The BGCE Gospel Life Podcast (Ep. 13)

Start each week with this encouragement to show and share the love of Jesus.

Episode Thirteen | Listening: The Beginning of Love

Christina Walker, Associate Director of Academic Programs at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, discusses Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together and the first service we owe to others. We must begin with listening to others. In the cacophony of noise, will we be the kind of people who will truly love others best by actually getting to know them? When we talk with non-Christians, our first step might just be closing our mouths.

Episode Twelve | Inconvenient Evangelism Moments

John Richards, Managing Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, discusses inconvenient evangelism moments and how we can begin to step into them in order to see God change lives. John uses personal examples to encourage us to actually pray for ‘inconvenient’ moments for the furtherance of the gospel and the potential of changed lives. We must remember that one moment can impact someone’s eternity.

Episode Eleven | Why Do Words Matter?

Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, discusses the intersection of showing AND sharing the love of Jesus. Why did Jesus come, and how do we hold in tension serving others and proclaiming Christ to others? The gospel isn’t something we do; it’s something Jesus did. How are we responding?

Episode Ten | Is There Really a Need for You in Kingdom Work?

Colleen Cooper, Development Coordinator at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism shares that too often it’s easy to compare ourselves to others and assume we aren’t good enough or prepared enough to share Jesus with others. But what if where you are right now is good enough, and if God needs you to impact our world for Christ? How would …

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Moral Law: Americans Agree on More Morality, Disagree on Method

Survey examines attitudes on where morals come from and how to bolster behavior.

When it comes to morality, evangelicals and religious “nones” overwhelmingly agree on one thing: it’s declining.

One factor: Too many laws regulating moral behavior have been removed, according to 7 in 10 Americans with evangelical beliefs. Yet 6 in 10 believe that such laws are not effective at encouraging people to act morally.

A new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research finds that most Americans worry moral behavior is on the decline.

In a representative survey of 1,000 Americans, researchers found 81 percent of Americans agree with the statement, “I am concerned about declining moral behavior in our nation.” Nineteen percent disagree.

Worry about morals differs across demographic lines, but remains consistently high. Most Americans older than 65 (85%) are concerned about declining moral behavior, as are those 18 to 24 (71%.) Those with graduate degrees (72%) agree, as do those with a high school degree or less (85%).

So do Christians (85%), those of non-Christian faiths (70%) and “nones”—those with no religious affiliation (72%). White Americans (82%), African-Americans (86%), Hispanic Americans (73%) and Americans of other ethnicities (75%) agree as well.

Yet Americans disagree over whether morality can be legislated.

Almost two-thirds (63%) agree with the statement, “Implementing laws to encourage people to act morally is not effective.” Thirty-seven percent disagree. The views of Americans with evangelical beliefs are not statistically different: 59 percent agree, and 41 percent disagree.

On the other hand, fewer than half (44%) agree with the statement, “The fewer laws regulating moral standards, the better.” Fifty-six percent disagree.

Men (49%) …

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Christian Governor of Jakarta Jailed, Found Guilty of Blasphemy

Indonesian court gives Ahok harsher sentence than prosecutors requested.

Indonesia’s top Christian politician has been convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison.

Prosecutors had recommended a light suspended sentence for Jakarta governor Basuki Purnama (popularly known as Ahok) after blasphemy charges led to his failed bid for re-election last month. Instead of finishing his term running the capital city through October, Ahok will now have to appeal his conviction from jail.

The New York Times offers more details, as does Reuters.

“It’s a sad day, and it’s frightening,” Andreas Harsono, an Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, told the Times. “If the governor of Indonesia’s largest and most complex city, and who is an ally of the Indonesian president, can be brought down and humiliated this way, what will happen to normal Indonesian citizens?”

“This verdict and the sentence imposed represent an outrageous miscarriage of justice,” stated Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s East Asia team leader, Benedict Rogers. “It also represents a further, and severe, erosion of Indonesia’s values of religious pluralism as set out in the Pancasila, the state ideology.

