Gordon College Receives Record $75.5 Million Donation

The anonymous gift—the largest for an evangelical liberal arts college—will dramatically increase student aid.

A record-setting $75.5 million donation stands to change the trajectory of Gordon College by boosting scholarship funds to make the school more affordable and expanding opportunities for non-traditional students.

The anonymous gift—the largest in the school’s history and among the largest ever given to a Christian college—is an answered prayer. And it comes just at the right time. Higher education faces looming questions about its future, and Gordon began to implement major academic changes around a realigned budget last spring.

The recent donation “was as a sign of God’s redemptive love for Christian education in the context of great challenges and opposition,” said Gordon president (and CT board member) D. Michael Lindsay. Lindsay spent four years asking God to bring a “transformational donor” to the evangelical liberal arts college. This summer, it finally happened.

Lindsay shared the news with the student body Friday at the Boston-area college’s homecoming and 130th anniversary celebration. The gift, which is designated for Gordon’s endowment, puts the school more than halfway to a campaign goal of raising $130 million over the next couple years. Right away, students enrolling in 2020 will receive an additional 15 percent in financial aid.

Donations this big tend to go to Ivy League schools and state research universities. According to data compiled by the Almanac of Higher Education, only a handful of evangelical colleges—including Regent University, Liberty University, Oral Roberts University, and Westmont College—have ever received gifts over $70 million.

“The number one reason why donors make big gifts, like extraordinary gifts, to a Christian …

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Botham Jean’s Brother’s Offer of Forgiveness Went Viral. His Mother’s Calls for Justice Should Too.

Let’s not distort the gospel by elevating one family member’s words over the other.

Brandt Jean’s response to his brother’s murderer helps us see the gospel.

But so does Allison Jean’s.

Did you miss hers? Only one response was widely shared on social media after the conviction and sentencing of Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer who entered 26-year-old Botham Jean’s apartment and fatally shot him. On Wednesday, Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Jean family was given the opportunity to make a victim impact statement. Brandt used his time to directly address the officer who killed his brother.

He said, “If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you.”

Brandt told Guyger that Botham would have wanted her to give her life to Christ. He asked to give Guyger a hug, and after State District Judge Tammy Kemp gave her okay, Brandt offered a long embrace. In the video, you can hear Guyger’s loud sobs.

Most have probably seen this footage. Brandt’s offer of forgiveness and hug has been shared and praised widely across social media.

But many have likely missed footage from the rest of the family, including these words from Botham’s mother, Allison Jean.

“Forgiveness for us as Christians is a healing for us, but as my husband said, there are consequences. It does not mean that everything else we have suffered has to go unnoticed,” Mother Allison told the court.

What went unnoticed? According to Botham Jean’s mother, the crime scene was contaminated by Dallas police. High-ranking officials deleted evidence. Police officers turned off body cameras and vehicle cameras.

“You saw investigations that were marred with corruption,” Mother Allison said. “While we walk as Christians, we still have a responsibility …

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David Platt: In a Tiny House on a Remote Mountainside, I Saw the Church as God Designed It

Those who come have very little. But they have everything they need.

From my knees, I’m startled as I turn around and see that Sigs has joined me on this flat spot. He’s breathing hard but has a smile on his face. “This is a good place to stop,” I tell him as I get up, reflecting on the time I’ve just spent with God. “You can get some great pictures here as well. I’ll let you have this rock.” I pick up my pack and slide it on my back and say, “I’ll see you at the top.”

“For sure,” he answers, still catching his breath and grabbing his water bottle. “Maybe I’ll even pass you—I won’t be here long.”

“Yeah, right,” I answer. We both smile, because he knows how competitive I am—with a head start, there’s no way I’ll let him catch me!

I step out on the last half of the hike up the mountain. Buoyed by rest, I find new momentum on the trail. I can now average about 20 steps per intermittent pause, and it ends up taking about another hour to finally reach the crest. Aaron is waiting (he’s been there a while), and he’s already found a teahouse in a village that overlooks several valleys.

“This is where we’ll stay for the night,” he says, “and the timing is perfect.”

“What do you mean?”

“The only church that exists in these villages is meeting here tonight, and it looks like we’re going to be able to worship with them. Would you mind encouraging them with a message from the Word?”

“I would love to!”

“Great. For now, go ahead and put your pack down in a room,” Aaron says. “Then rest for a bit. We’ll have dinner in about an hour. Later, once it’s dark, the church …

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Master’s Seminary Grad Takes Kanye’s Crowds to Church

How the pastor of a small, nondenominational Bible church ended up in Kanye’s circle.

In between Kanye West’s sets during an impromptu, sold-out show in Detroit last week, a lean figure with a blonde pompadour took the stage and preached the gospel.

“I’m here to tell you that while our God is the judge over the universe, he’s also a God of mercy and he’s a God of love, and he sent his Son to die on a cross because he loves you,” said Adam Tyson, a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and the pastor of a small Bible church. “He wants to be exalted in your heart today.”

