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[Cfamily]The Business of Evangelical Book Publishing Is Business
« Reply #1488 on: December 16, 2019, 12:00:09 AM »

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The Business of Evangelical Book Publishing Is Business

Or is it faith? Or some complex combination of both?

The evangelist Billy Sunday wasn’t afraid to try something new. He would jump on top of a pulpit if he thought it would get attention. He would sell shares of a revival tabernacle, complete with “stock certificates” guaranteeing the bearer a portion of the proceeds, if he thought it would bring in enough money to fund the business of preaching the gospel.

He was a man who believed in innovation. But this was surprising even for him.

In 1934, Sunday was deciding who would publish his next book. He had two publishers, William Eerdmans and Pat Zondervan, come meet him at the same time. Each man was surprised to find the other in the meeting. Then Sunday asked them both to pray out loud. In a prayer competition. Which he would judge. The two men did pray, Sunday judged that Zondervan’s extemporaneous prayer was best, and he awarded the 25-year-old’s company with the contract for Billy Sunday Speaks!

The story is kind of a parable of American evangelicalism. As a parable, it raises a question: Which of these men acted out of faith and which from commercial interest?

Daniel Vaca, an American religious historian at Brown University, offers a clear answer in his new book, Evangelicals Incorporated: Books and the Business of Religion in America. He says all three. All three were acting out of faith. All three were acting out of commercial interest. In fact, when looking at the history of contemporary American evangelicalism, it doesn’t make sense to distinguish between the commercial and the religious.

“Evangelicalism exemplifies what I describe as ‘commercial religion,’” Vaca writes. “Religion that takes shape through the ideas, activities, and strategies that typify commercial ...

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[Cfamily]Is the Wisdom of Mary Unique for a Teenager?
« Reply #1489 on: December 17, 2019, 12:00:11 AM »
Is the Wisdom of Mary Unique for a Teenager?

Psychology suggests why we shouldn't look down on the faith of the young.

A version of this article was first published in the Advent Series from Science in the Church. To sign up for content like this, please visit the website.

“A 14-year-old girl is pregnant. What should she, what should one, consider and do?”

This question was posed by a premier wisdom researcher a couple thousand years after Mary and Joseph may have faced a similar quandary. We don’t actually know Mary’s age when she became pregnant with Jesus because the Gospel accounts don’t tell us, but many scholars suggest she was a teenager, and perhaps in the first half of her teenage years.

If this question seems hard to answer now, it was difficult then, too. Artists may put a halo over the baby Jesus to represent his divinity, but he also was birthed into the gritty human reality of a confusing and conflictual world brimming with hard questions. To be fully human is to live amidst the difficulties of embodied life, where wisdom is required of us every day.

Wisdom for the Christian Life

Several years ago, one of my doctoral students with prior theological training announced that he wanted to do his dissertation on wisdom. I replied, “Paul, that’s a great idea, but psychologists don’t really study wisdom.” He went to the library and proved me wrong. It turns out there is a vibrant science of wisdom. In the last part of the 20th century, much of it occurred at the University of Berlin, where researcher Paul Baltes and his colleagues developed a way to measure wisdom by asking people to respond to challenging questions, such as the one about a 14-year-old pregnant girl. That research continues today at places like the Center for Practical Wisdom at the University of Chicago.

My ...

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[Cfamily]British Evangelicals Brace for Brexit
« Reply #1490 on: December 18, 2019, 12:00:12 AM »
British Evangelicals Brace for Brexit

Politics remain divisive, but churches seek unity in prayer.

British evangelicals are divided over Brexit. The January 31 deadline for the nation’s departure from the European Union is fast approaching, and Thursday’s elections gave the Conservative Party a historic victory and “a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done,” according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. As evangelicals absorb the news, they are grappling with the political tumult, the ongoing uncertainty, and the question of what a Christian should do in these difficult times.

The Evangelical Alliance of the United Kingdom (EAUK) has been urging everyone to pray, posting a prayer to social media every Thursday “to ask God for His peace, grace and guidance.” It’s an effort at unity amid division. The EAUK has remained “studiously impartial” on Brexit, “to reflect the diversity of political opinions” among evangelicals, according to spokesman Danny Webster.

