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The Mission Deserves Margin: Minister To The Church You Have, While Preparing For More

Thu, 26/04/2018 - 2:53pm

While pastoring the people we have, we need to create in-house systems and outward ministry suitable for a church of double our current size.

A church of 50 people needs to be pastored like a church of 50 people.

You can’t act like a church of 500. Or even 100. The systems, methods and relationship dynamics simply won’t fit.

So how can a church grow, either in its size or effectiveness, if we’re only pastoring the people we have?

While pastoring the people we have, we need to create in-house systems and outward ministry suitable for a church of double our current size.

Training A Team

Recently I had the privilege of talking to pastor who has only been in his current church for a short time. The church went through years of difficulty before he arrived and there are just a few folks left. All of them are older than the pastor, who is in his 60s.

Here’s how he’s pastoring that handful of people, while creating opportunities to minister to more.

During the week, the pastor spends almost no time in the office. Instead, he heads out to local coffee shops, stores, community centers and so on. He’s getting to know the folks in his small town. He does it alone because the members of his church are too elderly to do it with him.

But that doesn’t mean the church members are inactive. Every Sunday, the nursery and kids’ rooms are set up and sanitized. The volunteer seniors show up early and put out signup sheets. A rotating group of senior saints wait in those rooms from at least 15 minutes before the service starts until about 15 minutes after it starts. If no kids show up (which, so far, none have) they head into the service.

It’s too early to give you any results of their work yet, but this is a great example of ministering to the people you have while preparing systems and outreach to double your effectiveness and outreach. ...

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Want More Church Leaders? Look For A Servant’s Heart

Mon, 23/04/2018 - 8:49pm

It’s better and easier to encourage a servant to lead than to get a leader to serve.

It’s hard to find people who will step up and lead in the church today. Especially young people.

That’s what I keep hearing.

But I also see many churches that are the exceptions to that supposed rule. Including the amazing congregation I get to serve.

What are healthy churches doing to encourage and train a new generation of leaders?

There are a lot of factors, of course. Far too many for one blog post. But if I had to isolate it to one primary factor, it would be this.

Healthy churches find potential leaders by paying attention to people with a servant’s heart first, leadership skills second.

The Unseen Servant

I was reminded of this simple principle this morning as I was eating my free hotel breakfast.

The room was filled with a bunch of noisy college students. One group had shoved several tables together, jamming a bunch of chairs around it to eat and chat together.

When they were finished, they left with the tables still jammed together and chairs scattered everywhere. But one student paused, looked back at the mess and, without saying anything, put all the chairs and tables back in their proper position – including a chair from my table. I thanked her. She smiled awkwardly and left.

That’s not leadership. After all, she didn’t recruit any of her friends to help out. But it is servanthood.

I hope there’s someone in her life who is noticing when she does things like that and encourages her to keep at it, while nudging her to add some leadership skills to the mix.

Encourage Servants To Lead

If I was her parent, her teacher or her pastor I’d try to nudge her forward with simple advice like “the next time you do something like that, why don’t you grab a friend and ask them to ...

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A Spirit Thing

Fri, 20/04/2018 - 5:45pm

Billy Graham’s God-given vision for a magazine of “conviction and love.”

Just before I traveled to Charlotte in March to attend the memorial service of our founder, Billy Graham, one of CT’s designers stopped by my office with a large manila envelope. “It’s from my grandfather,” she said. “He wanted you to have this.”

This staffer’s grandfather was former CT editor Gil Beers, the man in charge of the magazine when I first came to CT 34 years ago. I opened the package eagerly. Inside was a nine-page letter dated April 6, 1984, from Graham himself, recounting for Beers the origins of Christianity Today. One paragraph in particular leapt off the pages. It told a story I knew well but included a line confirming what today motivates not only me but all of us at CT as we press on to encourage believers to renew their minds, serve the church, and create culture to the glory of God.

