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Author: Trumpet Media

The Business of Evangelical Book Publishing Is Business

Or is it faith? Or some complex combination of both?

The evangelist Billy Sunday wasn’t afraid to try something new. He would jump on top of a pulpit if he thought it would get attention. He would sell shares of a revival tabernacle, complete with “stock certificates” guaranteeing the bearer a portion of the proceeds, if he thought it would bring in enough money to fund the business of preaching the gospel.

He was a man who believed in innovation. But this was surprising even for him.

In 1934, Sunday was deciding who would publish his next book. He had two publishers, William Eerdmans and Pat Zondervan, come meet him at the same time. Each man was surprised to find the other in the meeting. Then Sunday asked them both to pray out loud. In a prayer competition. Which he would judge. The two men did pray, Sunday judged that Zondervan’s extemporaneous prayer was best, and he awarded the 25-year-old’s company with the contract for Billy Sunday Speaks!

The story is kind of a parable of American evangelicalism. As a parable, it raises a question: Which of these men acted out of faith and which from commercial interest?

Daniel Vaca, an American religious historian at Brown University, offers a clear answer in his new book, Evangelicals Incorporated: Books and the Business of Religion in America. He says all three. All three were acting out of faith. All three were acting out of commercial interest. In fact, when looking at the history of contemporary American evangelicalism, it doesn’t make sense to distinguish between the commercial and the religious.

“Evangelicalism exemplifies what I describe as ‘commercial religion,’” Vaca writes. “Religion that takes shape through the ideas, activities, and strategies that typify commercial …

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The How and the Why of Writing as a Christian

An experienced editor shows how well-crafted words can help us serve God and neighbor.

Rarely does an aspiring writer get invited to sit with an ink-dyed editor to hash over the finer points of storytelling. Twenty-five years ago, fresh out of college, I landed a journalism gig at Maine’s smallest daily newspaper, which happened to have a writing coach. Every Friday after our morning deadline, five other staff reporters and I would gather at a local sandwich shop for lunch with Willis, a former Vietnam War correspondent, who would open a manila file filled with clippings of everything we’d written that week and spread them across the table. Then, over burgers and fries, he’d analyze each article, sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph, showing us how to make our writing stronger. His feedback showed. Despite the paper’s diminutive size, we regularly won top awards from the Maine Press Association.

For those who don’t have access to such a coach, longtime editor Andrew T. Le Peau serves the same wise writing instruction in his new book Write Better: A Lifelong Editor on Craft, Art, and Spirituality. This is the book for anyone who has said, “I’d like to write, but I don’t know where to begin”—whether you’d like to write a shorter piece for a newspaper or magazine or to write a full-length book. It’s also for those with more experience who’d like to make their writing even better. Le Peau, who worked for more than 40 years as an editor at InterVarsity Press, has also written several Bible studies and books. In the preface to his writing guide he says his desire throughout his career has been “to help people express their ideas as clearly and powerfully as possible.” The same motivation, he says, inspired this book. …

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British Evangelicals Brace for Brexit

Politics remain divisive, but churches seek unity in prayer.

British evangelicals are divided over Brexit. The January 31 deadline for the nation’s departure from the European Union is fast approaching, and Thursday’s elections gave the Conservative Party a historic victory and “a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done,” according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. As evangelicals absorb the news, they are grappling with the political tumult, the ongoing uncertainty, and the question of what a Christian should do in these difficult times.

The Evangelical Alliance of the United Kingdom (EAUK) has been urging everyone to pray, posting a prayer to social media every Thursday “to ask God for His peace, grace and guidance.” It’s an effort at unity amid division. The EAUK has remained “studiously impartial” on Brexit, “to reflect the diversity of political opinions” among evangelicals, according to spokesman Danny Webster.

If there’s a chance to come together, Webster believes, it’s in prayer. “We can pray for wisdom for our leaders,” Webster told CT, “whether we agree with them or not.”

Britain itself has been deeply divided over the plans to leave the European Union. In 2016, 52 percent of the population voted for leave. Debates about how to do that, exactly, have roiled UK politics ever since, as two successive prime ministers struggled to negotiate a divorce with the EU that can also get approved by Parliament.

A slight majority of evangelicals voted remain. According to a 2016 study immediately before the vote, 51 percent supported staying in the EU, 27 percent wanted Brexit, and 22 percent were undecided. In the last three years, British evangelicals across the spectrum have expressed …

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Solar Light of the World: Evangelicals Launch Global Clean Energy Campaign

The initiative aims to convert 1 in 5 WEA churches and institutions to renewable power by 2025.

Solar panels could be coming soon to a church near you. Through a campaign called Project 20.’25, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has set out to get 20 percent of its members to convert fully to clean energy by 2025.

This fall, the global network announced its partnership with Smart Roofs Solar Inc. Together they will help universities, health care facilities, and churches looking to adopt clean power, including offering guidance for local suppliers and providing financing options. The renewable energy initiative builds on the WEA’s efforts to promote creation care, said Chris Elisara, director of the WEA Creation Care Task Force.

