Mr. Rogers Had a Dangerous Side

Underneath the gentle smile and neighborly manner, he was driven by anger at the way the world treated children.

Fred Rogers—perhaps you know him by the title “Mister”—is a cultural icon, a walking meme, a man forever frozen in sweaters and white sneakers, a gentle smile on his face. You can paint him in a variety of hues: as a saint, as a genius, as otherworldly, as too soft and sentimental. Quite possibly he was none of these things, but something infinitely more valuable and complex: a human being, made in the image of God, who had a near crystal-clear view of his vocation.

What makes Mr. Rogers worthy of a detailed biography is precisely how unique this strong sense of calling remains in our world, especially outside of traditional religious institutions or authorities. But early on in The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, author Maxwell King identifies the central miracle of his life: that he successfully married the sense of duty and service to God of his Presbyterian faith with the call of the artist, educator, and creator.

Truthful About Feelings

Fred Rogers was the very definition of bivocational, although I wonder if he would agree with that assessment. He went to college and got a degree in music, but it was his first encounter with the new format of television that changed his life. He recalled watching a man get a pie thrown in his face as the audience laughed. He was incensed. This was supposed to entertain children? Given Rogers’s kindly public persona, it’s easy to forget the simple truth that anger over how the world treated children was a driving force in his life.

Rogers was the first to truly envision a world where technology could be used to educate children, to help them develop a healthy sense of themselves as both loved and safe. He wanted to equip them to play …

Continue reading…

Interview: Richard Foster: Effort Is Not the Opposite of Grace

As he retires from public ministry, the ‘Celebration of Discipline’ author reflects on the heart of spiritual formation.

Richard Foster wrote Celebration of Discipline 40 years ago as a young pastor. The book—which has sold over 2 million copies and has been translated into 25 languages—launched a ministry of speaking, writing, and teaching on spiritual formation and the classic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. Foster founded and led Renovaré, a spiritual formation ministry, up until 2008 when he retired from his role as president to make space for new leadership. Foster, now 76, will retire from his public speaking ministry after wrapping up a tour this year.

CT editor Kelli Trujillo sat down with Foster at his Colorado home to discuss how the Christian spirituality landscape has changed—and how he’s changed—over his decades of ministry.

You’ve spent more than four decades of ministry focusing on spiritual formation. At its core, what does spiritual formation involve?

It’s important to be clear what we’re talking about when we say “spiritual formation.” Consider Paul’s words in Galatians 4:19: “I am in travail until Christ be formed in you.” The word travail is a birthing image. He’s saying, essentially, “I am in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” That’s a biblical, foundational way of thinking about spiritual formation.

I think of a couple of old hymns that speak to this. The first is “Rock of Ages”—“Let the water and the blood, from thy wounded side which flowed, be of sin the double cure.” That’s the key—the “double cure.” It then says “Save from wrath,” which is forgiveness, justification. But it goes on: “Save from wrath and make …

Continue reading…

Leading in a Diverse World: Part Two

Perspectives from four multinational leaders.

Previously on The Exchange I have written about my interest in studying Inclusive Leadership,which is how leaders can effectively assemble a diverse team of people and then ensure their different perspectives are included and valued.

This past summer, I ran a pilot study of my qualitative dissertation research with four Christian leaders who had at least five years of experience in cross-cultural settings. I was specifically exploring how they tried to cultivate inclusion in the context of their nonprofit, multinational teams.

The findings are certainly preliminary and will need much more validation with a larger group of participants. At the same time, there were a few key discoveries worth noting that might be helpful for those leading in multicultural contexts. I’ll share three of them and then make an observation.

First, the Importance of Vision for Team Inclusion

The first finding was that inclusive leaders need to be sure every team member knows and is inspired by the vision.

All four participants mentioned the importance of vision as a vital component for vibrant multinational teams, and two spoke at length about this topic. Especially when dealing with a divided and diverse team, leaders need to put in extra effort to help everyone rally around a common vision.

This process goes best when either the leader inspires the team to work together as a group to build the vision or when there is a compelling vision from higher up in the organization that can be unifying. In terms of team diversity, when there is strong belief in the vision, people have a compelling reason to work through the challenges of creating inclusion in order to accomplish their shared goal.

The importance of vision for a team relates to the GLOBE …

Continue reading…

Azusa Pacific University Changes, then Trustees Reinstate, Policy on Student Same-Sex Relationships

The trustees of Azusa Pacific University “reaffirm our responsibility to steward the Christ-centered mission” of APU.

