The Female Martyrs’ #MeToo Message

What happened when early Christian women took a stand.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our CT special issue focused on women raising their voices. In “Heard,” we explore how women are speaking up, not only in response to scandals or injustice, but also more broadly for the sake of the gospel and the values of Christ’s kingdom. Click here to download a free digital version of our special issue.

“I am a Christian,” declares Blandina, slave woman and martyr, to the Roman authorities. “I am a Christian,” asserts Perpetua to her pagan father, sealing her fate as a martyr. “I am a servant of the living God,” proclaims Thecla to the governor as he marvels at her testimony in the arena before she was to be eaten by wild beasts.

The voices of these female martyrs ring down through the centuries and sound notes of wisdom and encouragement to us today. In our current #MeToo moment, we hear the voices of persecuted women defining themselves not as victims but as agents. We find striking similarities to the ancient female martyrs and ascetics—bravery, willingness to face public shame, conviction that their words are important. But we also discover important differences between today’s ideas and the ancient female martyrs’ views on the ultimate goals of a life well lived.

Bold Testimony

The martyrdom accounts of women like Blandina, Perpetua, and Thecla reveal women who were extraordinarily bold. They resisted familial pressure and governmental orders to turn from their Christian faith. They unflinchingly testified to Christ, knowing that intense physical torture would be the outcome of their truthful, fearless answer. Their actions and the suffering they endured magnified their voices.

In 177 in Lyons, Blandina, …

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Consider the Stem Cell: A Biology Instructor’s Reflection on Calling

There are more than biological principles inside cells.

When I lecture, I can’t help but feel like I’m a pastor giving a sermon. I stand behind a podium, lecture notes and book at hand, with PowerPoint slides behind me and a congregation of students in front of me. While I don’t have a wireless microphone, I’ve certainly considered getting one for the sake of the students in the back of the classroom when the air vents get too loud or for recording my lectures and posting the audio online. As for the clerical stole and vestments, I wear my share of sweaters and shawls or when necessary, the lab coat.

The sermons I teach are biological rather than hermeneutical in nature, but I find many similarities between the sanctuary and the classroom. However, one difference is that in the classroom I am the instructor, while at church, I become the instructed. Like my students, I find myself sitting, albeit in a pew. I look and listen, but even on my best days, I find that I battle distractions in my own mind. I find myself coming up with an action plan for tackling the remaining work I have to do when I get home or, if I missed breakfast, thinking about the post-service coffee and snacks in the lobby and worrying about what I’ll have for dinner. When I consider this, I realize that I am not far removed from the student experience. Perhaps, none of us really are.

Jesus invited his students (the disciples) to pause when they were anxious, asking them to consider the things around them. Each year with nervous excitement and anticipation, I await the beginning of a new academic year. Amidst finalizing my syllabi and revising my lecture slides, I, like the disciples, pause and listen to the words of Jesus, accepting his invitation to consider the things around me. …

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One-on-One with CJ Davison on Sharing the Gospel in America and Intentional Relationships

“Make every expression of ministry relationally driven and every relationship ministry focused.”

Ed: How long have you been involved in Lausanne International and what is your current role?

CJ: I first got involved with Lausanne at the end of 2015, helping with prayer on the planning team for the Young Leaders Gathering in Jakarta in 2016. I am now involved with the Young Leaders Generation, helping the Educate Initiative, which connects Lausanne’s young leaders with higher education scholarships.

Ed: Tell me about your current roll and what you do.

CJ: I work with a ministry full-time called Leadership International. We equip Christ-like leaders with training and resources in order to fulfill the Great Commission. We target least-reached leaders in order to grow church-equipping movements in strategic locations. My role is to resource our international partners with capital, coaching, and curriculum. To keep me sane, I travel to Africa and Asia to teach and encourage our team.

Ed: Tell me about the gospel and the church in North America, where you live.

CJ: In the United States, it seems the gospel is no longer seen as good news. Our culture prefers not to talk about sin. Therefore, “repent and believe” is not a message that is received well here.

The church in America is a lot like Laodicea in Revelation 3. I think that apathy, comfort, and ignorance are our biggest challenges. The solution is to heed the message to Laodicea: “Buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

In other words, we need to open our eyes to see the bigger picture, seeking purity and true riches in the life to come.

Ed: What is your impression of how the church is doing when it comes to sharing …

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How a Confederate Memorial Became a Multiracial Worship Site

A two-year partnership of hundreds of Atlanta pastors brought the church together at an unlikely destination. Could more cities follow their lead?

Rising 825 feet over the skyline of Atlanta, Stone Mountain is the most-visited destination in the state of Georgia. On its north face, a carving in the granite wall depicts three figures central to the Confederacy: Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson.

