Founder of Open Doors said he wasn’t an “evangelical stuntman” but a faithful Christian following the leading of the Spirit.
Anne van der Bijl, a Dutch evangelical known to Christians worldwide as Brother Andrew, the man who smuggled Bibles into closed Communist countries, has died at the age of 94.
Van der Bijl became famous as “God’s smuggler” when the first-person account of his missionary adventures—slipping past border guards with Bibles hidden in his blue Volkswagen Beetle—was published in 1967. God’s Smuggler was written with evangelical journalists John and Elizabeth Sherrill and published under his code name “Brother Andrew.” It sold more than 10 million copies and was translated into 35 languages.
The book inspired numerous other missionary smugglers, provided funding to van der Bilj’s ministry Open Doors, and drew evangelical attention to the plight of believers in countries where Christian belief and practice were illegal. Van der Bijl protested that people missed the point, however, when they held him up as heroic and extraordinary.
“I am not an evangelical stuntman,” he said. “I am just an ordinary guy. What I did, anyone can do.”
No one knows how many Bibles van der Bijl took into Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, East Germany, Bulgaria, and other Soviet-bloc countries in the decade before the success of God’s Smuggler forced him into the role of figurehead and fundraiser for Open Doors. Estimates have ranged into the millions. A Dutch joke popular in the late 1960s said, “What will the Russians find if they arrive first at the moon? Brother Andrew with a load of Bibles.”
Van der Bijl, for his part, did not keep track and did not think the exact number was important.
“I don't care about statistics,” he said in a 2005 interview. ...
Five praise music songwriters on how they handle criticism, work together, and seek to reach Gen Z through their work.
When Chinese Christians around the world worship God through music, chances are they’re singing a translated Western hymn or a hit by established worship music creators Stream of Praise (赞美之泉), Heavenly Melody (天韵合唱团), or Clay Music (泥土音乐). Several worship songwriters are interested in adding something that better reflects the tastes of young people.
Jiang Shaolong, Cui Yu, Jane Hao, Chen Ming, and Luan Xin all grew up in China before moving to the United States for college or graduate work and share a passion for Chinese worship songwriting and ministering to the next generation. They are enthusiastic about using their songwriting talents to help deepen the faith of the Chinese students and young professionals they pastor or mentor. With the exception of Chen, who studied music at a conservatory, all of them are self-taught musicians.
Jiang pastors the Chinese-speaking congregation of New Life Community Church Bridgeport, in Chicago, and offers spiritual mentorship to Jing Ji Huo (The Burning Bush), which also includes Hao and Yu, the band’s leader. Chen Ming and Luan Xin are both campus ministers. (Ming works with the diaspora Chinese ministry Ambassadors for Christ.)
These young Chinese praise songwriters—all of whom are in their 30s and 40s, years below the average Chinese church leader—recently spoke with CT about why they felt compelled to write new Chinese worship songs and how they handle commentary that their music is too inspired by pop.
Why did you want to create new Chinese praise songs?
Jiang: I was called by God to serve a Chinese church made up mostly of young Chinese students and young professionals. We worship with songs translated from English as well as songs written by other Chinese ...
Egypt sees surge in foster care applications, though still insufficient, while Christians denied custody due to sharia law.
Four years ago, Shenouda was an infant found at the door of a Coptic church. Today, renamed Yusuf, the boy is found in a state-run orphanage. In between lies the care of a priest, the devastation of a Christian family, and a sectarian bureaucracy undergoing partial reform.
Egypt is home to a Dickens-like tragedy.
“Adoption is not legal in Egypt,” said Nermien Riad, executive director of Coptic Orphans. “There is no possibility it will happen as known in the Western world.”
The boy’s family name and location have been kept anonymous as a cautionary measure, as reported by the Coptic publication Watani. Likely left by an unwed mother, the child was found by a Coptic priest who presented him to the couple, infertile for 29 years.
They took him into their home, obtained a birth certificate as if he was their own, and raised him with love and devotion. They gave him a Christian-signifying first name, honoring the prior Coptic Orthodox pope, and per Egyptian naming custom the four-generation quadrilateral was completed with the names of the doting father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
All was idyllic, until a jealous niece realized the impact on her inheritance.
Egypt’s Islamic-based law, seeking to preserve lineage, prohibits taking another’s child as one’s own. The niece reported the couple to the police, who investigated. The prosecution determined there was no blood relation, but also no ill will.
The father signed a paper stating he found the child “on the street,” likely to shield the priest’s involvement. But though the case was dropped last February, the boy was taken to an orphanage. With no papers to prove his ancestry, he was assumed to be a Muslim—and ...
New research shows a marked shift in attitudes about refugees and immigration reform compared to 2015, and experts have a few ideas why.
