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But 2 in 3 incorrectly believe Christians suffer less than half of world’s religious freedom violations.

American Catholics are growing more concerned about the fate of the world—and with it, Christian persecution.

More than 9 in 10 now identify persecution as either “very” or “somewhat” severe. This is roughly the same percentage as an identical poll last year, both sponsored by the US branch of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). But over the last 12 months, the share choosing the “very severe” category rose from 40 percent to 46 percent.

And their level of concern went with it, rising 9 percentage points. Last year, 49 percent of Catholics described themselves as “very concerned.” This year, 58 percent.

The poll surveys 1,000 American Catholics across the spectrums of age, politics, and piety, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates.

It showed that intense Catholic concern is growing on several global issues. Those “very concerned” about human trafficking rose from 72 percent to 82 percent. Poverty climbed from 68 percent to 74 percent. The refugee issue jumped from 50 percent to 60 percent. And climate change nudged forward from 55 percent to 57 percent.

So while those unconcerned about Christian persecution fell by half (from 18% to 9%), overall the “church in need” only ranked No. 4 among the list of issues.

But last year, it was No. 5.

Following the 2018 poll, George Marlin, chair of ACN-USA, said it “reveals quite clearly” the need for more emphasis.

It seems to have worked.

“It is heartening to see that US Catholics have a growing awareness of and concern about the persecution of Christians,” he said following the 2019 survey.

“[But] it is telling that [these other issues] get more attention.”

Without ...

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Two theologians ask how their discipline can start mattering to ordinary believers again.

Something is rotten in the state of academic theology.

That, at least, is the bold claim that Miroslav Volf and Matthew Croasmun advance in their compelling new book, For the Life of the World: Theology That Makes a Difference. Volf and Croasmun fear that academic theology has lost its way, in part by positioning itself in opposition or even hostility to the church and its ordinary believers. Rigorous research and scholarly writing may not lead inevitably toward an unhealthy detachment, but the reality of that detachment both from church life and the most fundamental questions of human existence is all too common. As a result, regular churchgoers have grown skeptical of academic theology, and non-Christians simply dismiss it as a relic of the past with no legitimate space in the public square. Theology, the authors argue, used to be about the “Big Questions,” but now it contents itself pursuing in-house debates about obscure historical figures and formulations, all while neglecting to make connections with contemporary audiences.

While Volf and Croasmun are certainly not the first to worry that the discipline of theology has moved much closer to the margins over the last century, they describe the situation with new urgency. Academic theology, they argue, has been too willing to seek legitimacy by operating within the “great edifice of science,” which entails submitting to a foreign set of expectations and methodologies. Because of this surrender, they fear it will lose the very thing that makes it unique and meaningful: its capacity to point to the living triune God and articulate the kind of life we should live in response to his revelation.

The authors argue that theology, rather than playing by a ...

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A deeper problem lies beneath recent stories of swelling rivers, soggy small towns, and feel-good relief efforts.

The fields where my grandfather and his brothers once played football are currently covered by several feet of water.

My grandpa Bert was born in a small Nebraska town called Oakland, a couple hours north of Lincoln, just down the road from Senator Ben Sasse in Fremont. Like much of northeastern Nebraska, these towns are now in crisis, battling the historic flooding that has devastated the state’s farms and ranches, killed three people, and dislocated thousands.

Currently the state estimates $439 million in damages to infrastructure, $85 million in damages to homes and businesses, $400 million worth of cattle lost, and $440 million of crops destroyed, placing the total damages, by my count, at around $1.3 billion.

Floods lay bare that which was already true. This is what the Genesis Flood does, of course, and it is also how Peter describes the coming judgment at the end of all things. He likens it Noah’s flood, going on to say, “the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10).

Athanasius argues that miracles are often a kind of supernaturally accomplished acceleration of natural events: Nature will, given enough time, turn water into wine—rains will fall and nourish grape vines, the grapes will be harvested, and then eventually ferment to become wine. Jesus simply sped the process up at the wedding in Cana. Events like a flood, then, might be read as an inversion of a miracle—a rapid acceleration of the unmaking of the cosmos following the events of Genesis 3.

Sadly, I cannot help but see this quickening destruction happening in my home state. The flood has soaked thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses to ruin in places that already struggled with a trajectory of ...

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What does it mean to be prepared to share the gospel?

Anyone who has been around the church for any length of time has heard the exhortation written in 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts, revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

What does it mean to be prepared to share the gospel? What does this preparation look like?

What often comes to mind is evangelism training, being equipped, learning specific ways to articulate the story of Jesus, practicing telling our story of faith, and a host of other very valuable and important things. These are essential, but not very surprising.

