Colombo theologian: God gives Christians the freedom to leave the revenge cycle and instead love and bless Muslims.
I was not at church in Colombo on Easter Sunday morning, as I was sick and had stayed home. Then text messages began to come about a bombing, then several bombings, in my home town and in two other towns. One was only a few miles from my home.
Ten years after our protracted war had ended, I realized that Sri Lanka, my dear nation, was again confronting severe violent attacks. I had preached several times in one of the targeted churches, Zion Church in Batticaloa. The sister of one of my colleagues was at the service, and was seriously injured. She is still battling for her life. The death toll has risen to 320. Unbelievable.
Whenever tragedy hits a nation, Christians need to ask how to think biblically in response to the situation. As Christianity is a body religion, it is best that groups of Christians meet and discuss a common response to the challenges. We cannot delay our response. There are both immediate responses and more long-term responses to heal the wounds of our people.
I have thought of at least six necessary responses from Christians to what has happened:
1) Lament Loss
Christians must join the nation in lamenting and mourning over our losses. Protestants have been somewhat lacking in espousing a theology of groaning (Rom. 8:23) that opens the door to lament (though that seems to be changing). The Old Testament has many instances of elaborate mourning customs, and that is found in the New Testament too. The church responded to Stephen’s death with a “great lamentation over him” (Acts 8:2; also see 9:39). Each country has its cultural ways of lament, and we must look for practices to adopt which harmonize with Christianity. In addition to Easter time, April is New Year in Sri Lanka and most Christians ...
How do Christians respond in a Christ-honoring way to a world awash in division and hostility?
Welcome to the age of outrage, my friend. Who knew that technology would empower some of our worst attributes instead of our best?
Twenty years ago, we didn’t Google things on our smartphones. Now, it’s instinctual. We search the web almost without thinking, accessing literal libraries of information on virtually any topic faster than we can type the keywords. I searched the web dozens of times writing this one piece.
With today’s technology, we can communicate instantly and continuously, whether we’re facing a life-or-death crisis or just want to satisfy a curiosity. In the 1980s, American Express warned card users, “Don’t leave home without it.” Today, it seems we can’t leave home without our phones. Most days, I would more readily return home to get my phone than my wallet. We can — and feel we must — remain constantly connected with friends, family, co-workers and, well, the world.
Yet the devices that allow us to communicate with everyone anytime we want oftentimes drive us further apart. Technology has created interpersonal opportunity, but also depersonalized communication and conflict, dividing many of us from our neighbors.
The comments sections on YouTube are a greater testament to human depravity than all the reformers’ doctrines combined. Arguments, bullying, conspiracy theories, vitriol and irrational cesspools of misinformation and misdirection abound in our digital communication and marketplace. There is outrage everywhere — sometimes targeting Christians, but, unfortunately, often coming from Christians.
We live in a world where our beliefs are increasingly odd and even offensive. But, as Christians, we must allow the Holy Spirit to guide ...
How our emotions—even the unpleasant ones—point us back to a loving God.
Emojis. I love them. Thumbs up, thumbs down, cry-laughing, heart-eyes, blowing my top: They are so handy and expressive! Most of us have over 90 facial-expression emojis on our phones, all meant to communicate how we’re feeling with one tap of a button.
I love being able to express any emotion without actually having to verbalize it. Don’t you? After all, why take time to describe how I feel when “smiling-face-with-happy-hands” says it so perfectly and (more importantly) with such ease. Clearly, the developers of our smartphones knew something of the cauldron of emotions stirring within us. And they knew, intuitively, that we would want a simple and satisfying way of expressing them.
But sometimes, of course, our emotions are confusing, unsettling, or intense enough to defy easy expression. King David once asked, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” (Ps. 42:5). In their new book, Untangling Emotions, J. Alasdair Groves and Winston T. Smith set out to uncover the nagging questions underneath our emotions, the ones that keep us clicking on that crying face or the angry one with symbols over the mouth. Questions like, Why am I feeling like this? or How can I stop? They want us to know why Christians struggle with understanding their emotions and engaging with them in a productive way.
Good to Feel Bad
Believers are often tormented by an inner voice that says, IfI’m a Christian, shouldn’t I be joyful? Don’t my negative emotions prove that my faith is flawed?
Not so, say Groves and Smith, two experienced counselors affiliated with the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Emotions—even the unpleasant ones—are a good gift from a loving ...
Survey finds more than half of monthly worshipers haven’t shared Jesus in the past six months.
Most Protestant churchgoers say they are eager to talk to others about Jesus, and are praying for opportunities to share their faith. But most say they have not had any evangelistic conversations in the past six months.
