Top 10 Posts of 2017

It’s that time of year.

(10) Hank Hanegraaff’s Switch to Eastern Orthodoxy, Why People Make Such Changes, and Four Ways Evangelicals Might Respond

Let’s follow Jesus, keep sharing the simple gospel, focus on the Bible, and think like missionaries in order to translate that truth to our modern context.

(9) Kaepernick, Speech, and a Job: The Cleat May Soon be on the Other Foot

Free speech is important, but is it always helpful, and how does it relate to employment?

(8) Southern Baptists, Racism, and the Alt-Right: It’s Time to Make This Right, Plain, and Clear

(7) No, the World Won’t End Next Week and There’s No Such Thing as a Christian Numerologist

If we start speaking up about bad “Christian” reporting, maybe people will do it less.

(6) Facts Are Our Friends: Why Sharing Fake News Makes Us Look Stupid and Harms Our Witness

Christians are supposed to be the people who think the “truth will set you free.”

(5) #Charlottesville, the Christian Response, and Your Church’s Call

Silence on matters of hatred and bigotry is antithetical to the gospel.

(4) No, Christians Don’t Use Joseph and Mary to Explain Child Molesting Accusations

Doing so is ridiculous and blasphemous.

(3) Open Letter to John Piper on White Evangelicalism and Multiethnic Relations

A guest post from Raymond Chang, ministry associate for discipleship in the Chaplain’s Office of Wheaton College

Lecrae, Truth’s Table, and an Asian American ministry leader

(2) Dear Fellow Christians: It’s Time to Speak Up for Refugees

If we are pro-life, we are pro-refugee.

(1) Some Christians Hate Joel Osteen More Than They Love The Truth. And That’s Wrong.

Be silent until there is something to say.

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished …

Continue reading…

The Top 20 Christianity Today Articles of 2017

The theology beneath the Trump-Comey conflict, BSF rewrites the rulebook, and Benny Hinn’s nephew shares his testimony.

Did you catch all of the most-read CT articles from 2017?

Here’s a look back at what readers kept clicking this past year.

Continue reading…

The Christian Leader’s Guide to Economics

The so-called “dismal science” is a powerful tool for wealth creation, but also for healing broken communities.

I open my car door, sit down, and turn the key. Carefully balancing my coffee, I put my foot on the brake, shift into reverse, and gently press the gas pedal as I pull out of my driveway on my way to work. As I head down South Broadway, I remember a quip my undergraduate economics professor once made: “The economy is like a car engine. Most of us don’t understand what’s happening under the hood. We just hit the gas and hope it works.”

We seldom pause to appreciate the vast ecosystem of buying, selling, labor, and wealth creation that makes up the modern economy. Most of us take its benefits for granted. I simply expect restaurants to have food, water to flow from my faucet, and my car engine to start when I turn the key.

Yet the reason we have everything from SUVs to grande peppermint mochas is a well-functioning economy, which is fundamentally dependent on love, says Tom Nelson, senior pastor of Christ Community Church near Kansas City and author of The Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing in Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity.

The words “love” and “economics” are used in the same sentence about as much as “toothpaste” and “opera.” But Nelson is convinced that if we genuinely want to fulfill Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” the church needs a renewed focus on our economic life.

A Tool for Leaders

Just mentioning the word “economics” tends to elicit one of three responses: anxiety-inducing memories of college exams peppered with spreadsheets and charts, heated political debates about the role of the government, or glazed-over confusion at bewildering technical terms like “quantitative easing.” …

Continue reading…

Interview: Matt Chandler Never Wanted a Big Church. How He Ended Up With Six.

Over the next five years, each Dallas-area location gets a Village of its own.

Matt Chandler never wanted a big church. He envisioned himself leading a modest suburban congregation. But as the cliché proved true, God had other plans.

Since Chandler became senior pastor of The Village Church in 2002, it has planted five churches and launched six campuses across the Dallas area, drawing in over 10,000 worshipers a weekend. This fall, though, The Village Church announced plans for each campus to become its own church, as its Denton location did in 2015.

After years of growth expanded Chandler’s vision—and voice—across a wider swath of the Dallas Metroplex, the 43-year-old Southern Baptist will soon be able to focus back on his neck of the woods, Flower Mound.

Even as multisites send campuses off on their own (The Village and Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian as the most prominent recent examples), the movement lives on, strong as ever.

Multisite churches grow faster and plant more churches than their single-location counterparts, according to Leadership Network. The National Congregations Study indicated that 1 in 11 Protestant churchgoers now attend a multisite congregation. As the model has become more popular, it has drawn criticism within evangelicalism for promoting celebrity pastors, fostering competition for church size, and using video streams to build church “franchises.”

