-area multisite congregation announced more changes. The executive committee—the top leaders on the elder board—would also be resigning within months. A task force had been formed to review church structure and processes. This week, the elder board winnowed from 30 people to 9.

At Harvest, concerns had lingered for years after the church’s dismissal of three elders in 2013, alleged mismanagement, and negative reports swirling around MacDonald. As leaders and members pray and plan for a healthier church culture, they’re also left lamenting the hurt, confusion, and discord that’s led to this point.

“We know there are many of you feeling shock and frustration—those feelings are real and understandable. We know there are many who have been grieved by these things over the past weeks, months and even years—and we share your grief,” Dave Learned, pastor of counseling ministry, told the congregation on Saturday night. “Our earnest desire is that God would, in his grace, forgive our sins, heal our wounds, and restore unity and harmony to this congregation.”

Harvest numbers around 12,000 members across seven campuses. As a result of the saga, some have already stopped attending or joined nearby congregations, including 2,000 that left around the 2013 incident. During a major transition for the congregation—and the loss of the charismatic preacher who had been its famous face and voice—more will inevitably opt to leave.

Either way, if they stay or go, the body of Christ absorbs ...

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According to two researchers, the key to “sticky faith” is conversation.

During a three-year longitudinal study launched by the Fuller Youth Institute, a parent with three post–high school kids reflected on the changes she’s witnessed over the years: “I think if I were to go back and re-parent, I actually would allow my kids more freedom in their high school years to explore and express their questions about faith.”

Her instincts align with what teenagers need. According to our study, which looked at 500 youth group graduates, over 70 percent of churchgoing high schoolers report having serious doubts about faith. Sadly, less than half of those young people shared their doubts and struggles with an adult or friend. Yet these students’ opportunities to express and explore their doubts were actually correlated with greater faith maturity. In other words, it’s not doubt that’s toxic to faith; it’s silence.

Researchers for the National Study for Youth and Religion discovered that young people have become inarticulate about their faith, often lacking the language to express their beliefs and convictions. Further exploration revealed another telling part of this story: so have their parents.

Somehow, young people and their parents have lost the ability to speak of faith in real life. Like learning Mandarin as a young person then forgetting it as an adult, Christian adolescents and emerging adults often become less fluent in faith over time. But faith needs to be talked about and processed, and if these conversations diminish as our kids get older, we miss opportunities to help them remain fluent. What we call “faithing,” or the ongoing act of faith, depends on practice and use for it to become deeply part of us. It is through faithing that language, ...

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He succeeds Harold Smith, who retires May 1.

Christianity Today is announcing the election of Timothy Dalrymple as its president and chief executive officer, effective May 1. The press release announcing the move includes the following:

The Christianity Today Board of Directors has unanimously elected Dr. Timothy Dalrymple as its next president and CEO. He will begin his new role May 1, 2019.Commenting on the enthusiasm of the board for their president-elect, board chair Eugene Habecker said, “Tim comes to CT at a strategic time. He has a remarkable opportunity to build on the foundation put in place by retiring president Harold Smith.” He added, "Tim brings the requisite skill sets to help lead CT to the next level, combining those skills with a vibrant evangelical faith, the heart of a shepherd, and the attitude of a servant.”Dalrymple’s selection follows a nine-month nationwide search led by the firm of CarterBaldwin and involving over 150 potential candidates. The Board made their decision on February 19 at a meeting in Dallas.The president-elect was raised in California, where his father served in several pastoral roles. He began to preach and teach at a young age. He was also a national champion gymnast and saw God’s faithfulness in victory and defeat alike. He took his passions for ministry, learning, and athletic achievement with him to Stanford University.When his gymnastics career ended in a broken neck, he plunged into campus ministry and overseas missions trips. He became president of Stanford’s Campus Crusade (Cru) chapter.It was also at Stanford where he met his wife, Joyce. Both helped to lead a Christian unity movement on campus that brought together students from all the university’s Christian fellowships ...

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Author of ‘Now That I’m Called’ on how churches can better engage and deploy women in vocational ministry.

Ed: Tell me about your book Now That I’m Called: A Guide for Women Discerning a Call to Vocational Ministry.

Kristen: Now That I’m Called is a book written out of two beliefs. First, God calls women to gospel ministry. Second, the church of Jesus Christ needs God-called, theologically-trained women engaged in gospel ministry. Thus, the book is primarily written as a resource to aid and encourage women who are discerning a call to vocational ministry. Second, the book is for pastors and church leaders who want to know how to help women called to ministry in their churches and who want to begin to formulate a theology for women in ministry.

Ed: Why did you write your book?

Kristen: I felt God calling me to ministry at a young age. I grew up as the daughter of a Southern Baptist pastor, who, for most of my life, ministered in small churches and in rural areas. As a female in the SBC, I was faced with a dilemma: How could God be calling me to ministry when I saw no women in full-time vocational ministry within my context? Long before I could articulate a call to ministry, when I was 7 or 8, I cried real tears to my parents, “Why didn’t God make me a boy so I can be a preacher?”

Even at that age I was experiencing the angst between a God-given desire to preach the gospel and my gender.

During my teenage and college years, my parents and church were supportive and affirming of God’s call on my life to gospel ministry, but there were simply no resources and no one to guide me through that discernment process. Also, I was often faced with the questions, What will you do? and Where will you serve?

As I describe in my book, it felt like I was in a dark room with my arms outstretched trying to find the ...

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President J. D. Greear announces a batch of new proposals, reiterating that congregations that cover up incidents have “no place” in the SBC.

After a Houston Chronicle investigation uncovered hundreds of instances of criminal sexual abuse within its churches, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president J. D. Greear said the denomination needs to “repent of a culture that has made abuse, cover-ups, and evading accountability far too easy.”

Already, Southern Baptists are taking action to change their church culture, debuting this week new policies and plans to improve organizational awareness of abuse cases and train leaders to address them.

The news report drew particular attention to at least 35 pastors and volunteers who continued to work in Southern Baptist churches after being convicted or credibly accused of sexual misconduct.

At a meeting of the SBC executive committee on Monday, Greear called on the denomination to examine 10 churches who were “alleged to have displayed a wanton disregard for the seriousness of abuse” to see if they indeed meet the standards for SBC churches set forth in the Baptist Faith and Message.

Notably, the list includes Houston’s Second Baptist Church (in recent years, the third-biggest church in the SBC) and Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, where C. J. Mahaney is senior pastor.

While the SBC can remove churches that harbor predators under its existing policy, the committee wants to now explicitly name mishandling of abuse as grounds for expulsion. If approved by the delegation at the SBC Annual Meeting this year and next year (amendments require two consecutive votes), this requirement will be added to the SBC Constitution as one of the qualifications for churches:

Has not been determined by the Executive Committee to have evidenced indifference in addressing sexual abuse that targets minors and other ...

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It's been far too long, back their back!

It’s been way too long since we ran some good church signs. They never cease to end, though, and I think we all enjoy seeing them. So tweet me some good ones and we will get this feature started again. In the meantime, enjoy the ones below.

Thanks to @sethwaldrop and Oakland church for the reminder that we are both body and spirit! Neglecting either is a fool’s task.

Thanks to @ufmikeg (aka Michael Graham) for the reminder that cultural mainstays like the Hokey Pokey can indeed teach us life lessons (though we cannot neglect important things like proper spelling for pleasure pursuits!).



And thanks to @kylewillyou for submitting this excellent play on words. Time to put on the armor of Christ, people!

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