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Interview: Andrew Brunson Expected Persecution. He Didn’t Expect to Feel Abandoned by God.

How the American pastor handled a crisis of faith during his Turkish imprisonment.

Many of the Christians we admire most have been imprisoned for the cause of Christ. Believers like Corrie ten Boom and Richard Wurmbrand are remembered as giants of faith and perseverance, blessed with a peculiar sense of God’s power and presence even in the midst of extreme suffering. In God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance, pastor and missionary Andrew Brunson provides a raw account of his own experience as a prisoner of the Turkish government. Yet his is a story of doubt as well as faith, of depression as well as hope. Writer and former missionary Jaclyn S. Parrish spoke with Brunson about suffering, growth, and dependence on God in the face of despair.

Can you give some of the background of why you were imprisoned?

My wife, Norine, and I were missionaries in Turkey for 23 years, and we never tried to hide our work. We were surprised when we were detained. There was an attempted coup in 2016, but that didn’t change the views of the government leaders. I think it just gave them an opportunity to do many things they’d wanted to do before. It had nothing to do with our arrest; it just created a very tense environment.

When they called us in, we thought we were getting our residence permits. But then they said, “No, you’re being arrested for deportation.” Norine was released after 13 days, but they kept me. There are several reasons, and they changed over time, but the big thing is that they wanted to make an example of somebody, of a missionary, to intimidate other missionaries so that they would self-deport. And they also wanted to intimidate local believers. At some point, the government decided to keep me as a political pawn, a bargaining chip. ...

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[Cfamily]A Sixth-Generation Mormon Meets a Born-Again Christian
« Reply #1401 on: September 23, 2019, 01:12:24 PM »
A Sixth-Generation Mormon Meets a Born-Again Christian

He asked me how I knew my faith was true. I couldn’t give a compelling answer.

I was a competitive tennis player and an academic high-achiever. Whatever I did, I did it with all of my heart—and being a good Mormon was no exception.

As a sixth-generation Mormon girl, I believed that the Mormon Church was the one true church of God. I believed Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. By age six, I was convinced that having a temple marriage and faithfully obeying Mormon laws would qualify me to spend eternity in the highest heaven—the Celestial Kingdom. There, I would exalt into godhood and bear spirit children. This was my greatest dream.

As a young girl, obedience felt as easy as skipping pebbles. As I entered my teenage years, it felt more like dragging boulders. The burdens included paying a full tithe, dressing modestly, maintaining sexual and moral purity, actively attending church, and obeying the Word of Wisdom (which forbade consuming alcohol, tea, coffee, or tobacco). I longed to make myself worthy of entering the temple one day.

But there were temptations to resist. Throughout high school, Mormon friends of mine began drifting into the world of partying. Alcohol seemed to release them from the striving and shame that comes with performance-based love. It took a will of steel to resist joining them each weekend. For three years I resisted, feeling like a pressure cooker of unworthiness waiting to explode.

Testing My Beliefs

As a senior, I gave up resisting, telling myself that this rebellion would only last for a season. I jumped into the party world with the same passion I brought to the rest of my life, funneling beer without restraint. One party at a time, my conscience started shutting down. I was “unworthy”—and relieved to no longer care.

Yet even as I felt liberated ...

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[Cfamily]Faithful Chick-fil-A Fans Sue San Antonio Over Airport Ban
« Reply #1402 on: September 24, 2019, 01:26:31 PM »
Faithful Chick-fil-A Fans Sue San Antonio Over Airport Ban

A new religious liberty law in Texas bars the government from penalizing over charitable donations.

Less than a week after Texas enacted the so-called Save Chick-fil-A bill—which prohibits government entities from taking adverse action against a person based on their support of religious organizations—five San Antonio Christians sued the city over its decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from its airport due to the chain’s donations to evangelical charities.

The lawsuit, filed in September by members of the conservative Christian San Antonio Family Association, asks the court to declare San Antonio has violated state law; prevent the city from keeping the chain from its airport concessions; and prohibit officials from taking “any adverse action” based “wholly or partly” on a person or group’s “support for religious organizations that oppose homosexual behavior.”

Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott himself has defended Chick-fil-A, saying, “No business should be discriminated against simply because its owners donate to a church, the Salvation Army, or other religious organization. Texas protects religious liberty.”

But the city objects to the suit’s claims, in part because Abbott’s new state law, which was passed in June and enacted in September, was not in effect when the city council decided back in March to remove Chick-fil-A as a vendor in a planned airport expansion.

Laura Mayes, a spokesperson for the city of San Antonio, told the Texas Tribune, “Among the many weaknesses in [the plaintiffs’] case, they are trying to rely on a law that did not exist when Council voted on the airport concessions contract. We will seek a quick resolution from the court.”

In moving to exclude the chicken chain, Councilman Roberto Treviño ...

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[Cfamily]World Vision Flips the Script on Child Sponsorship
« Reply #1403 on: September 25, 2019, 01:01:48 PM »
World Vision Flips the Script on Child Sponsorship

In the ministry’s first major innovation in seven decades, the children now do the choosing.

Almost 1,000 children in rural Guatemala gained sponsors this month from a megachurch in southern Indiana.

But in this case, it was the indigenous children in need who pondered photos of smiling faces and chose one they felt a connection with. And it was the adult donors in the United States who nervously waited, wondering who would pick them.

The role reversal, which World Vision is calling “Chosen,” is the first significant change to the Christian humanitarian organization’s bread-and-butter method of engaging Christians with the world’s needs and equipping children to live healthier and safer lives.

As World Vision explains its “simple yet powerful switch” to child sponsorship:


Chosen starts with people here in the US signing up to be chosen and getting their picture taken. That photo is sent to a community where World Vision works, to be displayed with the pictures of other potential sponsors. The community gathers for a celebration where the kids choose their sponsors. Soon thereafter, sponsors will receive a picture of the child holding their photo and a note letting them know about the child and what made the child choose them.

The goal is to empower children, letting them make the first of many choices during their sponsorship. “We are simply expressing what we believe in a new and fresh way,” Edgar Sandoval, president of World Vision US, told CT. “We are working to empower them to be agents of change.”

For a future report, CT witnessed a choosing ceremony in Chiantla, an ethnic minority community more than 10,000 feet up in the mountains en route to neighboring Mexico, where 819 children picked from photos of sponsors at Northside Christian Church in New Albany, ...

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[Cfamily]The Global Church Starts at My Dinner Table
« Reply #1404 on: September 26, 2019, 01:26:23 PM »
The Global Church Starts at My Dinner Table

Why my kids participate in praying for the persecuted church.

“Pray for Leah Sharibu, the only Dapchi school girl still left in Boko Haram captivity. She refuses to renounce her Christian faith.”

“Pray for the safety of Yousef and his family in Egypt. They escaped their home just before an attack.”

“Praise the Lord for persevering believers like Sharik in Syria, who face threats from neighbors.”

My 8-year-old daughter has the job of reading prayer requests during family worship. The requests come from a monthly calendar sent by International Christian Response, a group that offers spiritual and material assistance to the persecuted church. Every evening, her small voice announces the trials and victories of God’s people around the world.

Religious persecution is a daunting problem with long-standing historical, cultural, socio-political, and spiritual entanglements. Recent Pew Research shows increased hostility against religious minorities worldwide, and between 2007 and 2017, Christians are listed at the top, with recognized persecution across 143 countries.

Reports like this can be disheartening. What can people like us do about a seemingly big and complex challenge? And why involve our children in it?

“We are not creating a ‘pure’ household into which we withdraw and retreat in order to protect ourselves from the big, bad world,” writes James K.A. Smith in You Are What You Love. Rather, “we want to be intentional about the formative rhythms of the household so that it is another recalibrating space that forms us and prepares us to be launched into the world ... to bear God’s image to and for our neighbors.”

If Smith is right, then the Christian home is less of a bunker against danger and more of a training ...

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Source: The Global Church Starts at My Dinner Table

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[Cfamily]Let’s Stop Playing Guilt-by-Association Games
« Reply #1405 on: September 27, 2019, 01:22:54 PM »
Let’s Stop Playing Guilt-by-Association Games

If we are called to love our enemies, how much more should we love people with whom we have strong disagreements?

He talks about racism a lot lately and has bought into this ‘cultural Marxism’ nonsense.”

