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Tracing the terrain of Scripture’s stories shows us how God works in our physical world.
How can we read Scripture as embodied people who will live with an embodied Savior for all eternity? One unexpected answer to this question is to study biblical geography. If the word geography causes you to doze off, I can relate. I failed the map reading section in social studies in second grade, which spurred my dislike of Bible maps for the next 15 years. Only when I began teaching at a Christian school that included maps in its Bible curriculum did I realize how illuminating geography can be.
I now know that it’s not only possible to learn the geography of Scripture; it’s spiritually and missionally formative. Tracing God’s work in the physical world prepares us to participate in his work of resurrection in our lives and communities. Here are five reasons why.
1. Geography reminds us that God has always been at work in the physical world.
When we read Genesis 25–33 with a map beside our Bibles, we notice that God shows up at crucial thresholds in Jacob’s life: at Bethel before he flees the promised land and at Peniel before he reenters it, as David W. Cotter has noted. Jacob names these locations “house of God” and “face of God” to commemorate his encounters with God’s gracious presence and power during these moments of vulnerability. God’s revelation isn’t abstract or purely spiritual. It is rooted in significant geographical locations.
Since Genesis, God has been weaving himself into the terrain of history, seeking us out and calling us home. The study of biblical geography shatters the false dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual by highlighting specific places where God stepped into our world. Tracing God’s mission on a map reminds ...
A generational gap in affiliation is growing among America’s most devout demographic.
Black Americans of all ages are more Christian than the rest of the country, but leaders say it’s getting harder for younger generations—who are frustrated with racial injustice in the church and are increasingly influenced by secular voices—to keep the faith.
The gap between the beliefs of parents and grandparents and their kids is wider in the black community than the country as a whole, according to new data released today by Barna Group.
Around two-thirds of black millennials and Gen Z identify as Christian, 10 percentage points fewer than black Gen Xers and 20 percentage points fewer than black Boomers—about double the difference in faith found between younger and older Americans overall.
“Black young adults have become cynical about the gospel’s credibility because of the persistence of racial injustice and white supremacy,” said Shaylen Hardy, national director of black campus ministries for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. “They reject the silence (and complicity) they find in some church communities. As a result, they may be likely to view the church’s entire belief system as uncredible and untrustworthy.”
Hardy sees students begin to deconstruct their faith when grappling with the apparent contradiction between biblical teachings and Christian systems that have contributed toward black oppression. These tough questions can lead them to leave the church altogether.
“Without someone to walk alongside them, they cannot isolate the problematic parts while retaining the core,” she said.
Black millennials and Gen Z are still more likely to identify as Christian (65% and 67%) than millennials and Gen Z overall (63% and 61%), Barna ...
New presiding bishop says budget is top priority for the black Pentecostal denomination.
Giving to the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) fell by nearly 50 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The church’s new presiding bishop, who took office on March 20, said he will have to make finances a top priority his first year.
J. Drew Sheard Sr. has a full agenda for the 8.8-million member global church, which is the fifth largest denomination in the US. He has to fill vacant leadership roles, wants to develop programs to strengthen marriages and families, and hopes to unify COGIC after an unusually competitive election, with several bishops vying to lead.
But because of the coronavirus, Sheard will have to focus on the budget first.
Sheard, 62, is nonetheless confident that God chose him for this moment of leadership. Among other things, the seasoned minister—who is the son of ministers and grandson of a man ordained by COGIC founder Charles H. Mason—is good at math. Sheard is a former math teacher, with a master’s of education in mathematics.
“I believe the favor of God has been on my life since I was a younger preacher, and he has blessed me in every facet of my life as far as my ministerial career was concerned,” Sheard told the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, where the historic black Pentecostal denomination is headquartered. “I believe over the years, and I say this very humbly, I believe God has taken note of me that he could trust me.”
According to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, about 42 percent of churches have seen giving decline during the pandemic. While the majority of evangelical churches in the US saw tithes remain steady or even increase, one out of five churches had to tap into cash reserves and reduce staff to make it through.
French Protestants strongly disagree with new separatism law’s anti-terrorism approach, but eschew a victim mentality in defending religious freedom as they live in “Babylon not Jerusalem.”
On Monday night, the French Senate passed an anti-terrorism law that has greatly concerned church leaders.
Now called the Law to Uphold Republican Principles and the Fight Against Separatism, the bill—approved by a 208–109 vote, with 27 abstentions—intends to combat the Islamist radicalism that has incited numerous attacks on French soil in recent years.
