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Weird biblical names are on the rise. What’s behind the trend?
You probably know someone who’s given their child, and especially their baby boy, an obscure biblical name. Sunday schools are increasingly filled with boys named Asher, Silas, Hezekiah, or Ezra. Meanwhile boy names like John, Michael, David, and James appear to be falling out of favor.
The numbers back up this perception. According to current data from the Social Security Administration, “unusual” biblical names are getting more common for baby boys, with historically “rare” Bible names rising from about 0.5% of boys in the 1950s to a whopping 6.5% of baby boys today. Of all baby boys given uncommon or unconventional names, 17% had uncommon biblical names—the highest share since 1880.
What’s going on? Why are there so many Obadiahs and Eliases underfoot? And how do these name trends reflect religious and cultural patterns in the United States?
To understand the picture, we have to go back in time and look first at the numbers. Baby boys born in 1982 were more likely to have biblical names than in any other year since 1880, driven by the increased popularity of names like David, Matthew, Joshua, Daniel, and Timothy. While biblical boy names rose steadily in prominence from 20% of baby boys in 1935 to more than 35% in the early 1980s, baby girls saw a different trend. From 1880 until 2018, the share of baby girls with biblical names has fallen steadily from 19% to around 6% today.
The rise in biblical boy names from 1880 to 1980 mostly included the monikers of major characters from the Old or New Testaments. In other words, parents gave their kids names that were generically spiritual: They referred to the Bible, but they weren’t too religious sounding. There were more Davids and ...
Highlights from our archives.
Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in the United States, Christianity Today has featured many articles arguing for the sanctity of human life and examining how Christians can respond. Here’s a selection of some of our key articles on this topic over the decades.
That same year (1999), Frederica Matthewes-Green candidly addressed growing societal acceptance of legal abortion, asserting that while the “debate” may be over, “The pro-life ...
In today’s churches, we place more of an emphasis on church planting through people than we do church planting through churches.
Jack Redford’s 1978 book Planting New Churches became one of the most influential church planting books for a decade following its release. He believed all churches should be involved in planting new churches as a normal part of their work.
Ideas were adopted by many church planters, and his book quickly became the planting guide for many. Redford featured nine steps to planting a new church. These steps made church planting look something like this: form a missions committee, find the place to plant, and prepare and send volunteers to engage with that community.
Once enough members of that community were interested, small groups would emerge and meet together on Sunday mornings. Eventually, once the mission chapel was able, people would begin to focus on the administrative work to make the church official and legal.
Churches Planting Churches
These nine steps focused mainly on the mother church’s involvement. Typically, a denomination or church would send out its members to plant another church. People would physically move to new locations in order to invest in the community of the new church.
The foundations of the sending church and the new churches they started were practically identical to one another. In fact, mother church involvement was so important that people often used the analogy of one beehive creating a new hive. They talked about the mother church “hiving off”: giving some of its people and with that part of its DNA to the new church.
Over the next decade or so, the conversation began to change. Bob Logan and others talked about planters, not just churches planting churches. The entrepreneurial planter became more central.
From the late 80s forward, church planting ...
“The primary call on my life is not to do something for Jesus; the primary call on my life is to be with Jesus”
1. “The Christian life is not me living for Jesus, but Jesus living His life in and through me” (Page 22).
2. “When I look around the American Church today, I see two primary targets people are aiming at in their spiritual lives: activity and information” (Page 30).
3. “…we prefer a superficial system of religion over a genuine relationship with Jesus because the superficial system is easier to control. We have a built-in desire to measure our performance whenever possible…” (Page 32).
4. “One of the key patterns of Jesus’ life was building intentional, engaging, loving relationships with people who were far from God so that they could come to know God through him” (Page 47).
5. “As a Jesus follower, your identity is not in what you do. Your identity is found in who you are in Christ—a loved, accepted child of the Father enjoying a fellowship relationship with Him” (Page 50).
6. “The primary call on my life is not to do something for Jesus; the primary call on my life is to be with Jesus” (Page 63).
7. “The first symptom of ‘trying’ to follow Jesus is believing that spiritual growth and spiritual maturity can be earned” (Page 80 ).
8. “Our obedience is in direct proportion to our love” (Page 56).
9.“A life of humility before Christ always leads to a life of victory in Christ” (Page 59).
10. “The New Testament knows nothing of Christianity without community” (Page 115).
