My Husband Is Deconstructing His Faith. How Do I Journey with Him?

This Valentine’s Day, some of us are called to love unbelieving wives and husbands.

In the fall of 2017, not long after we’d celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, my husband and I sat down for an evening chat after getting the kids to bed. The particulars of the conversation are hazy now, but this was clear: After 30 years of being a Christian and spending almost half of that in ministry, my husband was leaving the faith. The faith that formed our marriage vows; the faith our children were baptized in; the faith we held when we buried a stillborn son; the faith our community was built around; the faith that my vocation is centered around as a spiritual director, writer, and speaker—he was leaving that faith.

I wanted initially to respect this news as his journey (even though it was mine, too), so I didn’t tell anyone. I also tried to keep the experience safe in my head so that I could think my way to answers in the newfound madness. My body, however, told a less cerebral story. I was driving home after a long day of errands when the full impact hit me: My eyes blurred with tears, and short breathes rolled through my chest. Two weeks had passed since my husband had dropped the “I don’t really believe there’s a God anymore” bomb. It took that long before I could even begin to feel the disorienting weight of his words and the betrayal, loss, and grief that came with them. This was clearly more than I could handle alone.

As I shared the news with some close friends and pastors, I felt plagued with questions: How do I tell the kids? What does this mean for their spiritual formation? How do we connect? How do I like him again? How did he get here? Why didn’t he tell me earlier? Will we still go to church together? Will we ever feel normal again?

In Letters to a …

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What Bill Maher, Donald Miller, and John Piper Have in Common

In different ways, God used them to lead me to Christ.

I was a typical American kid, until I wasn’t. In high school, life revolved around sports and popularity. Then, after high school, I took a scholarship to play baseball at Virginia Commonwealth University. By the end of college, most people were ready to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Not me.

My life got further out of control with each passing year. The weekend parties of my freshman year became weeklong parties by my senior year, as casual drinking metastasized into alcoholism.

With no direction and no aspirations, I took to the streets. And over the next five years, my life spiraled out of control. A college friend with whom I regularly smoked weed connected me with his dealer, and I began selling drugs. To supplement my income, I started working in the restaurant business as a waiter and bartender. This enabled me to keep partying all week, besides supplying an instant client base.

It also introduced me to cocaine. And cocaine stole my soul. As soon as I was introduced, I was hooked. I partied so much that I got fired from multiple bartending jobs. Then I started selling cocaine. I became a monster—a liar and a thief. I used everyone and everything to serve myself. I didn’t care who I hurt.

It almost came to an end one summer night in 2005. I had just returned to my row home after making a few sales. Pulling into my parking space, I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw a black Crown Victoria screech to a halt. I figured I was about to be robbed, killed, or arrested.

As I made a beeline toward my back door, I heard someone yell for me to stop. I pretended to be on the phone. He yelled again. I turned around to see a man clad in a black leather coat and jeans. I told him I didn’t know who …

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Christians in the Age of Callout Culture

How Christians lost the benefit of the doubt—and why we need to find the good in each other again.

I used to get excited to see my Twitter mentions spike. Now I dread it. All that attention inevitably means I’m getting called out for something wrong—maybe a typo or broken link, maybe a bad joke or hasty observation.

Posting on social media has always risked irking angry employers, incessant trolls, or vengeful doxxers, but lately we face backlash from our own friends and feeds. The bar for what merits a public reckoning has fallen as the internet incentivizes us to speak up, call out, and shout down.

Last December, The Atlanticdeemed it the “dark psychology of social networks,” noting studies that found tweets using heated language like “wrong” and “shameful” were 20 percent more likely to go viral. Facebook posts professing “indignant disagreement” got about twice as many likes and shares.

Being on the receiving end of a barrage of negative feedback can ruin your day, your year, or your career. Any defense, explanation, or apology could rile up further condemnation. This critical attitude dampens our dialogue and betrays a cynical attitude toward our digital brothers and sisters.

In a community of believers, “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7, ESV). In short, we hope for the best and forgive one another quickly when others inevitably fall short.

Yet even among Christians, today’s online chatter is far less “believes all things” and far more “show us the receipts.”

It can seem harsh and ungracious for commenters to go after a single misworded tweet or poorly formed idea. Why so suspicious from the get-go? Why not give someone the benefit of the doubt? But we must …

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Christian College Grads Care More About Helping, Less About Money

Study suggests religious schools should emphasize distinctives.

Christian college graduates are different from their peers at non-religious schools. When they think about work and finding a job, they value making a difference more and making money less.

According to a new study from the Christian think tank Cardus, two-thirds of graduates from private religious colleges and universities say it is important to them to find a job that “directly helps others”—10 percentage points higher than graduates from public schools or private nonreligious schools. About 70 percent of Christian school alumni said it was important to them to have a job that pays well, but that was 6 percentage points lower than other college graduates.

