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Christianity Today Magazine



News and analysis from the world's leading Christian magazine.



Last Build Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2017 12:37:14 PDT

Copyright: Copyright 2017, Christianity Today
 



Spiritual Longing on the Silver Screen

How the makers (and watchers) of movies are engaged in a kind of prayer.

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We had been married only a month the first time I showed my wife Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock’s psycho-drama about a man so obsessed with a dead woman that he remakes another woman in the dead woman’s image. This was perhaps the wrong film to show my new bride. “That’s one of your favorite movies?” she asked as the movie ended. “That’s very disturbing.” I figured she was talking about the movie itself—which is disturbing—but she might also have been thinking of my esteem for it.

I had loved Vertigo since I first saw it at age 11. My parents, huge Hitchcock fans, showed it to me and my siblings one Sunday afternoon after church. Though I had watched it many times since then, I had never given much thought to why I liked it. Marriage has a way of prompting you to reconsider things you once took for granted.

Over the next two years, I continued watching Vertigo regularly. I read every bit of critical scholarship I could find. I used all my powers as a film scholar to better understand how it works. I appealed to my seminary training to plumb my own heart and fathom why it makes such an impression on me.

What I discovered about myself is complicated. But what I discovered about Vertigo I can state simply: Vertigo is a film about a man’s obsession with achieving his ideal and his willingness to take advantage of others to achieve it. It is also—thanks to its clever twist and Kim Novak’s pathos-filled performance—a film about how, in pursuing our ideals, we allow others to take advantage of us. Vertigo is about the horrors wrought by selfishness on the individual and the community. It is disturbing because it is so candid about how selfish we can be. ...

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The Rise of the Nons: Protestants Keep Ditching Denominations
Nondenominational identity has doubled in the US since 2000, Gallup finds. Ask an American Christian what type of church they belong to, and you’re more likely than ever to hear the label nondenominational. The proportion of Protestants in the United States who don’t identify with a specific denomination doubled between 2000 and 2016, according to a Gallup poll released this week. Now, about 1 in 6 Americans are nondenominational Christians. The growing popularity of nondenominational identity is the result of two trends: the decline in the number of Protestants overall, as more Americans eschew any religious affiliation (becoming “the nones”), and shrinking denominations themselves. Not only are the major mainline churches continuing to see their numbers fall, the country’s largest Protestant denomination—the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)—has lost a million members in the past 15 years. Prior to 2000, half of all Americans belonged to a specific Protestant denomination. Now, just 30 percent do, Gallup reported. “Churches that adhere to specific and historical denominational affiliations appear to face the biggest challenge in American Protestantism today,” the pollster wrote. “Increasingly, Christian Americans … prefer to either identify themselves simply as Christians or attend the increasing number of nondenominational churches that have no formal allegiance to a broader religious structure.” Back in 2010, the Hartford Institute for Religion Research tallied more than 35,000 nondenominational churches in the US, comprising more than 12 million attendees. The move away from historic denominations corresponds with a swelling sense of skepticism many Americans have toward institutions overall. The shift toward nondenominational ...Continue reading... [...]



A Kairos Moment for Small Town America

Over 30 million people still live in rural areas.

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When is time more than just seconds and minutes stuck end-to-end? If you’ve been around the Church for a while, you probably know the answer. As the Greeks and the authors of the Greek New Testament knew, there is time (chronos), and then there is time (kairos). The first gives us our English word chronology and basically describes the time we chart with clocks and calendars. Kairos time, on the other hand, carries the implication of time “especially fit for something.”

When it comes to rural ministry and small town church planting, we are living in a kairos moment that we in the Vineyard—and we as Christians in America—too often neglect at our own peril.

Regardless of what one thinks about our last presidential election cycle, virtually everyone admits that it illuminates a deeply polarized society. Geography stood as one of the most notable indicators of this divide. In the gear up for election day, it became increasingly obvious that rural and small town folks were residents of what Tish Harrison Warren had the courage to describe, in an August 2016 Christianity Today article, as “The America I Forgot.” Indeed, as commentators across the country demonstrated by their extreme confusion on election night, it was an America many people, from journalists to pollsters, seemed to have forgotten.

Trump’s victory further catalyzed a growing fascination among America’s urban elite (and not-so-elite) with an entire segment of America that they had never taken very seriously. Books like Robert Putnam’s Our Kids (2015) and J.D. Vance’s bestselling memoir Hillbilly Elegy (2016) became essential tour guides to a culture just as foreign to many Americans as another country. ...

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Ready to Write Your Book? Here’s a Five Point Checklist

It’s time to start writing.

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Writing often begins with wondering. Pen in hand, you find yourself asking…

Will people ever read what I write?
Do I have what it takes to write a book?
Why should I write when mountains of books already exist on this topic?

I call these “God nudges.” They are stirrings that emanate from outside a writer’s life—you might say from above.

After coaching countless people in their publishing careers, I’ve discovered that these questions are common to everyone who has ever felt a nudge to write.

How do you know, in your situation, if it’s time to finally write the story that’s been rattling in your bones?

I’ve developed a five point checklist to determine if you’re really ready to write your book.

