CT Blog

They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Drinks

In the Muslim world, Christians have a complicated relationship with alcohol.

The deadliest incident faced by the persecuted church last Christmas wasn’t radical Islamists. It was alcohol.

Liquor mixed with aftershave killed about 50 people at Christmas parties in a Pakistani village, and sickened about 100 more.

In Pakistan, as in many Muslim-majority nations where Shari‘ah law forbids drinking, alcohol is closely identified with Christianity. The nation’s primary alcohol producer, for example, riffs on the Bible in advertisements. Founded in 1860 by the British, Murree Brewery’s slogan, “Eat, drink, and be Murree,” echoes the repeated biblical idiom for short-term pleasures.

Perhaps as surprising as the existence of a Pakistani brewery is the fact that 12 Muslims were among the victims of the fatal Christmas parties. But in 2007, then–Murree CEO Minnoo Bhandara told The Telegraph that 99 percent of his customers are Muslims. And in the Middle East, alcohol sales increased 72 percent from 2001 to 2011, according to market research.

Still, in most Muslim countries only Christians may buy or consume alcohol. But not all do. Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, estimates that about half of Pakistani Christian men drink. Roman Catholics are slightly more inclined; Protestants less so. But the women of both branches of Christianity, he says, are fully opposed.

Chowdhry, an evangelical, believes alcohol is licit for the Christian; but in deference to his wife, he does not drink. Common arguments in Pakistan will feel familiar to Americans: Alcohol will lead you to sin; it alters your consciousness before God; and the wine of the Bible was weaker than today’s.

But the main issue for Chowdhry is poverty. Prohibition is coupled ...

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4 Things Beth Moore Taught Me About Writing

What the biggest name in women’s Bible studies wants the next generation to know.

By nearly every measure, Beth Moore is a powerhouse in our evangelical world. She’s prolific and popular, with dozens of books and Bible studies earning her spots on bestseller lists. She’s spoken at hundreds of conferences and hosts a weekly TV show.

She’s Beth Moore.

When someone has that level of success (not to mention her perfect Texas hair), we’re bound to wonder if she could really be as wise and wonderful as she seems. So I was skeptical but hopeful as I stepped into the sold-out writers conference, Lit, hosted by her Living Proof Ministries a few weeks ago.

The 59-year-old author launched the new event as a way to reach a group she saw being underutilized in the church and in need of encouragement: women in their 20s and 30s who are writers, teachers, and speakers. She gathered a dozen women who she has mentored through that stage to help instruct the 800 women in attendance. I was one of them, and here’s what I learned.

1. Each idea has a shelf life.

Moore compares the longevity of an idea to a train on tracks. The first stop is social media. Sometimes you’re riled up about something that demands an immediate response, so you fire off a tweet or Facebook post, and that’s that. But social media might fuel your passion, and the resulting discussion grows the idea into a blog post. If the idea still has more facets to explore, that blog post could develop into a sermon or session at a speaking engagement. Finally, when ideas continue to gain steam through social media, online articles, and teachings, they turn into longer-form projects like books or Bible studies.

Some ideas shouldn’t find their way past social media, few books could—or should—be distilled to a ...

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Healing Victims of Human Trafficking: A Long, Slow Road to Transformation

When we give our lives to the service of others, THEY will change US.

If you’ve heard or know anything about human trafficking, then you’ve heard the term “modern-day slavery.” And that’s exactly what it is. There are more slaves in the world today than any other time in our history. We should be facing this social issue—this human issue—dead on, not stopping until human trafficking no longer exists. Men and women, boys and girls all over the globe are being forced into both labor and sex trafficking, and the life for someone coming out of this type of exploitation is devastating.

I first saw and experienced what human trafficking looks like on the streets of Chicago. It was 2011 when I participated in street outreach and met women and girls who were being forced to sell their bodies. It changed me forever, and led us to pursue opening a home for women who have been commercially sexually exploited. Five years later, Naomi’s House opened, and we welcomed our first resident in December 2016.