Carla Flores was nervous to stand in front of a suburban evangelical congregation and share her experience as the child of undocumented immigrants.
Born in Mexico and raised since she was a toddler in Kansas City, Kansas, the 26-year-old children’s ministry leader is one of over 3 million “Dreamers” in the US, meaning her status is legal but uncertain. During her recent presentation at this church on the other side of town from her own, some churchgoers drilled her for details about her life, while others responded warmly and volunteered for ministry in her immigrant community.
Flores’s experience reflects a bigger shift in US evangelical views on immigration.
Some polls in the past have shown white evangelicals in particular were opposed to pathways to citizenship and accepting refugees. But the latest survey from Lifeway Research—coming as an unprecedented wave of Afghan refugees settle in the US and Dreamers remain in limbo—indicates that evangelicals’ support for immigrants and immigration reform has grown significantly.
Evangelicals are more open to welcoming refugees and offering paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants than they were in 2015, the last time Lifeway polled on the issue. Now 77 percent of self-identified evangelicals are “strongly” or “somewhat” in favor of a path to citizenship, up from 61 percent who said “yes” seven years before. Among those who attend worship at least weekly, 82 percent were in favor.
Evangelicals by a wide majority and across all ethnicities said they would support bipartisan immigration reform, defined as increasing border security and establishing a process for undocumented immigrants to apply for ...
The successor to Paige Patterson cites “reputational, legal, and financial realities” as he moves on to an IMB role.
Adam Greenway has resigned as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary three and a half years after he succeeded fired president Paige Patterson.
Greenway stepped down during a trustee meeting on Thursday and will take a role at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)’s International Mission Board, according to a statement from the seminary.
O. S. Hawkins, retired president of the SBC financial services entity GuideStone, will lead the school in the interim. (Update: On September 27, the trustees adjusted plans to have David Dockery—who was a theology professor and special consultant to Greenway—serve as interim president and Hawkins as senior advisor and ambassador-at-large. Dockery was previously president of Union University and Trinity International University/Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.)
Greenway said in a statement:
These days are incredibly challenging in the life of our denomination. They are also challenging times for academic institutions, particularly theological seminaries. In February 2019, Carla and I accepted the call to come back “home” to Southwestern Seminary with an understanding of these challenges, but also with the strong desire to be part of the solution.
What we failed to appreciate was the enormity of the reputational, legal, and financial realities that would welcome us to the Dome—only to be compounded by a global pandemic unlike anything we have ever experienced before.
We have done our best to serve Southern Baptists by helping position our seminary for the future, but much, much work remains to be done. Nevertheless, in the Providence of God we sense a release from our duties here.
Since assuming the presidency at Southwestern, Greenway worked ...
Twenty-four pastors and one imam lose argument that the rules designating worship “high risk” violated their religious rights.
New Zealand’s High Court has ruled that government officials were not acting unlawfully when they restricted and regulated religious services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The court acknowledged that rules curtailed the protected right to “manifest religious beliefs” but deemed that allowable in a health emergency.
Starting in December 2021, the New Zealand government limited religious gatherings to 100 vaccinated people or 25 unvaccinated people. Face masks were also required if the house of worship shared the site with any other groups. The government’s director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, deemed religious gatherings “high risk” because of the presence of elderly and immune-compromised people.
Some religious leaders complained the restrictions were reminiscent of Nazi Germany, and one was briefly jailed for refusing to comply.
Twenty-four Christian pastors and one Muslim imam sued Chris Hipkins, the minister for COVID-19 response, and Bloomfield, claiming the regulations violated their religious freedom. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BORA) says that "every person has the right to manifest that person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private.”
Justice Cheryl Gwyn ruled, however, that though the COVID-19 rules did restrict religious freedom, that was justified by the need to reduce the risk to public health during a pandemic. The right to manifest religious belief is protected, but not absolute. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, also signed by the United States, religious freedom can be limited in the interests ...
First NFL player to kneel and thank Jesus in the end zone said caring for souls and helping people in poverty were more meaningful than fame.
Herb Lusk II went down in history on a Friday night in August 1977.
The tailback for the Philadelphia Eagles caught an easy toss from the quarterback, tucked the football into the crook of his arm, slipped between a knot of players on his left, and sprinted 70 yards down the field to score a fourth-quarter touchdown. Then, in the end zone, in front of 48,000 yelling fans, he got down on one knee and prayed.
According to the official record keepers, he was the first to do that in the National Football League. He bowed his head, said, “Thank you, Jesus,” and that was history.
But Lusk, who died on Monday at age 69, insisted to the end of his life that that wasn’t the most important day of his professional football career. The most important was the second day of training in 1979, when he woke up in his dorm room and said, “I can’t play football.”
“Man,” his teammate said from the other bed, “this is only the second day of camp.”