However, the Macron administration’s desire to make France safer has put the nation’s deeply rooted freedom of religion in the crosshairs.
“The wind has changed in France,” said Clément Diedrichs, general director of the National Council of Evangelicals in France (CNEF), which according to new research represents half of French Protestants. The government has “clearly indicated that we’re no longer in a Christian society.”
“Religion has become expendable,” he observed, saying that the country’s leadership no longer has any desire to protect space for any faith.
In February, as reported by Christianity Today, the National Assembly, the French parliament’s lower house, passed a first version of the bill. The net result of the Senate’s debates is a version with even tighter oversight measures, despite the inclusion of a few modifications seen by Christians leaders as positive.
The Protestant Federation of France (FPF), which includes both evangelicals and Lutheran or historic Reformed groups, highlighted the Senate bill’s guarantee of the rights of chaplaincies—in particular in educational establishments, though the bill forbids any type of religious service in these establishments. The bill also provides for churches’ ownership of buildings given to them for free as ...
The Association of Religion Data Archives offers trustworthy data to help leaders and educators make informed decisions.
If the last year and a half has taught us anything, it is that we must be flexible and willing to adapt at the drop of a hat. The COVID-19 pandemic forced leaders of all types of organizations, especially religious congregations, to reimagine their work and how to best serve their people. In order to adjust and make decisions, though, leaders need the right information. Conclusions drawn from bad information will be just that: bad.
This raises the question: where do we go for quality information and data? I would like to introduce you to one such source—The Association of Religion Data Archives (or the ARDA).
We at the ARDA are committed to providing free access to trustworthy data and resources that will allow you to find answers to the tough but essential questions you are asking about your congregation and community. We currently offer dozens of free online and interactive resources. Here are brief introductions to five of our most popular tools.
The Community Profile Builder provides free online information about any community in the United States. The initial map shows the locations of other congregations in a chosen area using any zip code, city and state, or complete address. The Profile Builder then gathers and displays the social, economic, and religious information about the selected community or neighborhood.
The Profile Builder draws these data from several sources including the US Census and the Religious Congregations and Membership Study. Congregational leaders and pastors use this resource to gain a data-driven sense of a given congregation’s context. This information helps them to know how best to serve their communities, as well as what types of ministries ...
The latest “premium” text has a bright red cover, street art-inspired calligraphy, and a $300 price tag.
At first, social media users weren’t sure if it was an elaborate April Fool’s joke. It was, after all, April 1 when the billboard appeared above New York City’s Canal Street advertising a Bible with a $300 price tag.
The limited edition, art-inspired Good Publishing NIV Bible is described on its website as a “modern version of God’s Holy Word” and an “ambitious project, elevating the aesthetic to God’s Holy Word with artisan qualities.”
Those qualities include gold foiling on its “striking crimson red Soft Touch cover” and sustainably sourced paper. The title of each book was lettered by New York City artist Eric Haze.
“Rooted in humility with an ambitious mission, we set out to build a fresh, relevant brand around the best selling book in history–the Holy Bible,” says the Good Publishing Co. website.
Relevant magazine called it “Hypebeast-inspired content.” Commenters on Instagram asked if the Bibles had been autographed by God and quoted Jesus’ own admonition: “Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
But so-called “premium” Bibles aren’t new. And while they may not carry the same steep price tag, a number of new and traditional Bible publishers are stressing the beauty of an old-fashioned book and the experience of slowing down to read at a time when so much of life is lived online.
“There’s a long tradition of Bibles being published, even hundreds of years ago, that were trying to use the finest materials to honor the legacy of the text,” said Tim Wildsmith, the pastor and blogger behind the Bible Review Blog.
Wildsmith, who reviews all kinds of Bibles on his blog, ...
Defining and discerning what missiology is—and how it can help you.
The gospel message never changes.
We can’t improve upon it.
It’s the once-for-all hope for humanity.
Cultures, however, are ever-changing. Communicating the gospel in a timely way in a given cultural context matters even more in a time of rapid change like today. Therefore, an ever-present reality for the church––from pastors and staff, to leadership in denominations, networks, and movements, and including all believers––is becoming more effective in communicating the gospel in culture. This is why the work of missiologists and the field of missiology matter so much. But what do we mean by missiology?
And what is the work of a missiologist?
What Missiology Is NOT
Let me start by describing things missiologists are not, though people often assume these traits describe the work of a missiologist.
First, missiology is not simply giving an angst-driven look at current church norms.
