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I Grew Up in a Ministry Family—and I Hated It

Thu, 21/06/2018 - 3:40pm

But as I poured out my anger on the world, Jesus was waiting to pour out his perfect love.

I was born and raised in a Christian home. My great-great-grandfather was Louis Talbot, a famous author, one of the founders of Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology, and a preacher who worked closely alongside Billy Graham.

Yet despite this lineage of faith, I grew up as a “moralistic therapeutic deist,” in the language of sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. I believed loosely in a divine mind that created the world, and I believed that this being would want us to be good and nice to each other. But I knew this “thing” wasn’t especially involved in my life.

I attended my family’s church until I was 11 years old. In that time, I acquired a certain cynicism about religion and ministry. The word religion, at its root, means “to bind back,” and I witnessed person after person trying to somehow work back to God through good deeds and moral effort. In many ways, ministry became an idol in my home, and it often kept us from being a close family. Good things, like serving others, inevitably became “God things.” Our home life was emotionally arid and devoid of intimacy, and I grew to hate whatever god would allow this.

Anger and Depression

By the time I was 12, my mother sought to get us plugged in with the local Baptist church youth group. She desperately wanted me to be around Christian friends. I went to youth group begrudgingly, all the while growing increasingly bitter, angry, and repulsed by the idea of a god. My anger drove me headlong into pornography.

Around age 17, I began my first serious romantic relationship. But this girl quickly became my idol. It only took a few months before I was pouring my anger onto her. I became what I ...

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Women Are the Talk of 2018’s Southern Baptist Annual Meeting

Tue, 12/06/2018 - 3:34pm

Both officially and unofficially, leaders of America’s largest Protestant denomination turn their attention to better responses to sexism and abuse.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has a lot to talk about at its two-day annual meeting kicking off today in Dallas. This year, amid the standard business of elections, entity updates, worship sets, and messages, leaders of America’s largest Protestant body have brought unprecedented attention to the women in its churches and its pastoral response to abuse.

2018 also marks the 100th anniversary of women attending the SBC annual meeting as messengers. At least two proposed resolutions up for consideration directly address the role of women in the complementarian denomination. But unofficially, the conversation is much bigger than that.

Many have awaited this national Southern Baptist gathering—the first since what some have deemed the #MeToo movement’s entry into evangelicalism—as grounds to engage an issue its leaders can no longer downplay.

At the start of the year, Southern Baptists watched as a decades-old, unreported sexual assault at a Houston Baptist congregation led to the resignation of two pastors, including the perpetrator Andy Savage, who went from being infamously applauded by his congregation to apologizing for his past immorality in a matter of weeks.

Months later, Executive Committee president Frank Page vacated the SBC’s top leadership role over an inappropriate relationship. And in recent weeks, longtime SBC figurehead Paige Patterson was forced out of his presidency at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary over his mishandling of abuse allegations after weeks of controversy over his past remarks toward women.

Like Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler, who wrote last month that “judgment has now come to the house of the Southern Baptist Convention,” ...

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Why "Get The Right People On The Bus" Doesn't Always Work For A Small Church Staff

Fri, 08/06/2018 - 6:32pm

People are not on the bus to get you to your destination; they are the destination. People worshipping Jesus and sharing His love with others.

One of the biggest frustrations faced by small church pastors is a lack of resources, including so-called human resources. “If only I had more money, a better building, more people or the right people” we complain, “then we could really get something done at our church.”

There are so many problems with that mindset, starting with the idea that there are “right” and “wrong” people.

In God’s eyes there are no “right” people or “wrong” people, and there shouldn’t be in our eyes, either.

To address this issue, here’s an excerpt from my new book, Small Church Essentials, chapter 5, “Why Is My Church So Weird?”

Sometimes It Takes The Wrong People To Change The World

There’s a great scene in the movie Apollo 13 in which the engineers are trying to figure out how to get the crippled spacecraft and its three astronauts back to earth safely.

They’ve just discovered that the air filtration system is overtaxed, causing the carbon dioxide levels to rise dangerously high. If it’s not fixed soon, the astronauts will be poisoned by their own breath. But, because parts of the ship have been damaged and abandoned, the remaining filters are square, but the holes are round.

One of the engineers takes a box of material, dumps it on a table, and tells the others, “We gotta find a way to make this [he holds up a square filter] fit into the hole designed for this [he holds up a round filter] using nothing but that [points to the material on the table].”

