Looking for Ancient African Religion? Try Christianity.

The African religious imagination already anticipates Christ.

It’s ironic that as I crossed the Walt Whitman Bridge to attend an urban apologetics conference in Philadelphia I encountered the very religious pluralism that makes conferences such as these a necessity. As my weathered SUV pulled up to the stoplight, I could see the Marcus Garvey–inspired Pan-African flag pirouetting in the wind, and I could hear the amplified, yet muffled, sound of a man’s raspy voice through a bullhorn. He, along with a group of other young men and women, stood on the median with their faces contorted like clenched fists yelling, “Black Power, Black Power,” while others bellowed, “the black man is God!” at passing pedestrians and vehicles.

At the next intersection, a well-groomed man in a fitted black suit, with a tightly-knotted black bow tie, walked up and down the dividing line of the highway selling bean pies and handing out Nation of Islam literature, an entrepreneurial practice that has existed since the early 1930s.

Finally, after parking and inserting some quarters into the meter, a voice behind me yelled: “As-Salaam-Alaikum” (which means “peace be unto you”). I turned around and an older Muslim man with a dyed, carrot-color beard beckoned me over to his table to see his merchandise. “Are you interested in buying some of these organic, scented body oils, beloved? I have ‘Black Coconut,’ ‘China Musk,’ and ‘Arabian Sandalwood.’” After listening to his sales pitch, I bought two scented oils for $10 before heading into the conference.

Traditional African Religions Have an Appeal

As an inner-city dweller, occurrences like these transpire on a consistent basis because our cities are hubs of …

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One Does Not Simply Leave Evangelicalism

We agree: It’s a broken word describing broken people in a broken movement. It’s still Good News.

Look, we get it. We’re frustrated, too. Have been for decades, but yes, it’s worse now. When pundits talk about “evangelicals,” they don’t mean what we mean. When pollsters count “evangelicals,” they usually don’t count how we count. And when a supposed “evangelical leader” says something unbiblical, we, too, are tempted to tweet our disavowals.

Defining evangelicalism as a political movement is not new. When polls, politicians, and journalists see everything through a political lens, it’s not surprising that their main question about any group is “how will they vote?” Remember, the term took off in popular parlance in the mid-’70s because it was identified with Jimmy Carter’s successful presidential candidacy.

Still, there’s no denying that a groundswell of evangelical leaders are so frustrated with the politicization of the word and with so many nominal Christians described as “evangelical” that they’re giving up their efforts to reclaim the term.

“Let the political evangelicals have the term,” Northern Seminary New Testament scholar Scot McKnight blogged. “Let the rest of us call ourselves Christians.”

Baylor’s Thomas Kidd gave the same advice: “Historians (including me) will keep on using the term ‘evangelical’ and examining what it has meant in the past. But in public references to ourselves, it is probably time to put ‘evangelical’ on the shelf. … [J]ust identify with your denomination. (For me, that means Baptist.) Or you can tell people you are a follower of Jesus Christ, or a gospel Christian.”

Back in October 2016, Alan Jacobs urged, …

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The Rise of Reformed Charismatics

A 21st-century global movement sets the Word on fire with gospel preaching and powerful spiritual gifts.

The rollicking worship pulsed for nearly an hour in the humid Sanctuary: energetic singing, hundreds of hands raised, prophetic words referencing the Spirit’s flames, and sparks of spontaneous prayer among strangers from different states and nations.

When the worship ended, the crowd sat down, opened their English Standard Version Bibles and settled in for a 35-minute expository sermon on Galatians from King’s

Church London teaching pastor Andrew Wilson, who brought a different kind of fire.

Each night of the Advance church planting network’s global conference featured this sort of hybrid—doctrinally rich, gospel-focused, Reformed preaching sandwiched between free-flowing charismatic worship—a combination that would make many a Presbyterian (and a few Pentecostals) squirm.

But for the crowd gathered at Covenant Life Church in suburban Washington, DC, including pastors from Kenya, Nepal, Australia, and Thailand, it flowed as naturally as it does in their own Reformed charismatic churches—more than 70 of them across the globe.

Advance is hardly the only group in the middle of this theological Venn diagram, with growing numbers of theologically savvy, Spirit-filled followers in the United States, Britain, and around the world. Five hundred years after the Reformation, Luther’s 21st-century inheritors are embracing the Holy Spirit in new and deeper ways.

Newfrontiers, a network of global “apostolic spheres,” has planted hundreds of churches over the last 30 years, many of which fit the Reformed charismatic mold. The movement’s founder, Terry Virgo, a British pastor, serves as a sort of elder statesman of Calvinist continuationists and authored the book The Spirit-Filled Church. …

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Simone Biles, #MeToo, and How Christians Must Respond

This is a problem we all must address.

Just tonight, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles joined the chorus of women who’ve bravely brought their stories of abuse into the public light. Biles, 20, made this announcement detailing the ways her former team doctor, Larry Nassar, abused both her and other teammates.

