Author: Trumpet Media

Christians Invented Health Insurance. Can They Make Something Better?

How to heal a medical system that abandons the vulnerable.

In seven years, Bethany Joy Kim has cycled through Obamacare, a Christian health care sharing ministry, state insurance, employer-based insurance, and back to Obamacare.

Kim’s biggest concern, amid her various insurance experiences, has been cost. She was living in Arizona in 2014 when she purchased insurance through the marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But her premiums increased and she couldn’t find doctors who would accept her plan, so eventually she canceled it.

When Kim and her husband moved to Wisconsin in late 2017, she was expecting. She qualified for BadgerCare, the state’s insurance program for pregnant women and children. Not long after, the family got insurance through her husband’s new employer. Even with about $600 taken out of her husband’s paycheck each month to pay for premiums (the employer paid the other half), Kim was surprised that they still spent thousands of dollars annually out of pocket in the form of copays and uncovered percentages.

“When I look at the amount I pay in for the library system or the fire department, that seems reasonable. When I look at what I pay for health care, it doesn’t make sense to me anymore,” Kim said. She is hardly alone: The average premium for family insurance coverage last year was $20,000, a 54 percent increase from a decade earlier.

In between Obamacare and state insurance, when Kim was without insurance, she joined Medi-Share, one of several major nationwide Christian health care sharing ministries (HCSMs). Since 2010, when HCSMs and their members were exempted from various ACA requirements, these ministries have seen a dramatic increase in enrollment and now count over 1.5 million members.


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Biblical Freedom and the Unmasking of Evangelicals

How do we navigate competing definitions of liberty?

There are two competing ideas on personal liberty that inspire two vastly different understandings of the fundamental nature of freedom. One was recorded 2000 years ago and has guided Christ followers from countless cultures through a myriad of history’s most tumultuous moments. The other is comparatively much younger, more culturally constricted, and considerably less charitable.

Woven into the theological fabric of many evangelicals is a national allegiance that syncretistically mutates a more historical theological understanding of biblical freedom into a less demanding variant. For most, I would assume, this is an unconscious theological stance that has become unwittingly assimilated into a larger cultural dogma. A position that naturally evolved from generations of selfless patriotism, national pride and a sincere love for Jesus. For many, this overriding cultural narrative of love for God and country can be as wholesome as apple pie.

And in many ways, it is, but certainly not in all.

What happens when our cultural understanding of liberty (personal rights) collides with a biblical understanding of liberty (personal surrender)? What does it say of our theological understanding of biblical freedom when we litigate in order to stand shoulder to shoulder, barefaced declaring “with arms high and hearts abandoned” that our greatest spiritual liberty is our lawful freedom to assert our personal rights?

It seems that to many of us, whether unconsciously or with great and dark premeditation, we have substituted biblical freedom (being free to sacrifice for others) to a cultural concept of freedom (free to exercise my rights) as a world watches our example in horror. Instead of being known for our leadership in …

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Wheaton College Graduate School Partners with Reformed Church in America

A new graduate school cohort with emphasis on ministry leadership, in partnership with Reformed Church of America.

Wheaton College Graduate School is very excited to share that we have engaged in a collaboration with the Reformed Church in America to train missional leaders in non-traditional ways. Our intent is to provide the traditional excellence of the Wheaton College Graduate School with a particular emphasis on ministry leadership, in partnership with the RCA. To do this, we will be creating a cohort of RCA leaders who will go through the program together, and will also be incorporating leaders from the RCA who are going to assist us in equipping these students and leaders.

The M.A. in Ministry Leadership allows leaders to grow in their Biblical knowledge and leadership skills as they continue to shepherd and grow their ministry. It’s designed to help any church leader translate theology into compelling practical ways to serve their people.

Students do not generally relocate, but the degree is delivered in modular (one week) courses at Wheaton and on location, in addition to online course options.