“She’s raised some concerns about the social justice movement. She must be a white supremacist.”

“He liked that author’s Facebook status. I think he’s walking away from his faith.”

“Her books are sold in airports, and I’m skeptical about books sold in airports.”

I have seen these and similar statements made and labels hurled online (yes, even the last one about airport books). Since the election of 2016, guilt-by-association tactics like these have only worsened. “Guilt by association” occurs when guilt is ascribed to someone not because of evidence but because of his or her association (real or perceived) with a person or group.

Associations are not always bad. Psychologists use the word “schema” to “refer to patterns of thoughts and behaviors, built up over time, that people use to process information quickly and effortlessly as they interact with the world,” as Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff write in The Coddling of the American Mind.

God gives us wisdom and discernment to form accurate associations when a person’s consistent words and behavior over time reveal those associations to be true. (In the words of Maya Angelou, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”)

Jesus talked about such consistency in terms of fruit: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matt. 7:15-16). Associations are fair ...

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Church Planting Series: How Can Your Church Get Involved in Church Planting?

While planning is key, there are a variety of imaginative ways to begin.

For the past few years, I’ve been working primarily outside of the church, mostly in research or academic roles. The last time I served as a full-time senior pastor was in Erie, PA.

In my last article, I wrote about the last time I served as a senior pastor. I was a volunteer senior pastor at a new church in Nashville, Tennessee. I wrote about how we wanted to be involved in church planting from the first service— taking up our first offering and announcing we were going to be a church planting church.

At another church plant early in my career in Erie, Pennsylvania, we had a commitment to plant our first church within three years. (I had been told that was the optimal time— later, I would try to be involved from year one.)

It was through these experiences where I learned important lessons about what it means to plant churches in healthy ways, which is crucial for the sake of the mother and child church.

Sending People Out

Anyway, we had grown our church in Nashville from 3 to 400 after three years, so we decided to be bold. We decided to start two churches on the same day. We figured, if we’re going to start one, we might as well start another. Right?

It was bold, but we believed it was what God had called us to do, but in the first few weeks of planting two daughter churches, we sent many members of our church to the new churches. Actually, about 15% of our church were sent out— around 50 people.

An entire worship team went out to one church plant— and we were glad they did!

But there were times we were uncertain. People at the mother church were nervous, questioning if we’d made a mistake. We reminded them that planting had been a good idea and that God would work in all three of the ...

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Source: Church Planting Series: How Can Your Church Get Involved in Church Planting?

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[Cfamily]Another Look at the ‘Least Religious Generation’
« Reply #1407 on: September 29, 2019, 01:10:33 PM »
Another Look at the ‘Least Religious Generation’

American twentysomethings have their frustrations with the church, but they are far more faith-friendly than commonly supposed.

Narratives of decline surround American evangelicalism and American religion more broadly. Within these narratives, a special sort of skepticism is reserved for twentysomethings. Much has been said about their flight from the pews, the rise of the “nones,” and the lack of institutional commitment among millennials. While we’ve been wringing our hands about the millennial generation, we must acknowledge that Generation Z snuck up on us. They are increasingly filling the ranks of the twentysomething cohort.

As a Gen Xer, I remember a similar fretting for my generation of youth. We were the “latchkey kids”: A lack of supervision inevitably turned us into the sort of rebellious teens depicted in films like The Breakfast Club.

Given the relative novelty of emerging adulthood as a developmental stage, it’s easy to come down hard on twentysomethings. This new phase in the American experience, marked by delays in attaining traditional markers of adulthood (marriage, home ownership, full-time employment, and so on), provides fodder for sweeping critiques of twentysomethings, including their faith.

In The Twentysomething Soul: Understanding the Religious and Secular Lives of American Young Adults, sociologist Tim Clydesdale and religion scholar Kathleen Garces-Foley acknowledge the prevailing stereotypes: “Today’s twentysomethings,” they write, “have been labeled the ‘lost generation’—for their presumed inability to identify and lead fulfilling lives, ‘kidults’—for their alleged refusal to ‘grow up’ and accept adult responsibilities—and the ‘least religious generation’—for their purported disinterest in ...

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Source: Another Look at the ‘Least Religious Generation’

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