If there’s a chance to come together, Webster believes, it’s in prayer. “We can pray for wisdom for our leaders,” Webster told CT, “whether we agree with them or not.”

Britain itself has been deeply divided over the plans to leave the European Union. In 2016, 52 percent of the population voted for leave. Debates about how to do that, exactly, have roiled UK politics ever since, as two successive prime ministers struggled to negotiate a divorce with the EU that can also get approved by Parliament.

A slight majority of evangelicals voted remain. According to a 2016 study immediately before the vote, 51 percent supported staying in the EU, 27 percent wanted Brexit, and 22 percent were undecided. In the last three years, British evangelicals across the spectrum have expressed ...

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[Cfamily]Let the Psalms Be Your Guide This Advent
« Reply #1491 on: December 19, 2019, 12:00:11 AM »
Let the Psalms Be Your Guide This Advent

In Old Testament poetry, we find echoes of our deepest longings.

Whenever Christmas rolls around, I get a little sad. I look back and am encouraged in the ways God worked in the past year, but also acutely aware of the things still hoped for—the things yet unseen (2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 11). I look back and have hope. I look forward and ache.

One of my favorite Christmas hymns is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I tend to be a melancholy person, so a song in a minor key speaks my language of angst. But I think another reason it resonates with me is because it contains echoes of our collective longing. I find a kinship in this haunting song because, like the ancient Israelites, I am also mourning in exile, waiting for the Son of God to appear. I count myself among the “weary souls” we sing about in “O Holy Night.” I am waiting for Christ to return, and every unanswered prayer in my life today is a reminder that his return is still an awaited longing in my own soul.

This is also why I am drawn to the Psalms. At Advent, we often gravitate toward the same passages—Matthew’s genealogy, Luke 1–2, and the prophecies in Isaiah. But the Psalms have been a comfort to God’s people since this first songbook was put to parchment. They were the songs of ancient Israel as they were forced into exile and longed for their return. They were the songs of Israel’s greatest king as he faced persecution, struggles to ascend to the throne, and even his own sinfulness. They lived thousands of years before us, but they too were waiting for the Christ to come. And in their waiting, they sang of their experience. They sang of their questions. They sang of their sorrows. And they sang of their hope.

The Psalms continue to be the songs we sing or read in our ...

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[Cfamily]Does Business Leadership Belong in the Church?
« Reply #1492 on: December 20, 2019, 12:00:12 AM »
Does Business Leadership Belong in the Church?

Business tools aren’t the key to having a healthy church, but they can help the church remove unnecessary obstacles to fulfilling her mission.

There’s a perception that, as church leaders, we cannot take much from the secular business world and apply it to the church. In fact, many people often object to using business practices in the church.

An overuse of business practices has caused some to refer to the CEO model of church leadership. This model brings the concern by some that a business model of running a church deemphasizes pastoral care.

It’s true that an overemphasis on business tools can shift the focus from ministry to people to efficiency in operations, but that need not happen.

Business tactics at times have been prioritized over the Word of God. Instead of being used as tools, they were instead seen as goals.

Once a business-like church ran smoothly, it could easily forget about its true purpose of being the body of Christ. This has resulted in the church conforming to the world around it and relying on tools more than trusting in God.

For some, a perspective on a sacred-secular divide can create an uneasiness with anything not explicitly found in Scripture. The Bible doesn’t have a book on leadership, so leadership principles from the business world are considered secular, not to be trusted.

But Scripture focuses on righteousness versus unrighteousness, not secular versus sacred. Unscrupulous or manipulative business concepts, whether used in a church or in a company, should always be shunned. But sound business principles should be known and followed.

Business tools aren’t the key to having a healthy church. The Word of God should be the foundation of everything that we do within our churches. But if we believe God is truth and his world reflects his glory, business tools can be useful in church life.

Here are some reasons business ...

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Preparing for Persecution: A Critical Function of International Student Ministry

Rising religious persecution worldwide means that a greater percentage of international students will return to unfriendly environments.

The church’s outreach to international students (ISM) makes sense, as was affirmed in The Exchangeon October 19. The over one million students in the U.S. present a huge opportunity for fulfilling Jesus’ commission to reach all the world’s ethnic groups, including cultures to which foreign missionaries no longer have access.

