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Francis Effect Fades: Pope’s Approval Drops Most Among Evangelicals

Wed, 03/10/2018 - 11:02pm

The latest abuse investigations have rattled non-Catholics’ perceptions more than Catholics themselves, according to survey data.

American Catholics have been so unsettled by the wave of allegations of decades-old sexual abuse and cover-ups spanning dioceses in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and across the country that the most vocal critics have called for Pope Francis’ resignation.

Their evangelical neighbors, some once enraptured by the popular pope, are also disappointed. According to two recent reports, white evangelical Protestants’ views of Pope Francis and the clergy have fallen even more than Catholics’ after the latest investigations into abuse by priests.

Evangelicals’ approval of Francis dropped more than twice as much as Catholics’ this year, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Tuesday.

Just 32 percent of white evangelicals rated the pope favorably last month, down from 52 percent in January, the most dramatic decline among religious groups.

His favorability among US Catholics fell from 84 percent to 72 percent during the same period. Pew also saw declines among white mainline Protestants (67% to 48%) and the unaffiliated (58% to 53%).

Francis now has his lowest approval rating—51 percent of American adults—since he assumed the papacy in 2013.

A Gallup poll last month also found that the latest allegations have damaged views of Francis among those outside the Catholic Church more than those inside it.

Catholic approval of Francis remained relatively steady around 79 percent, according to Gallup, while his favorability among non-Catholics and Americans overall dropped by at least 10 percentage points between August and September (from 63% to 45% and 66% to 53%, respectively).

Further, Gallup reported that Protestants have come to adopt a grimmer view of the church than Catholics.

About half ...

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Leading in a Diverse World: Part Two

Sat, 29/09/2018 - 5:00pm

Perspectives from four multinational leaders.

Previously on The Exchange I have written about my interest in studying Inclusive Leadership,which is how leaders can effectively assemble a diverse team of people and then ensure their different perspectives are included and valued.

This past summer, I ran a pilot study of my qualitative dissertation research with four Christian leaders who had at least five years of experience in cross-cultural settings. I was specifically exploring how they tried to cultivate inclusion in the context of their nonprofit, multinational teams.

The findings are certainly preliminary and will need much more validation with a larger group of participants. At the same time, there were a few key discoveries worth noting that might be helpful for those leading in multicultural contexts. I’ll share three of them and then make an observation.

First, the Importance of Vision for Team Inclusion

The first finding was that inclusive leaders need to be sure every team member knows and is inspired by the vision.

All four participants mentioned the importance of vision as a vital component for vibrant multinational teams, and two spoke at length about this topic. Especially when dealing with a divided and diverse team, leaders need to put in extra effort to help everyone rally around a common vision.

This process goes best when either the leader inspires the team to work together as a group to build the vision or when there is a compelling vision from higher up in the organization that can be unifying. In terms of team diversity, when there is strong belief in the vision, people have a compelling reason to work through the challenges of creating inclusion in order to accomplish their shared goal.

The importance of vision for a team relates to the GLOBE ...

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Stop Complicating Ministry: The Smaller The Church, The Simpler We Need To Keep It

Mon, 24/09/2018 - 7:56am

Ministry will never be easy, but it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it.

So, you pastor a small, struggling church.

You’re trying to help it become less small and less struggling, but all the “can’t miss” answers from the latest church growth conferences never seem to work for you.

You don’t have a big worship team singing new songs, a dynamic small group ministry, a trendy youth group, maybe not even a building of your own to meet in.

That’s okay, you don’t need any of that to have a vibrant, healthy, effective church ministry.

We make church way more complicated than it needs to be. Some of that comes from (mis)reading and listening to pastors of big churches. We see them with professional-grade musicians, lighting, graphics and self-designed curriculum and we think we need to do that, too.

But we don’t.

Big churches didn’t become big by having cool new stuff, they added that stuff when it became the best way to manage the size of the crowd.

Parking attendants with matching shirts didn’t cause their growth, it was a byproduct of their growth.

The Simple Church Solution

Complicating things is never the answer.

Simplifying things almost always is, no matter what size church you serve, but especially if the church is small (whatever number you consider small to be).

Small churches need to stop trying to emulate the processes used by big churches, and start asking “what’s the simplest way to do great ministry, strong worship, engaging fellowship, deep discipleship and effective outreach at the size we are right now?”

Then do that. Experiment with a few ideas if you need to, but keep them streamlined and simple.

Innovation doesn’t mean complication. The most innovative churches always get there by simplifying their systems, not ...

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Interview: Francis Chan: Stop Treating the Book of Acts Like Hyperbole

Thu, 20/09/2018 - 4:55pm

The former megachurch pastor asks today’s churches to measure their practices against the New Testament standard.

Eight years ago, Francis Chan resigned as senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California—the church he helped grow from 30 people gathered in a living room to a multimillion-dollar ministry. He wasn’t burned out. There was no disqualifying moral failure. He’d simply grown convicted over his challenges in steering a large ministry in accordance with biblical values.

