Black and White Christian Leaders Lament Charlottesville

Conference call tries to turn ‘pain and anger’ into ‘resolve and commitment.’

They’re angry and sad and scared.

About a dozen Christian leaders shared their reactions to Charlottesville on a Friday conference call organized by Civilitas Group president Doug Birdsall.

“We want to hear of the pain and anger from African American leaders, and we want to hear the resolve and commitment from white leaders,” stated Birdsall, past leader of the Lausanne Movement and the American Bible Society, in an explanatory email. “We also want to hear the pain and anger from white leaders, and the resolve, commitment, and vision of African American leaders.”

The call came amid public condemnations of white supremacy and racism issued by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the World Evangelical Alliance. “Racism should not only be addressed after tragic events, but regularly in our communities of faith,” stated the NAE. “Churches in the United States can lead the way in combatting attitudes and systems that perpetuate racism.”

“The greatest crisis revealed by the election and post-election reality we live in is the exposure of the white American church’s participation in and identification with racism,” stated Fuller Seminary president Mark Labberton in advance of the call. “That this has been historically true is an unlamented fact, and that it is and will define our future seems to me unquestionable.

“Disillusionment with the church and Christian faith has many elements,” he stated, “but this fundamental inconsistency to demonstrate we are living out the faith we proclaim must be high on the list of causes.”

“I feel the frustration of Moses,” said Mark Whitlock, executive director of the Cecil …

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Are Evangelicals Donating Too Directly to Missions?

When helping hurts the professional helpers.

Long before Google Maps, a couple of guys in a garage in California figured out how to use personal computers to create a digital map of the global church.

It was 1983, and their two-year project—meant to help organizations see where to send missionaries and who still needed translations of the Bible—grew into an organization called Global Mapping International (GMI).

GMI spent the next 34 years supplying products such as missions maps and studies on how missionaries could thrive. It didn’t charge missions agencies very much and supplemented by asking for donations.

In June, GMI closed its doors, unable to draw enough funding from today’s givers.

“The attention span of the donor is much shorter, and their desire for tangible, immediate impact from their gift is much higher,” said GMI president and CEO Jon Hirst.

Up-and-coming donors are bringing with them a new set of priorities. Nearly a quarter of millennial Christian givers (22%) say efficiency and effectiveness are good reasons to support an organization, compared to 12 percent of those over 35, according to a groundbreaking study by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). It asked about the motivations of more than 16,000 donors to Christian ministries.

Younger donors also are more likely than older donors to research an organization before giving (96% vs. 88%), as well as to choose ministries that do long-term humanitarian work such as caring for orphans (89% vs. 85%) or providing education (76% vs. 68%). They’re less likely to favor things such as making the Bible available (90% vs. 96%), teaching Christians to live as disciples (77% vs. 83%) or strengthening marriages and families (70% vs. 76%), ECFA reported. …

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Do We Need a Stronger Word for ‘Faith’?

Why theologian Matthew Bates would have evangelicals profess ‘allegiance’ to Christ.

In his provocative book Salvation by Allegiance Alone, Matthew W. Bates expresses deep concern that Christians—particularly North American conservative evangelicals—misunderstand what the Bible means when it calls people to faith. Too often, he argues, they reduce faith to cognitive assent, as if believing in Christ simply means agreeing with certain propositions. Further, they often reduce conversion to saying a one-time prayer, thus presenting faith as a kind of “fire insurance”—a way to avoid God’s judgment, no matter how one decides to live. The effect is to disdain good works and God’s law as self-righteousness, creating a false opposition between faith and obedience and neglecting the Bible’s call to love God by keeping his commandments (John 14:15).

Bates has two main concerns: first, that gospel is too often equated with justification by faith alone. But this equation is not faithful to the New Testament. The gospel is something Jesus announces and embodies; it is the story of the eternal Son becoming one with us in his incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement as king and judge. God’s people are justified by faith alone only as they are united to the risen King by the Holy Spirit. Our faith, then, is rooted in the story of Jesus the King; we celebrate his victory over sin and death while also submitting to his everlasting reign.

This takes us to Bates’s second concern. He argues that the term pistis, most often translated as “faith,” should instead be translated as “allegiance,” because this concept more faithfully conveys the New Testament understanding. This allegiance has three dimensions: “mental affirmation …

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Cover Story: Facing Our Legacy of Lynching

How a memorial could help lead America—and Christians—to repentance from a dark history.

In 1902 a black man named Alonzo Tucker was lynched from a bridge in the coastal town of Coos Bay, Oregon, a few hours south of my home. It is the only lynching on record in the state, and the limited known details were enough to catch my throat. Tucker had been accused of assaulting a white woman, and an angry mob had formed to take his life in the streets. He was jailed, partly to protect him from the crowds. But at some point, he panicked and somehow escaped, hiding for a night beneath some docks.