His 12-minute sermon focused on the prophet’s vision in Isaiah 6. It’s weird to hear a sermon at a Kanye concert, but then again not that weird if you’ve been following Kanye’s Sunday Services. These gospel music and fellowship gatherings that started among his family, friends, and elite guests at his Calabasas, California, estate, grew into a type of concert experience for the Jesus-seeking artist.

On the road with the rapper as he performs Sunday Services to promote his next album, Jesus is King, Tyson believes God is “being exalted and people are being moved.” The audience is receptive to his sermons, he said, and he has received positive feedback after the shows.

“I came to hear Kanye,” one fan told Tyson. “But then I heard the message of forgiveness from the Bible.”

From Yeezus to Jesus

Tyson’s ministry career took an unexpected turn the day Kanye happened to visit his congregation, Placerita Bible Church in Santa Clarita, California. The 43-year-old pastor has found himself not only discussing the gospel with Kanye, but thrust into the hip hop artist’s circle, flying to Cody, Wyoming, for Bible study with him and his employees, …

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Interview: Kate Bowler: Why Christian Women Become Celebrity ‘Influencers’

When the path to formal church leadership is blocked, they’ll naturally look for other ways to reach an audience.

Tish Harrison Warren lit up the internet with an essay for Christianity Today that asked, “Who’s in Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?” In her piece, Warren addressed “a crisis of authority” resulting from so much de facto discipleship occurring on social media rather than in the church—a phenomenon that, for a variety of reasons, women have experienced most acutely.

Even before Warren’s essay was published, Kate Bowler, associate professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke Divinity School, was compiling years of research on the conditions within modern American evangelicalism that helped lead to this state of affairs. She discovered that evangelical women, denied traditional means of authority within the church (and sometimes the culture), were becoming increasingly adept at tapping into newer forms of authority brought about by the age of mass media and the cult of celebrity it has wrought. In The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities, she examines how Christian women—within both conservative and liberal church traditions—have exploited the power of beauty, therapy, family, and pop art to exert authority of their own. Author and Liberty University English professor Karen Swallow Prior spoke with Bowler about her book.

One of the unique qualities of your research and writing is that you bring the sort of personal experience to your subject that many scholars, particularly in the field of religion, lack. You have roots in a conservative Christian tradition—but you’re not mad about it. Can you talk about that?

I grew up among the Mennonites in the plains of Manitoba in a broadly evangelical tradition, …

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The Prophetic Voice of Hong Kong’s Protesters

The political forces in the region also pose an existential threat to the church.

The people of Hong Kong have protested for greater freedoms for years, but the latest demonstrations represent a historic outcry.

Since 1997, July 1 has marked the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return as a territory of China after 150 years of British colonial rule. Beginning in 2003, it is also the date of annual protests by Hong Kong residents calling for increased democracy.

These demonstrations have been generally peaceful—until this summer, when a group of protesters stormed the Legislative Council parliament building. They were angry at what they saw as China’s most recent, and most egregious, effort to weaken the freedoms of Hong Kongers.

In April, Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, had introduced a bill that would allow Hong Kong to detain and transfer people wanted in countries and territories with which Hong Kong has no formal extradition agreement, including mainland China and Taiwan. The bill, she argued, was necessary to send a Hong Kong man wanted for murder to trial in Taiwan. It specifically included exemptions for political crimes, religious crimes, and certain white-collar crimes.

The Hong Kong public, though, saw the bill as a thinly veiled ploy to give China additional power over the semi-autonomous territory. The bill has kicked off nearly four months of protests that have, at times, had as many as 1.7 million participants—a remarkable number for a city of 7.4 million people.

Even as the extradition bill was suspended by Lam, and then withdrawn altogether, the protests against Chinese overreach have continued, with turnout spiking leading up to another anniversary: National Day. October 1 marks the 70th annual commemoration of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. …

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Missionary Deaths Mark End of Era

Ann Hill and Dan Coker were the vanguard of Churches of Christ missions to Latin America.

Sixty years after a Churches of Christ missions team first went to Guatemala, two of its pioneering missionaries died within one week of each other. Ann Roberts Hill died in Abilene, Texas, on September 12 at the age of 87. Dan Coker died in Tyler, Texas, on September 18 at the age of 82.

Part of a boom in international missions in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Hill and Coker helped transform the Churches of Christ’s approach to spreading the gospel abroad. They launched some of the denomination’s earliest congregations in Latin America and modeled a new team approach to missions.

As their friends and colleagues reflected on their legacy, however, they also mourned the passing of an age of missions.

“I just have a fear that this is it,” Jim Frazier, a longtime friend of Hill and Coker and a retired Churches of Christ missionary, told Christianity Today. “This generation, the younger generation, missions is not their thing. They don’t go.”

Telltale signs of change

The Churches of Christ don’t have a denominational board to keep track of missionary numbers, but there are telltale signs of the change.

