Renewing Your Church: His Greatness Through Your Willingness
August 2, 2018
God is using the revitalization of the church to demonstrate his glory.
If the mission is to advance the gospel and grow the kingdom, we can’t afford for churches to die at the same rate that we plant new ones. The call of revitalization has to become a priority. God placed that call in my life four years ago.
In February of 2014, I was on staff of a church plant in a suburban area of Columbia, SC. In order to supplement our income as well as help a church in need, my senior pastor and I began working with an inner-city church providing pulpit supply. When my pastor felt led to focus solely on the church plant, the leadership asked if I would stay and lead Rosewood Baptist Church, an 80-year old facility in the heart of downtown Columbia.
After prayer and good counsel, my family and I committed ourselves to Rosewood, a decision that would place me in the hardest, most fulfilling ministry I have ever been part of. I fully believe that God takes us through something to bring us to something so we can do something.
The culture of Rosewood was inwardly-focused and consumer-driven. A small group of long-time members had taken unhealthy possession of the church. It fulfilled every negative stereotype of a dysfunctional church. It had a history of treating their pastors as employees and grinding them up. Each of the last four pastors had left in the shadows of dissension, scandal, or dysfunction.
The focus on missions had been reduced to a small, weekly food pantry. The discipleship focus was limited to a few Sunday School classes that existed more for social interaction than biblical instruction.
The church’s negative reputation was well known in the community. Through decades of denying every request to use the facility, the church had isolated itself while earning a reputation that was as …
Cab driver found fatally shot near southwest Arizona highway
August 2, 2018
A cab driver was found fatally shot Tuesday near Highway 95 and police believe the suspect(s) fled in the driver’s taxi.
What a son can learn about women, from the one who raised him
August 2, 2018
When I told my son he should ask first, I was teaching him respect and consent. It was one of many things I did to instill that all people are equal.
Under the Law: Israeli Christians Worry About Secondary Status in Jewish Nation-State
August 1, 2018
Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews cautious as region’s only democracy makes its identity politics official.
In a legislative act both obvious and inflammatory, this month Israel cemented its nature as a Jewish state.
What this means for its Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews is left unclear.
By a narrow vote in the Knesset, Israel’s legislature, the law entitled “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People” was adopted to serve alongside over a dozen other “basic laws” that serve as Israel’s de facto constitution.
A key clause states that national self-determination is “unique” to Jews. Other provisions formally establish the nation’s flag, emblem, and anthem. Jerusalem is confirmed as the complete and united capital. The Sabbath and Jewish festivals are declared official days of rest.
But two other clauses have raised considerable concern. Jewish settlement is a “national value” to be promoted. And Arabic is downgraded from an official language to one with “special status.”
“This law outlines that Israel’s democratic values are secondary for non-Jews,” said Shadia Qubti, a Palestinian evangelical living in Nazareth. “It sends a clear message that my language is not welcome and consequently, neither is my cultural and ethnic identity.”
Her fears are echoed by an Israeli lawyer.
“While the idea of the law is straightforward—it’s hard to argue that Israel isn’t a Jewish state—the actual provisions are controversial, discriminatory, and possibly racist,” said Jaime Cowen, former president of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations.
Today the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem also denounced the law as “a cause of great concern” because Palestinians, who make up …
Prosperity Gospel Taught to 4 in 10 Evangelical Churchgoers
August 1, 2018
Survey finds most Protestants believe God wants them to prosper financially. But views diverge on whether they must tithe to receive it.
For some Americans, dropping a check into the offering plate at church is a bit like having a Discover Card.
Both offer a cash-back bonus.
About a third of Protestant churchgoers say their congregation teaches that God will bless them if they donate money.
Two-thirds say God wants them to prosper. One in 4 say they have to do something for God to receive material blessings in return.
Those are among the key findings of a new study on “prosperity gospel” beliefs from Nashville-based LifeWay Research, which surveyed 1,010 Americans who attend a Protestant or nondenominational church at least once a month.
Researchers found more than a few churchgoers believe giving to God leads to financial rewards, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
“A significant group of churches seem to teach that donations trigger a financial response from God,” said McConnell.
