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Modern worship music can seem awfully simple. But it has a vital role to play, especially when paired with Scripture.
If you spend any amount of time in churches that have a notable proportion of people under the age of 40, you’ll hear the genre of music called “modern worship.” The chords are simple, the melodies are exceedingly singable, the sentiments are sincere, and the lyrics are brief.
Like all genres, modern worship has individual examples of real quality, and this week I was in the car singing along with one—Elevation’s 2018 song “Worthy”—that has many merits. I would gladly lead a congregation in it myself, if only to sing this theologically exemplary couplet:
“It was my cross you bore / So I could live in the freedom you died for.”
But as I sang along with the recording, I couldn’t help feeling, not for the first time, that it was incomplete and just a bit thin on its own.
This is not something I feel about a related genre I’ve spent a lot of time studying and, as a worship musician, leading: the choruses of Black Gospel that emerge out of the tradition called the Negro spiritual.
These songs, too, tend to have very short texts. But because they are anchored in the incomparable spiritual depth of the Black church and because they very often pack a great deal of musical subtlety into a seemingly simple musical package, they can sustain a great deal of repetition and only increase in their expressive and formative power. The greatest spirituals—like “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me”—can and will be sung for a lifetime and beyond.
Not so much with modern worship. There is something bite-sized about these pieces, which we sing so enthusiastically for a year or three but then lose interest in. And yet I do love singing them, ...
The successor to Paige Patterson cites “reputational, legal, and financial realities” as he moves on to an IMB role.
Adam Greenway has resigned as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary three and a half years after he succeeded fired president Paige Patterson.
Greenway stepped down during a trustee meeting on Thursday and will take a role at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)’s International Mission Board, according to a statement from the seminary.
O. S. Hawkins, retired president of the SBC financial services entity GuideStone, will lead the school as acting president the interim.
Greenway said in a statement:
Since assuming the presidency at Southwestern, Greenway worked to establish a new era at the Fort Worth, Texas, school, removing stained glass windows commemorating Patterson and other Conservative Resurgence leaders from the school’s chapel and initially making cuts to “recalibrate.”
It hasn’t been a quiet tenure. On top of ongoing litigation around Patterson’s response to ...
Twenty-four pastors and one imam lose argument that the rules designating worship “high risk” violated their religious rights.
New Zealand’s High Court has ruled that government officials were not acting unlawfully when they restricted and regulated religious services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The court acknowledged that rules curtailed the protected right to “manifest religious beliefs” but deemed that allowable in a health emergency.
Starting in December 2021, the New Zealand government limited religious gatherings to 100 vaccinated people or 25 unvaccinated people. Face masks were also required if the house of worship shared the site with any other groups. The government’s director-general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, deemed religious gatherings “high risk” because of the presence of elderly and immune-compromised people.
Some religious leaders complained the restrictions were reminiscent of Nazi Germany, and one was briefly jailed for refusing to comply.
Twenty-four Christian pastors and one Muslim imam sued Chris Hipkins, the minister for COVID-19 response, and Bloomfield, claiming the regulations violated their religious freedom. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BORA) says that "every person has the right to manifest that person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private.”
Justice Cheryl Gwyn ruled, however, that though the COVID-19 rules did restrict religious freedom, that was justified by the need to reduce the risk to public health during a pandemic. The right to manifest religious belief is protected, but not absolute. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, also signed by the United States, religious freedom can be limited in the interests ...
First NFL player to kneel and thank Jesus in the end zone said caring for souls and helping people in poverty were more meaningful than fame.
Herb Lusk II went down in history on a Friday night in August 1977.
The tailback for the Philadelphia Eagles caught an easy toss from the quarterback, tucked the football into the crook of his arm, slipped between a knot of players on his left, and sprinted 70 yards down the field to score a fourth-quarter touchdown. Then, in the end zone, in front of 48,000 yelling fans, he got down on one knee and prayed.
According to the official record keepers, he was the first to do that in the National Football League. He bowed his head, said, “Thank you, Jesus,” and that was history.
But Lusk, who died on Monday at age 69, insisted to the end of his life that that wasn’t the most important day of his professional football career. The most important was the second day of training in 1979, when he woke up in his dorm room and said, “I can’t play football.”
“Man,” his teammate said from the other bed, “this is only the second day of camp.”
“For you,” Lusk said. “For me it’s the last day.”
He was done with football. He was going to be a Baptist minister.
