Before leaders recommend or condemn Rachel Held Evans's book, they should at least read it.
by Matt Mikalatos
As leaders, we're often asked our judgment on books, especially as a book grows in readership or controversy. Unfortunately, sometimes we share opinions before forming thoughts on the topic. You probably recall the enormous number of reviews of Rob Bell's "Love Wins" that flooded the Internet before his book released, based purely on a few minutes of preview video. Likewise, I heard a lot of opinions about Mark and Grace Driscoll's "Real Marriage" long before the book hit the shelves.
The latest controversial book in Christian circles is Rachel Held Evans's "The Year of Biblical Womanhood" in which Evans explores what the Bible says about womanhood by living out a variety of explicit commands in scripture, including things like wearing a head covering, calling her husband master, and following the Old Testament purity laws during her period.
I asked Evans when the first review for her book came in, and she said, "My dad the other night told me he remembered being at his computer, looking over a review of my book, and then he looked over at me and I'm sitting at the dining room table with a pile of books working on the manuscript. He was reading a review of this book I hadn't even finished writing yet." So, the first negative review for the book came before the book was written. I believe the motivation in reviews like this is protecting others from harmful ideas. I also believe it's being done poorly.
David Murrow believes celebrity preachers will replace denominations--and that's not a bad thing.
by Url Scaramanga
Best known for his books about "Why Men Hate Going to Church," David Murrow has forecasted what the church in America will look like in 50 years. Overall he believes the future looks bright--at least for men--and will bring a needed correction to the overly feminized church that keeps them away.
Here's what he thinks church will look like in 2062:
1. The midsize congregation will disappear.
2. An explosion of satellite campuses and microchurches will occur.
3. There will be a small number of megachurches led by amazingly talented communicators that dominate the country.
A podcast potluck as Phil and Skye answer listener questions.
Phil and Skye host this week’s podcast! Skye just returned from the Global Church Forum, where US church leaders and global church leaders discussed how to create mutually beneficial partnerships. Then they answer some of the questions that have been submitted to the podcast over the last few weeks. They start with feedback about calling ourselves “Christians,” how that term is used in the New Testament, and the distinctions between religion and relationship. Then they discuss some of the feedback from the science/creation podcast with John Walton. Finally they talk about the recent Pew study that said for the first time in history, America is less than 50% Protestant Christian.
Way back in 1768, a little-known Baptist pastor named Isaac Backus denounced a growing trend in preaching. By his day it had become quite fashionable to read sermons from a manuscript, instead of preaching extemporaneously. This, Backus argued, was an “upstart notion,” a newfangled approach to an old task. And it had two strikes against it. To begin with, “the reading of sermons is a dull way of preaching.” (He didn’t feel the need to elaborate that point; it just is.) Second, and more troubling, reading sermons from the pulpit made it easy for pastors to plagiarize. Though “people may know that their minister reads other men’s works [in the study] yet how can they ever know when he reads his own [in the pulpit]?”
If we stop there, Backus’s warning seems like a sampling from the fat folder titled, “The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same.” Plagiarizing sermons has only become cheaper and easier with the availability of illustrations, outlines, and full sermon manuscripts online. And the secret’s out. Suzanne Sataline published a piece in The Wall Street Journal on the plague of pastoral plagiarism in 2006, which brought the issue into the light. Since then Out of Ur, Tim Challies, Ed Stetzer, the Gospel Coalition folks (and many others) have addressed the issue from a number of angles.
The deeper, more fundamental issue Backus was concerned about was that reading from a manuscript—even if you wrote it—indicated a lack of dependence on the Holy Spirit.
We're continuing our video series on "What is the gospel?" with a bit from N.T. Wright. His perspective (on Paul and the New Testament) is gaining many followers, but he's also caused some in the Reformed camp to flip out. What do you think about his take on the Good News?
Phil hosts the podcast by himself this week with special guest singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson. Phil asks Andrew about the path of his career, from a young artist on a label to an independent artist and then back to being on a label. His latest album, Light for the Lost Boy, was written in part as songs for his growing children. Andrew also talks about his novels, the Wingfeather Saga, and his online storytelling community The Rabbit Room. Phil just keynoted the Rabbit Room’s annual conference, Hutchmoot.
Andrew Peterson is a Nashville-based singer-songwriter. He has quietly carved out a niche for himself as one of the most thoughtful, poetic, and lyrical songwriters of his generation. More recently he’s established himself as the grassroots facilitator of an online literary and songwriting community, The Rabbit Room, and an emerging fantasy novelist as well (The Wingfeather Saga). His latest album is Light for the Lost Boy.
Watch live as the church in the West learns from the rest.
This week Christianity Today will be livestreaming the Global:Church Forum–a gathering allowing the Western church to hear what God is doing in the Global South and East and discover out how ministry is done in different cultures and economies. This gathering will create a context for you to hear what God is doing around the world, and then understand how this movement in the non-Western world affects movements, models and methodologies pursued by those in the West.
Hosted by Leadership Journal's own Skye Jethani, the event will be held October 16-18 at Park Community Church in Chicago. Most sessions will be streamed live on CT's website, and evening sessions will be open to the public and feature music by Sara Groves.