11. “…we have become very good within the church at covering our selfishness with a blanket of spirituality. Or, more accurately, we cover our conflict-causing thoughts and actions with a blanket of ...
What women may refuse to disclose to researchers at a clinic, they’re confessing in Bible studies decades later.
Pro-life advocates and ministry leaders are challenging the results of a new study that found that most women do not suffer emotionally after an abortion, and that over time, they are less likely to express regret.
Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) followed 667 women across 30 clinics after they received an elective abortion, finding that the majority had either positive feelings or no emotion at all toward their decision both a week later (71%) and five years later (84%), according to a study released last week in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
Corinne Rocca, one of the study’s authors and UCSF professor, said that the study proves that the idea that women will develop negative emotions after an abortion is a “myth” and a “red herring.” Rocca has also participated in multiple research studies and written several articles for the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood.
While pro-choice advocates have used the findings to suggest that the idea of “abortion regret” is merely a scare tactic from pro-lifers, critics say the sample for the survey doesn’t justify the debunking its authors have touted in the media.
Writing for the National Review, researcher Michael J. New noted that women who volunteer to respond to questions following an abortion are more likely to be the ones who feel positively about it, and therefore the findings do not represent the full spectrum of women who have had abortions. New—a professor at the Catholic University of America and a scholar with the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute—noted that of all the women asked to participate, less than 40 percent agreed, and roughly 30 ...
How a hyper-focus on “attracting the young” can sideline the aging faithful.
We rarely hear it put as bluntly as did the small congregation of Grove United Methodist Church, where some members recently claimed “age discrimination” over a service being cancelled, but there are many churches sending a similar message: “If you are an older adult, we don’t want you here.”
As a part of denominational efforts to reboot the Cottage Grove, Minnesota, church, leaders are asking the 25 or so people who gather each week in the Grove building to leave their building and worship at the nearby sister congregation while a team plants a new church at their campus. According to a St. Paul Pioneer Press report, these mostly older members have been directed to wait 15–18 months after its launch before asking new leadership if they can “migrate back.”
While a single news story can’t fully capture the history of the relationship between the lay-led congregation and the denomination, nor the nuances of recent discussions over revitalization (church leaders clarified their approach in a follow-up by the Washington Post),the situation highlights a phenomenon with which many older adults are all too familiar.
During more than a decade writing about spiritual formation in the second half of life, I’ve heard a painful litany of stories from those who’ve been ignored, marginalized, patronized, or treated as rusting obstacles blocking the path to the holy grail of church growth.
Older member hear the message they’re not valued in a variety of ways: a worship team comprised of members under 40, a range of programming designed for younger attenders, or a lack of pastoral care when they’re in the trenches of long-term illness or caring for aging parents. ...
Could a Montana school choice case be the end of Blaine amendments?
When a Montana tax credit program for private school scholarships was accused of being discriminatory because religious schools were not eligible, the state eliminated the program outright rather than fight the case.
But now, the state has ended up at the US Supreme Court anyway, with a legal dispute centering around whether the legal basis Montana (and dozens of other states) uses to bar public funding of religious education is constitutional.
The justices will hear arguments Wednesday in Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue, a case over a scholarship program for private K-12 education that makes donors eligible for up to $150 in state tax credits. Advocates on both sides say the outcome could be momentous because it could lead to efforts in other states to funnel taxpayer money to religious schools.
Montana is among 37 states that have provisions in their state constitutions that prohibit religious schools from receiving state aid, also known as Blaine amendments.
Legal advocates and Christian schools opposed to the restrictions say they discriminate against religious families by blocking them from government benefits available to others, or by favoring secular education. They also note that such prohibitions were historically designed to not to keep the government from endorsing religion—since a Protestant ethos was generally part of public education—but to deny support to Catholic (“sectarian”) schools in particular.
Like many religious freedom cases, this one floats the balance between the establishment clause—the government cannot support a particular faith over others—and the free exercise clause—it cannot prohibit citizens from exercising their religious beliefs.
In a brief ...
Nous, le un pour cent des chrétiens, présentons nos excuses aux quatre-vingt-dix-neuf autres pour cent de chrétiens
Vous, les 99 %, n'existez pas pour aider les professionnels du ministère à accomplir le Grand Mandat missionnaire. C’est nous qui existons pour vous aider à le faire.