Although M.A. students share the same hunger for growing in biblical knowledge and ministry skill, they also bring a variety of viewpoints and experiences, coming from different backgrounds. We believe RCA students will see the value of collaboration and learning in an evangelical context that values the ministry training of men and women from different cultures and environments.

Author and speaker, Ann Voskamp, is among a group of leaders in ministry who have recently decided to become students again through Wheaton College’s School of Mission, Ministry and Leadership. I’ve interviewed her here, along with Christine Caine with Propel here, and James Meeks with Salem Baptist Church here, to give others a feel for the program. …

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Died: Thomas Howard, Author Who Said ‘Evangelical Is Not Enough’

In spiritual memoirs, son of prominent Christian family wrote about finding the fullness of his childhood faith in the Catholic church.

Thomas Howard, a prominent evangelical English professor who converted to Roman Catholicism, died last week at 85.

Howard marked out a path to Rome in his spiritual memoirs, notably Christ the Tiger, Evangelical Is Not Enough, Lead, Kindly Light, and On Being Catholic. He wrote with grace and gentle wit about his journey from evangelical son to bow-tied Anglican professor and then to Catholic convert, received into what he came to see as the one true church.

An unknown number of educated young evangelicals followed Howard into Catholicism, and more found their own spiritual longings articulated in his prose. Howard’s love for liturgy and a concern for orderliness and unity drew him to the church, even as he continued to appreciate and celebrate aspects of his childhood faith.

“He found in the church something thicker than he found in Anglicanism, as in Anglicanism he’d found something thicker than he’d found in evangelicalism,” wrote author David Mills in a tribute for the Catholic Herald. “A mix of gratitude for the religion of his youth and courtesy to those still there kept him from a more explicit kind of apologetics.”

Howard was born into a leading evangelical family in Philadelphia in 1935. His parents had served as missionaries to Catholic Belgium before returning to the United States in the 1920s so his father Philip E. Howard Jr. could run the Sunday School Times. The weekly newspaper was the largest in the country for self-identified fundamentalists, and the elder Howard succeeded his uncle Charles Gallaudet Trumbull as editor, who had himself succeeded his father, Henry Clay Trumbull.

“Our group held to what it saw as Biblical Christianity and protested the mass apostasy …

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Swiss Missionary Executed, Fellow Hostages Freed

Beatrice Stockli was kidnapped by Islamist extremists in Timbuktu, Mali, in January 2016.

A Swiss missionary Beatrice Stöckli—kidnapped from Timbuktu, Mali in January 2016—was killed only weeks before other hostages were freed by Islamist extremists, in an apparent prisoner-hostage swap negotiated by the new transitional government in Mali.

News of her execution came from Sophie Petronin, a 75-year-old French aid worker, freed on October 8, who had apparently been held by the same, or a linked Islamist militia group. (Petronin has converted to Islam and now calls herself Mariam).

The Swiss Foreign Ministry expressed its sorrow that Stöckli, a single woman in her late 40s, was “apparently killed by kidnappers of the Islamist terrorist organization Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslim (JNIM) about a month ago.” It said the exact circumstances of the killing are currently still unclear.

“It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of our fellow citizen,” said Swiss Federal Councilor Ignazio Cassis. “I condemn this cruel act and express my deepest sympathy to the relatives.”

The Swiss authorities said they “worked over the past four years, together with the relevant Malian authorities and with international partners, to ensure that the Swiss citizen was released and can return to her family. Members of the Federal Council have personally and repeatedly lobbied the relevant Malian authorities for her release. An interdepartmental task force under the leadership of the Foreign Affairs Ministry was deployed. The task force also included representatives of…[the police, the intelligence services]…and the Federal Prosecutor’s Office. In addition, the authorities were in constant contact with the victim’s family.”

Now, …

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Democratic Candidate Says She Has the Faith to Turn Western Michigan Blue

Hillary Scholten hopes to flip a House seat with appeals to deep Dutch Reformed roots.