“Indonesia’s ability to hold itself up as an example of a moderate, tolerant, Muslim-majority democracy is further threatened and is now very questionable.”

Being ethnically Chinese, Ahok is a double minority in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. About 1 percent of Indonesia’s 250 million people are ethnic Chinese, while less than 9 percent are Christian.

The verdict comes a day after Indonesia’s president banned a hardline Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia, because it threatened national unity with its protests …

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Fundamentalists, Modernists, and the Rest of the Story

Early 20th-century evangelical history was more than two camps lobbing grenades at each other.

Geoffrey Treloar’s The Disruption of Evangelicalism: The Age of Torrey, Mott, McPherson and Hammond feels like the culmination of a very long project. Back in 2003, historian Mark Noll inaugurated InterVarsity Press’s five-volume series on the history of evangelicalism with The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys. He described the series as a whole, in the introduction to that book, as accessible to any reader, yet footnoted for scholars; global in scope, though grounded in the English-speaking world; and centered on “evangelical religion, as understood by the evangelicals themselves” while attending to historical context. Subsequent volumes appeared in chronological order, except for this one, which marks the end of the series but covers the penultimate time period, 1900–1940.

The early 20th century is generally considered the low point in the long sweep of evangelical history. Superstar evangelist Dwight L. Moody died in 1899, and his mantle would not be taken up by Billy Graham until after World War II. Key events, including World War I, the Great Depression, and the rise of fascism in Europe, offered little to cheer. The period also saw the infamous fundamentalist-modernist controversy, which split numerous denominations and religious institutions along lines of biblical interpretation, doctrine, openness to scientific inquiry, and posture toward the outside world.

In a move reminiscent of the “new academic hagiography” advocated by historian Rick Kennedy (see Chris Gehrz’s post at The Pietist Schoolman blog), Treloar seeks to rehabilitate this era, casting it as a time not of narrowness and rancor but of breadth and creativity. Instead …

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SEND Institute: A New Learning Community for Church Planting

The Billy Graham Center partners with the North American Mission Board.

For nearly 40 years the Billy Graham Center (BGC) at Wheaton College has served as a hub of mission and evangelism training and inspiration. Rev. Billy Graham sought to develop a Center for strategic planning, inspiration, and preparation of leaders to fuel the evangelism mission of the Church in the world.

Today, the BGC uniquely blends practical missions with academic rigor to empower Christian leaders in nearly every sector of society to lead with the gospel in all they do. In addition to recently launching the Evangelism Leaders Fellowship (ELF) for denominational and network missions leaders and the Rural Matters Institute for pastors and leaders serving in rural settings, the BGC is partnering to launch the SEND Institute, a think-tank on church planting.

Needless to say, I’ve cared about church planting for a long time. But, over time, roles change. I’ve planted churches, and I’m thankful for that, but now I think we need a place for church planting thought leadership, serving all kinds of gospel-focused groups, to help church planting move to a new level of effectiveness in mission.

When I transitioned to my role as the Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center last year, one of the first meetings I had was with Kevin Ezell and Jeff Christopherson of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention.

NAMB has recently retooled and refocused on church planting. They have, in my view, put a much needed greater focus on church planting, and decided to be the best-in-class in what they do—primarily church planting now.

And they have done that. In my view, NAMB is now leading the way in North American church planting.

So I flew down to see Kevin and Jeff and told them that …

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Starving Myself Meant Losing Myself

For years, I looked at myself in mirrors only to see mirages.

Back in that other life—before a mortgage, midnight wakings with babies, and shoveling snow on Saturday mornings—my husband and I would often venture from our home in Los Angeles to Las Vegas. We weren’t gamblers but rather lovers of deserts and the high, clear mountain air of Mount Charleston. Along the 15 Freeway we’d snake through the Mojave Desert surrounded on all sides by barren lands and crooked cacti. Once, I looked out my window, right in the middle of the Mojave, and saw a lake.