“Sometime in early 1953,” wrote Graham, “. . . I was awakened one morning about 2 o’clock. I went to my desk, using a desk light so I would not awaken my wife, and I sat down and wrote out everything that came to my mind concerning a new magazine. I am sure that the Holy Spirit was inspiring me, and speaking through me on the paper.”

According to the letter, God outlined for Graham a few core qualities that would define CT. It would be anchored on God’s Word, in contrast to the relativism and slipshod theologizing emerging at the time. It would showcase the best of evangelical thinking, news, and commentary, in contrast to the caricature of evangelicals at the time as uneducated simpletons with little to offer the public square. And its tone would be “conviction and love”— biblical and balanced, hopeful and not divisive—in ...

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Jack Deere Went Through Hell to Come to Faith

Thu, 12/04/2018 - 2:38pm

The theologian’s memoir is refreshingly raw about the wounds he’s suffered—and the wounds he’s inflicted.

What’s most endearing about Even in Our Darkness, the new memoir from theologian Jack Deere, is also what’s most difficult: its rawness. Before picking it up, be warned: You will hold your breath for pages at a time, even to the last page. The reader never really gets any sort of break, which, I suppose, is fitting, seeing as the author has never seemed to get one either.

Deere was born the child of drinkers and drifters. Suicide and substance abuse, violence and anger, were the fabric of his life. And yet this book reads less like a tell-all or “Ten Excuses for My Dysfunctions” and more like the kind of story that reminds us Jesus came for the sick, not for the well.

Balancing the Scales

Deere grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. He regales us with stories of youthful escapades and sexual conquests; with examples of good discipline by his father and abuse by his mother. He does not shy from coarse language, a fact for which this reader was grateful. In an endnote, he explains, “To tell my story any other way would have been to diminish its authenticity and power.” (Instead of punishing Deere for calling his mother derogatory names, his father takes a moment to truly explain what these expletives mean, a moment of discipline that becomes more important as the story goes on.).

As Deere endures this whiplashed childhood (literally and figuratively), we can see the internal tension with which he wrestles. He knows there is something innately unjust, something not right, about his family life, yet he lacks a firm example of what is right. Except for the presence of his “Nonnie,” his maternal grandmother who is married to the wildly abusive “Poppa,” Deere has no role models of ...

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Lord, Have Mercy on 67% of Us

Wed, 28/03/2018 - 2:26pm

A Lenten research roundup of what Americans think of sin.

Pope Francis warned this year against “fake fasting” during Lent.

“We must pretend,” Francis said with a smile during a Friday mass in February. “That is not showing others that we are performing acts of penance.” Those who fast should reflect on their sins and ask God for forgiveness, he said.

Most Americans don’t observe Lent. But that’s not because they think they’re sinless.

In fact, 2 out of 3 Americans confess to being a sinner (67%), according to LifeWay Research [full infographic below]. The rest don’t see themselves as sinners (8%), don’t think sin exists (10%), or preferred not to answer the question (15%).

While a few of the self-confessed sinners don’t mind being one (5%), most say they are either working on being less of a sinner (34%) or depending on Jesus to overcome their sin (28%).

“Almost nobody wants to be a sinner,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

More women (33%) than men (22%) say they depend on Jesus to overcome sin, as do more Protestants (49%) than Catholics (19%) and more evangelicals (72%) than non-evangelicals (19%). About half of those who attend religious services at least monthly (51%) say they depend on Jesus, compared to 15 percent of those who go less frequently.

In 2016, a LifeWay study for Ligonier Ministries found that 65 percent of Americans think that everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. Americans with evangelical beliefs were less likely to agree than those without evangelical beliefs (54% vs. 68%).

More than three-quarters of those surveyed said people have the ability to turn to God on their own initiative (79%), while nearly the same amount soundly rejected ...

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Billy Graham’s Death Leads 10,000 to Pray for Salvation

Tue, 27/03/2018 - 5:25pm

How the evangelist’s online memorial continues to preach the gospel.