#MeToo, it seems, continues on, as it should until every story is heard and each and every church becomes a place of healing and restoration for all who have been treated as anything less than worthy of one made in the image of God.

We’re living in a time of confession—one focused on openness and honesty about the ways women have been abused and mistreated. This only comes after decades spent trying to deny truth and sweep exploitation under the rug.

Much of this started with one of the most shocking news stories this nation has seen in years—a story about one man’s desire to conquest not just one, but multiple unwilling women. Over the course of his career as a Hollywood mogul and movie producer, Harvey Weinstein took it upon himself to sexually harass and assault countless female coworkers and acquaintances.

Common Factors

Although the list continues to grow, many have already come forward to speak and share their stories about their encounters with Weinstein. Despite the differences between these women, several common descriptors can be used to characterize Weinstein perpetrators and his victims.

First and foremost, these encounters were exploitative.

Many victims of Weinstein and others are often young women forced to ward off approaches made by much older, aggressive men. Regardless of age, however, exploitation happens all to frequently and should be forcely condemned by all of us.

Women are not resources to exploit.

The exchanges were …

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The Theology for Life Podcast

A weekly podcast co-hosted by Drs. Ed Stetzer and Lynn Cohick

Sin, Patience, and Our Theology

In this episode of Theology for Life Ed and Lynn talk to Dr. David Lauber about his works on both the doctrine of sin and the role of patience in the Christian life.

David Lauber (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is associate professor of theology at Wheaton College. He is the author of Barth on the Descent into Hell and the co-editor of several volumes, including Theology Questions Everyone Asks, Trinitarian Theology for the Church, and The Bloomsbury Companion to the Doctrine of Sin.

The Theology of Evangelism

In this episode of Theology for Life, Ed and Lynn talk to Dr. Rick Richardson about developing a theology of evangelism. What is evangelism, and how is it different than witness or demonstrations of the gospel? Dr. Richardson talks about why we drift from evangelism and what we can do about it.

Rick Richardson is evangelism fellow at the Billy Graham Center, professor of evangelism and leadership at Wheaton College, and director of the MA in Evangelism and Leadership and the MA in Missional Church Movements degrees. Rick consults widely with churches on evangelism and healing and reconciliation for the emerging generation and on contemporary missional churches and missional movements.

Dr. Lynn Cohick is professor of New Testament at Wheaton College.

Dr. 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.

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Why Chile’s Churches Are Under Attack as Pope Francis Visits

Evangelical and Catholic churches targeted by radical members of a largely Christian indigenous group.

Today vandals in Santiago, Chile, firebombed three Catholic churches just ahead of Pope Francis’s scheduled visit to the South American nation on Monday.

Notes left at the scene warned that “Pope Francis, the next bomb will be in your robe,” and indicated members of the Mapuche indigenous group were responsible.

The Mapuche originate about seven hours south of the capital city, where radical members have burned down 27 Catholic and evangelical churches in the past three years.

Responsibility for the attacks is claimed by an extremist group called Weichan Auka Mapu. It leaves behind messages with demands, such as the release of Mapuche prisoners or the return of Mapuche land which it says was taken by the Chilean government in the 19th century.

A high percentage of Mapuches now identify as Christian: 55 percent are Catholic, and 32 percent are Protestant. But for others, Christians are still seen as invaders complicit in the government’s actions.

Of the 20 churches burned down between 2015 and 2016, 12 were Catholic and 8 were Protestant. In 2017, a further 7 have been torched. These churches also served as schools, meeting places, and shelters for those fleeing natural disasters. Many belonged to the poorest sectors of the poorest region in Chile, and were attended by Mapuches themselves.

The leader of an Assemblies of God church burned down in July recalled the moment his attractive wooden church—built 15 years ago using money raised by church members—was reduced to ashes.

Juan Mella, who is also head of the local pastors’ council, said the event demonstrated an intolerance among the Mapuches.

“Each human being can have their own views with regard to faith, spirituality,” he …

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Why We Need to Talk about Trump’s Haiti Remarks

Christians can expand their compassion by looking at the deeper story of development and immigration.

Yesterday in a meeting about immigration reform, President Donald Trump questioned why he should accept immigrants from “s—hole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador, and nations in Africa, instead of places like Norway.

Even in the constant onslaught of news and tweets, this particular presidential remark contains several issues that are important for us to consider as Christians.

For 15 years I’ve lived in or traveled to Haiti as a development worker. On the eighth anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake and in the midst of the ongoing congressional debate over immigration reform, here are six important points about the president’s comment:

1. He is naming the fact that life is hard in these countries.

Daily life in Haiti is for many people a struggle to survive—even without the crises of violence, political upheaval, earthquakes, hurricanes, and mudslides. To add some specifics, recently a detailed report came out on an alleged massacre by Haitian police officers near an Evangelical Bible School that I’ve visited many times. On this earthquake anniversary, I’m thinking about friends like the motorcycle taxi driver I’ve ridden with hundreds of times. He lost siblings and dozens in his church who were crushed when the building collapsed during a prayer service.