Opportunities, however, bring challenges. Rising religious persecution worldwide means that a greater percentage of international students will return to unfriendly environments. Christians and their God may no longer be welcome or tolerated, and practicing the Christian faith has become increasingly illegal.

This has always been true to some extent. ISM workers have regularly adjusted their discipleship methods in accordance with the safety needs of students. The difference now is the level to which persecution has risen.

Statistics show that at least 60 percent of international students in the U.S. come from countries that persecute Christians. China and India, where laws directly and indirectly target Christians, represent 50 percent of all international students enrolling in U.S. universities.

China’s sinicizationprocess is trying to rid the country of all religions deemed incompatible with the Communist Party. Even secular media report of churches being razed, leaders being imprisoned, and pastors being “disappeared” because they refuse to bow to the demands of the Party.

Christians in India are feeling pressure from a government that since 2015 has mandated a nationalism that equates being Indian with being Hindu.

These contemporary realities affect both students and the ISM workers who are trying to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

How might a student’s ...

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[Cfamily]What Christians Miss When They Dismiss Imagination
« Reply #1494 on: December 22, 2019, 12:00:10 AM »
What Christians Miss When They Dismiss Imagination

Understanding God and our world needs more than bare reason and experience.

Imagine there is a heaven—it’s easy if you try.

That may not be the way John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote the song, but in a way we can’t blame them; Lennon and Ono were merely people constrained by the view of a modern age.

Today we tell our children, “just use your imagination,” in a way that betrays our dismissive attitude toward imagination. And why not? Imagination is not deep thinking, it is fantasy—a faerie romance that serious people, especially Christians, need not spend much time on.

Countercultural icons like Lennon and Ono embraced the concept of imagination because it gave them the freedom to paint a picture of something that cannot exist in our world. In doing so, imagination of this kind reached the end of the line.

There is more to imagination than fantasy. In fact, the church and its theology need imagination more than ever in the history of our world. Yet, as theologian Kevin Vanhoozer notes, we suffer today from “imaginative malnutrition.”

What is imagination? And why does the church and its theology starve for it today?

Imagination in the Bible

Imagination is not something that comes readily to mind when we open our Bibles. Before prescribing a hearty diet of imagination, some may say, “The Bible is about real things—faith, love, sacrifice—not idle human pursuits such as imagination.” Others may wonder, “Doesn’t the Bible speak negatively of imagination in a few places?”

Does the Bible talk about imagination? Not in any modern English version. But that’s only half the story.

In all English versions, the word “imagination” only shows up notably in the King James Version (Genesis 6:5; Psalm 2:1; Romans 1:21), ...

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[Cfamily]Every Grieving Parent Can Hope for Resurrection
« Reply #1495 on: December 23, 2019, 12:00:12 AM »
Every Grieving Parent Can Hope for Resurrection

But the miraculous healings in the Gospel of Mark give us a glimpse at the kingdom, not a guarantee.

Recently many joined Bethel worship leader Kalley Heiligenthal in fervent prayer for the raising of her daughter, some citing Jesus’ words Talitha koum.

I would never begrudge a grieving mother her commitment to every last hope for her child. I also respect faith that God can raise the dead. (As I wrote earlier this year for CT, I agree that credible resurrections have taken place.) But are such raisings normative? That is, should we always pray for the dead to be raised?

When Jesus sends out the Twelve, he commands them to heal the sick and raise the dead (Matt. 10:8; Luke 9:2). He extends the command to heal the sick to the 70 in Luke 10:9. In the book of Acts, God performs signs not only through the Twelve (e.g., Acts 9:41), but also through some other believers (6:8; 8:6; 9:17–18). These apparently include raising people from the dead (20:10).

But nowhere do we get the idea that God raises everyone who dies. Jesus does not try to raise his friend John the Baptist (Matt. 14:13). Believers buried and grieved for Stephen rather than raising him (Acts 8:2). A physician who shared with me his direct experience of a patient miraculously raised from the dead also recounted that God did not raise the physician’s own child when he died from leukemia.

The Bible needs to teach us about God’s power to do the extraordinary; it does not need to report as often the usual course of death, since most of us are already sadly familiar with that. This is not to condemn those who have prayed valiantly for raisings that didn’t happen; it is simply to observe that God has not guaranteed all raisings, especially when he has not initiated the prayer. (And sometimes the more personally invested we are in a particular ...

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