Earlier this month, Billy Graham was buried in a funeral deemed his “last crusade.” Yet the evangelist has continued to draw thousands to convert to Christ.

Graham’s ministry partners saw the global media attention following his passing on February 21 as a chance to showcase the gospel message that defined his life. They’ve included explicit calls to accept Jesus in their tributes, praying that more would come to follow him through Graham’s death.

More than 1.2 million have visited BillyGrahamMemorial.org in just a month, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). The online memorial features a link to a site with a clip of Graham inviting crowds at his crusades to make a decision for Christ, followed by a list of steps for online visitors who want to pray to accept Jesus as their Savior.

More than 113,000 have visited that site, StepstoPeace.org, in the month since Graham’s death, and 10,500 indicated they prayed to either profess faith for the first time or to renew lapsed faith, according to the BGEA.

The page outlines Graham’s simple presentation of the gospel, summarizing the Bible verses that point to God’s love for us, our separation from him, Christ’s sacrifice, and our response. At the end, visitors are invited to admit their sin, repent, believe, and pray to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Those with questions can chat live with online coaches through the BGEA. If they do make a decision for Christ, they’re offered additional resources about Christian living and a directory to find a church in their area.

“Are you searching for the kind of peace in your life that Billy Graham preached about throughout his whole life?” the site ...

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#ChurchToo: Andy Savage Resigns from Megachurch over Past Abuse

Tue, 20/03/2018 - 10:19pm

Memphis pastor who faced backlash after standing ovation: “Apologies are important, but more is required.”

Andy Savage, the pastor who disclosed his decades-old assault on a teen in his former youth group to an applauding congregation, stepped down from his position at a Memphis megachurch on Tuesday.

Savage’s January 7 remarks on his repentance regarding the 1998 incident launched months of discussion among Christians, coverage in national news media, and an investigation by Highpoint Church, where he served as teaching pastor.

Church leaders had been aware of his misconduct, which had taken place at a church in Houston, prior to hiring him. Though the recent investigation did not uncover further instances of abuse, Highpoint leadership “agrees that Andy’s resignation is appropriate,” the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported. He has been on leave during the course of the investigation.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Savage’s victim, Jules Woodson, had spoken out publicly about the sexual assault that has haunted her since she was 17 and her disappointment with her church’s response to the crime.

She most recently shared her story, and her reaction to Savage’s initial remarks addressing the “sexual incident,” earlier this month in a haunting video by The New York Times. She told the Commercial-Appeal she was still “trying to process” the news of Savage’s resignation.

In a statement posted online, Savage addressed the criticism over his initial discussion of the assault, and announced his resignation:

After much prayer and counsel, I now believe it’s appropriate for me to resign from my staff position at Highpoint Church and step away from ministry in order to do everything I can to right the wrongs of the past.Apologies are important, but more is required. ...

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

Fri, 09/03/2018 - 10:03pm

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 of us has our own Ninevites— the sometimes unpleasant, occasionally disagreeable people whom God has called us to witness to. They’re our nosy next-door neighbors, unkind co-workers, and grumpy grocery store clerks.

Like Jonah, we might not feel like loving them or feel like sharing Christ’s message of redemption with them. Nevertheless, scripture is clear: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation…” (Isa. 52:7).

Now, maybe some of us feel that we’re doing what we can right now to share the gospel. Instead of reaching out and trying to connect with our neighbors as we should, we choose ...

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C. J. Mahaney Withdraws from T4G

Wed, 07/03/2018 - 10:02pm

Following Rachael Denhollander’s Sovereign Grace claims, the former SGM president once again says he wants to avoid distracting from the event.

C. J. Mahaney announced today that he will back out of next month’s Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference to keep the controversy over Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC) away from the event.

“Given the recent, renewed controversy surrounding Sovereign Grace Churches and me individually, I have decided to withdraw from the 2018 T4G conference,” Mahaney wrote.