What is surprising for many followers of Jesus is that there are many aspects of preparation that are often simply missed.

As I train leaders, pastors, and church members all over the globe, I am learning that there are some things we need to do as part of our preparation that goes beyond learning evangelism skills. Here are seven ways to prepare yourself to be a person that God can use to share his good news—and to whom others will actually listen.

1 – Walk closely and intimately with Jesus. It is hard to lead people where we don’t go. If you want to shine the light of Jesus, spend time in the presence of the One who is the light of the world! Sit at his feet. Make time to commune with your Lord. Be so close to Jesus that people who are far from him can see that you have been with the One you love above all others.

2 – Learn to be highly responsive to the Holy Spirit. God is speaking, more than we often recognize. The Spirit of the Living God dwells in you if you are a follower of Jesus, the Messiah. Listen. Ask for guidance. Then respond when ...

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It's not the first time immigration officials have deployed Scripture to keep former Muslims out.

The British government has been using the Bible against Christians seeking asylum after converting from Islam—most recently, citing verses from Leviticus, Exodus, and Revelation as evidence that the faith was not more peaceful, as one Iranian convert claimed in his application.

Anglican leaders and other advocates for refugees condemned the immigration department’s decision to deny the Iranian’s 2016 petition for asylum this week.

The letter sent Tuesday from the Home Office declared that Christianity was not a peaceful religion, bringing up “imagery of revenge, destruction, death, and violence” in Revelation and the line “You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you” from Leviticus 26:7.

“These examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it is a ‘peaceful’ religion, as opposed to Islam which contains violence, rage and revenge,” the government official stated.

The denied applicant’s caseworker, Nathan Stevens, tweeted, “I’ve seen a lot over the years, but even I was genuinely shocked to read this unbelievably offensive diatribe being used to justify a refusal of asylum.” Stevens said he plans to appeal the decision.

Bishop of Durham Paul Butler, who leads bishops in the House of Lords on immigration matters, issued a response on behalf of the Church of England.

“I am extremely concerned that a government department could determine the future of another human being based on such a profound misunderstanding of the texts and practices of faith communities,” said Butler.

“To use extracts from the Book of Revelation to argue that Christianity is a ...

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The 2018 General Social Survey reports American evangelicals holding steady, and a surprising uptick for mainline Protestants.

Evangelicals in the United States are holding steady at just under a quarter of the population, according to the latest biennial figures from the General Social Survey (GSS), one of the longest-running, consistent measures of religion in the US.

Despite the quick pace of news and week-to-week political polling, it’s longitudinal tools like the GSS that give social scientists the best big-picture views of how America’s religious landscape is shifting. The survey has asked about religious affiliation in the same way for over 46 years, offering authorative, reliable measures of trends in belief and behavior over time.

As Tobin Grant, editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, pointed out: “Changes in religion are slow. No group gains or loses quickly.” (The nones being an exception—gaining faster than other affiliations tend to beause they pull from multiple faith groups.)

That’s mostly what the 2018 GSS results show us. Evangelicals—grouped in this survey by church affiliation—ccococontinue to make up around 22.5 percent of the population as they have for much of the past decade, while the nones, now up to 23.1 percent themselves, keep growing. (For comparison, Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Survey put evangelicals at 25.4 percent and the religious nones at 22.8 percent.)

Other than one outlier—a slight peak of 24.7 percent in 2012—evangelicals have ranged from 22.5 percent to 24 percent of the population over the past 10 years. Still, this steadiness doesn’t mean “no change” among the evangelical population. There is always a “churn” occurring within any religious group. People leave the group because ...

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The 2018 General Social Survey reports American evangelicals holding steady, and a surprising uptick for mainline Protestants.

Evangelicals in the United States are holding steady at just under a quarter of the population, according to the latest biennial figures from the General Social Survey (GSS), one of the longest-running, consistent measures of religion in the US.

Despite the quick pace of news and week-to-week political polling, it’s longitudinal tools like the GSS that give social scientists the best big-picture views of how America’s religious landscape is shifting. The survey has asked about religious affiliation in the same way for over 46 years, offering authorative, reliable measures of trends in belief and behavior over time.

As Tobin Grant, editor of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, pointed out: “Changes in religion are slow. No group gains or loses quickly.” (The nones being an exception—gaining faster than other affiliations tend to beause they pull from multiple faith groups.)

That’s mostly what the 2018 GSS results show us. Evangelicals—grouped in this survey by church affiliation—ccococontinue to make up around 22.5 percent of the population as they have for much of the past decade, while the nones, now up to 23.1 percent themselves, keep growing. (For comparison, Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Survey put evangelicals at 25.4 percent and the religious nones at 22.8 percent.)