The coach tried to talk him out of it. So did his dad, who was himself a Baptist minister. His father got on the phone and argued more people would see Lusk pray in an end zone than would ever lay eyes on him in a pulpit.
“Dad, I don’t think that’s enough anymore,” Lusk recalled saying. “I woke up in the dorm room and I knew it was over for me. I could feel the Lord’s call.”
Lusk quit football that day and committed himself to ministry. He became a dynamic, powerhouse pastor who turned a dying, debt-burdened congregation into a vibrant community of faith and a vital ...
Married parents and their kids have a calling that needs to be expanded, not obliterated.
In pockets of Western Protestant culture, the image of a happy, put-together family unit has become an idol. Many of our church programming budgets are directed toward attracting young families, and those members who aren’t inside a traditional family unit are keenly aware of their status.
Singles become a problem to fix or fix up. Lone parents are pitied, and older unmarried adults get relegated to seniors’ clubs, widow support groups, or some other socially palliative program.
Christian authors are taking notice and rightly challenging how we think about marriage, family, and singleness in the church. For example, an excerpt from author Sam Allberry’s book 7 Myths about Singleness recently appeared in Plough magazine, detailing how singles and families with children benefit when they integrate their lives.
Allberry argues that nuclear families are too privatized and insulated from those around them. Other public figures like David Brooks have recently made similar claims.
Although Allberry’s insights are spot-on, editors at Plough added a subtitle that seems to move beyond his position. Their choice of phrasing reflects a sentiment I’ve observed among fellow Christians: “The concept of the nuclear family does a disservice to singles and families, and it’s not consistent with New Testament teachings.”
Nuclear family is increasingly wielded as a pejorative term and almost always used without a clear definition. Sometimes the term encapsulates gender roles with a breadwinner father and a homemaker mother. Other times it’s meant to describe the middle-class, suburban lifestyle. Allberry uses the phrase in reference to self-sufficient, sequestered families who are isolated from ...
Even among the faithful, Christian orthodoxy has taken a backseat to cultural and political tribalism.
As my colleague Stefani McDade reported earlier this week, Lifeway Research released a survey conducted for Ligonier Ministries. It concludes that a shockingly high percentage of American evangelicals hold beliefs about Jesus and salvation that every wing of the Christian church would define as heresy.
If these results are accurate, what does that mean for where American evangelical Christianity is headed?
To recap, the survey showed that evangelical respondents expressed a confusing and sometimes incoherent mix of beliefs. Most affirmed the Trinity, but 73 percent at least partially agreed with the statement that “Jesus was the first and greatest being created by God the Father,” which is, of course, the teaching of the heretic Arius.
I’m generally a little skeptical of these sorts of surveys, since they often seem to filter out those who believe but can’t articulate their beliefs in abstract terms. I’m not sure that any of my childhood Sunday school teachers would have agreed with a survey statement that “justification is by faith alone,” even though they all believed that. That said, Lifeway seems to have accounted for and filtered through many of those research problems.
I suspect most of us, though, are not surprised by the results. Today’s American evangelical Christianity seems to be more focused on hunting heretics internally than perhaps in any other generation. The difference, however, is that excommunications are happening not over theological views but over partisan politics or the latest social media debates.
I’ve always found it a bit disconcerting to see fellow evangelicals embrace Christian leaders who teach heretical views of the ...
As the predominantly Asian American church network expands to dozens of college towns, former members come forward with claims of spiritual abuse.
Gracepoint Church checks all the boxes of a college ministry success story.
Founded in 1981 around the concept of whole-life discipleship, the church—then known as Berkland Baptist—established itself as a home for Asian American students attending the University of California, Berkeley. With the mission to plant “an Acts 2 church in every college town,” Gracepoint stands out among the loose network of predominantly Asian American college churches that pepper campuses across the West Coast and beyond.
Located on over 60 campuses, it has launched church plants in 35 cities nationwide, as well as one in Taiwan, with 15 new churches planted in 2021 alone.
At campus clubs like Klesis and Acts2Fellowship, Gracepoint pushes college students to wrestle with tough questions and pursue church mentorship. At graduation, it encourages young Christians to live life on mission by joining staff at one of its campuses or helping launch a new one. Staying at Gracepoint has a strong appeal, echoing the coming-of-age films that ask, Why can’t college last forever?
“I guess you could say we were just a bunch of people who enjoyed college life so much that we never left it,” the church quips in a promotional video.