Over the past several weeks, Rachael Denhollander, the former gymnast whose Larry Nassar testimony went viral, has used her platform to address abuse in the church, particularly years-old allegations of abuse at Covenant Life Church, where Mahaney—the former president of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM)—had served as senior pastor.

Though the 2012 case against SGM was dismissed in court, Denhollander has repeatedly challenged the church network’s claims, most recently in a 7,800-word statement posted on Facebook last Thursday.

Currently the pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, Mahaney has continued to state that he is innocent of the claims made against him and that the ongoing characterizations of Sovereign Grace are untrue.

“I categorically reject the suggestion that I have ever conspired to cover up sexual abuse or other wrong-doing,” he wrote on Wednesday.

Mahaney did not participate in the 2014 T4G conference due to the lawsuits against the ministry at that time, and he opted to once again to step away from the event he has put on for over a decade with fellow Reformed leaders Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan and Albert Mohler.

“This conference exists to serve pastors with the gospel and exalt the Lord Jesus. I want to do all I can to promote that purpose,” his statement said. “Mark, Lig, Al and the other ...

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Hero Making: The Story of One Man Who Invested in Billy Graham, Changing the Course of His Ministry

Tue, 06/03/2018 - 3:50pm

All of us can and should look for people to invest our time, efforts, and energy in.

Many people have been talking about Rev. Billy Graham since his passing on February 21, 2018, and appropriately so. Having attended his funeral and hosted the radio coverage on many networks, I spent much time brushing up on Billy Graham history to share as color commentary during the radio broadcast.

However, what was also helpful was that, in that preparation, I was able to share something at the Exponential Conference in Orlando related to ‘hero-making’.

The Exponential Conference this year was built around the theme of people who have invested their lives in other people and were not themselves the heroes, but made other heroes. Now, let me say first that I think Billy Graham's ministry has largely been defined by pointing to someone other than himself.

In my latest CNN article I explained that Billy Graham is famous largely for trying to make someone else (Jesus) more famous. In other words, his life was largely driven by the ministry of telling people about Jesus instead of talking about himself.

Elner Edman as a ‘hero maker’

However, one of the stories that may surprise many people is the story that I shared during my mainstage session at the Exponential Conference. My colleagues at the Billy Graham Center, Paul Erickson and Bob Schuster, shared with me one example of a hero maker by the name of Elner Edman.

Elner was the brother of V. Raymond Edman, a past president of Wheaton College. Elner and Herman Fischer, who was on the Wheaton Board of Trustees at the time, were on vacation golfing in Florida. There, they met Graham, who was then a student at the Florida Bible Institute, a then-unaccredited Bible college (today, it is Trinity College in the Tampa Area).

They listened to Billy preach, but ...

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Congrats, Billy: Stats Show Your Evangelical Movement Is Still Going Strong

Sat, 03/03/2018 - 12:46am

Born-again believers have kept the faith over four decades, while most religious switching has been between mainline Protestants and the “nones.”

Editor’s note: In 2014, CT reported how a massive survey by the Pew Research Center found that American evangelicals were weathering the “rise of the nones” much better than other Christian groups. Today, as Billy Graham’s funeral takes place, an analysis of social science data shows the movement the 99-year-old evangelist embodied remains surprisingly strong.

The religious landscape is a volatile one, with nearly 1 in 5 Americans switching their religious tradition from 2010 to 2014.

We’ve previously examined how Protestants and Catholics changed churches, as well as which segment of the religiously unaffiliated returned to church most, during that four-year window examined by the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES).

However, what happens when the time period under study is expanded, from four years to more than four decades? Are evangelicals managing to hold on to their share of the US population? Have those with no religion made significant gains? And what is causing the shifts?

The General Social Survey (GSS) has tracked religious affiliation biannually, beginning in 1972. It provides an unmatched summation of a generation of religious movement. The visualization below, which displays the distribution of seven major religious traditions, tells a compelling story.