Graduates from religious schools also have a strong sense of moral obligation, according to the study. About 85 percent said it was important to “take action against wrongs and injustice in life.” Almost 80 percent said they should “help people in other countries in poverty or victims of injustice.” This is slightly higher rate than reported by other graduates: About 65 percent of public school alumni and about 73 percent of private non-religious grads feel obligated to oppose foreign poverty and injustice.

Graduates from religious schools are also a little more likely than their peers to feel a moral commitment to caring for the environment. More than 90 percent said that was very important to them.

Cardus, a nonpartisan Canadian-based organization that tries to “translate the richness of the Christian faith tradition into the public square for the common good,” has long been committed to demonstrating the value of Christian schools. This study, “What Do They Deliver?,” was co-authored by Albert Cheng, a professor …

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The Table: On King and Country

A conversation on evangelical Christians’ political obligations.

Amid the tempest of the 2020 election season and all the anxiety it provokes, I’m comforted by the familiar image of Jesus asleep at the stern in a boat being swamped by a furious storm (Matt. 8:24–27). His terrified disciples, experienced sailors scared for their lives, could not fathom how their spiritual captain could seem so indifferent to their doom. But Jesus slept not because he was indifferent or resigned to their fate. Quite the opposite. Jesus was unafraid because he knew he possessed a power greater than the storm. Jesus spoke and the waves were calmed. “What kind of man is this?” his disciples asked. “Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

The whirlwind of American politics continues to swirl, and we evangelicals find ourselves caught up in the tempest. How to navigate a storm we cannot control is an immense challenge. In a political culture shot through with compromise and complexity, how do we advance the values we believe in without becoming complicit in values we do not? Being salt and light in the here and now entails engagement for the good of a world God loves, and yet, as Christians united under the lordship of Christ and Christ’s kingdom, our allegiance exceeds our citizenship.

In the wake of Mark Galli’s viral editorial about President Trump, CT called for a conversation around a common table. As we wrote, “It is time for evangelicals to have a serious discussion about how our identity as Christians shapes our activity as citizens. We will invite authors who represent a variety of viewpoints in a thoughtful and charitable manner.”

It’s taken some time to gather all the RSVPs, but over the coming weeks, we’ll publish a series of pieces …

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27 Countries Join International Religious Freedom Alliance

Poland will host the next IRF ministerial in Warsaw this summer.

WASHINGTON (RNS) — The United States has been joined by 26 other countries in a new International Religious Freedom Alliance that seeks to reduce religious persecution across the globe.

“Together, we say that freedom of religion or belief is not a Western ideal, but truly the bedrock of societies,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday at a dinner at the US State Department launching the alliance that will involve senior representatives of each government.

The alliance’s first meeting fell on the eve of the National Prayer Breakfast, which gathers international religious and diplomatic figures once a year to an event chaired by members of Congress and organized by the International Foundation, a Christian organization also known as The Family or The Fellowship.

Poland, one country in the alliance, announced in a joint statement with the State Department that the next Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom will be held July 14–16 in Warsaw.

“Building on the successes of the 2018 and 2019 ministerials hosted by the United States, the 2020 ministerial will allow countries to share different approaches, debate varying perspectives in the spirit of coherence and complementarity, and address challenges threatening the freedom of religion or belief,” the statement reads.

The two countries said participants at the Warsaw meeting will address “promoting inclusive dialogue to mobilize action and increase awareness regarding the scale of persecution against religion or belief worldwide.”

Besides Poland and the United States, the other founding countries of the International Religious Freedom Alliance are: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, …

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On the Passing of James Leo Garrett Jr., “The Last of the Gentlemen Theologians”

Numerous tributes and expressions of grief appeared on social media yesterday as we awoke to the news that Baptist theologian James Leo Garrett Jr. had passed away in the night.

Students and colleagues mourned and reminisced about the unique and impactful character and work of this beloved scholar and churchman. Malcolm Yarnell, Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, referred to Dr. Garrett yesterday as “the last of the gentlemen theologians,” a phrase he has used many times to describe him.

Paul Basden also used that interesting term of Dr. Garrett in Baptist Theologians, stating, “I predict that future generations will regard him as a ‘gentleman theologian.’” While many may see this phrase as generalized reference to Dr. Garrett’s irenic spirit, it is actually more of a technical term.

The idea of “the gentlemen theologians” was proposed in 1978 by historian E. Brooks Holifield who used the term to refer to southern theologians in the late-18th to mid-19th century who, unlike the common stereotype of southern ministers and theologians of this time, eschewed mere emotionalism and playing to the ecclesial gallery and, instead, were marked by both gentility and rationality.

In other words, the “gentlemen theologians” were committed churchmen of deep faith who exhibited great scholarly care in their approach to the theological task and offered strong but irenic defenses of orthodox theology and belief. They were respected and their ministries and scholarship were robust and marked by integrity.