Against this backdrop, observers might have puzzled over the scene unfolding on a recent Saturday at the top of the monument. An ethnically diverse crowd of more than 3,000 people, the majority under age 30, sang as a full rock band led the crowd in Christian praise songs.

Nearly all lifted their hands, shouted, and even danced as pop-rock worship music blasted from speakers. Then a black man in a bright red shirt with white letters reading Reconcile took the mic.

“Heaven is among us,” said Jonathan Tremaine Thomas, a young pastor from Ferguson, Missouri. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Thomas was followed by civil rights leader John Perkins, who was followed by apologies from Christian leaders to two Jewish leaders for the history of Christian anti-Semitism, who were followed by declarations of forgiveness for Dylann Roof by family members of Charleston church shooting victims. And this was all in the first 150 minutes.

Over the rest of the day, at the base of the mountain, gospel artists performed and local pastors prayed at an assembly that lasted eight hours. Park officials estimated that the entire event attendance drew between 22,000 and 25,000. At the end, the crowd took communion together at the “table of brotherhood,” a nod to Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 speech.

The day marked the climax of two years of preparation by the OneRace Movement, a group that has brought 560 Atlanta-area pastors together in pursuit …

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My Son’s Suffering Helped Me Understand God’s Suffering

The birth of my child transformed my view of the “problem of pain” and divine foreknowledge.

A few months into our pregnancy with Jackson, we received a phone call. The nurse’s thin voice slipped out of the speakers on my phone, and with it, words: words with medical definitions, cleft lip and palate, follow-up ultrasound, high-risk pregnancy. Now, when I lean up against the bricks of the room where I first heard those words, they echo back, the walls keeping a record of the moment that everything changed.

From there we had ultrasounds—what felt like hundreds, but what I now know was only nine. The maternal-fetal medicine specialist ordered a fetal MRI, an unusual procedure, attempting to understand our son’s face. There were second and third phone calls. The news rolled in. Jackson had no right eye, a very small jaw and chin, no external ear. Significant facial cleft, they called it in the genetic counselor’s office when we asked what language we should use to tell family and friends. I inhaled the words and they filled my lungs with cold water, and it seemed that every breath for the next 20 weeks of my pregnancy came out like a gasp.

During those 20 weeks, between the first phone call and Jack’s first breath, we drove hundreds of miles to and from the hospital, to and from each consultation, each proximate diagnosis. When we drove, we listened to songs about miracles. We listened to praise music from our childhoods, gospel choirs, and old hymns. We also began a journey to understand faith and suffering and uncertainty. I prayed desperately night after night that God would not let anything happen to this baby.

As the 18-week ultrasound approached, I became convinced that something was wrong, that we would learn something terrible that Friday afternoon.

The exam was completely silent. …

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In the Beginning Is Silence

Why Christian activity should start with non-activity.

In his 1983 Templeton Prize address, Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, “If I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.” This reality, of course, has bled into the 21st century, and we even see bloodstains in the church.

Christians have not forgotten God as much as set him on a shelf while we attend to more urgent business, like growing churches or preaching hope or fighting injustice. These are all righteous in their own way, of course—except when knowing and loving God becomes an afterthought or a means to an end.

This is not a new temptation. Paul talked about it in relation to the love of neighbor. But it applies even more to our love of God: We might speak in miraculous tongues or with prophetic truth to power, we might have the faith to move the culture, we might sacrificially serve the poorest of the poor—but if we don’t love God, it is nothing (1 Cor. 13:1–4). Why did Paul bring this up if the Christians of his day weren’t so tempted?

Fall is the activity season. As the school year gets underway, families put all sorts of plans and routines in play. Churches gear up their manifold programs. And this being an election year, activists set campaigns into motion. It’s our time of year.

It’s long been recognized that a distinctive feature of American Christianity, and evangelical Christianity in particular, is our activism. Certainly, there is the activism of deeds—opening food pantries, starting Bible studies, joining political interest groups. But words are deeds as well, and as such, we …

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Your Digital Life, Hidden with Christ

Serving the God ‘who sees in secret’ in a world where there’s pressure to post everything.

Snap, post, chat, tweet, like, send—the gestures of social media, where a stubby thumb or an index finger is mightier than the sword and pen combined. Such is the world in which we live. However, one inherent weakness of social media is its inability to understand the beauty of hiddenness. In fact, there is nothing that I can think of that is more antithetical to the hidden than the proliferation of social media.

The whole premise of social media is to reach as many people as possible, the more, the better. The frightening part about this logic is that it might be changing how we think about life. Can we enjoy a concert without capturing at least a part of it with our smartphones? Can we have a beautiful engagement without a hidden cameraman in the bushes to record the proposal? In short, without some sort of digital proof can something exist? It seems to me that it is increasingly impossible to conceive of something without footage. As the internet adage goes, “pics or it didn’t happen.” We seem to only value what can be witnessed by others or shared socially.