Chan sold his house and spent a year traveling through Southeast Asia, visiting churches and interacting with church leaders. Returning to California, he began planting churches in his home and the homes of others in his San Francisco neighborhood. His latest book, Letters to the Church, is a pastoral call for American churches to consider whether their values and practices are consistent with Scripture. Writer and fellow Bay-area resident Rachael Starke spoke with Chan about the blessings that come from recommitting to church life as God designed it.

Your book exhorts churches to recommit to Acts 2 practices like extended prayer, radical love and service, and intimate fellowship within the home. But many of these run counter to the digitized lives we live today, especially in places like San Francisco. How have revolutions in technology influenced American church practices and habits?

Technology is really about speed: doing everything faster and with less effort. We’re tempted to want the church to be the same way—let me accomplish what I want in as little time as possible. But the blessing is going to come from the work itself, from the hard work you do to love and serve one another. What could be greater than that?

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What I Learned from Same-Sex Abuse Inside the Church

Tue, 11/09/2018 - 4:48pm

My church mishandled my case. Yours doesn’t have to.

The first time I was groomed, I opened the door to find Liz* standing there with a jar of cream for muscle pain. I had fallen from a horse and hurt my legs, so she was stopping by to check on me.

At the time, I was 20 years old and had recently gone through a spiritual and sexual identity crisis. The Bible church in the town where I went to college had offered me respite—a place to follow Jesus and rebuild my soul. Thanks to a referral from the counseling ministry at the church, I had found a seemingly wonderful mentor. Liz had been counseling women like me for years and was one of the church’s star disciplers. She had recently begun calling me more frequently, and when she heard my eventful news on that October day, she expressed concern and insisted on coming over. I didn’t know that her visit would include a thigh massage nor did I know I was being groomed.

A few weeks after this incident, Liz took her grooming to the next level and initiated a sexual relationship with me. Though I was same-sex attracted, the thought had never crossed my mind. I had been referred to Liz for help with maturing in my faith, which included living chastely. Although I did not feel the same, I was deeply attached to her and felt overwhelmed at the prospect of losing our relationship, so I indicated my willingness to accept sexual contact. In addition to being my discipler and counselor, Liz was nearly twice my age.

Liz and I continued a physical relationship for over four months, which quickly became mutual in desire once that door was opened. After our final encounter, we asked each other’s forgiveness and thereafter managed not to sexually engage again. When I asked her if we should get some help, Liz told me emphatically ...

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Renewing Your Church: The (Sometimes) Slow and Detailed Process of Revitalization

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 4:46pm

Turning a country-club-style church into a church on a mission.

Today I am glad to welcome William Sikes, Pastor at Loch Arbor Baptist Church (SBC) located in North East Louisiana.

In 2014, I accepted a call to pastor at my current church after serving two years as interim and five years as youth pastor. I followed the previous pastor, who had served 24 years at the church and had great highs and great lows.

During the previous pastor’s tenure, attendance had risen to nearly 200. The budget had topped $200,000, but it was never adjusted correctly for the giving that took place and at the time of the previous pastor’s departure.

While the budget stayed the same, we were barely breaking $100,000 in giving. The church was dying, members were leaving, there was no outreach, there were no young people, and there was no consistency in anything positive.

The church was focused on a country club lifestyle while everything crumbled around them. They were still holding onto the programs that had worked in the past, but were now only continuing because that was what they knew to do. Change needed to happen and I knew it was going to be difficult.

Evaluating the church as the pastor was painful as I was ministering at the church for a number of years before being named pastor. I pulled out annual church profiles from the previous 20 years and started making graphs and reports. I had to consider what events led to the current situation in the church.

This was helpful in many ways. I was able to see how well the church had done in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Then, I found events that started the decline.

A big business in the area closed and moved employees to other states. This led people away and the budget took a hit. Although not all the people who worked in this company left because ...

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Why “Finishing Well” Can Never Be Our Main Reason To Behave Morally

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 7:44am

We need to behave morally not so we can keep our reputations intact, but because hurting other people is wrong. Always wrong.

Finishing well in ministry really matters to me.

Especially since I now have more ministry years behind me than in front of me.

I want every day of my ministry life to matter. And I want to end it having brought honor to Christ, his church and my family.

This has become even more important as I have watched so many pastors leave the ministry under a cloud of suspicion or outright guilt, sometimes in what was already going to be their final years.

Too many times we’re seeing decades of great ministry irreparably tainted by credible accusations of moral indiscretion.

But.

Wanting to finish well is not the main reason I’m determined to behave morally. It should never be for any of us.

Why We Must Behave Well

In all the recent heartbreaking news about immoral, sometimes criminal behavior by clergy, many of my fellow pastors are responding with “it’s a shame to have so many years of great ministry end like that.”