Sometimes missiologists are perceived in this way because they are constantly asking questions about how we can most faithfully and fruitfully engage in God's mission in this time. When we ask these questions, we sometimes find that the church is not being so faithful or fruitful. Most of us would rather see our church through rose colored glasses than really assess how we are doing. When the church is not being faithful at living an embodied mission or being fruitful in seeing people come to Christ, some may believe that missiologists who ask hard questions about these issues as being angst driven. No, they are simply doing their job.
Second, missiology is not merely being critical of what doesn’t work in the church.
Criticisms about the status quo can certainly arise when questions about faithfulness and fruitfulness ...
Introducing a new master's degree cohort for Anglican Church in North America at the Wheaton College School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership.
The School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College Graduate School is pleased to introduce a specialized cohort in our Master of Arts in Ministry Leadership degree program, specifically for students preparing for or currently in ministry in the Anglican Church of North America. This unique cohort begin in Fall 2021. In this program, we will specifically engage the normal master’s degree topics and class, but will also engage Anglican history, theology, ecclesiology, and formation in order to prepare students for more effective spiritual leadership in ACNA churches.
The core of the M.A. in Ministry Leadership curriculum focuses on three competency areas: Bible / theology, mission, and leadership. In the ACNA cohort, students will study each of these areas with a focus on ministry in the Anglican Church.
In all our programs, we have a strong focus on gospel, church, and culture.
Students will have the opportunity to learn from faculty and guests of Wheaton College who are affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America like M. Daniel Carroll R (Rodas), Rick Richardson, Emily Hunter McGowin, Andrew Abernathy, Keith Johnson, Junias Venugopal, Esau McCaulley, and others.
Wheaton College has been uniquely impacted by Anglican leaders over the years, so we are privileged to have so many ACNA-related faculty members.
In addition, Ed Stetzer, Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership with Alan Hawkins, the ACNA Chief Operating Officer, will co-teach on leadership.
In this modular program of online and in-person courses, students work alongside other like-minded students and are empowered to infuse classroom knowledge and insights back into their ministry setting. Additionally, thanks to the flexible ...
How worship pastors decide whether to sing to the Lord a new song.
“Learn these tunes before you learn any others,” John Wesley wrote in his Directions for Singing. “Afterwards, learn as many as you please.”
The specified “tunes” were those included in the 1761 publication of the early Methodist hymnal, Selected Hymns. Wesley’s seven directions for singing have long been included in the opening pages of the United Methodist Hymnal. They include exhortations like “Sing lustily and with good courage,” “Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can,” and “Attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually.”
Wesley wrote his Directions for Singing for a different time, for a church usually selecting congregational music from a confined set of songs in printed hymnbooks. But this centuries-old guide helps establish a theological framework for a new project designed to help worship leaders evaluate a growing catalog of contemporary worship music.
The United Methodist Church’s (UMC) Discipleship Ministries recently released CCLI Top 100+ Beyond, the latest iteration of a project begun in 2015, aiming to help leaders curate worship songs. CCLI stands for Christian Copyright Licensing International, which provides copyright licenses to use music from a vast library of artists; it ranks its most popular songs twice a year in the CCLI Top 100.
The UMC project offers a recommended song list, with a description of each song’s lyrics, theological underpinnings, musical difficulty, and a list of recording artists and alternate arrangements.
The list includes seven titles by Hillsong Worship and Hillsong ...
I urge Christians to pray for Muslims, for their salvation, for their blessing in Jesus Christ
I recently had the privilege of delivering the sermon at my local church. I took the opportunity to share from Acts 17:26-27,
As the author of a recent global survey revealing unprecedented turnings of thousands of Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ, I used the opportunity to point out that it is God who determines the times and boundaries of the world’s peoples. I shared with the congregation that it is no accident that God has allowed more than 3 million Muslims to find their new homes here in the United States.
The reason for this relocation, I said, was so that “perhaps Muslim immigrants in America might reach out for him and find him.” For this divine appointment to be realized, though, requires us to acknowledge that God has also placed us here in proximity to more than 3 million Muslims, so that we would share with them the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.
During the invitation, I invited the congregation to pray for Muslims, and for themselves, that God would use us to bring them to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
One man, shoulders slumped, walked down the aisle to the altar where I was standing. As he took my hand, it was evident to me that he was weeping. “I lost my son in Afghanistan,” he said, “And I’ve hated those people ever since. But I know that I can’t follow Jesus and hate Muslims. I want to leave that hatred here today.”
Prayer changes things. It changes ...
for real people
in a real world
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