“Paul,” I asked my husband, “has it rained? I’ve never seen that lake before.” “It’s not a lake,” he answered, “it’s a mirage.” But the lake was there, huge and sparkling in the sunlight before me, and yet, in truth, it was nothing more than a convincing illusion. It wasn’t the first time my eyes had deceived me, and it was not to be the last.

Related to the word mirror, the term mirage comes from the French word se mirer, “be reflected” and the Latin word mirare, which means, “look at.” It is fitting, then, that for most of my life, I’ve looked at myself in mirrors only to see mirages.

For 10 years, I suffered from anorexia. Recent studies have shown that eating disorders are on the rise, especially in China, among women of color, in women over 40, and among children. Not even men are immune. According to USA Today, a study released last week suggests that “many young men suffer from undiagnosed eating disorders and distortions of body image.”

These disorders are both mental and physical illnesses fraught with complexities that researchers have struggled to fully understand. Why do only some women (and …

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My Stance on Refugees and Immigration, and How They Intersect with Christianity

I answer some frequently asked questions.

I have always believed that good discussion and debate over critical issues is helpful for those willing to engage in it. In the past few months, I have written quite a bit on the refugee ban and what I believe should be the Christian response to it. I, along with about 50 other Evangelical leaders, even signed an important letter to President Trump, crafted by my friends at World Relief, decrying his ban and calling for love and compassion for those who are marginalized and hurting.

I am firmly committed to what I have said, but at the same time I know that many of my Christian friends may believe differently.

In fact, I have been having a lively debate with a friend lately about the refugee issue and my interaction with him has encouraged me to write this post. I want to clarify where I stand on a few issues, and when and where I believe it’s okay for Christians to agree to disagree regarding this refugee ban. (Yes, I am calling it a ban, like President Trump did.)

Do I believe that Christians who support President Trump’s ban on refugees are wrong or unbiblical?

The simple answer is, no, I cannot judge people’s hearts. What I can say is that I believe many people are thinking wrongly about this issue because they have either (1) been given wrong information or (2) let fear guide what would otherwise be factually-grounded, reasoned thinking. The reason I have written so much about the refugee issue is not because I believe in extreme vetting or open borders (see questions to follow for more on each). Instead, I write because we have gotten wrong information and people are being hurt because of it.

The refugee system in the U.S. was not broken.

It takes 18-24 months for someone to come in under refugee status. …

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Trump’s Religious Liberty Order Doesn’t Answer Most Evangelicals’ Prayers

Prayer breakfast pledge to ‘totally destroy’ Johnson Amendment comes up shy; conscience exemptions from LGBT anti-discrimination rules missing.

In his biggest religious liberty push since taking office, President Donald Trump officially laid out in an executive order some of the protections he has promised faithful supporters for months. The move came on the same day that evangelical leaders gathered in Washington for the annual National Day of Prayer.

One problem: This is not the executive order many evangelicals had been praying for.

Gone are the exemptions for religious groups faced with accommodating LGBT antidiscrimination regulations that conflict with their faith convictions. Instead, the order entitled “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” professes to extend political speech protections for pastors and religious organizations, aiming to let them talk about politics without penalty. It also requests “regulatory relief” for religious groups, including evangelical universities, caught in a court battle over the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

“I am signing today an executive order to defend the freedom of religion and speech in America, the freedoms that we wanted, the freedoms that you fought for so long,” the president said in a Rose Garden ceremony. “The federal government will never ever penalize any person for their protected religious beliefs.”

Trump spoke most about the implications for the Johnson Amendment—legislation that has regulated nonprofits’ political activity for six decades. “This financial threat against the faith community is over,” he said. “You’re now in a position to say what you want to say. … No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors.”

While the White House’s broad vision to “protect and vigorously …

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