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The Invisible Heroes of the Persecuted Church

Fri, 26 May 2017 07:00:00 PDT

The case for Christians investing in the profession only 1 in 5 Americans trust.

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Behind every Asia Bibi—the Pakistani Christian mother of five still on death row after seven years over a false blasphemy charge—are the near-invisible lawyers who defend persecuted believers, pastors, and churches around the globe.

Only 1 in 5 American Christians think lawyers are highly ethical or contribute a lot to the well-being of society, according to surveys by Gallup and the Pew Research Center. But human rights lawyers overseas face death threats, arrest, detention without trial, beatings, and torture.

Over the past 25 years, 30,000 Christian legal advocates and judges in 156 nations have organized into national networks through the efforts of Advocates International (AI), based near Washington, DC. These lawyers—who work together across countries to release imprisoned pastors or harassed missionaries—are a vital part of the body of Christ that easily escapes notice, says president Brent McBurney.

“Our work helps the gospel,” he said. “If you don’t have lawyers who are following Christ to fight to keep the doors open for the gospel, then the doors close and no missionaries can go in.”

Such advocacy has gained high recognition in political circles. “In the more repressive countries, these lawyers are really heroic figures,” said David Saperstein, who served under the Obama administration as US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. “They often face harassment from authorities and persecution.

“They make a huge difference, and they work within a system often slanted against human rights and religious freedom,” he said. “Yet with perseverance and creativity, they may prevail in a way that makes a real difference.” ...

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Six Ways Men Can Support Women's Discipleship

Thu, 25 May 2017 07:00:00 PDT

Male clergy and laity who want to enable women's ministry often don't know how to get involved or what to do. #AmplifyWomen is a two-month-long series running on CT Women, designed to generate a new conversation about women’s leadership and discipleship. In the last four weeks, we’ve addressed ecclesial accountability, mentorship, platform, and hospitable orthodoxy. Today, Trillia Newbell invites men in the church to support women’s discipleship. When I first became a Christian at the age of 22, there were two things that I couldn’t wait to do: learn about the Lord and share about him with others. As I dreamed about my future, I determined that I wanted to become a biblical counselor. I told a pastor about this desire, knowing that it would require more education through a counseling program, most likely at a seminary. His response to me was, “Well, you are probably going to be a mom.” He was right. I did become a mom, one of my greatest joys and gifts in my life. Still, his statement deterred me from pursuing a counseling degree. Although I don’t hold any grudge against that pastor—he was doing the best to counsel me at the time—nonetheless his initial response was ill-advised and unhelpful. My experience reflects a larger, more widespread challenge inside the church: Male clergy and lay leaders have the power to impact and support women’s discipleship, but many of them (by their own account) fall short. “When you consider how many ministries and committees depend upon the genius, generosity and sweat of our sisters,” writes pastor Thabiti Anyabwile, “it’s almost criminal that most any pastor you meet has no plan for discipling the women of his church apart from outsourcing to a women’s ministry staff person or committee.” When men don’t ...Continue reading... [...]



Moral Outrage in America Is Now for Everybody

Fri, 26 May 2017 09:48:00 PDT

Gallup finds record-high liberalism on 10 of 19 issues. Yet moderates and liberals are growing more concerned. Ask Americans about their personal views on moral issues, and they are more likely than ever to hold a liberal position. Ask them about the country’s moral values, and they’re becoming more and more pessimistic. The church today finds itself in a precarious position, as an ethical shift pushes public opinion in favor of stances that Christians have traditionally sided against. Meanwhile, Americans from all political and theological stripes have their own reasons to be concerned over moral decline. In a recent poll, Gallup found a widening embrace for more than a dozen moral issues, including record-high acceptance for gay relationships, divorce, pornography, polygamy, and physician-assisted suicide. Of the 19 issues queried about, Americans have become more liberal on 13 of them (with 10 hitting record highs) and stayed consistent on 6—most notably abortion, which 43 percent of Americans and 34 percent of Protestants deem morally acceptable. Americans have not shifted more conservative on any of the 19 moral issues measured. “There was a time that basic Christian morality was at least something people were afraid to violate—at least in an answer on a public survey,” said Dan Darling, vice president of communications for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in response. “I am not so sure this is reflective of a moral slide, but of greater honesty.” In May, both Gallup and LifeWay Research released polls showing about 4 in 5 Americans are worried about the moral state of the country. This year, 77 percent say the country’s values are getting worse, the highest level since Gallup started tracking this topic 16 years ago. Historically, ...Continue reading... [...]