In Haiti, over 200,000 children are trapped in forced servitude, about a third of women report incidents of domestic violence, and families struggle to find good options for education. Yes, life is hard. Though the president put it in a crass way, we can pause to ensure we haven’t become numb to suffering of our brothers and sisters.

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What Christians in the US Can Learn from Immigrant Pastors

For those who met Christ elsewhere, Americanized Christianity can look a bit strange.

According to an African proverb, “He who never travels thinks mom is the only cook.” That’s not a putdown of mom’s cooking, just an acknowledgement that there are lots of things you’ll never know if you don’t venture away from home.

Likewise, Christians who never listen to those from other parts of the world can assume the only way to practice the faith is the way you were taught and have gotten used to. That’s living on mom’s cooking.

Christians in the United States can learn a lot from believers from other parts of the world, including how unusual certain aspects of Americanized Christianity are. I interviewed pastors currently ministering in the United States who were raised and came to faith in another country. I wanted to learn what they saw and experienced of Christianity in the United States that was distinct from their country of origin. Through their eyes I saw many things about my homegrown Christian faith that I’d never noticed before.

First Impressions

“What was the first thing you noticed that was different from your home country,” I asked.

Wilmer Ramírez, director of Hispanic Initiatives at Denver Seminary, moved to Boston after pastoring for nine years in Guatemala. He quickly realized churches spoke a different language, not just English instead of Spanish, but a different set of assumptions.

“The first service I attended,” Ramírez recalls, “the pastor was announcing upcoming events, and he said, ‘Be sure to come. You’ll have a blast!’ I thought, I never heard that in Guatemala! Almost every event was presented in a similar way, highlighting how much fun it would be, not how you’d find purpose …

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Moody Bible President and COO Both Resign, Provost Retires

Board decides “it is time for a new season of leadership.”

Amid “widespread concerns over the direction” of Moody Bible Institute (MBI), the historic Chicago school announced today that President J. Paul Nyquist and Chief Operating Officer Steve Mogck have resigned, while Provost Junias Venugopal has retired.

“Let there be no mistake that the Board of Trustees holds these three men in high regard for their ethical, moral, and spiritual leadership,” stated Randy Fairfax, chair of the board of trustees. “They are godly, honorable men to whom we entrust to the Lord and offer our deep gratitude for their years of faithful service to Christ and to Moody.

“However, we are unanimous in our decision that it is time for a new season of leadership. I ask that you be in prayer for them and their families.”

Nyquist took the helm of Moody in 2009, after serving as president and CEO of Avant Ministries, a church planting missions agency based in Kansas City, and pastoring churches in Iowa and Nebraska.

Mogck had served as COO and executive vice president since 2012. In recent years, he was involved in efforts to lease certain Moody properties and adjust zoning for campus buildings. Prior to Moody, he was an executive and attorney for Carlson Hotels.

The board has appointed Greg Thornton, senior vice president of media, as interim president, and board member Mark Wagner, former president of Walgreens, as interim COO. John Jelinek, vice president and seminary dean, is now interim provost.

The news was announced in an email sent to the Moody community Wednesday evening, following a special meeting of the board of trustees.

“Understandably, there are many questions at this time,” stated Fairfax. “Please know that we are working diligently through …

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Swipe Right for Jesus

How Tinder helped me come to terms with my evangelical identity.

In 2016 and 2017, when the term “evangelical” was flung from putrid trenches on television news networks and Twitter, I ducked. By “ducked,” I mean that dropped the word “evangelical” from my vocabulary in every social setting. Although my theological convictions were still solidly evangelical, as a white, female seminarian at Yale, the evangelical label itself had come to carry connotations that made me uncomfortable.

However, a dating app of questionable reputation—Tinder—helped me come to terms with my evangelical identity.

I worked for a startup a few summers ago and, as part of my job, researched how like-minded strangers connect over digital platforms. Thinking that I’d kill two birds with one stone, I downloaded every free dating app populated by straight men in New Haven, Connecticut. What could be better than first-person experience? Maybe I could teach myself app design and meet my husband.

I also saw my foray into the digital dating world as a healthy rebuff of the evangelical purity culture that marked my adolescent years. I figured this was my chance to learn how to date—connecting in a context where you don’t need to guess if the other person might be hoping for more than friendship.

Online, I met plenty of the nice Christian guys I used to write about in journals at church camp. I also met lots of other men, too—ones that fell far outside the parameters of someone I would ever want to date.

To screen my potential suitors, I filtered nothing spiritual out of my answers to get-to-know-you questions, which produced fascinating results. I thought words like “Jesus,” “Christian,” and “church” would drop like severed …

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