Dear APU Alumni and Families,

Today, as a board, we reaffirm our responsibility to steward the Christ-centered mission of Azusa Pacific University. We commit the following to each member of the APU community and to all who share in the more than 2,000-year legacy of Christianity that forms our bedrock:

  • We remain unequivocally biblical and orthodox in our evangelical Christian identity. The Bible serves as our anchor.
  • We stand firm in our convictions, never willing to capitulate to outside pressures, be they legal, political, or social.
  • We affirm God’s perfect will and design for humankind with the biblical understanding of the marriage covenant as between one man and one woman. Outside of marriage, He calls His people to abstinence.
  • We advocate for holy living within the university in support of our Christian values.
  • We declare that our clear mission to equip disciples and scholars to advance the work of God in the world is more necessary today than ever before.

Last week, reports circulated about a change in the undergraduate student standards of conduct. That action concerning romanticized relationships was never approved by the board and the original wording has been reinstated.
We see every student as a gift from God, infinitely valuable and worthy in the eyes of our Creator and as members of our campus community. We believe our university is the best place for earnest and guided conversation to unfold with all students about every facet of life, including faith and sexuality. We embrace all students who seek a rigorous Christian higher education and voluntarily join us in mission.
We pledge to boldly uphold biblical values and not waiver in our Christ-centered mission. We will examine how we live up to these high …

Continue reading…

Commentary: Abortion Is Wrong. That’s Not Why Roe v. Wade Is Wrong.

A better case for overturning a bad Supreme Court precedent.

Hopes are running high among pro-lifers these days. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s departure from the Supreme Court, many of us can’t resist a peek at the political crystal ball. Dare we entertain the thought of finally overturning Roe v. Wade?

Possibly. At one point, it looked like the current nominee to replace Kennedy, Brett Kavanaugh, would cruise to confirmation. But recent allegations of sexual assault have muddied his path. In any event, nobody knows for sure whether Kavanaugh (or anyone else on the president’s short list) would cast a tie-breaking vote against Roe. Or whether the Court’s other conservative members would play their scripted roles. Or whether a challenge to the Court’s abortion jurisprudence would even reach the current cohort of justices.

In the meantime, as we game out different scenarios, a word of caution—one that might, at first glance, seem outlandish. Pro-life Christians should take greater pains to separate opposition to abortion from opposition to Roe v. Wade.

Wait, that can’t be right. Isn’t Roe responsible for backstopping America’s heinous regime of abortion-on-demand? Quite so. There’s a reason the annual March for Life occurs each January on Roe’s anniversary—and that it culminates with a peaceful demonstration outside the Supreme Court building. There’s a reason the marchers carry signs and hear speeches raging against the Court’s infamous handiwork.

Yet for all our focus on scrapping Roe, a salient fact remains: The wrongness of this decision has precisely nothing to do with the wrongness of abortion. Taking the life of an unborn child is a sin against God and man. Roe, by contrast, is an offense against …

Continue reading…

When Pastors Are Sexual Abuse Survivors

Childhood trauma can sabotage ministry in sinister ways.

It took me 20 years to acknowledge I’d been molested in sixth grade.

I’d always had a memory of the molestation, but it was fuzzy, distant, and I had no category to place it in. Thank God it wasn’t worse, I thought, or that could have really messed me up.

Eleven years into ministry, I emotionally imploded. My newborn son wasn’t sleeping or breastfeeding. My wife had postpartum anxiety, and we fought constantly. My home felt like a scary, overwhelming place, where more was demanded of me than I could provide. I distanced myself from a wife who only wanted a husband who would say, “It’ll all be okay.” That’s typical of sexual abuse survivors: we’re terrified of emotional threats, and we hide from feelings that overwhelm us. How could I tell her everything would be okay when I was barely keeping the panic in my heart at bay?

Things were no better in the ministry I led, where attendance was down and I was receiving confusing messages from my supervisor intimating that the church’s pastoral management team wasn’t happy with me. I became defensive and combative, subconsciously afraid everyone would realize what I already knew: I was a failure. There was something wrong with me. Something shameful.

I didn’t cheat on my wife—thank God—but I got closer than I thought myself capable, and while my marriage survived this near-miss, my job did not. I was fired when my wife was six months pregnant. I experienced daily panic attacks and drastic weight loss, and I was told by a recruiter that my resume now had Scarlet A that would keep me out of ministry for years.

For the first time I began to wonder if—underneath my sin, unwise choices, arrogance, and …

Continue reading…

The Cost of Religious Freedom

When advocacy for persecuted Christians harms their fellow believers.

While Andrew Brunson languished under Turkish detention this year, thousands of Iranians had death sentences suspended. A factor in both was international advocacy.

Brunson, an American evangelical pastor in Izmir (biblical Smyrna) for two decades, was arrested two years ago in the aftermath of a failed military coup. The government linked him with a Sufi Muslim network allegedly behind it.

The network’s head, Fethullah Gülen, had long resided in Pennsylvania, and Turkey demanded a trade.

Many religious freedom advocates took up Brunson’s cause. But White House advocacy brought the pastor to the world’s attention.

“If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until [Brunson] is free,” said Vice President Mike Pence in July at the US State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.

One day earlier, Brunson had been moved from prison to house arrest. It appeared a deal was in the works.