“I think people experience a spiritual vibrancy and potency and just a warmth and depth of relationship with God that they haven’t experienced elsewhere,” said Michael Kim, a member at the church’s Santa Barbara campus who was raised at Gracepoint. “For serving members, it’s high pressure, high labor, high toil, but high gratification.”
Five Christian leaders weigh the factors they hope are guiding the church as it prepares for the October presidential election.
Since the start of Brazil’s 2022 presidential election, national and international electoral news has focused on the role that faith will play in next month’s race—and for good reason: Religious concerns have dominated the talking points of both Jair Bolsonaro’s and Luiz Inácio (“Lula”) da Silva’s campaigns. Whether it’s discussing COVID-19 church closures or the spiritual fight between good and evil, the candidates have seemingly preferred to prioritize these issues at the expense of others such as unemployment, inflation, climate change, or foreign policy.
According to political analysts, the candidates are betting, especially Bolsonaro, that the most-responsive electorate are evangelicals — which in Brazil means "protestants" and encompasses both classic evangelical and Pentecostal denominations as well as neo-Pentecostals. The data backs him up. Nearly half of evangelicals (48%) say they’ll vote for Bolsonaro, compared to only a quarter (26%) for Lula, according to a late-August poll from the Inteligência em Pesquisa e Consultoria (IPEC). A Datafolha poll from mid-September shows similar numbers: 49 percent of evangelicals say they’ll vote for Bolsonaro compared to 32 percent for Lula. Evangelicals make up about 25–30 percent of the country’s total electorate.
While the evangelical universe in Brazil is multifaceted, evangelical pastors hold significant sway over their congregations. Roughly speaking, it is possible to say that a group of pastors who have no problem offering political opinions from the pulpit have strongly influenced a significant portion of evangelical voters. The media has picked up on this as well, to ...
Four questions to ask about biblical political engagement.
When Tennesseans go to vote this Election Day, they’ll be asked whether they want to amend an unusual section of their state constitution: a ban on ministers of religion seeking a seat in the state legislature. The clause, whose curious history has been reported by CT, hasn’t been enforced since the 1970s, when the Supreme Court ruled it an unacceptable constraint on religious rights. It’s still on the books, but pastors in Tennessee already can and do run for state house.
This amendment hits the question of Christian political engagement squarely on the nose. It’s a well-worn topic—evangelicals’ voting records, partisan alignment, policy positions, generational trends, and denominational differences are amply documented in the media.
Meanwhile, Christians are busily preaching sermons and writing books to call one another to faithful political engagement. The message varies widely depending on who’s doing the preaching or writing: One man’s faithfulness is another’s capitulation to a godless culture of death.
But while we talk endlessly about faith and politics, I suspect few of us have an explicit and practical theory of political engagement. That is, we have a general inclination or sense of obligation to participate in politics in a way that involves our faith, but exactly what does that entail? I’d suggest there are four questions we should be asking here, two of which tend to get short shrift.
1. What does Scripture say about X?
This question is straightforward and the one we’re most used to asking (illustrated by a recent CT piece: “Is Student Loan Forgiveness Biblical?”). Of course, Scripture doesn’t speak directly to most modern policy ...
Black denominational leaders have formally asked for a national monument to the 1908 Springfield race riot, and a new national survey reveals more public lands Black clergy want memorialized.
In Lower Manhattan, people in suits pass by a green space with a modest stone monument on their way to the city’s big courthouses. They rarely stop to notice the African Burial Ground National Monument, marking the historic site where more than 15,000 Africans were buried when the city banned slave burials in church cemeteries.
The burial ground was discovered during a construction project in 1991 and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993. Yet it took more than a decade of political pushing and preservation work before the National Park Service (NPS) opened the site as a national monument.
Now Black church leaders are pressing the federal agency to develop more memorials like this one. They want to mark Black history on public land, and they have specific spots in mind like the site of the 2015 church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina.
This month, leaders of some of the largest Black Protestant denominations and several state Baptist conventions made formal overtures to the park service to memorialize a site connected with the 1908 Springfield race riots in Illinois. The NPS—which oversees historical markers and memorials on public land, such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC—currently has no sites documenting lynchings or mass killings of African Americans.
Separately, in a new survey from the National Religious Partnership for the Environment (NRPE), 700 Black church leaders listed their suggestions for possible memorial sites, noting that they felt their past input on public lands had been “politely ignored.”
Among the most popular responses were sites honoring Black leaders such as Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, and Frederick Douglass as well as ...
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