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Author: Trumpet Media

In Christ, Alone: Most Believers Say They Don’t Need Others for Discipleship

US Christians are growing in their faith, but many do it on their own, according to LifeWay Research.

Over the past decade, more believers are heeding the scriptural call to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior”—but they’re often doing discipleship on their own.

A wide-ranging survey by LifeWay Research found that while US Christians had made improvements in areas like reading their Bibles daily, prioritizing obedience to Christ, and avoiding temptation, their connections with fellow Christians have weakened.

Hispanic and African American churchgoers may represent an exception to the overall trend, showing even greater progress in discipleship while deepening community ties.

The results came from this year’s 2019 Discipleship Pathway Assessment, which tracks eight measures of belief and practice, and can be compared to a similar study LifeWay conducted in 2011.

Among Protestants who attend church at least once each month:

  • Most believe that an essential part of following Christ is saying “no” to the self and living to glorify God. This year, 66 percent of believers agreed with the statement, “A Christian must learn to deny himself or herself to serve Christ.” Slightly fewer (64%) churchgoers prioritized obedience when LifeWay studied Christian discipleship in 2011.
  • They are spending more time in the Word. In 2019, 59 percent of churchgoers read the Bible every day or a few times each week, compared with 45 percent in 2011.
  • Over three-quarters of respondents agreed with the statement, “I try to avoid situations in which I might be tempted to think or do immoral things,” up from 73 percent who agreed in 2011.

Walking with God, but not others

Despite the gains, the 2019 study shows that today’s Christians struggle to build relationships and share …

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One-on-One with Greg Strand on Premillenialism and the EFCA

“The insistence in the EFCA that you must be premillennial is in conflict with our strong value of unity in the gospel.”

Ed: What was the EFCA’s history with premillenialism? It seems that premillenialism was disproportionally important to the Evangelical Free Church. Why?

Greg: An exclusive premillennial view had not been the Free Church view historically. However, in our more recent history, the merger between the Swedish Free Church and the Norwegian-Danish Free Church occurred between 1946-1950. The emphasis on a pretribulational and premillennial view of Scripture, specifically in the EFCA, was connected to Israel being reborn as a nation, which happened in 1948.

Arnold T. Olson, who served as the merger chairman of the Committee in Unity and the EFCA’s second president (1951-1976), said a number of times that the EFCA came into being “for such a time as this.” In other words, this is, at least according to Olson, the primary reason for and unique role of the EFCA denomination.

Olson writes in This We Believe, 1961,

There was seemingly no interest in the possibility of Israel’s being reborn and restored in Palestine and such other signs as might indicate that the return of Christ was nearer than ever. It is only in recent years that the renewed cry, ‘Behold, He Cometh’ has been heard in the land. Therefore it does not fall in the same traditional category as the rest. [Those issues in our Statement of Faith (SOF) in which we are silent, those doctrines which through the centuries have divided Christians of equal dedication, biblical knowledge, spiritual maturity, and love for Christ.]. The Free Church was born in this revived interest and assurance. It has been convinced that these are the last days and that it was brought into existence ‘for such a time as this.’ The view reflects the …

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Have Archaeologists Found the Lost City of the Apostles?

Recent discoveries have placed the biblical city of Bethsaida closer to shore where Peter and Andrew left their nets to follow Christ.

After recent headlines announced that archaeologists in Israel had uncovered the Church of the Apostles, questions followed. What church is this? And what do these findings tell us about the days of Jesus and his earliest followers?

The world’s attention has turned to a small excavation on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, a project I have been involved with as the academic director since the beginning. Our findings have rekindled the debate about the location for Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip referenced in John 1:44.

Every year millions of Christians travel to the Holy Land in their desire to visit places mentioned in the Bible. They journey from Dan to Beersheba with Bibles in one hand and cameras in the other. Not long ago, no one knew about these places. Yet, today signposts proclaim each location to pilgrims: Caesarea, Megiddo, Capernaum, and more. How did all this happen?

The rediscovery of the land of the Bible has been a slow process that began in earnest in the middle of the 19th century, once European and American travelers could make the trip. Mark Twain famously recorded his visit to the Holy Land in Innocents Abroad (1869). His impressions were not altogether favorable:

We traversed some miles of desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds—a silent, mournful expanse. … A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. …We never saw a human being on the whole route. …There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.

Edward Robinson, a scholar from Union Theological Seminary in New York …

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The Righteous Gemstones Shines Its Satire on a Televangelist Empire

For Christians, is the irreverent, unrighteous HBO comedy a laughing matter?

For most of my life, pop culture and Christianity have resolved to exist separately together.

Though Christ figures and spiritual journeys were common enough pop culture tropes, the entertainment I was drawn to didn’t really concern itself with contemporary Christianity. And the Christianity around me stayed in relative cultural isolation, occasionally creating its own “popular culture” of music, literature, TV, and movies.

