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“The church in America today is slowly awakening from the distortion of about 350 years of dominance and prosperity.” Until recently, being a Christian has been seen as normal. Until recently, being a Christian has generally resulted in things going well for you. We are Christian.  We are Americans. The distortion has created an unbiblical mindset that hasn’t been good for us. keep reading

Joseph Wared, the director of Believe Out Loud has an op-ed piece in today’s Advocate. Wared writes: I have no doubt that there are conservative Christian leaders who provide extraordinary ministry in the social justice arenas of their choosing. Reverend Giglio’s commendable work to combat human trafficking was the rationale for his selection. But our culture is shifting, and when it comes to LGBT equality, Americans expect more from our churches. The U.S. Episcopal Church, Metropolitan Community Churches, and the United Church of Christ are just a few of the denominations that are meeting this need. Christians are consistently becoming more visible advocates for the full inclusion of our LGBT neighbors. Over the past few years I’ve had many conversations with friends and families, and I’ve seen folks move from antigay opinions to an unconditionally loving theology and everything in between. Christianity does not have to be exclusive of LGBT equality, and when it is, people are leaving the church. The Public Religion Research Institute found a significant increase in the number of college-age millennials who transitioned from being religiously affiliated in their childhood to religiously unaffiliated as young adults. A sizable majority view present-day Christianity as antigay and judgmental and believe that what makes America great is our openness to change and new ways of doing things. As public opinion shifts, churches that do not fully affirm LGBT people will leave many in their flock behind. Scripture that is void of compassion is merely words, and our ability to have compassion for every human being is critical to our faith and in an increasingly diverse world. If conservative Christians cannot stomach this evolution, they should not be surprised if progressive Christian traditions, like the U.S. Episcopal Church, gain more traction in society. For some, this is a necessary consequence to maintaining their biblical interpretation on homosexuality, but this shift should not be depicted as a decline of Christian beliefs in our society. Thoughts?  I definitely disagree… but agree that this is the way the culture is headed. Not so sure that he’s right that people will leave churches in droves that take a Biblical stand on homosexuality. What do YOU think? // Read more here…
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Ponder if you will the state of our world; and in particular the condition of America. Although one can easily argue the United States is still the greatest nation in the world and a country so many desire to come to— even risk their lives to enter into—there is no denying America’s social, moral and spiritual fabric continues to deteriorate at an accelerated pace. For many this is an alarming and discouraging trend. Now consider the fact that 76% of Americans claim to be Christian, making the United States one of the highest per-capita Christian nations in the world. A nation full of Christians in a deteriorating society? If this indeed be the case then WHERE ARE THE CHRISTIANS? To solve this conundrum author Eric Shuster gives us a book that bears this question as its title with the promise of answers and unique journey for readers. Where are the Christians? uses the classic format of who, what, where and how to explore Christianity and the dynamics that unite and divide the religion into the unrealized potential it suffers from today (thus the subtitle of the book—the Unrealized Potential of a Divided Religion). The book enlightens readers as to who the Christians are from a historical perspective; what a Christian is from a spiritual perspective; where the Christians are from a behavioral perspective; and how Christianity can be strengthened and more united from a societal perspective. Where are the Christians? examines hundreds of Biblical and scholarly sources, analyzing data from a multitude of studies leading to unique perspectives and solutions to the challenges facing Christianity in the modern era. Where are the Christians? contains 17 chapters arranged into four sections: SECTION 1: WHO ARE THE CHRISTIANS?—a history: 4 chapters providing a concise history of Christianity spread across four distinct periods: Evangelization and Formation, Legitimacy and Codification, Corruption and Division, and Reform and Denominational Proliferation. SECTION 2: WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?—a definition: 4 chapters examining the definition of a Christian from the perspectives of the world, the Bible, landmark religious studies, and what Shuster refers to as Modern Day Pharisees. SECTION 3: WHERE ARE THE CHRISTIANS?—a categorization: 5 chapters profiling the five types of modern Christians including a unique and enlightening exercise to help readers understand what type of Christian they are among the five. SECTION 4 – HOW IS CHRISTIANITY TO UNITE?—a vision: 4 chapters describing the ways Christians in America can unite into a force for good by focusing on individuals, families, churches and communities. To watch the book trailer, take a survey to find out what type of Christian you are, and to pre-order the book go to