Clean energy reduces air pollution, which improves human health and productivity; preserves nonrenewable resources; and cuts down on the emission of greenhouse gases that trap heat and can fuel, among other things, extreme weather that impacts food production and human safety.

“Christians should be at the forefront of efforts to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions because we know that this is our Father’s world,” Galen Carey, the National Association of Evangelicals’ vice president of government relations, told CT. “We also know that these efforts will particularly benefit our most vulnerable neighbors, those whose health and livelihoods most directly depend on clean air and a stable climate.”

There is also a financial benefit to making the shift to renewable energy, with wind and solar power being the most cost-efficient sources when installing new electricity-generating capacity.

“It doesn’t only make environmental and social justice sense—it makes economic sense,” said Brent Nelson, a group manager in the materials …

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Is the Wisdom of Mary Unique for a Teenager?

Psychology suggests why we shouldn’t look down on the faith of the young.

A version of this article was first published in the Advent Series from Science in the Church. To sign up for content like this, please visit the website.

“A 14-year-old girl is pregnant. What should she, what should one, consider and do?”

This question was posed by a premier wisdom researcher a couple thousand years after Mary and Joseph may have faced a similar quandary. We don’t actually know Mary’s age when she became pregnant with Jesus because the Gospel accounts don’t tell us, but many scholars suggest she was a teenager, and perhaps in the first half of her teenage years.

If this question seems hard to answer now, it was difficult then, too. Artists may put a halo over the baby Jesus to represent his divinity, but he also was birthed into the gritty human reality of a confusing and conflictual world brimming with hard questions. To be fully human is to live amidst the difficulties of embodied life, where wisdom is required of us every day.

Wisdom for the Christian Life

Several years ago, one of my doctoral students with prior theological training announced that he wanted to do his dissertation on wisdom. I replied, “Paul, that’s a great idea, but psychologists don’t really study wisdom.” He went to the library and proved me wrong. It turns out there is a vibrant science of wisdom. In the last part of the 20th century, much of it occurred at the University of Berlin, where researcher Paul Baltes and his colleagues developed a way to measure wisdom by asking people to respond to challenging questions, such as the one about a 14-year-old pregnant girl. That research continues today at places like the Center for Practical Wisdom at the University of Chicago.

My …

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Lies Pastors Believe, Part One

Pastors are called on constantly to help people fix their lives, because pastors minister to people who are broken. But pastors are broken people, too.

Pastoring is difficult. Ask any pastor how the day is going and about 360 days of the year you’ll hear at least one challenge that day—relational, spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental. Roughly five days a year we feel like we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Those are precious days when so many are filled with defeat, discomfort, or discouragement.

Pastors are called on constantly to help people fix their lives, because pastors minister to people who are broken. But pastors are broken people, too. It’s easy to want to come up with the quick fix, the perfect remedy. I just need a plan! we muse to ourselves. I just need a strategy, or, I wish I could stay committed to the strategy I have, we think. Or, I need more sleep. I need more sabbath-ing.

I want to give eight lies pastors believe—those which can pull us off the beaten path traveled by godly leaders in generations past. Part One looks at the first four.

1. I just need more plans and strategies, and I will be a better leader.

Pastors tend to be doers, and in our doing we can forget that who we are in Christ matters far more than what we do for Christ. Derwin Gray summed up the recent G2 Summit’s focus succinctly: “The greatest work God wants to see done is not ministry THROUGH you, but ministry IN you.”

When pastors give and minister to the point of mental or emotional exhaustion we can begin to believe the lie that the answer to every challenge is a new plan or strategy: just give me the one strategy, the “magic bullet” I can use to lead my church to do ______, and I am set. There is no magic bullet. We don’t need a magic bullet. We need Jesus.

The only way to lead better is by letting God love you better. …

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Inspired Questions: A New Approach to Prison Ministry

As we intentionally draw attention to the Scriptures, which reveal Jesus’s power, presence, ministry, words, deeds, miracles, and wisdom, we should also give concerted attention to the very questions the Holy Spirit inspired for us to read and consider. 

As a full-time prison chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, I have searched the Scriptures to learn as much as possible about every person who spent time in prison, like Joseph, Daniel, John the Baptist, and Paul.

I have explored various prison ministries to discover the creative approaches others have taken to sustain faithful and fruitful ministries by God’s grace, like Prison Fellowship, The Institute for Prison Ministries, and The Heart of Texas Foundation.

But one thing I had not considered doing until somewhat recently—nor seen others do elsewhere—is engage inmates with inspired questions.

What Are Inspired Questions?

Inspired questions are the ones already asked in God’s inspired Word—the Bible. Do you remember all the questions God asked Job? Do you recall Queen Sheba traveling far to ask Solomon questions? Have you ever noticed how often Jesus asked and was asked questions?

Indeed, questions are numerically significant in Scripture, even if often overlooked. The New Testament alone contains approximately 980 questions.