The 2019 Discipleship Pathway Assessment study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research found excitement and eagerness about the idea of evangelism, but few Protestant churchgoers actually engaged in the practice on a regular basis.
More than half (55%) of those who attend church at least once a month say they have not shared with someone how to become a Christian in the past six months.
“Sharing the good news that Jesus paid for our sins through His death on the cross and rose again to bring us new life is the mission of the church,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, “but it does not appear to be the priority of churchgoers.”
Seeking evangelistic opportunities
A majority of churchgoers (56%) say they pray for opportunities to tell others about Jesus at least once a week, with about 1 in 4 (23%) praying for such moments every day.
Another 1 in 4 (27%) say they rarely or never pray for those opportunities.
Those with a high school diploma or less are most likely to say they pray for those opportunities every day (31%).
Hispanics (36%) and African Americans (29%) are more likely to offer those prayers every day compared to whites (20%) or other ethnicities (17%).
Increased church attendance makes it more likely someone has offered evangelistic prayers.
Those who attend a worship service on average once a week (75%) are more likely than churchgoers who attend less frequently (69%) to pray evangelistically at least once a month.
Most churchgoers (56%) also say they are eager ...
We've never regretted saying no, but his words still haunt me.
I was a little over halfway through my pregnancy when my husband and I sat gripping each other’s hands while a specialist gesticulated as he described the options for our unborn baby. We could opt for life-saving surgeries, we could give her comfort care once born but allow her to die without intervention, or we could choose to abort.
“The root of [the word] disaster means a star coming apart, and no image expresses better the look in a patient’s eyes when hearing a neurosurgeon’s diagnosis,” says the late Paul Kalanithi in When Breath Becomes Air. A star coming apart perfectly describes how it felt to be told that our daughter had a severe heart defect that would kill her soon after birth without medical intervention.
When the word abortion was brought into the conversation, my hand involuntarily reached out in a painful appeal to leave that option off the table. He brushed my objection aside, “I know that many parents don’t want to hear about this option, but I legally have to tell you.” He continued describing what abortion would look like in some detail, then the medical team melted off into the hospital.
This moment has haunted me for years, and it has come to mind as pro-choice and pro-life positions are again debated in many states, much of the argument being over “nonviable pregnancies” or “medically fragile fetuses.” Some of the debate surrounding new bills and legislation is over what it looks like to show compassion to parents and to unborn babies when faced with serious, life-threatening birth defects. A baby with any birth defect—life threatening or not—challenges us personally and as a society to examine what our values are. The ...
Translation and immersion are key for every generation as they engage people in culture.
In my leadership role with World Methodist Evangelism, I frequently am in international environments, depending heavily on the skills of translators and interpreters. These are gifted people!
I recall teaching on evangelism in Vladivostok, Russia a few years ago. I was trying to make an important point, which in English is not difficult to understand. It’s the idea that in evangelism, no way is the way, but each way, by God’s grace, can become a way. The emphasis is on the word “the”(which implies a sense of singularity) and the word “a” (which implies a variety of possibilities).
The point is that there is never only one way to evangelize; rather, there are a wide variety of fruitful approaches, depending on your environment.
What I didn’t realize is that in Russian, there is no easy way to translate “the” and “a,” especially to make the point I was trying to make. It took a few minutes of discussion with my interpreter, along with a much longer explanation in Russian, to finally make that one sentence clear.
In our life of faith, translation is critical.
How do we understand this good news of Jesus Christ? How is it that we make it known to others? How do we translate this news that is at one and the same time something that inspires silent awe, joyful praise, tearful repentance, ecstatic utterances, or quiet prayer?
How do we make known a gospel that is at one and the same time something that moves us to a life of personal piety, acts of mercy, or public activism? How do we provide a channel for the Holy Spirit to make this deeply mysterious yet magnificently understandable news real in all places and for each successive generation?
Pew survey of 30,000 people finds a median of 39% favor, 13% oppose a “more important role for religion.”
Despite signs of increasing secularism in the United States, far more Americans favor an increased role for religion in society than oppose it.
According to a massive new report from the Pew Research Center that queried more than 30,000 people across 27 countries, almost three times as many Americans say they would view “a more important role for religion” in the US as a positive change (51%) versus a negative change (18%).
In general, that sentiment is shared around the globe—at the same rate. Across all countries surveyed, a median of 39 percent of respondents favor religion becoming more important in society, while only 13 percent oppose it.
Only 5 of the 27 countries surveyed have populations in which those opposed to religion playing a more important role outnumber those in favor. All 5 are in Europe: Sweden (51%), France (47%), the Netherlands (45%), Germany (35%), and Spain (38%), where an openly atheist prime minister was elected last year amid concerns over his vows to remove religious symbolism from institutions and religion from school curriculums.