For smaller groups, the movement is relatively minor. Since the early 1980s, the Jewish share dropped by about a single point; black Protestants stayed relatively stable; and those with “other faith” remained about 6 percent of the US population.

Similarly, evangelicals and Catholics have almost the same proportions of the population as they had back in 1972. While evangelicals saw a surge in the early 1990s, that ...

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The 6 Songs Billy Graham Picked for His Funeral

Fri, 02/03/2018 - 6:46pm

The evangelist planned his own ceremony. Experts analyze the music he chose.

As Billy Graham is laid to rest in North Carolina today, the 2,000 invited funeral attendees will listen to—or sing together—six songs. Graham, who planned his own funeral, was the one who chose them.

In this, he seems to have taken the path of his longtime music director Cliff Barrows.

“I want a lot of music,” Barrows instructed Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) choir director Tom Bledsoe before he died in 2016. “And I want the people to sing.”

Graham’s six picks:

  1. “Until Then” (Stuart Hamblen, 1958), performed by musical artist Linda McCrary-Fisher
  2. “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” (Edward Perronet, 1779), congregational singing led by Tom Bledsoe
  3. “Above All” (Lenny LeBlanc and Paul Baloche, 1999), performed by musical artist Michael W. Smith
  4. “Because He Lives” (Bill and Gloria Gaither, 1970), performed by Gaither Vocal Band
  5. “To God Be the Glory” (Fanny Crosby/William Howard Doane, 1875), congregational singing led by Tom Bledsoe
  6. Amazing Grace, bagpipe escort led by Pipe Major William Boetticher

CT asked several worship and hymnody experts what they thought of Graham’s choices:

John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and professor of worship, theology, and congregational and ministry studies at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary:

Each of these songs echoes central themes in Graham's ministry: All glory be to Jesus, whose death and resurrection set us free from sin. There is also a steady focus here on life with Jesus in heaven, a hallmark of evangelical piety, a strong emphasis on one's own individual and personal affirmation of faith, and a warmth of affection. ...

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Billy Graham’s Funeral Today Will Be His ‘Last Crusade’

Fri, 02/03/2018 - 3:46pm

Dispatches from the evangelist’s memorial service, which he planned years before his death last week at 99.

After spending his life traveling the world to rally millions for Christ, Billy Graham returns today to his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, to be laid to rest in a ceremony deemed his final crusade.

More than 2,000 guests—including 200 members of Graham’s family, Christian leaders from 50 countries, and dignitaries such as President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence—will gather at noon Friday for the funeral. Graham himself planned out the ceremony more than a decade ago, hoping that even his death could continue to point people to the gospel.

This last crusade will take place in front of the Billy Graham Library in a towering, 28,000-square-foot white tent meant to evoke the “canvas cathedral” where the evangelist held one of his first crusades in 1949 in Los Angeles.

Christianity Today will be reporting from today’s funeral, and this post will continue to be updated with dispatches from the event.

“When I pulled up to the parking lot, I thought that it was so fitting to that all the satellites and trucks were here. It would have been exactly what he wanted, that the Word would go out and people would hear the name of Jesus today,” said Bible teacher Beth Moore, one of dozens of influential Christian leaders gathered under the funeral tent.

The ceremony comes over a week after Graham’s death at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, last Wednesday at age 99, and follows multiple days of public memorials in both Charlotte and Washington, where Graham became the fourth American in history to lay in honor in the US Capitol.

The funeral participants—a mix of family members and ministry partners—reflect Graham’s booming legacy.

His eldest son, Franklin ...

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Preparing for Rev. Billy Graham’s Memorial Service, and Reflecting on His Love for Our Hurting World

Wed, 28/02/2018 - 3:13pm

Truly effective evangelism is a matter of friendship, mentorship, and unconditional love.