Place a check by each of the following to which you answer Yes:

1. Do people keep telling you to share your story? ___

You’ve got a fresh idea or inspiring story and you’ve noticed that friends, neighbors, and strangers keep saying, “You’ve got to write that down” or “That’s a great book idea.” You need to stop making excuses and start writing.

But there’s an exception to this rule: Imagine a person tells a long-winded, rambling story with no end in sight. You’d graciously like to change the topic or excuse yourself from the conversation, but you need a gentle transition. “You should write a book,” you stammer, then slip away to the restroom or appetizer table or out the bathroom window.

“You should write a book” has become a cliché response in many conversations.

Perform an evaluation. Are the people urging you to share your story climbing down the fire escape, or are they sincere and trustworthy ...

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Why Christians Should Stop Caring About So Many Causes

True transformation takes focus, not capricious compassion.

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“Many people come here and take pictures,” the elder told me as he leaned on his walking stick, his slender frame swathed in heavy cloth despite the heat. “Then they go away and never help.”

This is the moment that haunts me from my recent visit to Turkana, a region in northwestern Kenya crippled by drought and sliding inexorably into widespread hunger.

I’d stepped out of a small plane into a sweltering landscape of dry riverbeds and desiccated animal bones jutting out of the earth—a place so quiet without traffic and technology that a child’s plaintive wail seemed to carry for miles. A month later, as I recall this sobering scene, the elder’s words play over it like a soundtrack, telegraphing doubt that my visit would mean anything more than a photo op.

It’s not surprising that Westerners have a reputation here for capricious compassion. But it pains me that Christians would.

If anyone should be known for not just showing up to help but for following through with real hope for suffering people, it should be followers of Christ. We are the ones commissioned by Jesus to go into the hard places, the hostile places, the ragged edges of our world, not just to proclaim the good news but to be the good news of God’s love in action.

The hunger crisis spreading across East Africa, affecting more than 20 million people, is yet another opportunity to show who we are and whom we love.

American Christians are generous when confronted with dire need. But is our goal merely to pull people back from the brink of catastrophe?

That’s not enough. We should strive for nothing less than God’s vision for his people described in Isaiah 65: “No more shall there be in it an ...

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Literacy, Orality, and the Web (Part Two)

What oral communication can accomplish in Bible translation projects that print communication alone cannot

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Read Literacy, Orality, and the Web, Part One (How to Make an Oral Preference Society Prefer Reading).

What Scripture Communication Medium Should Come First?

Before going any further, let me say that suggesting a primarily oral society should remain in their primary oral communication situation is soft racism. People who promote this don’t realize that such a comment reveals racial bias. Some Africans interpret Western proponents of orality as “white people implying that Africans can be kept in a state of illiteracy because this is their natural and preferred state.” The goal of this article is to examine natural scripture distribution; it is about diffusion through multiple paths.

If we now understand the importance of oral scripture distribution, why do so many mission agencies still assume that printed scripture should precede oral scriptures? If they are supportive of non-print media in general, why do they still view those as secondary? There are a number of reasons.

First, it may be that print learners simply cannot conceive of how an oral medium can effectively and accurately transmit the scripture text. It is difficult for people from a print culture to believe people from an oral culture can learn and recall significant amounts of information with accuracy by just hearing it. This is one reason why literacy strategists believe reading is the only legitimate method for accessing scripture. Anything less would produce inconsistencies and inaccuracies because of memory lapses.

Literacy workers’ concern about accuracy may be well-founded if they assume verbatim retelling of a written text. However, this does not mean oral cultures are incapable of recalling important themes and concepts by hearing ...

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Jehovah's Witnesses Remain Banned as Russia Rejects Appeal
And most Russians are okay with it. The last-ditch efforts by Jehovah’s Witnesses to appeal Russia’s ban against their faith have failed in the country’s Supreme Court. With all three judges siding on Monday with Russia’s Ministry of Justice, the April 20 ruling to liquidate the Witnesses’ centers and criminalize their worship stands—despite desperate pleas from members of the faith and religious freedom advocates. “The Supreme Court’s decision sadly reflects the government’s continued equating of peaceful religious freedom practice to extremism,” said Daniel Mark, chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which called out Russia’s violations earlier this year. “The Witnesses are not an extremist group, and should be able to practice their faith openly and freely and without government repression.” In Russia, where the Russian Orthodox Church remains the dominant religious affiliation, support is high (79%) for the government’s ban designating Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist group, according to a survey conducted by the Levada Center last month. Almost half of Russians view Witnesses as a “Christian sect,” while small minorities think of it as a Protestant offshoot (5%) or a variant on ordinary Christianity (2%). Russian Protestants, though also a minority, view Jehovah’s Witnesses as having their own theology and methodology. While Witnesses stand out with their distinct materials and eager proselytism, evangelicals have enjoyed a better reputation with the Russian government in many cases, as CT has previously reported. Still, all religious groups attempting to share their faith and gain converts must adhere to the new ...Continue reading... [...]