“For you,” Lusk said. “For me it’s the last day.”
He was done with football. He was going to be a Baptist minister.
The coach tried to talk him out of it. So did his dad, who was himself a Baptist minister. His father got on the phone and argued more people would see Lusk pray in an end zone than would ever lay eyes on him in a pulpit.
“Dad, I don’t think that’s enough anymore,” Lusk recalled saying. “I woke up in the dorm room and I knew it was over for me. I could feel the Lord’s call.”
Lusk quit football that day and committed himself to ministry. He became a dynamic, powerhouse pastor who turned a dying, debt-burdened congregation into a vibrant community of faith and a vital ...
Modern worship music can seem awfully simple. But it has a vital role to play, especially when paired with Scripture.
If you spend any amount of time in churches that have a notable proportion of people under the age of 40, you’ll hear the genre of music called “modern worship.” The chords are simple, the melodies are exceedingly singable, the sentiments are sincere, and the lyrics are brief.
Like all genres, modern worship has individual examples of real quality, and this week I was in the car singing along with one—Elevation’s 2018 song “Worthy”—that has many merits. I would gladly lead a congregation in it myself, if only to sing this theologically exemplary couplet:
“It was my cross you bore / So I could live in the freedom you died for.”
But as I sang along with the recording, I couldn’t help feeling, not for the first time, that it was incomplete and just a bit thin on its own.
This is not something I feel about a related genre I’ve spent a lot of time studying and, as a worship musician, leading: the choruses of Black Gospel that emerge out of the tradition called the Negro spiritual.
These songs, too, tend to have very short texts. But because they are anchored in the incomparable spiritual depth of the Black church and because they very often pack a great deal of musical subtlety into a seemingly simple musical package, they can sustain a great deal of repetition and only increase in their expressive and formative power. The greatest spirituals—like “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me”—can and will be sung for a lifetime and beyond.
Not so much with modern worship. There is something bite-sized about these pieces, which we sing so enthusiastically for a year or three but then lose interest in. And yet I do love singing them, ...
Married parents and their kids have a calling that needs to be expanded, not obliterated.
In pockets of Western Protestant culture, the image of a happy, put-together family unit has become an idol. Many of our church programming budgets are directed toward attracting young families, and those members who aren’t inside a traditional family unit are keenly aware of their status.
Singles become a problem to fix or fix up. Lone parents are pitied, and older unmarried adults get relegated to seniors’ clubs, widow support groups, or some other socially palliative program.
Christian authors are taking notice and rightly challenging how we think about marriage, family, and singleness in the church. For example, an excerpt from author Sam Allberry’s book 7 Myths about Singleness recently appeared in Plough magazine, detailing how singles and families with children benefit when they integrate their lives.
Allberry argues that nuclear families are too privatized and insulated from those around them. Other public figures like David Brooks have recently made similar claims.
Although Allberry’s insights are spot-on, editors at Plough added a subtitle that seems to move beyond his position. Their choice of phrasing reflects a sentiment I’ve observed among fellow Christians: “The concept of the nuclear family does a disservice to singles and families, and it’s not consistent with New Testament teachings.”
Nuclear family is increasingly wielded as a pejorative term and almost always used without a clear definition. Sometimes the term encapsulates gender roles with a breadwinner father and a homemaker mother. Other times it’s meant to describe the middle-class, suburban lifestyle. Allberry uses the phrase in reference to self-sufficient, sequestered families who are isolated from ...
Even among the faithful, Christian orthodoxy has taken a backseat to cultural and political tribalism.
As my colleague Stefani McDade reported earlier this week, Lifeway Research released a survey conducted for Ligonier Ministries. It concludes that a shockingly high percentage of American evangelicals hold beliefs about Jesus and salvation that every wing of the Christian church would define as heresy.
If these results are accurate, what does that mean for where American evangelical Christianity is headed?
To recap, the survey showed that evangelical respondents expressed a confusing and sometimes incoherent mix of beliefs. Most affirmed the Trinity, but 73 percent at least partially agreed with the statement that “Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father,” which is, of course, the teaching of the heretic Arius.
I’m generally a little skeptical of these sorts of surveys, since they often seem to filter out those who believe but can’t articulate their beliefs in abstract terms. I’m not sure that any of my childhood Sunday school teachers would have agreed with a survey statement that “justification is by faith alone,” even though they all believed that. That said, Lifeway seems to have accounted for and filtered through many of those research problems.
I suspect most of us, though, are not surprised by the results. Today’s American evangelical Christianity seems to be more focused on hunting heretics internally than perhaps in any other generation. The difference, however, is that excommunications are happening not over theological views but over partisan politics or the latest social media debates.
I’ve always found it a bit disconcerting to see fellow evangelicals embrace Christian leaders who teach heretical views of the ...