While I agree with their sentiment, it’s a problem when the loss of reputation by the church leader is so high on our list of concerns – sometimes getting more expressions of grief than our concern for the victims.

This betrays a problem of priorities that may be one of the reasons behind a lot of the bad behavior that’s coming to light lately.

The reason we need to behave morally is the same as it’s always been – because it’s the right thing to do.

Loving God and others is called the first and great commandment for a reason. The Bible’s more-than-reasonable rules for treating others with love, care and respect constantly show themselves to be the only way to behave like a decent human being.

Like everyone else, pastors need to behave morally not so we can keep ...

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When Church Members Keep Second-Guessing Your Pastoral Decisions

Mon, 03/09/2018 - 7:42am

Unlike politicians and major league coaches, most of our critics aren’t strangers in the stands, they’re people we know very closely. 

What do pastors, politicians and major league coaches have in common? A whole lot of people who’ve never done their job are convinced they could do it better.

The less experience they have the more certain they are, because those who’ve actually done it know how hard it is.

I can’t speak to how it feels as a politician or coach to constantly be second-guessed by everyone who’s ever watched a game or (not) voted in an election, but I do know how pastors feel when we’re constantly criticized by people who don’t have enough information, but still give lots of advice.

In fact it may be harder on pastors because, unlike politicians and major league coaches, most of our critics aren’t strangers in the stands, they’re people we know very closely.

If this is something you’re experiencing as a pastor in your church today, let me offer a few words of comfort and advice.

1. It’s usually far fewer people than it seems

When one or two people are constantly challenging your decisions, your sermons, your parenting skills or your spirituality, it can feel like the whole church is against you.

Years ago I heard about an older pastor who had a great way of helping younger pastors who felt like the church was against them. “Name them,” he’d say.

When the younger pastor was actually required to put names to the people who were second-guessing everything, it was always far fewer actual people than it felt like – often just one or two people.

2. They seldom have the support they think they have

Any time someone tells you about a problem “everyone” is talking about, do what that older pastor did in the previous point. Ask for names. Not in a confrontational way, ...

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What Evangelicals Need to Know About the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal

Wed, 29/08/2018 - 7:40pm

Protestants can both learn from and minister to this community during a very harrowing season.

The Catholic world is reeling after a devastating month of sexual abuse revelations. At the beginning of August, a Pennsylvania grand jury reported that hundreds of priests abused at least 1,000 children since the 1940s and that dozens of church officials covered it up.

Then, this past week, a prominent archbishop claimed that Pope Francis knew about—and covered up—the actions of Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal who has been accused of sexually harassing adult seminarians and abusing a child.

For lay Catholics, the litany of sex abuse stories has been devastating.

“The ultimate source of authority and power that the normal Catholic needs week to week is their priest,” said John Armstrong, the president of ACT3 Network, an organization which works to foster Christian unity. “It’s not the Vatican, not the structure of the Vatican, not even the Pope, though he’s the Holy Father to Catholics.”

Because of this close relationship, the church betraying their trust can feel even more intense.

“When the priest is an abuser, it breaks all confidence and trust in the authority of the church, which extends all the way to the Vatican because this priest would not be ordained if had not gone up the chain of command and has ultimately the blessing of the Holy Father who is the pastor of pastors and the shepherd of the whole church,” he said.

Armstrong joined associate digital media producer Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the nature and extent of the abuse in the Catholic church, the Vatican’s historically contentious relationship with the media, the politics affecting the whole situation, and how it affects evangelical churches.

What is “Quick to ...

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Four Practical Steps for Recruiting a Church Plant Team

Tue, 28/08/2018 - 4:39pm

There are so many needs to fill and sometimes the enormity of it all can feel paralyzing.

Preparing to start a church plant can be a daunting task. There are so many needs to fill and sometimes the enormity of it all can feel paralyzing. One of the keys to successfully planting a church is to recruit a good launch team. (Remember, in our language today, a launch team and a core group are a little bit different. A core team is the team at the onset of the church who typically sticks around for the long term, contributing once the church has already been started. A launch team is developed before the church plant and in preparation for the core group.)

Below are four tips for recruiting launch team members for an upcoming church plant.

First, start by praying.

Where do you start? You start by praying. Pray for the upcoming church plant. Pray about it with close friends, other pastors, and other people you’ve connected with in your journey—perhaps those you’ve met through education (Bible college, seminary) if you’ve done that. God may guide others to join your launch team in the process of praying.

But more than anything, seek friends who will go to God with you as you seek direction. Establish a prayer team that helps you begin to pray for the development of your launch team and your core group.

Second, plan.

Sit down and decide what you need. How will your staff team be funded? Will they raise support or work a job themselves? What about a worship leader? Typically, I think you should start a launch team with someone who will lead worship, someone who will help with assimilation and groups (I often put those together), someone who leads the children’s ministry, someone focused on evangelism, and someone to do finances.

Notice that some things that may develop later in the church are not ...

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