I’m not sure that Louie wanted all this publicity after being chosen to pray at the inaugural. He’s now being lamblasted as antigay.  From the Advocate: The most LGBT-friendly president in U.S. history will once again have a minister with a history of antigay statements deliver a prayer at his inauguration ceremony. Pastor Louie Giglio of the Passion City Church in Atlanta, chosen to give the benediction, or closing prayer, January 21 at President Obama’s second inauguration, gave a sermon in the mid 1990s in which he said being gay is a choice and a sin that merits eternal damnation and that Christianity can help gays can become straight,ThinkProgress reports. In the sermon, available on a Christian website, Giglio says the Bible clearly teaches that “homosexuality is not just a sexual preference, homosexuality is not gay, but homosexuality is sin,” and it is among the factors that “prevent people from entering the Kingdom of God.” He also says, “The only way out of a homosexual lifestyle, the only way out of a relationship that has been ingrained over years of time, is through the healing power of Jesus.” When the item was posted, Giglio had yet to respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about whether the sermon represents his current thinking. The Advocate has also asked the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which plans the ceremony, for comment on the choice of Giglio, but there has been no response so far. A “Beliefs” section on Passion City Church’s website describes the church as “conservative and evangelical,” apparently with a literal view of the Bible, as it says, “We believe in the accuracy, truth, authority and power of the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God.” // Read more here…
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John Piper spoke for the last time (as Senior Pastor) at Bethlehem Baptist Church last Sunday.  Here are some quotes from Piper from his last sermon (as reported by the Christian Post): “If you entice people with wealth, … ease, health, chipper, bouncy, light-hearted, playful, superficial banter in your worship service posing as joy in Christ, you will attract people, oh yeah, you can grow a huge church that way. But Christ will not be seen in his glory and the Christian life will not be seen as the calvary road that it is.” “I turn with dismay from church services that are treated like radio talk shows where everything sounds chipper and frisky and high-spirited and chattering and designed evidently to make people feel light-hearted and playful and bouncy,” he said. “I say, don’t you know there are people dying of cancer in this room? Don’t you know some are barely making it financially? … And you’re going to create an atmosphere that’s bouncy …? I just don’t get it. It’s not who we are.” More from the Christian Post article: So many pastors today try to attract people to Jesus with their lavish houses, cars and clothes, Piper lamented. But that’s not the way the Apostle Paul did it as recorded in the New Testament. “You shouldn’t ever attract anybody to Jesus like that because if they get attracted they’re not coming to Jesus. They’re coming to the stuff and the one who can provide it. Thank you very much Jesus for giving me what my fallen, selfish heart always lived for anyway,” he said. The Apostle Paul made it clear that the Christian life is not without suffering such as beatings, hunger, imprisonment and sleepless nights. But in the midst of those hardships, Paul’s spirit was never broken and all he could do was rejoice because he had Jesus. “We’re commending the value of Christ and we’re doing it exactly the opposite of the way that prosperity preachers do it,” Piper noted, preaching from 2 Corinthians 6. What Paul does is show that knowing Christ and having eternal life with Christ “is better than all the worldly wealth and prosperity and health that there is.” “We commend our life in ministry by afflictions, … calamities … It means that Christ is real to us, more precious than sleep, health, money, life … Wouldn’t you want a Christ that precious? “If not, Christianity is not for you.” // Read more here… Thoughts?
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That’s the title of an op-ed in the Montreal Gazette over the weekend.  Jillian Page writes: Just how relevant  are Christian views — beyond the golden rules common to all religions  — in today’s Western world. It seems to me that many, many people have moved on, or evolved, in their spirituality to the point that they no longer adhere to Bible-thumping church beliefs they view as exclusionary. They no longer fear the “wrath” of God; they don’t see God as a deity, but more as a loving cosmic Energy that fills the heavens and the Earth. They do not or may not believe the Bible is the word of God at all, but is instead the views of men claiming to speak for God, but who were, in fact, speaking for themselves. They may see the Bible as simply one more spiritual text, and they put it on the shelves in their libraries beside other such texts as the Bhagavad’Gita (a beautiful book). We know that it is next to impossible to convince some Christians that any book other than the Bible has  spiritual relevance, and that any views besides their own have merit. But perhaps that very narrow-mindedness and exclusionary behaviour by those Christians is what is driving so many people away from their churches. After all, even the master Jesus said you can judge a tree by its fruits. So, when those fruits are bitter, people stop eating. It’s Karma 101. I think we are seeing a shift away from the fundamentalist Christianity of old. And those Christian institutions clinging to the old school of thought that espouses its Bible-thumping views of “God’s boundaries” are facing extinction. Not Christianity as a whole, mind you. Many Christian institutions have moved forward. One only needs to read The Heartland Proclamation to see that. But will the rest of Christianity move forward, too?
 Your thoughts?