Other than one outlier—a slight peak of 24.7 percent in 2012—evangelicals have ranged from 22.5 percent to 24 percent of the population over the past 10 years. Still, this steadiness doesn’t mean “no change” among the evangelical population. There is always a “churn” occurring within any religious group. People leave the group because ...

...

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As Christian doctors and development workers take on tuberculosis, trust is key to the cure.

“It would be better to die than to suffer this way,” Fathia says, wiping her hands together with finality. She sits across from me at the Caritas medical center in Djibouti, crying. I’m trying not to cry. I’m also trying not to back away as she coughs without covering her mouth. She is a single mother, a refugee from Somalia, and all five of her children have tuberculosis, commonly called TB.

According to the World Health Organization, close to 50 people are infected every week in Djibouti—a massive percentage for a small country with a population of less than 1 million. The disease is transmittable by air, a fact that I’m well aware of while we talk. A person of my healthy constitution and plentiful diet is unlikely to develop an active case of tuberculosis. And yet I know American lawyers who have had active TB. Diplomats. Teachers. Students. People just like me. The disease is in New York City, in Minneapolis, in Paris.

Like other infectious diseases that plague the modern world, the cure to TB is complicated. But because of the social stigma and isolation associated with it, medical professionals are increasingly convinced that part of the solution will come from one simple source: trust born of relationships.

“A trusting relationship is critical,” says Annie Mikobi, a Congolese doctor working in Djibouti. “Without it, there is no observance of treatment.”

“Stigma is a huge barrier, and breaking down stigma requires trust,” says Bob Carter, a family practice doctor with SIM (Serving in Mission) who has worked with TB patients in Kenya and Zambia for over 20 years. “TB patients must trust that I care about them, that I won’t disclose their ...

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The prophets launch their words into the future. Where do they land?

A frequently challenging part of Scripture for many Christians is the Old Testament prophets. Sometimes, understanding their message can be a little confusing. Especially, when that message might apply (or is applied) to the New Testament. When the prophets do look into the future that God revealed to them, what do their words refer to?

I find it helpful to think of three major possible horizons of their vision. That is to say, as the prophets launch their words into the future, we can see three places where their words land, three places where their words are relevant and fulfilled—or still will be.

Horizon one: The Old Testament era

This is the horizon of the prophets’ own time or the wider Old Testament era as a whole. Most of what they predict happens either in their own lifetimes or at some point within the history of Old Testament Israel.

For example, many prophets warn that God will send Israel, and then Judah, into exile because they persistently break the covenant and rebel against him. That is fulfilled, as we have seen, within the Old Testament period itself, in 721 BC for the northern kingdom of Israel, and in 587 BC for the southern kingdom of Judah. Those prophecies are fulfilled at horizon one.

Some of the prophets also predict that God will bring the exiles of Judah back to their land. He will bring their exile to an end. The covenant will be renewed, and they will rebuild the temple. Those prophecies are also fulfilled within the Old Testament period. After the edict of Cyrus, king of Persia, in 538 BC, several waves of exiles return to Jerusalem, and the temple is rebuilt by 515 BC. Fulfillment at horizon one.

However, sometimes we will find that an Old Testament prediction that is made and fulfilled ...

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“Unbelievers needs to see that we care for them, not just their postmortem souls but all of who they are as fallen image-bearers of God.”

Ed: It’s hard to deny that we are living in challenging times culturally. The church’s influence is fading and we are struggling to find answers to some hard questions. What’s your take on the health of the church today, especially as it relates to our witness?

CJ: Eddie Glaude, a Princeton University professor, wrote a Huffington Post article in which he declared that the black church as we know it is dead! This controversial statement elicited much consternation as it was interpreted as a pronouncement of death of the church.

Actually, Glaude’s statement was a reality check on our romantic ideas about the heroic black church that was engaged in evangelism and activism during the Civil Rights Movement. Glaude called us to rethink our revisionist history and our unrealistic expectations, while also encouraging us to be the change we want to see in the church and the world.

I believe this sobering word is one not just for the black church, but for all churches of which Christ is the head. There has been much lamentation about the decline of Christianity in America; fears that we are soon becoming like god-less Europe abound.

Some of these concerns are warranted, but I believe that what we are seeing is the death of Christendom, not the way of Jesus Christ. Cultural Christianity is giving way to an authentic faith worth living and dying for, a faith expressed through good works.

Indeed, there are many local congregations that are dying or ready to die. Like the church at Sardis in Revelation 3, those churches needn’t die if only they hear and obey what the Spirit says. My hope is that we will certainly see the death of racialized, tribalized, and commercialized religion and the resurrection of a supernatural ...

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