Chandler said that in the early years of his ministry at The Village, “I asked some questions about multisites that nobody could answer. Like, where does this end? Thirty years from now are there six teachers in evangelicalism? Is this healthy? Is this good? Can we develop leaders?”

The Village Church went from turning people away at each of its six services to shuttling sermon …

Continue reading…

Interview: Creating Worship Songs for a Welcoming Community

Isaac Wardell’s latest collaborative project, The Porter’s Gate, marks a change from Bifrost Arts.

Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for he is going to say, “I came as a guest, and you received me.” And to all let due honor be shown, especially to the domestics of the faith and to pilgrims. … Let the head be bowed or the whole body prostrated on the ground in adoration of Christ, who indeed is received in their persons.
— The Holy Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 53, “On the Reception of Guests”

Imagine this: You’re visiting a church for the first time. As you approach the entrance, you spot the designated greeter, who is wearing a nametag and a warm smile.

You’re expecting the usual handshake and hello. Instead, the greeter suddenly drops to ground, lies face down at your feet, and pronounces a blessing of peace upon you.

If you were a medieval traveler, walking your way across what is now Europe, you’d be used to it. Every time you stopped to spend the night at a monastery on your journey, you’d be greeted that way.

There may have been no more welcoming place than monasteries of the Middle Ages. They took hospitality seriously, treating every guest as if he were Christ himself.

Isaac Wardell would like to see a little more of that in modern churches. Maybe not to the extreme of falling prostrate before every visitor, but at least in the spirit of such Benedictine hospitality.

That’s why Wardell, director for worship arts at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, has launched The Porter’s Gate Worship Project, a self-described “creative movement aimed at reimagining and recreating worship that welcomes, reflects, and impacts both community and the Church.”

When Christianity Today recently sat down with Wardell …

Continue reading…

Rhinos, Rabbits, and the Challenges of Multiplying a Church Planting Movement

Partnering together for the sake of the gospel

It is unfortunate, but the White Rhino appears to be on a trajectory to extinction. And there’s little wonder why. Human and environmental factors aside, the rhino has a built-in malefactor that hinders their own proliferation—a gestation period of 16 to 18 months. It takes a year and a half for a rhino to have a baby, meaning that even if all others variables are ideal, the birth rate is going to be excruciatingly slow.

Yet, all other factors are never ideal, so some rhino babies do not make it to birth, while others die soon after. As a result, you’re unlikely to hear about rapid rhino multiplication. Instead, expensive and painstaking management is required simply to avoid extinction.

Contrast rhinos with rabbits. The animal’s name itself has become a synonymous symbol for rapid multiplication. Why? Rabbits have a gestation period of 31 days—one month. This system of rapid multiplication allows the rabbit to persist and flourish despite various environmental impediments that should cause its demise.

Not Either/Or, but Both/And?

But a holistic picture of a successful urban missiology necessitates that churches behave like both rhinos and rabbits.

Churches with a rhino-like gestational cycle may not multiply quickly, but they can multiply effectively. A slower rate of reproduction can allow the church to build a robust infrastructure capable of deploying missionary members and church planters into the harvest.

Self-less pastors in these environments can work to develop systems to train leaders with a unique blend of ecclesiological precision and leadership ability. Given enough time, open-handed rhino-like churches can gain relational authority with other churches in a region such that they are seen …

Continue reading…

What Christmas Tells Us About the Person and Character of God

So the world will know that hope has come

Today, we celebrate the coming of our Savior and King. Prophets foretold his birth for centuries and, finally, after years of waiting, Christ the Messiah came into the world. The wait for redemption is finally over.

Christmas is a time to celebrate the fulfillment of longings.

We long to be cared for, understood, and known. We want someone to look at our hearts, see who we are, and deeply love us nonetheless. The coming of Christ is the truest fulfillment of our deepest desires and means that we can live lives free of estrangement from the One we we’re created for. He is finally here.

In yesterday’s article, I spoke a lot about anticipation and all the things our human hearts so naturally long for. I guess the question is: What are you waiting for this Christmas? Are you waiting for a Christ who loves unconditionally? One who accepts strangers and welcomes wanderers?

I can promise you that this tiny baby born in a manger so many years ago is all those things and so much more. In looking at the circumstances of his coming—the dirty stable and lowly shepherds with their sheep—we see a God who aimed to turn people’s expectations completely upside down.

He came in humility, through the most unexpected yet beautiful of means, to draw the lowliest and most undeserving among us to himself.