Nearly a week after Rev. Billy Graham’s death, so many around our world are still mourning. Closed-casket viewings will take place in Graham’s childhood home on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library where the Billy Graham Association is expecting long lines and many visitors. These public viewings will be followed by a funeral service this Friday in Washington, D.C.

Before the invitation-only service, though, Rev. Graham’s body will lie in repose in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s important to note that this privilege is regularly given to U.S. presidents, members of Congress, Supreme Court judges, and elite military personnel; rarely, though, are citizens outside these particular realms of public service given such an honor.

Looking at the size and scale of these proceedings, it becomes clear that Rev. Billy Graham wasn’t just beloved by some small ground of fundamentalist followers. You don’t have to be a Bible-thumper, church-goer, or even call yourself a Christian to love and respect this man.

Former President George H.W. Bush, reflecting on Graham’s legacy, said:

His [Graham’s] faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world. I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man.

President Bush is right. Rev. Graham was a man who appealed to all people—believers and unbelievers—because of his exemplary character. There is much that we, the church, can learn from his leadership and legacy of outreach even today in our 21st century context.

Cultural Trends

Newsflash: we live in a broken world. The realities of human ...

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‘Queen Esther Inspired Me to Speak Up,’ Says Nassar Victim

Wed, 28/02/2018 - 3:13pm

A biblical role model prompted Larissa Boyce to stand against her abuser. Her church supports her story.

Two decades before the public learned of Larry Nassar’s abuse against several hundred gymnasts, 16-year-old Larissa Boyce made the first attempt to report him. Her coach at Michigan State University (MSU), who was also a friend of Nassar, quashed her claims. The unsympathetic coach interrogated Boyce, leading her to think she misunderstood proper medical treatment for her back injury.

“I told somebody. I told an adult,” Boyce said. “I told Michigan State University back in 1997. Instead of being protected, I was humiliated. I was in trouble and brainwashed into believing I was the problem.”

Boyce said Nassar’s abuse began after the first two treatment visits, once her parents stopped coming with her, and lasted four years. During the appointment following her effort to report him, she received harsher abuse than before. “I didn’t know what to do. I was in shock,” Boyce said.

She sat in her car after the visit, crumpled up her checkout sheet, threw it in the back of the car, and asked herself, “What the heck just happened?” As a teen, Boyce learned to ignore it, cope, and eventually suppress what happened during those visits, since she had been told that it was okay.

Once Rachael Denhollander spoke out against Nassar in 2016, Boyce was still conditioned to defend him. She thought Denhollander was mistaken. Encouraged to contact lawyers but unable to evoke most details of her “treatments,” Boyce resolved to return to her gymnastics training arena, Jenison Fieldhouse at MSU. She walked around trying to remember specifics, which flooded back into her mind after seeing her former coach’s office.

That visit was the turning point for Boyce to go public ...

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Preaching Redemption Amidst Racism: Remembering Billy Graham

Tue, 27/02/2018 - 3:13pm

Carl Ellis, Jr. reflects on the impact of Rev. Billy Graham on race relations and culture today.

When I was a young campus minister working with Tom Skinner Associates, I had the honor of meeting Dr. William Franklin Graham twice. I remember him as an approachable man, not given to living out the greatness of his own press. I actively participated in his evangelistic crusades whenever they were in or near my city, and I would do so again today without hesitation.

Although several of Dr. Graham's early Southern crusades were racially segregated, he came to see segregation as inconsistent with the gospel. In the early 1950s, he began refusing to speak in some segregated auditoriums. Before the start of the 1953 Chattanooga Crusade, he personally took down the ropes intended to enforce segregation, telling two of the ushers, "Either these ropes stay down or you can go on and have the revival without me." [1]

Yet after that, he acquiesced to preaching in segregated venues in Asheville, North Carolina, and Dallas, Texas. At times, Rev. Graham made statements that seemed to reveal a lack of awareness of the connection between segregation and sin. At other times, he forcefully condemned White racism. By the mid-1950s, he courageously and consistently defied Jim Crow laws by insisting that all crusades be conducted on a non-segregated basis.