Great Cities Missions, a group that trains and supports Churches of Christ missionaries to Latin America, has not been able to recruit a North American team in the last few years. A series of annual lectures on Latin American missions—run by Frazier, Coker, and fellow missionary Howard Norton—ended in 2018 because of sharply declining interest. A foundation that supports Churches of Christ missionaries has seen requests for funding drop by more than half in the last decade.

The trends within their denomination, which numbers nearly 12,000 congregations in the US, seem to reflect …

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20 Truths from ‘The Church on Mission’

Dr. Craig Ott digs into the relationship between the church and the transformation of the world.

1. “God has created the church and commissioned the church for his purposes. That calling is spelled out for us in the Scriptures, and our role as his people is to clearly discern that calling. Time and again we must recalibrate our understanding of the church, examine the investment of our energies, and purify our motives so as to maintain alignment with that mission, God’s own mission” (Page 2).

2. “Transformation always has to do with change from something to something else, whereby the change is substantive and affecting the very essence or nature of the object” (Page 5).

3. “A transformational church is a church that becomes God’s instrument of such personal transformation through evangelism and discipleship” (Page 13).

4. “If transformation is the dynamic of our mission, and God’s glory is both the source and goal of our mission, then the church in the power of the Spirit is God’s primary instrument of mission in this age. The church is the only institution on earth entrusted with the message of transformation—the gospel—and the only community that is a living demonstration of that transformation” (Page 19).

5. “Without the gospel there is no forgiveness, no new creation, no church, no transformation” (Page 23).

6. “The church is a kingdom community. The kingdom of God is not only a future hope, but also has broken into history as a present reality in seed form, expressed in and through the life and influence of the church” (Page 31).

7. “A missional ecclesiology emphasizes that the church does not merely send missionaries (as important as that is), but the church itself is God’s missionary, sent into the …

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Tithing Over Text Is Now a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

Digital giving is boosting the church’s bottom line—as well as companies like Pushpay and Tithe.ly, who process the donations.

A crowd of 1,300 gathered last May in an auditorium in Dallas to hear megachurch pastors and ministry leaders talk about casting vision, building church community, and promoting spiritual growth.

But even with familiar names like Life.Church pastor Bobby Gruenewald and Catalyst president Tyler Reagin on stage, this wasn’t just another ministry conference.

Pushpay—a tech company that made $98.4 million last year processing mobile giving for churches—put on the event, its fifth summit.

“It not only gives us an opportunity to see our customers and talk to them,” said the company’s chief ambassador, Troy Pollock, “but it creates an environment for people to grow in their jobs, which goes beyond digital giving.”

The popularity of online tithing coincides with moves to incorporate more technology and strategy into church operations.

Congregations have offered digital giving options for well over a decade, often relying on marketplace tools like PayPal and online bill pay (which still involves banks sending checks each month). But the latest batch of resources has more specialized, high-tech options to cater to churches in particular.

Companies like Pushpay, Tithe.ly, easyTithe, and SecureGive let members tap their way to a tithe through smartphone apps, text messages, websites, or kiosks at services.

Many congregations are now eyeing new technology as mobile payments become mainstream and paper checks fade from regular use. Plus, these tools can track giving trends, send off annual receipts, and integrate with programs for managing volunteers and communication.

Though most churchgoers still give the old-fashioned way, by cash or check in the offering plate, 15 percent now pay through their …

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Go and Make Disciples. But First, Stop.

The crucial first step of ministry begins with the Holy Spirit.

Twelve years ago, I was an energetic campus minister leading outreach to college students at Fresno State. I longed to see their lives transformed by Jesus the way that he’d transformed mine. But in my eagerness, I pushed one particular student to explore her faith in connection with her ethnic identity as a Mexican American. When she said she wasn’t interested in growing in that area, I misinterpreted it as a lack of teachability rather than as a “not now” from the Holy Spirit. Eventually, trust was broken and she left the fellowship to join another ministry. I was heartbroken. Where had I gone wrong?

Years later, I became the Latino student outreach coordinator for central California and Las Vegas. In that season, wise Latino mentors coached me to grow in listening to the Lord. They encouraged me to take time to pray with students and listen to the Lord’s yearning for their lives. This time, I began to approach ministry differently. I listened and waited on the Holy Spirit for strategy and vision. By the end of three years, we had reached over 100 Latino students in our ministry.

How often do we minister out of our own insights or impulses rather than relying on the Holy Spirit’s guidance, however long it takes to discern? Waiting is countercultural; it’s antithetical to the pace of our daily lives. The technological age we live in values efficiency and urgency. As a culture, we abhor waiting. Our world is not designed to help us stop and reflect on the presence of God at any given moment. Listening and waiting, thus, are disciplines we must exercise regularly—especially when it comes to partnering with the Holy Spirit.

I’ve learned—and I’m still learning—that …

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