Christ Looks at the Heart

I don’t know about you, but if I were God (be glad I’m not), I’m not confident that I would have chosen a poor, young, inexperienced girl to become my earthly mother. Mary was likely in her teens and lived in a humble home with her mother, father, siblings (and likely several other relatives). She may have spent her days laboring long hours over hot ovens, dirty clothes, and cooking …

Continue reading…

A Waiting World, the Anticipation of Christmas, and What We Learn About the Love of God

Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.

The first snowfall of the year is an exciting time for those of us living in northern regions of the United States and throughout Canada. Sure, it’s cold. But it really is pretty.

White clouds cover the horizon from highway to hilltop and from them fall millions of frozen flakes. What was once dingy, brown colored ground is purified by a blanket of white snow.

For many of us, though, snow is most exciting in context—particularly, the context of the Christmas season. Winter is a wonderful time full of sledding, skiing, and snowman construction.

But what gets me most excited is the idea that Christmas, a time I wait for all year, is finally on its way.

C.S. Lewis, in one of his most well-known works, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, touches on this very theme. You see, as the story goes, the four Pevensie children somehow find their way through an old wardrobe and into a place called Narnia.

Sadly, this magical land full of fauns, minotaurs, and talking beavers is under the dominion of the White Witch. Among other more serious penalties, she vows to keep the countryside in an icy prison: “always winter, but never Christmas” as Lewis puts it.

Can you imagine that—a world where it’s always bitterly cold and blustery, yet without the one holiday celebration that makes it all worth it? The Narnians were waiting, always waiting, for something that never seemed to come.

Christmas Eve is a night of anticipation. We live in a dark world where, like Narnia, it almost feels like we live in a perpetual state of winter. In our hearts, we sense a certain longing but know that it’s not just for the presents or peppermint cookies this holiday season brings.

Continue reading…

Wait … Christmas Is Jewish?

Help Jewish people discover the real meaning of Christmas.

When you think about it, isn’t it ironic that Jewish people think, Christmas isn’t for us? As I grew up in traditional Judaism, we observed Hanukkah, a celebration of Jewish survival against oppressors. And Christmas was just an American cultural festivity without a spiritual message.

Lots of Jewish people like the holiday trimmings, lights, and music. It might seem off, but a Top Ten List of All-Time Favorite Christmas Songs could feature just Jewish artists. The theme song and seasonal favorite White Christmas was composed by Irving Berlin. And The Christmas Song, which evokes “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” seems to be a required holiday tune in every shopping mall. That one was composed by Bob Wells (born Levenson) and Mel Tormé. And for all the trivia experts, The Christmas Waltz was a creation of Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne.

You would think Christmas really is a Jewish holiday.

Some of the best-loved Christmas hymns feature Jewish connections that emerge like candied morsels in fruitcake. O Little Town of Bethlehem was set in King David’s village, located in the Judean Hills of Israel. And O Come, O Come Immanuel inspires worshippers to “Rejoice! Rejoice!” because “Immanuel”—God who is with us—“shall come to you, O Israel.”

Beyond those familiar expressions of Christmas traditions is a message of biblical proportions, rooted in Jewish history and promised hope. Christmas ought to be a Jewish holiday, because it greets the birth of a Jewish baby from a Jewish mother in a Judean village.

God fulfilled his prophetic promise to little Bethlehem, “from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth …

Continue reading…

The Holy Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future

Our Christmas stories may be missing their most important character.

Our Christmas cards, carols, and crèches delight in the characters of the Christmas story. In pageants, there are a lot of parts to go around: Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus; the angels, shepherds, and Magi; perhaps even Elizabeth and Zechariah, Simeon and Anna. But for all the times and ways the story is told, one key participant is almost impossible to find: the Holy Spirit.

This omission is particularly noticeable in our music. We have dozens of carols centered on shepherds, Magi, angels, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, but few that acknowledge the work of the Spirit. It is a surprising omission, for the Gospel of Luke discloses a strikingly Pentecostal Christmas vision, testifying to the Spirit’s engagement with no fewer than six different characters: John the Baptist (1:15), Mary (1:35), Elizabeth (1:41), Zechariah (1:67), Simeon (2:25–26), and, later, Jesus himself (4:18).

Certainly, Luke is the same writer who described the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2), but Luke doesn’t at all believe that was the Holy Spirit’s debut. Luke depicts the entire Christmas drama as fully Trinitarian, involving God the Son, who was born in a manger, God the Father, who sent him, and also God the Holy Spirit, who was mysteriously active in so many moments in the drama.

Not only did Luke write about the Holy Spirit, Luke is himself a testament to the work of the Holy Spirit, whose inspiration graced Luke as he “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” in order to “write an orderly account” of Jesus’ life (Luke 1:3).

Luke is not alone. Matthew also testified to the Spirit’s work in Jesus’ conception (Matt. 1:18, 20). Isaiah, sometimes called “the …

Continue reading…