I’ve learned so much over the past five years. When I reflect on the journey, most of what I’ve learned has come from the survivors themselves, who have taught me that they are more than modern day slaves.

Clearing Up an Important Myth

Most women who are being sexually exploited are not being physically restrained. In fact, many survivor leaders warn anti-trafficking organizations not to use pictures of girls in handcuffs or chains to represent the women and girls who are stuck in this life. If we believe that sexually-exploited girls are always chained up, we’ll miss those who are being trafficked before our very eyes.

The exploitation of women and girls is everywhere, many times in plain sight. Nita Belles, author of In Our Backyard: A Christian ...

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Princeton Seminary Reforms Its Views on Honoring Tim Keller

School rescinds a major theology prize amid complaints over women’s ordination.

The most popular Reformed preacher and author in America today is not eligible to receive Princeton Theological Seminary’s annual award in Reformed theology and public witness.

The mainline seminary reversed its decision to honor Tim Keller with a prize named for neo-Calvinist theologian Abraham Kuyper following outcry over the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) pastor’s conservative positions.

Princeton president Craig Barnes announced the news in a letter released Wednesday morning.

Because the PCA conflicts with the seminary’s denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), on women and LGBT clergy, leaders agreed not to award Keller the prize and thus affirm his differing stance. However, the school has still scheduled the Redeemer Presbyterian pastor to speak on mission at an annual conference hosted by its Kuyper Center for Public Theology in April.

“In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the [PCA’s] views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year,” Barnes wrote.

Earlier this year, Princeton announced that the New York City pastor would receive its 2017 Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness. Its release called Keller “an innovative theologian and church leader” and a “catalyst for urban mission.”

In recent weeks, some Princeton alumni voiced concerns that, as a PCA pastor and complementarian, Keller’s beliefs conflict with the seminary’s embrace of “full inclusion for ordained leadership of the church.” A Christian Centurypost described his belief in male headship as “baptized abuse” and “toxic ...

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Sharing the Gospel with People Who Aren’t Thinking about Death or Eternity

How do we witness to people who don’t think about heaven and aren’t fearful of hell?

“That could’ve been me.”

We hate to be selfish and think about ourselves at a time like this, but we can’t help it when someone we know who is close to our own age dies. Death is unavoidable, and when it hits close to home, we can’t help but briefly wonder, What if?

The truth is, however, Americans are thinking about death and what happens afterwards less and less frequently, and this is especially true among young adults.

According to a somewhat dated (but likely still accurate) study done between 2006 and 2008 by Lifeway Research and reported on in Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches That Reach Them, 55% of young adults either never think about death or if they do, it’s only once a year. It’s just not on the radar for them.

Should this make a difference in how we try to share the gospel today?

There are several implications, but one thing is certain: many of us probably need to rethink our approach to evangelism because we are likely talking to people who don’t think about heaven and aren’t fearful of hell.

Factually, death is as present and inescapable as it ever has been, but it’s also an irrelevant topic to many, so we ought to approach it wisely. This at least implies to us that asking spiritually diagnostic questions about the eternal state of someone’s soul within the first 15 minutes of a conversation may not be the best idea.

Asking people if they know where they will spend eternity and why they believe what they do is as important as the topic of death itself and Christians should help people think about this.

However, as a rule for daily life in America today, pastors and leaders ought to spend more time helping the people we lead to ...

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Why We Need ‘Useless’ People

Babies with Down syndrome are aborted all over the world for being ‘a burden to society.’ Here’s how we can advocate for them.

My daughter Penny is in the fifth grade. She just went away for the weekend with her best friend and her family for the first time. She wears glasses. She feels nervous around dogs. She loves reading and spelling and recently asked her Prayer Buddy at church to pray for her about learning how to add fractions. She is responsible, smart, talented, and loving. She also has Down syndrome.