A controversial topic
The belief that God gives financial rewards in exchange for offerings is a central part of the so-called prosperity gospel, which offers a “direct path to the good life,” as Duke professor Kate Bowler puts it.
That belief is both controversial and fairly commonplace.
LifeWay Research found 38 percent of Protestant churchgoers agree with the statement, “My church teaches that if I give more money to my church and charities, God will bless me in return.” Fifty-seven percent disagree, including 40 percent who strongly disagree. Five percent are not sure.
Pentecostal and Assemblies of God churchgoers (53%) are most likely to agree. Churchgoers with evangelical beliefs (41%) are more likely to agree than those without evangelical beliefs (35%).
African-American (51%) and Hispanic churchgoers (43%) are …
4,000 lightning strikes, 35,000 flashes at peak of monsoon storm in Phoenix area
August 1, 2018
West Valley cities were hit the hardest from the July 30, 2018, monsoon storm.
WATCH: Democratic candidates for Arizona governor meet in azcentral.com debate
August 1, 2018
Steve Farley, Kelly Fryer and David Garcia meet in debate hosted by The Republic/azcentral.com, Arizona PBS and Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU.
You Can’t Have Racial Justice Without a Bloody Cross
July 31, 2018
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s necessary rebuke on race rests on a sadly truncated gospel.
In 1846, the abolitionist Samuel Brooke published a book called Slavery, and the Slaveholder’s Religion; as Opposed to Christianity, in which he condemned human bondage as “the violation of every principle of human brotherhood, of natural right, of justice, of humanity, of Christianity, of love to God and to man.”
Like so many of his fellow abolitionists, Brooke wanted to prick the conscience of a religious tradition that sang songs of praise to God on Sunday and whipped slaves on Monday. In Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion, writer and activist Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove attempts to take up this mantle, arguing that today’s white evangelical movement remains beholden to a racial ideology that hijacks and distorts the true Christian faith.
Wilson-Hartgrove doesn’t approach the topic of race as an expert, though his experience moving into a majority-black neighborhood in Durham, North Carolina, gives him a proximity not shared by many of his fellow white Christians. Yet he offers a remonstrance that many white Christian leaders desperately need to hear. He traces fault lines in American Christianity that have roots in the nation’s founding and shows how white evangelicals have often baptized white supremacy either by endorsement or silence.
We are tempted, of course, to assume that we are well beyond our racial tensions, being more than 150 years removed from the Civil War and more than 50 years removed from the passage of landmark civil rights legislation. But significant tensions remain, and systemic racism, more subtle and pernicious than white bed sheets or lynching trees, still causes suffering for African Americans. Wilson-Hartgrove makes a persuasive …
A Bright Future Rooted in a Distant Past
July 31, 2018
As we look forward, our present activity must be rooted in God’s kingdom work throughout redemptive history.
The glum cacophony of voices bemoaning the state of the church in North America present a bleak deconstructionist’s portrait of the future. It does not look good. With the diagnosis comes heaps of questions clamoring for immediate answers:
- How does the rise of the “nones” and “dones” influence our missiology?
- How does the pervasive nature of racism and associations within evangelicalism influence our posture toward the marginalized, particularly in urban centers?
- How has the lingering implications of our unwavering embrace of church growth paradigms neutered the mission of the church?
These are important and necessary questions that are, unfortunately, often met with more hand wringing than thoughtful solutions. When authentic attempts are made at devising answers for the future, they often presuppose our current sociological and ecclesiological realities as the starting point for envisioning the future.
Perhaps this is the wrong place to start.
Maybe we need to look a little further into the past. Maybe a lot further.
This isn’t the first time the church has faced a hostile culture, lost its voice in a secularized world, or cowered in the face of political foes from every side. Many of us have never been here before, but God’s people certainly have seen worse days.
Before we propose any future strategy, we must first root our activity in the history of God’s kingdom work throughout redemptive history. After all, history is his story.
Which forces us to ask the big question: “What does God want?” Not, what does God want to do with the challenges facing the church in North America? We will get there in time.
But, what has God always wanted for his people?
There are those in …
Scottsdale police work to fix gaps in body camera program after audit identifies problems
July 31, 2018
Scottsdale has identified problems with its police department’s regulation of body camera footage, according to an audit by the city.