Love of Honor

In the midst of a world obsessed with what can be observed by others, Colossians 3:3 says something very foreign: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” These words were penned in a context not dissimilar to our own. The ancient world might not have had smartphones, but the ancients cared about their public persona. Ovid, the Roman poet, reminds us that people roamed ancient streets and venues both to see and be seen.

The Colossians were just like any modern urban dweller. In some sense, they were more concerned with public recognition than we are when we consider that the love of honor (philotimia) …

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God’s Love Manifested in the Stories of His People

Amidst our missional and church planting efforts, we must not forget about the stories of individuals.

Daisy. Arezou. Taryn. Rosie.

Unfamiliar names to you, but to CenterSet Church in San Francisco, California, these names represent new brothers and sisters in Christ.

One is a former Muslim who was radically saved and immediately baptized. Another, a skeptic for years who was involved in Buddhism and New Age spirituality, can now be found taking down the idols in her home after coming to faith in Jesus. The third saw her parents deported when she was sixteen-years-old and faced the daunting challenge of raising her two siblings alone. The last is a Christian for 10 years who invited scores of people to church and finally came to realize her need to publicly proclaim faith in Jesus through baptism.

This is the story of mission.

Ali Roohi, the pastor of CenterSet Church says, “We love celebrating victory reports of life transformation through Christ.” This exuberant joy stems from his first-hand knowledge of the new life Jesus brings. Roohi, born in the San Francisco Bay Area to an Iranian immigrant family, was raised Muslim but lived a secular life devoid of God. After coming to faith in Jesus, Roohi, then an engineer in the Silicon Valley, was prompted by God to plant and pastor a new church in the area. CenterSet Church launched in 2017 in an exclusive shopping community called Santana Row with a mission to reach the highly intelligent and upwardly mobile yet stunningly irreligious people of the Valley.

This is the story of church planting.

There are other names, of course—the names of the men and women God used to shape our lives in innumerable ways. They’ve authored bestsellers, pastored influential churches, addressed thousands. God is using these names to write the missiological conversation for the …

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What Are Evangelicals Afraid of Losing?

President Trump’s appeal to fear ignores that Christians seek first the Kingdom, not political favors.

In a Monday meeting with evangelical leaders at the White House, President Trump reportedly warned of violence against conservative Christians if the GOP loses in November. Evangelicals, he said, were “one election away from losing everything.”

As evangelicals, we would do well to correct the president on this point. If an election can cause us to lose everything, what is it exactly that we have in the first place?

Surely we can be grateful for any public servant who upholds the First Amendment. And we should applaud fellow believers who ply their education and experience as lawyers to defend religious freedom (as long as they don’t seek to privilege Christianity legally above other religions).

However, the church does not preach the gospel at the pleasure of any administration or decline to preach it at another administration’s displeasure. We preach at Christ’s pleasure. And we don’t make his policies but communicate them. It’s not when we’re fed to lions that we lose everything; it’s when we preach another gospel. “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matt. 16:26).

And yet, swinging from triumphalism to seething despair, many pastors are conveying to the wider, watching public a faith in political power that stands in sharp opposition to everything we say we believe in. To many of our neighbors, the court chaplains appear more like jesters.

Something tremendous is at stake here: whether evangelical Christians place their faith more in Caesar and his kingdom than in Christ and his reign. On that one, we do have everything to lose—this November and every other election cycle. When we seek special political favors …

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Nominal Christians: Some Stats from the U.K. from Broad Application

How do we reach people who are nominally Christian?

As a result of the Lausanne Consultation that took place in Pataya, Thailand, in June 1980, where many gathered to consider issues connected with global evangelization, several booklets emerged with titles such as Nominal Christians among Roman Catholics, … among the Orthodox,… among Protestants, as well as others looking at Traditional Religionists in various countries and continents. The first International Lausanne Consultation on Nominalism took place in England in December 1998, and the Second Consultation was held in March 2018, in Rome.

But what is nominality?

The concepts of “nominal Christian” and “notional Christian” have been around for a long time, but have largely dropped from extensive use in the last few years. Nominal Christians were originally defined as those people who “were church members and believed in God but who never attended church(except perhaps at Christmas or Easter),”while notional Christians were those who “believed in God but who never attended church and do not necessarily make any effort to follow the Christian ethic (perhaps because they confuse ‘Christianity’ with ‘Britishness’).”

Numbers for both were estimated along the following lines for the U.K.:

The figures in Columns A and F total 100%, representing the entire population. Column A is the total of Columns B, C, D and E; Column F is the total of Columns G and H. Regular churchgoers are the total of Columns B and C (from Church Censuses, the split relying on sample surveys). Church members are the total of Columns C and D (the total coming from published figures summarizing the many individual denominations). None of these definitions are watertight. Figures for …

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