In light of this, it is difficult indeed to deny the title “gentleman theologian” to James Leo Garrett Jr. He …

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Acts 29 CEO Removed Amid ‘Accusations of Abusive Leadership’

Steve Timmis was acclaimed for his model of close church community. But former members claim that inside The Crowded House, he resorted to bullying and control.

As CEO of Acts 29, Steve Timmis was an effective and respected leader. During his seven years at the helm, the church planting network rebounded from the fallout around its co-founder Mark Driscoll and expanded from 300 mostly US churches to 800 around the world.

A gray-haired British pastor with sharp Bible teaching and deep passion for mission, Timmis was known for the model of intensive gospel community developed at his 120-person church in the middle of England, The Crowded House. He emphasized “ordinary life with gospel intentionality.”

But while his international reputation grew, some who knew Timmis in his ordinary life—who prayed, fellowshipped, and evangelized with him in living rooms, offices, and pubs—saw a different side.

“People were and are afraid of Steve Timmis,” said Andy Stovell, a former elder who led alongside him for 14 years at The Crowded House in Sheffield.

Fifteen people who served under Timmis described to Christianity Today a pattern of spiritual abuse through bullying and intimidation, overbearing demands in the name of mission and discipline, rejection of critical feedback, and an expectation of unconditional loyalty.

In a letter to elders when he left in 2016, Stovell said, “I am not persuaded by the explanation that this is a case of strong leadership inevitably leading to some feathers being ruffled. People have been bruised by Steve’s style. People have become cowed due to it.”

Two weeks ago, internal reports raised similar concerns about Timmis’s leadership in Acts 29, and the board voted on Monday to remove him as CEO. Acts 29 president Matt Chandler announced the news in a video sent out to the network the following day, saying, “For …

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Split Down the Aisle by Impeachment, Senate Still United in Prayer

Chaplain balances bipartisan alliances with trust in God’s will.

While elected officials from either party don’t agree on the outcome of the impeachment trial, they could agree on how to pray for the proceedings, according to Barry Black, a Seventh-day Adventist minister and the longtime chaplain of the US Senate.

So what do you pray after the US Senate votes to acquit Trump on two articles of impeachment, as it did on Wednesday afternoon?

You pray that God’s will be done.

“I think the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane provides us with the model,” Black told CT. “The preamble to saying, ‘Let your will be done’ can be ‘Father, all things are possible for you. If it is possible, let the impeachment trial come out this way, nevertheless, not as I will but let your will be done.’ That’s the basic setup, but the dominant thematic focus should always be ‘Let your will be done.’”

The minister, with his signature bow tie and deep preacher’s cadence, says that in the middle of the polarization and partisan sniping, he has urged senators and staff on both sides to seek God’s will.

People have been listening closely to Black’s prayers as the Senate has battled over the historic impeachment vote. He draws powerful phrases from his daily devotions and hours of scriptural studies.

Before a full chamber of lawmakers, Black prayed the senators might be “bold as lions” one morning. Another, he pled for of “moral discernment to be used for your glory.” And one line last week caught a lot of attention: “They can’t ignore you and get away with it,” he said, “for we always reap what we sow.”

The Senate voted mostly along party lines to acquit the president, rejecting the …

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When Prayer Requests Become Viral Hashtags

Online outlets like CaringBridge, GoFundMe, and social media accounts have the power to turn individual medical crises into trending topics.

The first thing her daughter’s diagnosis stole from Holly McRae was her words. Her memory of that day in 2009 is foggy, but the hospital staff later told her all she could muster at first was, “Jesus, Jesus.”

It was early summer, and a neurologist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital had just told Holly there was a large mass in a “dangerous spot” on five-year-old Kate’s brain. Holly had brought Kate in after noticing a small hand tremor. She was sitting in the waiting room, filling out Kate’s kindergarten application, before she lost her words. She and Kate didn’t leave the hospital for another two months.

Back then, Kate was precocious and talkative, with wispy blond curls and cheeks that filled up like balloons when she smiled. She jumped on the bed before surgery. Her parents could barely process the shock of the diagnosis.

“I felt like my language was suddenly gone,” Holly said. “We didn’t have deep-rooted community yet, so it was like . . . who do we even call?” Though their church had been welcoming and kind, they were still new to the area.

Even so, Holly said friends showed up. Their worship pastor had an idea: Film a little video to update the congregation. Get people praying.

So Holly and her husband, Aaron, a pastor, sat down in the ICU lobby at Phoenix Children’s and shot a low-budget, numb-eyed video to explain Kate’s diagnosis and plead for prayer. Worship pastor Brian Wurzell uploaded it, called it “Pray for Kate,” and off it went.

In the first 24 hours, the video got thousands of views. Then thousands more. Celebrities shared it. The late Arizona Senator John McCain stopped by the hospital to visit the family. …

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