The BGC Gospel Life Podcast (Ep. 22)
Start each week with this encouragement to show and share the love of Jesus. Episode Twenty-Two | Are You Prepared for a Gospel Conversation? Laurie Nichols, Director of Communications at the Billy Graham Center, shares about a recent gospel conversation and what she learned about the importance of being prepared. Without the armor of God’s word in our hearts and minds, we likely don’t have the full toolkit necessary for when the hard questions arise in a conversation. This week, prepare yourself for evangelism opportunities by immersing yourself in God’s word. Episode Twenty-One | What Does Research Say about Our Prayers and Our Actions? Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, discusses the correlation between prayer and action. Research has shown that many people pray that they would see others come to faith, but fewer are actually mobilized to put their prayers into action in seeing lives changed for Christ. Will your actions match your prayers? Our prayer is that this week they will. Episodes 11-20 Episodes 1-10 Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.Continue reading... [...]



Interview: Between Two Cultures: How Latina Christians Approach Leadership
Yvette Santana pilots a new project to coalesce Hispanic women. With nearly 58 million Hispanics residing stateside and one in every four children born in the United States being Hispanic, the US Census Bureau identifies the Hispanic population as one of the nation's fastest growing groups. Given that 60 percent of Hispanic evangelicals are women, new ministries have emerged that are solely focused on equipping these bicultural women. The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) has recently established one such ministry with a commitment to creating a safe space for Latina Christian leaders from different generations to gather. This ministry—which represents mothers, mijas (a term of endearment used in the Hispanic community that translates as “my daughters”), hermanas (sisters), tias (aunts), abuelas (grandmothers), and nietas (granddaughters) alike—seeks to empower, equip, and encourage Hispanic female leaders to reach their God-given potential. Yvette Santana spearheads this new bilingual and bicultural ministry in her role as chief women’s ministry officer for the NHCLC. She also serves as women’s discipleship coordinator for the Church of God, Southwest Region. “The NHCLC’s division for women’s ministry desires to create a community for these fabulous women to connect and share and celebrate our role in the church,” says Santana. “We want to create a network for Latina pastor’s wives and lead female pastors, as they have such a unique role in the kingdom.” Andrea Ramirez, executive director of the Faith and Education Coalition of the NHCLC, interviewed Santana on her unique work.Continue reading... [...]



One-on-One with Keith Getty about Being Awarded by the British Empire, Modern Hymns, and His New Book
Hymn writer awarded an OBE. My friend Keith Getty was recently honored as an "Officer of the Order of the British Empire" by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. I was able to talk with him about the award, his contribution to modern hymn writing, and his new book. Ed: Give us some background on the award you just received. Keith: It's called the OBE and it’s an Order of the British Empire. It happens each year on New Year’s Day and on the Queen's birthday, during which they honor people who have enriched the culture of the British Empire... The civil servants send these very polite letters as a nomination which almost make you think you're in some kind of period drama. Then it has to go through the political channels. So after the nominations, then we just wait for a few weeks. But of course we had to stay silent about the whole thing. Ed: You're an Evangelical Christian, which is no longer mainstream. How did they end up awarding you? Keith: In British culture, I think there is still a respect for what they call the “classical hymn.” Our hymns toe this unusual line between being considered classical and traditional, and yet also contemporary. It’s probably the biggest strength and the biggest weakness of our music. It's never been wholly contemporary, and it's never been wholly classical. The music lives in both worlds. In British culture, hymns are part of the tradition of the empire. Hymn singing is still more popular in Britain than going to churches. This is different than in America, where people go to church but you can't get them to sing hymns. The hymns very much speak out of my education as a Northern Irish Citizen, which means there’s both the Irish-ness in the melodies, and ...Continue reading... [...]



Seven Myths Perpetuated by Missions People

Like being one degree off course, the negative outcomes increase in severity.

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Over the past thirty years I have noticed that many of us have a tendency to inadvertently promote half-truths that we think advance the cause of world missions. By half-truths, I mean concepts that are partially true or seem true on the surface, but in fact are myths.

At times, I have inadvertently perpetuated these false beliefs myself, for which I wholeheartedly repent. I offer this short article as part of my restitution. I believe that when we participate in spreading these myths, we unintentionally hinder the spread of God’s kingdom. While the myths may seem miniscule and inconsequential, over time, like being one degree off course at the start of a long journey, the negative outcomes increase in severity. Here are seven common myths perpetuated by missions people.

Frontlines

We frequently talk about the frontlines of spiritual warfare as if they are geographically defined (i.e., the mission field). As followers of Jesus, we are called to simultaneously participate in both the seen and unseen world. We are always on a potential frontline. When people use the word “frontline,” they imply there is a safer place, a place less dangerous.

Sure, some places can be darker, more evil, and more dangerous than other places, but let’s not falsely assume that the mission field is a frontline while your home church neighborhood is not. Let’s be prudent; spiritual frontlines cannot be defined geographically or by outward appearance. Scripture seems to imply that everywhere is a potential frontline (see 1 Peter 5:8-9).

Calling

What do we mean by calling? Many missions people think it means having a strong conviction or foreknowledge in regard to a specific place, people, path, or purpose God has for us. Our ...

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