And mostly, this was a beneficial arrangement, a kind of peaceful truce.

Recently, though, as our cultural borders are blurring across spheres of society, the separate peace I enjoyed between the church I love and the entertainment I love began to crumble.

Growing up surrounded by both Southern Baptist and prosperity gospel principles, I’ve noticed the ethical fluidity that Christians can apply to money and wealth. Earlier this year, an Instagram account called “PreachersnSneakers” generated a firestorm of reaction when it highlighted certain evangelical pastors and their taste for expensive and culturally fashionable footwear. And for years, a similar ire has surrounded pastors who pay for private jets and mansions.

And now, this corner of the evangelical world—which sometimes feels like satire being played out in real life—has made its way to HBO, in its new series, The Righteous Gemstones.

Starring Danny McBride, Adam Devine, Edi Patterson, and the incomparable John Goodman, The Righteous Gemstones is a heightened look at a family of evangelical royalty. Think the Kennedys, but less polished, more Southern fried, and strategizing Jesus instead of politics.

As the series opens, they’ve just returned from a mission trip to China and they are settling in …

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What Missionaries Can Teach Us in Post-Christian America

Three things American Christians can glean from our brothers and sisters on international missions.

A former Anglican bishop tells the story of when he served as the chaplain of Worcester College, Oxford. It was his duty and privilege to greet every incoming freshman, welcoming them to the university and offering them his guidance. He recalls that the vast majority of students replied in basically the same way: “You won’t be seeing much of me,” they’d say. “I don’t believe in god.”

At this I suspect many Christians would want to launch into a full-scale apologetic, defending the rationality of theism and imploring the student to believe the gospel. Instead, the wise bishop would say, “Oh, that’s interesting. Which god is it that you don’t believe in?”

After recovering from his surprising response, most students would go on to describe some kind of angry sky fairy who occasionally intervened in human affairs but whose main activity involves little more than sending bad people to hell and allowing good people into heaven. To the amazement of nearly every student, the bishop would then reply, “Well, I don’t believe in that god either.”

Welcome to Post-Christian America

There was a time in the Western world when the word “God” had a significant level of intelligibility. Virtually everyone recognized God as a reference to the supernatural being who revealed himself in the life of Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:14–18). Even atheists used the word God in this way, for to be an atheist in the West was to disbelieve in this specific deity.

Today, however, the West is a secularizing, post-Christian culture. And though all of America isn’t post-Christian yet, even the Bible Belt isn’t far behind. We have arrived at the point where …

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Beyond the Outrage: Helping Christians Be Their Best

I have a new six-week study guide to help you navigate our increasingly polarized culture.

We live in a culture saturated in anger, polarization, and tribalism. Every day, there is a new event that ignites a firestorm on social media, in our community, and even across the dinner table.

These cycles seem to be getting shorter and more intense with each passing month. For reference, go and look at the headlines in newspapers from a year ago. The stories that evoked mixtures of shock and vitriol are distant memories even as the scars and broken relationships from the insults hurled remain.

It is not that these events weren’t important. For many, these events had a massive impact even as the rest of the world moved on.

Rather, it seems our world only knows one way to respond to issues so as to treat them as significant: outrage. Nuance, empathy, and exchange are interpreted as weakness. The only way we can convey the importance is by shouting over the crowd. Secure within the echo chambers of our carefully crafted social media feeds, our society seems to be unnervingly willing to demonize anyone outside their walls.

Temptations to Rage

Faced with this anger, it is alarming to watch how easily Christians willfully—if not gleefully—join in. When the volume begins to rise, we match the intensity. More than outliers, I’m convinced we’ve become progressively desensitized to the way we casually and broadly dismiss others. Rather than heed James’ warning, we are quick to anger, refuse to listen, and reserve our love for those who pass certain litmus tests.

As I argued in Christians in the Age of Outrage,

Outrage is motivated by a desire to punish or destroy rather than reconcile and refine. It is frequently accompanied by hubris and a confidence in its judgement, categorically rejecting any nuance. …

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Interview: How Prison Ministry Inspired an All-Female Audio Bible

Working with at-risk and abused women led SBC teacher Ann White to fill an unexpected need.

For years, author, speaker, and Bible teacher Ann White felt a burden to help at-risk women come to know the love of Jesus. Through her work in local American prisons as well as low-income communities in Southeast Asia, White saw a deep need for greater accessibility to Scripture.

As the founder of Courage for Life, an organization dedicated to “strengthen, equip, and empower the world for Christ,” White’s passion to share the good news of Jesus led her to take on a project that’s time had finally come: an all-female-voiced audio recording of Scripture.

The Courage for Life (CFL) Bible is the first audio version of the Word recorded with multiple women’s voices. It features a diverse group of female voice actors reading the New Living Translation. While the New Testament portion launched this year, White is currently fundraising to help finish recording the Old Testament. She spoke with CT about why the female-voiced Bible speaks to both sexes and how CFL plans to reach inmates across the country.