Today is World Down Syndrome Day, a day to celebrate the approximately six million children and adults around the globe who have Down syndrome (also known as trisomy 21). Any website or book devoted to this topic lists a set of physical features, medical concerns, and potential disabilities common among people with Down syndrome, but it is hard for me to think in these generalities anymore. Rather, I am drawn to portraits of people with Down syndrome that demonstrate their distinctive traits. I love reading stories about their different interests, abilities, and friendships. And yet most people in our world still see Down syndrome as something both monolithic and negative—a condition to be eradicated rather than a group of individuals to be welcomed and loved.

Historically, people with Down syndrome were pushed to the margins of our society through institutionalization. In more recent years, with the advent of prenatal screening tests that indicate the likelihood of trisomy 21 in fetuses, more and more women have chosen to pursue those tests and, in many cases, to terminate pregnancies accordingly. Although the number is tricky to calculate, in the United States, the rate of babies aborted with Down syndrome is around 50 percent and is likely to rise with the increased use of these prenatal tests.

A similar story can be told in developing ...

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Church-Planting Shifts, Part Three: Preparing Our People for Witness

How do we prepare the mission force for the mission field?

Read Part One, The Launch, and Part Two, From Nominal to Secular.

In the past few weeks, I have talked about some recent church-planting shifts that I have noticed, both through the lens of research and some though anecdotal observations.

The world today is still reasonably familiar for church planters; yet the scene is changing as secularism grows, presenting a new challenge to the mission and ministry of the churches. The truth is, we are seeing more ‘nominal’ Christian people self-identify as no faith (“nones”) instead of Christian. Since nominal Christians have been a key part of the church planting strategy for most Christians (see my last post on this topic), it’s a shift that’s both new and challenging.

If we are to succeed in this new (more secular) space, we need to do more than simply acknowledge this shift. Instead, we need to prepare for it, and this includes preparing our church people for the paradigmatic shift to come.

So how do we prepare the mission force for the new mission field?

It begins with teaching our people to engage in ways that they’re not now accustomed to engaging. This is easier said than done, but it is essential for new church plants and movements of Christianity in the years to come.

In today’s culture, it’s easy to compare church experiences and allow people to decide which church they would like to attend. Our job is to invite them to a good church. In the secular context, however, having any prior exposure to church life should not be taken for granted.

The shift here is from invitation to engagement.

It’s from an approach which says, “Would you like to come to my church? It’s a great church!” to “How can I answer ...

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John Perkins: I Wish I Had Done More to Help Poor White People

An excerpt from ‘Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win.’

When my family and a team from our ministry moved to Jackson, Mississippi, in 1972, we purchased several buildings, including a rundown house in one of the roughest and poorest neighborhoods in town. The old house was very big, and we called it the Samaritan Inn. The idea was for it to be a temporary place to stay for people who were visiting from out of town or didn’t have a place to live or were stuck because their car broke down. It wasn’t so much a shelter as it was a guesthouse.

We figured we would mostly reach out to black folks in the area, and we did. But the first people to come to the Samaritan Inn were a white, dirt-poor couple from out of town whose vehicle had broken down. They had no other place to go.

In New Hebron, Mississippi, I grew up around poor whites who felt they were better than blacks and expected us to move out of their way when they were walking down the street. They experienced all of the advantages of being white. They were oppressors, and common knowledge through the years was that in rural areas, poor whites sought to become sheriffs, cops, or guards in order to have some power over society. So we did not have a great relationship with them. At the time, I didn’t realize these whites had also been damaged and that oppressing blacks gave them a sense of worth—a twisted sense of value, no doubt, but in their eyes, value nonetheless.

When our poor white guests arrived at the Samaritan Inn, I was caught off guard. I wanted to treat them like many people want to treat the poor: I was going to buy and prepare them food and even wash their dishes. Such acts of kindness would have made me feel good but also might have made them feel as if they couldn’t think for themselves. ...

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ERLC Defends Russell Moore, Who Apologizes for His Role in Trump Divide

SBC agency says Moore’s job requires ‘speaking prophetically both to our culture and to our Convention.’

Russell Moore was just doing his job, according to his agency’s governing board.