Whichever side reneged, Turkish President Recep Erdoğan matched President Donald Trump blow-for-blow in the acrimonious rhetoric and economic sanctions that followed, making the chances for Brunson’s near-term release appear remote.

Meanwhile, 5,000 Iranian prisoners have new leases on life. After years of pressure by the United Nations and human rights groups, Iran’s parliament amended laws demanding the death penalty for low-level narcotics trafficking.

Why did advocacy succeed for the drug dealers but not the pastor? And what should be made of Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian house church leader released in 2013 after much international advocacy—only to be …

Continue reading…

Interview: Francis Chan: Stop Treating the Book of Acts Like Hyperbole

The former megachurch pastor asks today’s churches to measure their practices against the New Testament standard.

Eight years ago, Francis Chan resigned as senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, California—the church he helped grow from 30 people gathered in a living room to a multimillion-dollar ministry. He wasn’t burned out. There was no disqualifying moral failure. He’d simply grown convicted over his challenges in steering a large ministry in accordance with biblical values.

Chan sold his house and spent a year traveling through Southeast Asia, visiting churches and interacting with church leaders. Returning to California, he began planting churches in his home and the homes of others in his San Francisco neighborhood. His latest book, Letters to the Church, is a pastoral call for American churches to consider whether their values and practices are consistent with Scripture. Writer and fellow Bay-area resident Rachael Starke spoke with Chan about the blessings that come from recommitting to church life as God designed it.

Your book exhorts churches to recommit to Acts 2 practices like extended prayer, radical love and service, and intimate fellowship within the home. But many of these run counter to the digitized lives we live today, especially in places like San Francisco. How have revolutions in technology influenced American church practices and habits?

Technology is really about speed: doing everything faster and with less effort. We’re tempted to want the church to be the same way—let me accomplish what I want in as little time as possible. But the blessing is going to come from the work itself, from the hard work you do to love and serve one another. What could be greater than that?

Continue reading…

She Shaped Me: 10 Exemplars of Faith

Christian leaders reflect on the women from history who’ve influenced them.

Throughout history, God has used faithful women in powerful ways for the good of the church and the world. They are women of character and virtue, women who struggled and made mistakes, women who took risks and devoted their lives to answering God’s call. Above all, they are women who deeply loved God. Here, ten contemporary women reflect on the examples of ten women from Christian history who have significantly influenced their own faith in Jesus.

Jo Anne Lyon on Phoebe Palmer: Outward-Looking Holiness

Reading about Phoebe Palmer “opened up my imagination about the possibilities—about what a woman leader in the church could be,” says Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent emerita of The Wesleyan Church and founder of World Hope International. Known as the mother of the holiness movement, Phoebe Palmer (1807–1874) encouraged Christians to consecrate their lives to Christ, praying, “My all is upon Thine altar.”

For Palmer, this total submission to Jesus began with a personal tragedy. In 1836, her daughter was killed in a crib fire and, Lyon explains, “She fell on her knees before God and said, ‘Use me in whatever way you want.’” Palmer began leading a Bible study in her home that grew to involve hundreds of people. Soon she began speaking at highly attended Christian gatherings in the US and abroad that, according to Christian History, “sparked a revival which brought nearly a million people into the church.”

But what stands out to Lyon is that Palmer “embodied holy living that is outreaching, that cares about society, that is justice oriented.” Palmer ministered where many dared not go: the notorious “Five Points” slum in New …

Continue reading…

Reflecting on Church Planting in the Aftermath of Being on the StartUp Podcast, Part 2

Three major topics church planters have contacted me about since the podcast began airing.

In one of the episodes of StartUp, my wife Leah is asked about my mental health in relation to church planting. She describes the venture as “inhumane.” I didn’t know she felt that way, but she has seen firsthand the toll church planting can take on someone. It can really beat you up.

At this point, some people will say, “that’s an exaggeration.” Yes, many men and women have had great experiences with church planting. They’ve always had plenty of people, funding, volunteers, and baptisms. That’s great.

My sentiments reveal the experience of the rest of us: those who feel incredibly alone, who scare our families and ourselves with our irritability and anger, who don’t know if they will be paid each month, and who feel like we have to please everyone and are incapable of pleasing anyone.

If this is your experience, then what you are experiencing is inhumane.

I’d like to offer some reflections on a few major topics church planters have contacted me about since the podcast began airing.


“Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable” is the phrase I’ve seen most in emails since the beginning of the StartUp series.

People from across the spectrum, even if they disagreed with me on everything, were grateful for my openness about my weaknesses and struggles. This surprised me because I honestly don’t feel like I was that vulnerable. Perhaps that’s because some of my issues have forced me to come clean with my struggles, or because I’ve spent a lot of time in therapists’ offices talking about these things.

Or maybe this is because I have seen people’s lives destroyed because they felt like “faking it” was …

Continue reading…