In the morning, a band of men found Tucker and shot him as he tried to run away. Tucker may have died from his wounds—no one knows for certain—but to make sure he was dead and to make a spectacle of the event, the crowd hung Tucker from the Fourth Street Bridge, right in the heart of that small Oregon coal-mining town.

I stumbled upon Tucker’s story while researching racial injustice in Oregon and couldn’t get it out of my mind. We had a family beach trip coming up, and I told my husband we needed to detour through Coos Bay to visit the site where Tucker died. He drove to the hardware store, bought some lumber, and made a large white cross to bring with us.

Once in town, I couldn’t find the Fourth Street Bridge. My husband dropped me at the local history museum and took our kids to play in a park. I awkwardly brought up the lynching with the man at the museum, who knew exactly what I was referring to. He gave me as much information as he had, making copies from local history books. I asked him if the museum would ever consider making an exhibit about Tucker, but the man shook his head sadly. “We just don’t have enough information” he said. “There isn’t even a single photo …

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Hope for America’s Opioid Epidemic Is Grace in a Syringe

Why addiction ministry can include fellowship, the gospel and Narcan.

The man in front of me is almost dead. His lips are blue. He isn’t breathing. His eyes are half open and still. His arms fall limply off the stretcher, and he doesn’t flinch as needles are threaded into his veins and his clothes are stripped away. His wife is wailing in the doorway.

His pulse—a barely palpable flutter beneath my fingertips—is the only indication that something might be done. We have only a few seconds to act before the faint, fast rhythm slips away entirely and he is gone. Irreversibly. Irretrievably.

We secure a syringe to his IV, we push the plunger, and we wait.

He gasps.

He coughs, he flails, then screams and kicks. He rips his IV out and tumbles to the floor: wild, naked, and incoherent. He is in agony. But he is alive.

Resurrected.

This is Narcan. This is the scene that plays out daily in my emergency department at a community hospital fighting for lives deep in the heart of opiate country. We have only a few tools to combat the overdoses that will take more lives this year than car accidents or guns, and Narcan—the opioid reversal medication also known as Naloxone—is the most effective. A spray up the nose, a shot in the thigh, or a push through an IV and within seconds: a miracle. The dead live. A sin is forgiven. The hopeless receive hope. For a Christian doctor, Narcan looks like grace in a syringe.

As our country slips deeper into an epidemic that President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Thursday, the debate around Narcan for opioid overdoses has surfaced as a unique pro-life issue. While this medication has the power to prevent the majority of opioid deaths, its efficacy relies on it being administered quickly, within minutes, to an overdose victim. …

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What Brilliant Psychologists Like Me Are Learning About Humility

Measuring meekness can help the church as long as we remember the only One who had something to brag about.

We all know we shouldn’t text as we drive. Or more precisely, we all know other people shouldn’t text as they drive. As for me, I’m exceptionally cautious, just sending off a few words to keep life moving. Plus, my texts aren’t a real problem since I’m an excellent driver.

It turns out that 93 percent of us in the United States believe we are above-average drivers—a conclusion that defies the very notion of what average means. Likewise, most of us perceive ourselves to be above average in intelligence, friendship, marriage, parenting, leadership, social skills, work ethic, and managing money. As a college professor, I might guess myself to be immune from this sort of normative overestimation, and that guess would be wrong. Almost 9 out of 10 college professors believe themselves to be above-average teachers.

We live in a Keilloresque Wobegon world where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” To admit being average at anything—or worse yet, to call someone else average—seems shocking these days. But while it may come as no surprise to Christians commanded to “be completely humble” (Eph. 4:2), it turns out that humility is really good for us. It just took the science a while to prove it.

Experiments of Virtue

For many decades psychologists have studied what goes wrong with people and how to help repair the damage. In contrast, positive psychology—the science of virtue—looks at what goes right with people and how to help them flourish and thrive. Many of today’s leading scholars in positive psychology are Christians studying topics such as forgiveness, gratitude, hope, wisdom, grace, …

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Six Degrees of Separation: Why Our Witness Matters

Our lives reach farther than we can imagine.

Connectedness is largely taken for granted in today’s world. In many ways, interconnectivity is the air we breathe. Six degrees of separation is a familiar concept to many and it holds a magnifying glass to the relational connections we have. Originally developed in 1929 by a Hungarian playwright named Frigyes Karinth, the theory of six degrees of separation suggests that any two people on earth are connected by as few as six other networking relationships. The idea was popularized in America by John Guare, a playwright in New York who in 1990 developed a theater performance by the same name.

It may have been a small world when that play was released, but the reality is that the world has shrunken dramatically since then! Sysomos, a firm monitoring social media, reported in 2010 that the average relational distance on Twitter is 4.67 degrees of separation. Our increasing interconnectedness is taken for granted in many spheres of our lives, but let’s take a moment to consider how the principle of six degrees of separation might impact our evangelism.