Editor’s note: This profile is the second in a CT series featuring Christian candidates from both parties who are running for Congress in November.

In a campaign that’s all about different visions of leadership, voters can learn a lot from seeing how a candidate connects. Hillary Scholten, an immigration lawyer and West Michigan native running for an open US House seat in the state’s 3rd District, speaks with confidence and a gentle authority.

Then she says, “You know?”

Because she wants to make sure you do. As Scholten explains how she learned a sense of justice from her schoolteacher mom and then became an attorney in Barack Obama’s justice department because she believes in helping people, the Democratic candidate wants to make sure that you understand and that you feel understood.

“I think so much of the divide in our country comes from people seeking to be first, to dominate first and not understand first,” Scholten told Christianity Today. “We need a compassionate representative for the community.”

Scholten is trying to beat Republican Peter Meijer and a win over voters in a district that has been reliably Republican since the lines were redrawn and Paul Henry, son of CT founding editor Carl Henry, became its representative in 1993. Her plan involves a lot of conversations where she can connect with voters and explain how her Christian faith shapes her Democratic politics.

Scholten’s campaign puts a major focus on her church commitments and her deep rootedness in the Dutch Reformed community of the area. Her great-great-grandparents emigrated from the Netherlands, her parents raised her in the Christian Reformed Church, and her husband teaches journalism at …

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Azerbaijan Evangelicals: Conflict with Armenians Is Not a Religious War

Young but growing community of former Muslims says Armenian warnings about genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh hurt the spread of the gospel.

Vadim Melnikov once fought for the land of Noah.

Donning his Azerbaijani uniform 17 years ago, the ethnic Russian took his post to defend Nakhchivan, an Azeri enclave bordering Turkey and separated from their countrymen by the nation of Armenia.

Known in both the Armenian and Azeri languages as “the place of descent,” referring to Noah’s landing on nearby Mt. Ararat, Nakhchivan is a geographical reminder of the mixed ethnic composition of the Caucasus Mountains.

As is Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan.

Its etymology is also a reminder of the region’s diversity. Nagorno is Russian for mountains, while Karabakh combines the Turkic for black and the Persian for garden.

Armenians call it Artsakh, the name of a province in their ancient kingdom. For the last three weeks, they have been defending their de facto control of the region as Azerbaijan fights to reassert its sovereignty.

As Melnikov did decades ago in Nakhchivan. Armenian soldiers crossed into Azeri mountain villages, before his unit drove them out.

This was one of the many border conflicts that followed a war of demography. But in the years before and after the 1991 independence of both nations, about 30,000 people were killed as hundreds of thousands on both sides fled or were driven to their lands of ethnic majority.

A 1994 ceasefire established the status quo, and the Minsk Group—headed by Russia, France, and the United States—preside over negotiations.

Despite the previous ethnic violence, Azerbaijan boasts that it remains a nation of multicultural tolerance. Of its 10 million population, 96 percent are Muslim—roughly two-thirds Shiite and one-third Sunni. Russian Orthodox represent two-thirds of the Christian …

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The Most Diverse Small Town in America Mourns Refugee Cuts

The election could determine the future of resettlement ministries in Clarkston, Georgia.

The small city of Clarkston, Georgia, has been called “the most diverse square mile in America” and “the Ellis Island of the South.”

Since 1979, World Relief’s Atlanta office assisted thousands of refugee families who resettled there, helping them find apartments and apply for jobs, enrolling their children in local schools, bringing them to medical appointments, and giving them a hand with paperwork.

Then, on a quiet morning last fall, the agency’s former director, Joshua Sieweke, got the call that his office—like other branches in Nashville, Miami, and Columbus, Ohio—would be shutting down.

Though the evangelical organization remained as dedicated as ever, there were simply far fewer opportunities to help and much less funding to do so. The number of admitted refugees had dwindled from a national cap of 110,000 in the previous administration to 45,000, then 30,000, then 18,000 under President Donald Trump.