In the African nations of Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and Tunisia, along with other countries in the global south such as Indonesia and Brazil, the idea of religion gaining more importance in society is viewed favorably by large majorities of the population.
Pew highlighted one country where views vary by religion: Nigeria, which continues to be rocked by deadly sectarian conflict.
“The vast majority of Nigerian Muslims (88%) are in favor of a more important role for religion, while a smaller majority of Christians (61%) say the same,” stated researchers. “However, it’s important to note that roughly a quarter of Christian respondents ...
If you can’t do the fundamentals with excellence, then you will never be successful—at least not for long.
Every coach knows the value of fundamentals. Not only does each season start with the basics, but coaches rehearse them over again as the building blocks of the game. Many early season practices have started with an exasperated coach restating the basics with a Lombardi-like version of, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”
Form, stance, positioning.
Hitting the cutoff man. Every time.
It’s skills taught to small children when learning their sport that, years later, will separate the winners from the losers at every level. If you can’t do the fundamentals with excellence, then you will never be successful—at least not for long.
Could the same be true in our efforts at evangelism and disciple-making? Are there certain basic fundamentals that we must master in order to expect missional impact?
Easter Monday provides a good opportunity for reflection on the basics. For many, this weekend was a special weekend. It was different – bigger than most Sundays. There’s something stunningly spectacular about reflecting on a vacant tomb and a triumphant Savior. And most churches attempted to take advantage of the spiritual opportunity that yesterday provided.
But, on the back side of such a weekend of celebration we are left to consider the missionary implications of the resurrection for every other day of the year. The resurrection stands as a permanent reality that must shape the living priorities of every kingdom disciple. We can’t merely swing hard for a single day of hyper-intentionality in missionary action and then wait another year for a suitable plate appearance. In fact, the effectiveness of yesterday’s missionary output was largely predicated on a churches’ ...
New Zealand revealed the tragic logical end of evils like Christian Nationalism.
The March massacre of 50 Muslims during worship in New Zealand was first and foremost a human tragedy, one felt deeply around the world. Unfortunately the massacre also signaled a political tragedy, displaying the logical end to a type of engagement increasingly defining the public square: identity politics.
As British columnist Brendan O’Neill put it, “Increasingly, it feels like the New Zealand atrocity is what happens when the politics of identity, the reduction of everyone to cultural or racial creatures whose relationship with other cultural and racial cultures must be monitored and managed, comes to be the only game in public life.”
The simplest definition of identity politics is summarized at Wikipedia: “a tendency of people sharing a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity to form exclusive political alliances, instead of engaging in traditional broad-based party politics, or promote their particular interests without regard for interests of a larger political group.” Adherents have no interest in broad-based politics because they believe that no other group can empathize sufficiently with them to truly understand their group. Only one born into the group identity, or who becomes “woke” through a kind of revelation, truly knows the score.
Without genuine understanding between groups, the only way to gain political influence is through the raw use of power. Political power for those who are patient. Violence for those who are not. But the bottom line is the same: It’s about and only about gaining power for the benefit of your group and at the expense of other groups. This is not to suggest that every current advocate of identity politics champions ...
Unbeknownst to me, I began recruiting my successor six years ago.
I’m so glad God doesn’t operate on my timetable. The year was 2013. The place: Harvard Yard. I found myself sitting over coffee with someone who had impressed me enough during the previous three years that I was about to offer him a position on CT’s executive team. The role was completely new; I had created it specifically for him in hopes that he might bring to the ministry new ideas for missional expansion and financial growth.
Job description in hand, I put the full court press on this prospective new employee, confident that a “yes” was forthcoming. But no sooner was my pitch delivered than I heard: “Harold, I’d love to be a part of your team, and the role fits me perfectly. But now is simply not the time.” So much for my salesmanship!
Fast forward almost six years to February of this year, when the Christianity Today board of directors was meeting in Dallas to consider that same man as my successor. They voted unanimously to ask Tim Dalrymple to be CT’s next president and CEO. And this time, Tim said yes!
At the end of my 35 years serving here—12-plus of those in the “corner office”—I couldn’t imagine a better way to “sign off” this portion of my kingdom service. Tim will bring an impressive array of gifts to his new role, including an entrepreneurial drive, a digital-native mindset, and an immense intellectual and editorial capacity.
After graduating from Stanford with a double major in philosophy and religious studies, Tim earned an MDiv at Princeton Theological Seminary and a PhD in modern Western religious thought at Harvard University. Along the way, he also served in youth ministry, prison chaplaincy, and graduate and faculty ...