Here’s an example from history of what that might look like:

In 1855, a Sunday school teacher by the name of Edward Kimball led a teenage D.L. Moody to Christ. About 20 years later, after one of his evangelistic meetings in the 1870s, D.L. Moody had a conversation with a man by the name of J. Wilbur Chapman through which Chapman received the assurance of his salvation.

About ten years later, in the 1880s, Billy Sunday converted to Christ during an evangelistic event hosted by the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. For a time, Billy Sunday worked for J. Wilbur Chapman, helping him organize Chapman’s evangelistic meetings, but Sunday then went on to host his …

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#Charlottesville This Morning, the Christian Response Today, and Your Church’s Response Tomorrow

Silence on matters of hatred and bigotry is antithetical to the gospel.

I know I’m not the only one who has been keeping track of what is happening in Charlottesville, VA, and feeling both sadness and anger at the same time. I returned to the United States this morning, to a country that seems to be bursting at the seams with tension, hatred, and division.

As a Christian leader watching all that unfolded surrounding today’s Unite the Right rally, which saw white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members (all making up what we sometimes call the alt-right) call for “taking America back,” my heart is grieving. And seeing the violent turn things took this afternoon, I am crushed.

Now, there are certainly bad people on all sides, but there are not “many sides” to this issue—this was a gathering of the alt-right and, whether you supported now-President Trump or not, there is no question they have been emboldened by his election (as I explain here).

So, as a white evangelical, part of a demographic category who disproportionally supported President Trump, let me start by saying this movement is antithetical to the gospel. It is an abomination to all that we stand for, and it must be condemned on every level of leadership in the Church. There is no room for waffling. We cannot sit in silence hoping this will pass.

As I’ve written before, there can be no question about where a denomination, or Christians in general, stand on this more polished form of racism.

Furthermore, if any evangelicals have influence on President Trump, they should call on him to have the specificity he has shown with numerous individuals, from Mitch McConnell to Mika Brzezinski, and do what he said President Obama would not do with radical Islamists—call out the evildoers.

They …

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The Use of Nuclear Weapons Is Inherently Evil

No earthly leader gets the ‘authority to do whatever.’

Much of the world has responded with “fire and fury” to President Donald Trump’s message to North Korea that continued threats will “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”—an unmistakable allusion to using nuclear weapons. Given the gravity of this remark, it seems appropriate for onlookers to be unnerved by America’s apparent stance.

Still, not everyone was troubled by it, with some evangelical Christians actually cheering the President on (more on that in a bit). So we have to acknowledge that Christians are divided on nuclear weapons.

As a study by the Presbyterian Church in America (“Christian Responsibility in the Nuclear Age,” 1987) put it, “Given the dilemma of possible escalation to an all-out nuclear war on the one hand, and the near certainty of enslavement to a totalitarian power on the other, it is not clear that the nonuse of nuclear weapons is an absolute moral obligation.”

And further, “The thought of killing masses of helpless people who are themselves at the mercy of their own government is abhorrent. Only if there were no other way to prevent an even worse catastrophe could nuclear retaliation ever be justified.” The language is nuanced, but the point is clear: The use of nuclear weapons is, in extreme cases, morally just.

Others of us emphatically disagree: Under no circumstances would the use of nuclear arms be justified. Our reasons hinge on the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder,” and the indiscriminate nature of nuclear weapons. Simply put, they end up killing a great many more civilians than combatants, and therefore, their use violates one cardinal principle of just war: proportionality.

Sadly, …

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The Gospel of Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook and others have started to imitate, but can’t replace, church community.

From the late 1980s, many churches made the decision to run like businesses and now, in a surprising twist, businesses in 2017 are running like churches.

At Facebook’s inaugural Communities Summit earlier this summer, CEO Mark Zuckerberg lauded the role churches historically played in society, from providing support in community to stoking charitable volunteerism. In the face of declining church membership, he suggested that Facebook could now fill the void left behind.

“It’s so striking,” he stated, “that for decades, membership in all kinds of groups has declined as much as one quarter. That’s a lot of people who need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.”

At Facebook, he continued, “we started a project to see if we could get better at suggesting groups that will be meaningful to you. We started building artificial intelligence to do this. And it works. In the first six months, we helped 50 percent more people join meaningful communities.”

There’s much that Zuckerberg gets right.

The much-discussed “nones”—those unaffiliated with any particular religion—have indeed been on the rise for decades, and their growth isn’t just obvious in emptying churches.

Instead of Catholics or white evangelicals, it was religious nones that represented the largest religious voting bloc in the 2016 election. Another set of affiliations, major political parties, also saw allegiances drop with the rise of the independent voter, who refuses to align with either party.

In 2000, Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam first noted the collapse of civic engagement in American society. Since the 1960s, fewer Americans had been investing in “social …

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