Assis en face d'un ami, Bill Pollard, je voyais son regard empreint d'un espoir qui cependant trahissait quelques doutes. Je venais de partager avec lui la vision du Mouvement de Lausanne de réunir plus de 700 leaders chrétiens du monde des affaires, venant de plus de 100 pays un peu partout dans le monde.
C’était une vision que Bill approuvait : mobiliser les chrétiens pour qu’ils soient des instruments de Dieu sur leur lieu de travail afin qu’un impact pour le Royaume puisse se faire sentir dans chaque sphère de la société. Toutefois, il se demandait si, aux yeux de certains responsables d'Église, l'efficacité de ce type de ministère par le biais de responsables dits « laïcs » était possible.
Ses interrogations reflètent une longue histoire au cours de laquelle le ministère chrétien a été considéré comme relevant de la responsabilité restreinte de "professionnels" tels que les pasteurs et les missionnaires. Des gens comme Bill ont contesté cette notion, montrant plutôt que le manteau du ministère appartient à chaque chrétien.
Bill avait été le Directeur Général de ServiceMaster qui, sous sa direction, a été reconnue par le magazine Fortune comme l'entreprise de services n° 1 parmi les 500 entreprises du classement Fortune 500 et a été reconnue par le Financial Times comme l'une des entreprises les plus respectées dans le monde. Pour Bill, son travail chez ServiceMaster était au service du Maître. Comme il le dit ...
(UPDATED) Beheaded Brethren leader taken captive in Nigeria said he was at peace with death because Jesus “is still alive.”
Update (Jan. 21): Boko Haram has beheaded a Brethren church leader in Nigeria, according to the same investigative journalist who shared the pastor’s hostage video which encouraged many with its testimony [see below].
“To break some news items can traumatize. I'm battling with one of such. Reverend [Lawan] Andimi, abducted by #BokoHaram was executed yesterday,” tweeted Ahmad Salkida. “Rev. Andimi was a church leader, a father to his children and the community he served. My condolences go to his family.”
“Reverend Lawan Andimi was beheaded yesterday afternoon, the video of the appalling executions with that of a soldier was obtained at 2:42pm,” wrote Salkida. “I made sure that the family, the authorities and the church were duly informed before the news was put out to the public this morning.”
Andimi’s denomination, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), confirmed the pastor’s death.
“This is horrific and truly a shame,” said Gideon Para-Mallam, the Jos-based Africa ambassador for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students who spoke with EYN general secretary Daniel Mbaya about Andimi’s fate. “It strikes at the heart of efforts to build some form of religious harmony in Nigeria. But we are undeterred.”
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) declared three days of prayer and fasting, and condemned the “brutal murder” of Andimi as “a shame to the Nigerian government.”
“The Church did everything within her reach to secure the safe release of this pastor gentleman,” stated Kwamkur Samuel Vondip, CAN director for legal and public affairs, “but it was not possible because they ...
Instead of starting with our questions, we should start where people are and walk them to the gospel.
We have entered a decade or two lull in evangelistic passion among evangelicals now. This is ironic since “evangelical” and “evangelistic” come from the same root word which means gospel, good news, or evangel. I think there are several reasons for this.
First, there's been a bit of a backlash to past models that seemed reductionistic and mechanistic.
Os Guinness in Fool’s Talk observed how “recent forms of evangelism are modeled not on classical rhetorical or even on good communication theory, but on handbooks for effective sales technique.”
Some are bothered by the idea that evangelism is boiled down to asking people to answer two questions: “If you were to die today, do you know for sure you'd go to heaven?” And, “Do you know for sure you are going to be with God in heaven?”
Over time, people increasingly felt these were reductionist and mechanical, so (for good or for bad) they moved away from them.
You’re more likely now to find Christians make jokes about the way they used to do evangelism than actually do evangelism. Instead of starting with our questions, we should start where people are and walk them to the gospel.
Second, many believers don’t have confidence in the gospel.
A LifeWay Research study found about half the people who regularly attend an evangelical church give a pluralistic or a universalistic answer to questions about the need for people to know Christ.
A higher percentage would likely be functionally universalistic or pluralistic. Showing how the gospel and Scripture connect to and help make sense of all of life –– not just our spiritual life –– can grow confidence in it. One study found Millennials ...
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Jesus established the church to be a community of believers, a family, to encourage each other in unity and to project His love to the world. As a family, our goal is to love each other without conditions or expectations