That day in 2019, Sieweke called the pastor of his church to update their network of prayer partners. After serving with World Relief for 20 years and personally helping over 10,000 refugees resettle in the community, Sieweke told him, “I feel like my calling is being taken away.”

Sieweke, fellow former World Relief staffers, and a city packed full of Christian ministry workers and refugees themselves have been forced to rethink how their mission could continue. This month, the Trump administration announced, as predicted, another record low: Just 15,000 refugees will be welcomed into the US over the next fiscal year.

John Arnold, a 23-year veteran of World Relief Atlanta, joined the Welcome Co-op, a new nonprofit formed last year to make the most efficient use of …

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Harvest Settles Multimillion-Dollar Agreement with James MacDonald

In Christian arbitration, the preacher was granted $1.45 million and the rights to Walk in the Word.

Harvest Bible Chapel has reached a multimillion-dollar agreement to transfer some of its assets to former pastor James MacDonald, who plans to continue in ministry outside the Chicago-area megachurch.

Harvest and MacDonald had a contentious separation last year, when he lost the position he held for 30 years over “inappropriate” comments and “harmful” conduct stemming from his legal battle with people investigating the church.

Though MacDonald has been granted the rights to his Walk in the Word ministry, he and Harvest remain at odds. The two entities released separate statements detailing the results of the process, which went through the Institute for Christian Conciliation. Over the summer, they agreed to try to make a joint statement and start the process of “relational reconciliation,” the Harvest elders said, but the efforts didn’t pan out.

In the arbitration, MacDonald retained the rights to Walk in the Word, a part of the church that had put on his teaching ministry and popular radio broadcast. It is now operating at James MacDonald Ministries.

The pastor also gets $1.2 million and a parcel of property in Crystal Lake, Illinois, as well the ministry’s equipment, books, and digital resources, the church announced this week.

In 2019, Harvest initially did not release these assets, assuring the congregation, “none of Harvest Bible Chapel’s or Walk in the Word’s donations or assets have gone to James, and we will not be giving him anything in the future” since his termination was “with cause.” The year prior, Walk in the Word brought in close to $8.5 million, with 2,000 stations airing the show.

Harvest will also …

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Turks and Armenians Reconcile in Christ. Can Azeris Join Them?

Confessing the genocide, Turkish evangelicals seek forgiveness on behalf of their nation. With ongoing war in Nagorno-Karabakh, is there a path forward also with Azerbaijan’s believers?

Bahri Beytel never thought he would find Turkish food in Armenia.

An ethnic Turk and former Muslim, the pastor of Bethel Church in Istanbul skipped McDonalds and KFC in Yerevan, the capital city, in order to complete a spiritual mission.

Six years ago, prompted to take a journey of reconciliation, he went in search of an authentic Armenian restaurant—and found lahmajun, a flatbread topped with minced meat, vegetables, and spices.

One letter was off from the Turkish spelling. Smiling, he ordered it anyway, in English.

“Are you a Turk?” snapped the owner—in Turkish—after Beytel pronounced it incorrectly. “God spare me from becoming a Turk.”

The owner’s family hailed from Gaziantep, near Turkey’s border with Syria, which before the genocide was a mixed religious city with a thriving Armenian community. Ignoring the insult, the pastor explained he was a Christian, not a Muslim, and had come to ask for forgiveness on behalf of his ancestors.

Up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1914–1923, as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. Once home to many diverse Christian communities, the modern state was built on a secular but ethnic Turkish foundation.

No Turk can be a Christian, the restaurant owner scoffed. He demanded the secret sign made centuries ago by believers in the catacombs.

Beytel drew the fish.

By the end of the conversation, the man gave him a hug, with a tear in his eye.

“If Turkey takes one step, the Armenians are ready to forgive,” said Beytel, of his time at a conference in the Armenian capital. “It was amazing to hear them call me brother.”

There was more to come. One year later, Beytel was 1 of about 15 Turkish Christians to apologize at …

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