My first thought when hearing about your project was, “This is so long overdue!” Part of me couldn’t believe this hadn’t been done already.

That was my first thought!

Why did you choose to record the New Living Translation, in particular?

In working with local missions in our own backyard, whether it’s women in homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters, safe houses, or incarcerated women, their reading levels are very low. We chose the New Living Translation because it’s a great translation for the women we work with. Even when you take a printed book to someone who doesn’t read a lot or struggles to read, they’re really intimidated by the Bible.

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When Those Who Wander Aren’t Lost

What does it look like to be the Church while members wrestle with their faith?

Just yesterday one of my friends shared a sign that her local YMCA posted which stated this:

We welcome all sizes, all colors, all genders, all beliefs, all religions, all types, all people, EVERYONE. Welcome to the YMCA. You are safe here.

The Young Men’s Christian Association was founded in London in 1844 in response to poor social conditions arising in urban centers at the end of the Industrial Revolution. These young men met for prayer and Bible study.

Fast forward to today and what you have in the YMCA serves as something of a model for us as followers of Christ. Over the past few weeks we have read as well-known Christian leaders have publicly share their struggles in the Christian faith. Although painful to read for a multitude of reasons which cover both their own struggles as well as the church’s witness and actions in our world today, we need to be clear on one thing, and that is this:

What these men are saying in public, thousands, perhaps millions, are wrestling with in private.

Faith is, as Scripture says, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Not a month passes when I don’t wish I could tangibly see Jesus—to sit side-by-side with him and have him wrap his arms around me, to hear his response to my concerns of our day—the railing injustices, the out-of-bounds verbal comments, the hopes that die daily in the hearts of so many because of life circumstances. And I weep.

We are living in a time when our faith is tested frequently. It is no longer possible (if it ever was) to gather in a holy huddle, fingers in ears, humming “La, la, la.” Doing so is anathema as a world around us cries out for justice and peace and kindness and love—something …

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Your Home Is a Legacy in the Making

Christie Purifoy invites us to join God in cultivating places of beauty and peace.

For years, my friend Kristin privately prayed for a garden with “one towering oak tree,” where she and her husband might create a place for others to rest and retreat. When they recently purchased a home in their native Southern California, the land surrounding it surpassed her own secret desires. Their new home sits on acres of land with lush succulent gardens and is lined with over a dozen mature oak trees. Kristin and her husband envision a property where they might raise their family, but they also want to create space for pastors and writers to connect with God beneath the shelter of thick branches and green leaves. They hope to build a legacy on the land and become rooted as wide and deep as the towering oaks that surround them.

When I heard their story, my first instinct was to reach into my bag and press the book I’d been reading into Kristin’s hands. I resisted only because my copy of Christie Purifoy’s book, Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace, was already covered in inky scribbles. I’d underlined and starred far too many passages (and taken far too many notes) to make this gift a welcome one.

In Placemaker, Purifoy explores themes of rootedness and belonging and, as the title suggests, she writes of cultivating places of rest and retreat, of spaciousness and peace. She also muses on the secret life of trees. “A longing fulfilled is a tree of life” Purifoy writes, and Kristin’s new home with its towering oaks comes to mind.

Casting Seeds of Love

Each chapter of Placemaker is named for a wood or a specific tree: Saucer Magnolia, Silver Maple, Penn’s Woods, Pine Tree, and so on. “What is placemaking?” she writes. “It …

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EFCA Now Considers Premillennialism a Non-Essential

The denomination drops end times doctrine from its statement of faith in a move to “major on the majors” and “minor on the minors.”

The Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) changed its position on end times theology, voting this summer to drop the word “premillennial” from the denomination’s statement of faith.

Many of the 350,000 people who belong to EFCA churches still believe Jesus will return to earth to reign as king for 1,000 years, but the denomination no longer considers that doctrine essential to the gospel.

An internal document explaining the rationale for the change says premillennialism “is clearly a minority position among evangelical believers.” Premillennialism has been a “denominational distinctive” for the EFCA, according to the document, but shouldn’t be overemphasized.

“The thought was, we must either stop saying we are a denomination that majors on the majors … and minors on the minors, or we must stop requiring premillennialism as the one and only eschatological position,” said Greg Strand, EFCA executive director of theology, in an interview with Ed Stetzer.

The revised statement says, “We believe in the personal, bodily and glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Whether or not Jesus will set up a literal kingdom on earth for a millennium is left to individual discretion.

The EFCA has been considering the change for more than a decade. John Woodbridge, a professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), the ECFA-affiliated seminary in Deerfield Park, Illinois, spoke in favor of the shift back in 2008.

“People really saw high stakes in the move. One person of great stature told me that if you give up premillennialism, you will give up biblical inerrancy,” Woodbridge told CT. “For me, I never made that connection. …

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