For example, here are a few questions Paul asked or was asked in the Book of Acts while in custody:

  • “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)
  • “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges?” (Acts 25:9)
  • “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?” (Acts 26:27)
  • “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28)

Using These Questions for Prison Ministry

As we intentionally draw attention to the Scriptures, which reveal Jesus’s power, presence, ministry, words, deeds, miracles, and wisdom, we should also give concerted attention to the very questions the Holy Spirit inspired …

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Lies Pastors Believe, Part Two

Before we look at strategy or plans, let’s first look to Jesus and to what he wants to do in and through us. After all, he led us into ministry, and he can give us the strength and guidance to help us continue, and finish well, no matter how long the journey ahead. 

In the first article we dealt with four lies pastors can easily believe. Here are four more that can deceive pastors if we aren’t careful.

5. I just need to love God better!

This one is so easy because, like so many lies, it has an element of truth to it. We do want to love God with our heart, soul, and strength. But we tend to get this wrong because of our innate tendency toward self-justification and self-righteousness.

Whenever we put ourselves or our performance at the center, things go sideways in a hurry. It’s not about you loving God. It’s about God loving you. We love the One who first loved us.

This is why grace is so amazing: God loved us when we were unlovely. To paraphrase Jonathan Edwards, the only thing you brought to salvation was your sin. And yet God loved you so much Jesus died for you. You are his child; he’s not mad at you.

Try as you might, even if you did everything right, you would still be an imperfect person trying to love God better. Take some time to just rest in the knowledge that God loves you.

Sometimes pastors do a better job of telling others the truth about who they are in Christ than believing the same truth they teach others also applies to them. Understanding our identity in Christ may be the most important issue for the church in our changing times today.

Who you are in Christ defines you, not what you have or haven’t accomplished, or how well you love. Drew Hyun reminded us at the Summit, “What you do matters, but who you are matters more.”

6. God is disappointed in me for not doing _______ .

We have a tendency to think of God like we do people. We have anthropomorphized him such that our default mindset is of a towering figure shaking his finger at all …

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Our Favorite New Christian Christmas Albums of the Year

Mix up your holiday listening with releases from Phil Wickham, Audrey Assad, and others.

If your Christmas playlist needs another voice—someone besides Mariah Carey to get you in the spirit of the season—there are plenty of varieties of carols, hymns, and festive tunes to choose from.

Even the newest Christian Christmas albums offer a shiny array, from jazzed-up classics and sing-along worship songs to haunting seasonal reflections.

Here are six recent releases that have earned their place among our beloved favorites. (And check out this Spotify playlist to hear all the recommendations from the picks below.)

Fragile by Nichole Nordeman

This is not an album that candy-coats the holidays. Nichole Nordeman’s title track “Fragile” is an intelligently woven medley that wistfully draws the favorite carol “What Child Is This?” into conversation with Sting’s “Fragile.” The result is a remarkably fresh version of this age-old tune and particularly relevant to contemporary life. The entire 41 minutes of production is silky smooth, and its movement in mood is sublime. Lyrics dive deep into the struggle with reconciliation and loss: “So I will swallow hard to say this / It might be a little rough / If the world wants peace for Christmas / Might it not begin with us?” But it still finds room for joy as well as plenty of beloved carols in Nordeman’s iconic style, including “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Cue up this album as your soundtrack for drinking cocoa on Christmas Eve and catching up with family while candles flicker in the background. Or, even better, give it to a neighbor to start a conversation about faith, doubt, and life.

Christmas by Phil Wickham

Phil Wickham’s guitar-led Christmas …

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Senate’s Genocide Vote Not the Only Good News for Armenian Christians

In addition to historic recognition by US lawmakers, this week a new patriarch was finally elected in Istanbul, Turkey.

Following years of frustration, Armenian Christians worldwide received a double blessing this week.

For the first time in its history, the US Senate recognized the Armenian Genocide. And after 11 years of practical vacancy, the Armenian community in Istanbul, Turkey, elected a new patriarch.

“It is very emotional for the Armenian world, and anyone who wants to see the truth incarnated,” Paul Haidostian, president of evangelical Haigazian University in Beirut, Lebanon—the only Armenian university in the diaspora—told CT concerning the resolution.

“But it is very obvious this was the opportune moment to be bipartisan.”

Led by Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, the unanimous passage yesterday drove his co-sponsor Sen. Robert Menendez to tears.

“I’m thankful that this resolution has passed at a time in which there are still survivors of the genocide,” said the Democrat from New Jersey, pausing for 20 seconds before being able to continue. “[They] will be able to see that the Senate acknowledges what they went through.”

About 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1923, as the defeated Ottoman Empire transitioned into the modern Republic of Turkey. Less than half a million survived.

The resolution also mentions the Greek, Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac, Aramean, Maronite, and other Christian victims who lived in Asia Minor and other Ottoman provinces at the time.

Turkey concedes that many Armenians died in the fighting and aftermath of World War II, though it believes the numbers are inflated. It calls for a joint academic commission of Turkish and Armenian scholars. But it rejects the term “genocide.”

The Senate’s Resolution 150 is a duplicate …

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