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Author: Trumpet Media

Black Millennials and Gen Z Becoming More Cynical Toward Christian Identity

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 …

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Five Ways Biblical Geography Shapes Our View of God’s Mission

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 …

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As French Senate Tightens Church Controls, Christian Advocates Avoid Fear

Protestants strongly disagree with separatism law’s anti-terrorism approach, but eschew a victim mentality in defending religious freedom.

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 …

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Hype Meets Holy in Modern Bible Design

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, …

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Free High-Quality Religion and Community Data Resources

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.

1. Community Profile Builder and Guides

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 …

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Giving Down by Half in Church of God in Christ

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.

Pentecostal …

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What is Missiology?

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 …

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In a Post-Christian Culture, There’s No Good Way Around Being the ‘Baddies’

If we have to wear the villain label, we can at least wear it with calmness, confidence, and joy.

Aclassic sketch by the British comedy duo Mitchell and Webb sees a pair of Nazi SS officers in the grip of an existential crisis.

One says to the other: “Have you looked at our caps recently? … They’ve got skulls on them. Have you noticed that our caps have actually got little pictures of skulls on them?”

Realization dawns: “Hans … are we the baddies?”

Contemporary Western culture finds itself curiously split on the question of moral absolutes. On the one hand, in the golden age of prestige TV, we pride ourselves on the moral complexity of our stories: the flawed protagonist, the tortured hero, the sympathetic villain. Using the tools of psychology and sociology, we do our best to understand what has gone wrong for those who do wrong, and we accept (more or less) that we’re all damaged, striving people.

On the other hand, we seem to define more rigidly every day the boundaries of what’s acceptable, in the process cheerfully consigning larger and larger swaths of our fellow citizens to that no man’s land beyond the cultural pale.

Do we or do we not believe in goodies and baddies? How do we treat those we place in that second camp? And what happens when other people place us there?

In his short and very readable book Being the Bad Guys: How to Live for Jesus in a World That Says You Shouldn’t, Australian pastor and blogger Stephen McAlpine sails into the contested waters of Christian cultural engagement with admirable calmness. It’s a delicate moment for discussions of this kind. Christians across the political and ecclesial spectrum probably would agree that the relationship between the church and the wider culture is currently rocky, but they would also …

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Liberty Sues Jerry Falwell Jr. for $10M Over Sex Scandal

The university alleges the former president manipulated the board to create a “safety net” for himself while anticipating the backlash of his marital scandal and Trump support.

Liberty University, one of the nation’s largest Christian universities, is suing former President Jerry Falwell Jr. for $10 million, citing a breach of contract and a conspiracy to mislead the university’s board.

Falwell, son of Liberty founder the late Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., resigned as Liberty’s president in August 2020 after years of controversy due to his support of Donald Trump and allegations of misconduct.

A complaint in the lawsuit, filed in a Lynchburg, Virginia, circuit court, claims Falwell “fashioned a deceitful scheme to manipulate the Executive Committee of Liberty” while negotiating his last contract.

The complaint also states Falwell created the so-called Granda plan to conceal his family’s relationship with Giancarlo Granda, a young man the couple had met while vacationing in Florida. Granda has claimed to have had a long-term sexual relationship with Jerry Falwell Jr. and with his wife, Becki Falwell. The Falwells have denied that claim but have admitted that Becki had an affair with Granda. The couple also bought a Miami beach youth hostel in 2013 that Granda managed and also had a share in.

The complaint claims Falwell devised a plan to cover up the relationship, fearing Granda would make it public, and that Granda asked Falwell for payoffs in order to keep racy photos of Becki Falwell out of the public eye.

“Most damaging, Falwell Jr. knew that Granda would be able to provide details about the fact of the affair with Becki, its duration, Falwell Jr.’s role in abetting it, the attendant circumstances of the affair, and the specific activities in which Granda, Falwell Jr. and Becki engaged in during the affair.”

Rather than telling …

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DMX Bared His Sins and Soul to Make His Music a Testimony

How the life and lyrics of the late rapper challenge our notions of sanctification and struggle.

Earl “DMX” Simmons kept it real whether he was testifying about his angels or his demons.

While it’s common for grief, depression, anxiety, and faith to come up in popular music today, Simmons rose to fame at a time when hip-hop songs about flashy cars, jewelry, and expensive clothes ruled the charts. The rapper best known by his stage name DMX shot videos in his childhood neighborhood wearing workman’s jumpsuits and few gold chains.

Simmons—who died last week at age 50—is the first and only rapper to have five albums debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and he did so while making Christianity a central element of his music. DMX’s witness over his 30-year career reshaped how the genre engages faith in public.

“Before DMX, black R&B artists would generally wear a cross, briefly mention they were reared in the black church in their youth, or thank Jesus for their success during award shows,” said Cassandra Chaney, a professor at Louisiana State University who researched how rappers discuss heaven in their music. “When DMX came on the scene, he showed the world that they could and should have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Simmons grew up in the projects of Yonkers, New York, the only son of a teenage mother. Raised a Jehovah’s Witness, his favorite childhood book was a Jehovah’s Witness children’s Bible. But Simmons wrote in his autobiography that he left the Witnesses when his mother declined an insurance settlement after he was hit by a car as a child, citing a religious belief against accepting charity.

Simmons had a troubled childhood. His father abandoned the family. His mother was abusive and sent him to a children’s …

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