At the 1957 New York Crusade, Graham welcomed Thomas Kilgore and Gardner Taylor (both African American Pastors) onto the crusade's executive committee, [2] and openly called for "anti-segregation legislation." [3] He also had Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. join him in the pulpit at the crusade.

Later, Dr. King praised Dr. Graham for his commitment to non-segregation:

I am deeply grateful to you for the stand which you have taken in the area of race relations. You have ...

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What to Give Up for Lent 2018? Consider Twitter’s Top 100 Ideas

Tue, 27/02/2018 - 3:13pm

(UPDATED) On the first VaLENTine's Day since WWII, it appears chocolate and alcohol will be absent from many dates.

Once again, you can follow in real time what Twitter users say they are giving up for Lent, which this year begins on Wednesday, February 14.

Last year, food items were three times as popular to abstain from as technology items or personal habits, according to 73,334 tweets analyzed by OpenBible.info’s Stephen Smith during the week of Ash Wednesday 2017. Alcohol ranked No. 1 for the first time since his project began in 2009.

This year, the creator of the Twitter Lent Tracker “expected relationship-related tweets to run higher than usual” because Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day. (Also, Easter coincides with April Fools’ Day.)

“Social networking topped the [2018] list, followed by Twitter, alcohol, chocolate, and swearing,” wrote Smith in his final analysis, based on 29,609 tweets (excluding retweets). “It was a fairly typical year, with the top 5 the same as last year (though in a different order) except for swearing, which came in at No. 6 last year, behind chips.”

Here is how the top 6 ideas of 2018 have trended over time:

Smith was most curious last year about how high Donald Trump would rank among perennial favorites such as social networking, alcohol, and chocolate. The President ended up finishing No. 22 in 2017, up from No. 82 in 2016. In 2018, he finished No. 67.

Meanwhile, LifeWay Research offered a chance to compare Twitter’s serious vs. sarcastic sharers last year via its study on what Americans who observe the Lenten season before Easter say they actually give up.

Of note: 3 in 10 Americans with evangelical beliefs (28%) say they observe Lent; of these, 42 percent typically fast from a favorite food or beverage while 71 percent typically attend ...

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Sovereign Grace Disputes Rachael Denhollander’s Remarks

Tue, 27/02/2018 - 3:13pm

As former gymnast advocates for victims in the church, SGC calls her take on its past scandal “not true.”

Comments by Larry Nassar accuser Rachael Denhollander in a Christianity Today interview have revived debate over a dismissed abuse lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) dating back to 2012.

Last week, Denhollander referred to the SGM saga as “one of the worst, if not the worst, instances of evangelical cover-up of sexual abuse” and “one of the most well-documented cases of institutional cover-up I have ever seen.”

The 33-year-old said her former church’s stance toward victims and involvement in restoring former SGM president C. J. Mahaney led her family to leave the congregation.

Sovereign Grace Churches (SGC) issued a statement dated February 2 calling her characterizations untrue, citing the 2014 dismissal of a civil case against SGM. (In a separate case, a former youth leader with SGM had been convicted of abuse.)

SGC executive director Mark Prater said, in part:

We thank God for Rachael’s courage in confronting Nassar and commend her invaluable work on behalf of other abuse victims. Like so many, we were impressed by her faithful witness to Christ in such difficult circumstances.

At the same time, it needs to be said that she is mistaken in her accusations made against Sovereign Grace Churches and C. J. Mahaney. The Christianity Today article publicly mischaracterizes Sovereign Grace and C. J. based on accusations of which Rachael had no involvement and which are not true and have never been true.

It’s extremely difficult to respond to false accusations without appearing unsympathetic to victims of abuse. It is our sincere hope that this brief statement has done both by speaking truthfully, respectfully, and in a way that honors God.

Denhollander, whose gospel-infused testimony ...

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