But the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) still offered his second attempt at an apology for “my own role” in the continued division among Southern Baptists in the wake of the 2016 election.

Today’s “seeking unity” statement released by the ERLC executive committee and Moore defends his conduct, including his controversial messaging around President Donald Trump.

The ERLC leaders praised Moore for speaking “with clarity and conviction” on ethical issues including “religious liberty, racial reconciliation, character in public office, and a Christian understanding of sexuality.” However, the committee acknowledged that fellow Christians “can disagree on delivery, tactics, and approach,” and decided that “many of the criticisms levied [sic] against Dr. Moore fall into these categories.”

A week ago, Moore met with denominational leader Frank Page over an investigation into numerous complaints regarding the ERLC. The criticism centers around Moore’s vocal opposition to Trump and his campaign, his characterization of the faith and motives of Trump’s Christian supporters, and whether such messaging (toward fellow Southern Baptists not DC lawmakers) extended beyond the proper role of the ERLC president.

Moore reiterated and clarified the apology he shared in December, but ultimately stood by his positions.

“I stand by those convictions, but I did not separate out categories of people well—such that I wounded some, including close friends,” said Moore. “I cannot go back and change time, and I cannot apologize ...

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Russia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot

Group gives Protestants competition for souls, but also an ally on religious freedom.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have never held much clout in Russia, where the Orthodox Church dominates both the religious and political landscape. But a government lawsuit now threatens any future for their faith in public life.

The door-to-door evangelists have historically served as a bellwether for religious freedom for other minority groups. In Russia, that includes evangelicals, who remain ambivalent over whether to defend the rights of Witnesses as a fellow non-Orthodox faith.

Last week, the Justice Ministry submitted a Supreme Court case to label the Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters an extremist group. This would allow Russia to enact a countrywide ban on its activity, dissolving its organization and criminalizing its worship. The court will convene to rule on the case in April.

“Considering that the religion of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is professed by hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens, [liquidation] would be a disaster for rights and freedoms in our country,” said Yaroslav Sivulsky, a representative of the targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters, to Forum 18. The ban would impact about 175,000 followers in 2,000 congregations nationwide. “Without any exaggeration, it would put us back to the dark days of persecution for faith.”

Though both groups have been restricted and punished by Russia’s recent anti-missionary law, evangelicals can’t necessarily expect the same treatment.

“No one else is in a comparable position to that of the Jehovah’s Witness community,” Alexander Verkhovsky of the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis told Forum 18 last month.

Russian Protestants don’t consider themselves as extreme—or as annoying—as ...

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Missionaries Dreamed Of This Muslim Moment. Trump’s Travel Ban May End It.

Why American evangelicals see Islam so differently.

While federal judges and lawyers argue over whether President Donald Trump’s revised executive order on travel amounts to a “Muslim ban,” evangelical experts on Muslim missions express concerns over how popular the proposal is in America’s pews.

The Pew Research Center has found that self-identified white evangelicals were twice as likely as Americans overall to support the policy (76% vs. 38%), which temporarily halts the refugee program and restricts entry from several Muslim-majority countries. They are also, according to PRRI, the only religious group in America that has grown more supportive of a “Muslim ban.”

As Muslim migrants flee unstable and violent homelands, the mission field that was once half a world away is making its way to more and more American communities.

Last year, the United States admitted about 39,000 Muslim refugees, a record high.

“This is the best case we’ve had in human history to share the love of Christ with Muslims,” according to David Cashin, intercultural studies professor at Columbia International University and an expert in Muslim-Christian relations.

But survey after survey indicates that white evangelicals are the least excited about their new neighbors. They show the highest levels of support for restrictions on Muslim immigration and the most skepticism toward Muslim Americans.

“Because of these attitudes,” Cashin said, “we could miss the opportunity.”

White evangelicals are also the least likely to know a Muslim, and their views often conflict with how Muslims in the US and abroad describe their beliefs.

“I think there is some fear on behalf of a lot of evangelicals,” said Michael Urton, associate director ...

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