There’s no sense complaining about wanting something they don’t have. No amount of planning, effort, or faith is going to put an item on Apollo 13 that isn’t ...

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Sex Offenders Groom Churches Too

Fri, 08/06/2018 - 3:32pm

How predatory behavior goes undetected in congregations.

A man who had long sexually abused children sat in front of his pastor, wanting to confess his crimes. He began cautiously, mentioning that there had been accusations against him. He got no further, as his minister broke in, “Well, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of,” the minister said quickly. “You’re the last person I’d believe that of. End of conversation.”

This true account was shared in Anna C. Salter’s 1991 book, Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders. As a psychologist who has spent over 20 years working with and studying victims and sexual offenders, Salter says that “many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Rachael Denhollander, the courageous attorney who invoked her faith in her statement during the trial of her abuser Larry Nassar, warns, “It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church.” Shortly before Nassar’s trial, she lost her church because of her advocacy for other victims within evangelical churches. Her story is an example of a culture found in some churches that disregards victims.

Unfortunately, the community where sexual offenders belong (whether in the church or out)—and within which they abuse—allows them to get away with their crimes. A key outcome of the #MeToo movement is a growing sensitivity not only to predatory behaviors but to a culture that ignores victims. In May, uproar over a scence in the children’s movie “Show Dogs,” which included grooming behaviors, caused the studio to remove two scenes after the release.

Evangelical churches can also grow in understanding ...

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Interview: Q&A: We Need a Christ-Centered Theology of Trauma

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 3:30pm

Therapist Hermeisha Hopson offers a clinically informed, scripturally sound approach to treating #MeToo victims and other survivors.

At times, the magnitude of suffering in the world can seem too much. In the past year alone, we’ve been confronted by headlines of gunmen massacring concert-goers, church members, and children; entertainment executives preying upon women; a sexual predator molesting upwards of 300 girls; and police officers violently responding to unarmed civilians—and these are just the stories that have made national news. In our personal lives, too, we sometimes see firsthand accounts of domestic violence, child abuse, and other traumas.

As the church, we’re called to mourn with those who mourn and comfort the afflicted, but it’s not always easy walking this journey alongside our friends and family. Hermeisha Hopson, a therapist and licensed social worker with a biblical counseling background, is intimately familiar with the work of coming alongside survivors. Hopson runs Refuge Counseling and Consulting Services in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and has over a decade of clinical experience with severe trauma victims.

She recently spoke with CT Women about how to equip churches, families, and individuals with a scripturally sound approach to trauma treatment.

How do you define trauma?

It’s any sort of disturbing experience that produces an overwhelming and unmanageable emotional response. Trauma covers a gamut of things—from a loss of a pet to the loss of a loved one to childhood sexual trauma. Often, folks struggle to concentrate, or they experience sleep problems and nightmares. These are cues that the situation has become unmanageable and that it’s not something that they can just bounce back from.

How did helping people suffering from trauma become a personal passion?

I’ve personally experienced ...

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Small Churches, Leadership And Culture: Karl Vaters Interviews William Vanderbloemen

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 6:30am

"You are the green berets in the Kingdom. You're on the frontline. You're doing the job that is often thankless but is perhaps most important."

William Vanderbloemen is the CEO and Founder of Vanderbloemen Search Group. a recruitment and consulting firm for churches. Previously, he served as the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Houston. Recently, William interviewed me for his podcast and I interviewed him for this blog post.

In this interview, William expresses his appreciation for small churches and their leaders, talks about the importance of a church’s underlying culture (from his new book, Culture Wins), and offers some great insights from his experiences with hundreds of churches of all sizes.

Karl Vaters: You work with churches of all sizes. For many people, the advantages of big churches are obvious. What strengths do small churches have that they should lean in to?

William Vanderbloemen: Small is a four-letter word. People talk about small churches, and they don't remember that what they mean by saying small is actually the average, normal church in the United States, with 100 or 150 people gathering on a weekend. One of the major strengths this type of church brings to the table is they are much more resilient to a change in leadership than a large church.

One time I heard it said that when a small church loses their leader, it's like a cat with nine lives. They'll be fine. They bounce back. If a large church loses their leader, it's like a beached whale, and they have a hard, hard time getting things right again. Resiliency is a huge strength for small churches.

Another great strength of the small church or normal church is that normal churches can gather around one or two specific causes, own that cause, and then make a significant difference in its city. We have a normal-sized church here in Houston who has made it their ...

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