Hit the jump to read about who will be speaking from around the world.
You Lost Me. Live! shows the tough road ahead for churches trying to reclaim prodigal Millennials.
When I first left home for college seven years ago, I was finally able to search for a church on my own. I’d attended a single church up till then, and I was anxious to find a new body of believers. I quickly found a college group at an established church, but I was shocked by how detached the group felt from the rest of the body. In the years since, most of the churches I’ve attended don’t know what to do with my generation, the Millennials. As Millennials leave the church in droves, church leadership scrambles to find ways to retain the few that stay and hope that the rest will eventually return on their own.
David Kinnaman and a number of guest speakers address this very issue in the conference series, You Lost Me. Live!, presented by the Barna Group. I attended the conference in Chicago and found myself in the company of Baby Boomers, Generation X-ers, and many Millennials. Here are a few points that stood out to me:
The world is becoming more complicated. We’ve given people a cultural vision of Christ, but not the tools to live in this increasingly complex culture. Millennials are coming of age in this new culture, so it defines them in a unique way. While Baby Boomers are constantly astounded by new ways to communicate and access information, Millennials were born connected.
Pew reports one in five Americans now has no religion.
New numbers from The Pew Forum indicate religion is losing ground rapidly in America--particularly among the young. Here's CNN's report:
Ed Stetzer offers a few remarks on the numbers on his blog:
First, we continue to lose what some have called our home-field advantage. On a growing basis, identifying oneself as a Christian is not a means to societal advancement but can actually be a means to societal rejection.
Second, the "squishy middle" is collapsing. Nominalism will go its way. I believe the future of Christianity in North America will look more like the present-day Pacific Northwest, as I have explained here.
Third, and finally, it is still a vast overstatement to see this as a collapse of the Christian faith in North America. The reality is that evangelicals have been relatively steady as a percent of the population over the last few years, however there is still great cause for concern here-- and for action.
Can we bring the presence of Jesus Christ back into the debate?
by Skye Jethani
*NOTE: This message was delivered at the Q Cities conference in Denver on September 27, 2012. My actual comments may have been slightly different from what is written here. Q restricts presentations to a maximum of 18 minutes, so this message could only skim the surface of the complicated intersection of gay rights and religious liberty.
When I was a freshman in college, the GLBA–the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Alliance–organized an annual Gay Awareness week. What I remember most was “Jean Day.” The student leaders of the GLBA posted signs all over campus announcing that students could express their support for gay rights by wearing jeans on Thursday. Of course denim is a second skin for most college students, and it was obvious the GLBA was seeking to inflate their perception of support. The tactic was so transparent few people paid attention—until a conservative Christian student group began putting up their own signs. Their flyers called students who did not support gay rights to “wear a shirt on Thursday.”
The battle lines were drawn. The silliness of the GBLA’s scheme was matched by the stupidity of the Christians’.
Thursday came and members of the GBLA went to class in blue jeans and topless. (Some women wearing only bras.) The conservative Christians marched to class wearing khakis and in some cases multiple shirts, proudly doing their part to “uphold righteousness.” Eventually the two groups got into a heated shouting match. The shirts accused the skins of being godless and immoral. The denims accused the khakis of being bigots and homophobes.
As I watched the scene unfold, the voice of my high school teacher echoed in my head. “Just remember,” he’d told me, “college isn’t the real world.”
Sadly the real world has proven to look more like my college experience than I would have hoped, only now the shouting between the gay community and Christians happens on cable news, talk radio, outside courthouses and in school board meetings. Still there are many of us–both gay and straight, Christian and non-Christian, supporters of same sex marriage, and those like myself who hold to the church’s traditional definition–who do not identify with the culture war rhetoric emanating from either side. We stand on the periphery wondering: isn't there a better way?
Atheism takes another step toward becoming a religion, and Skye reframes gay rights & religious liberty.
This week’s podcast starts off with Phil talking about visiting two conferences in the last week. At Hutchmoot, Phil discovered a new favorite singer-songwriter, Andrew Osenga, who did a concert wearing a spacesuit. Phil shares the exciting news that What’s in the Bible? was the number one bestselling children’s DVD in Christian retail last week. The crew talks about the latest photos from the Hubble telescope, which leads to another discussion of faith and science and atheism. Skye shares about his experience at the Q Cities conference last week in Denver, where he spoke about gay rights and religious liberty.
This Sunday, pastors across the country will endorse a candidate from the pulpit.
Pastor Jim Garlow is leading an effort this Sunday to defy the IRS regulation preventing pastors from endorsing political candidates or risk losing their tax-exempt status. Known as "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," Garlow was on The Colbert Report last night to discuss the issue. Despite Garlow's stunt, 87 percent of pastors surveyed by LifeWay still believe they should not endorse a candidate from the pulpit.
The good news solves our problem of alienation from God.
It's one of the most hotly debated questions in the church today: What is the Gospel? We're starting a new series of videos from Christian leaders to hear how they answer that question. The diversity of answers you will hear is remarkable. Does that speak to the gospel having many facets, or to the confusion that exists in the church about the gospel itself? We begin with the evangelist/apologist Ravi Zacharias.