We’re all heard it before:  “I consider myself spiritual, but not religious.” Alan Miller says that’s a copout.  Check this out… posted over at CNN’s religion blog: Christianity has been interwoven and seminal in Western history and culture. As Harold Bloom pointed out in his book on the King James Bible, everything from the visual arts, to Bach and our canon of literature generally would not be possible without this enormously important work. Indeed, it was through the desire to know and read the Bible that reading became a reality for the masses – an entirely radical moment that had enormous consequences for humanity. Moreover, the spiritual but not religious reflect the “me” generation of self-obsessed, truth-is-whatever-you-feel-it-to-be thinking, where big, historic, demanding institutions that have expectations about behavior, attitudes and observance and rules are jettisoned yet nothing positive is put in replacement. The idea of sin has always been accompanied by the sense of what one could do to improve oneself and impact the world. Yet the spiritual-but-not-religious outlook sees the human as one that simply wants to experience “nice things” and “feel better.” There is little of transformation here and nothing that points to any kind of project that can inspire or transform us. At the heart of the spiritual but not religious attitude is an unwillingness to take a real position. Influenced by the contribution of modern science, there is a reluctance to advocate a literalist translation of the world. But these people will not abandon their affiliation to the sense that there is “something out there,” so they do not go along with a rationalist and materialistic explanation of the world, in which humans are responsible to themselves and one another for their actions – and for the future. Theirs is a world of fence-sitting, not-knowingess, but not-trying-ness either. Take a stand, I say. Which one is it? A belief in God and Scripture or a commitment to the Enlightenment ideal of human-based knowledge, reason and action? Being spiritual but not religious avoids having to think too hard about having to decide. // More here… Thoughts? Todd

Andy Stanley has some preaching advice that he shared at the NewSpring Leadership Conference:
“It’s really your approach, and not your content, that determines how well that you engage unchurched people…If we’re not willing to adjust our sails and adjust our approach, you can spend your entire life … telling the truth and driving people away from it at the same time… Non-Christians aren’t supposed to obey the Bible… We’d love for them to … But when you preach broadly and you don’t differentiate, what unchurched people hear is judgment.”
Here’s more:
“We do not believe Jesus rose from the dead because Adam and Eve were literal, physical people … The basis of Christianity is not all the difficult to believe parts of the Old Testament, but as long as we present to our children and to our generation it’s all or nothing, that’s almost impossible to defend… You know why I believe in the resurrection? Not because of the B-I-B-L-E. Because Matthew saw it, Mark talked to somebody who saw it, Luke interviewed a whole bunch of people who saw it, John saw it, Peter saw it, James saw it … I don’t know what happened to dinosaurs, and I don’t know anything about Adam and Eve, but I believe Jesus rose from the dead, and when you start believing Jesus rose from the dead, you’re going to take the Old Testament a lot more seriously.”
Your thoughts? Todd HT:  The Christian Post

More than three-quarters of Americans identify themselves as Christian, Gallup reports. Pollsters found that 78 percent of Americans identify with Christianity. Overall, more than 82 percent of Americans have a religious identity, with this percentage breakdown: 52.5: Protestant/other Christian 23.6: Catholic 1.9: Mormon 1.6: Jewish 0.5: Muslim 2.4: Other non-Christian 15: None/atheist/agnostic 2.5: No response The findings fit the trend of an increasing percentage of Americans who do not embrace a formal religious identity. via Houston Chronicle. // OK… I really really really really doubt that. They must have used a VERY broad definition. But.. given your theology (wherever you land on the spectrum)… what percentage of Americans do you think are true Christians? Come on… throw out a percentage guess…

Uh… yeah, that pretty much sums up my feelings of a certain segment of Christianity. Although they wouldn’t like being called ‘haters’. They would prefer apologists or discerners.  Constantly contending for the faith. I have a whole category of rss feeds labeled for these folks.  I checked it every day to see who/what’s got them peeved.  Usually it’s Rick Warren or Rob Bell.  Sometimes Mark Driscoll.  But more recently they’ve set their scopes on one that they have long admired:  John Piper. My thought many times is:  what a miserable way to look at life… always looking for the bad.  Always trying to expose the heretic.  Always disgruntled and annoyed.  Always picking apart. Some may say, I do that here.  I hope not.  I have not been kind in my assessment of Ted Haggard here as one example.  But I hope that any assessment or discussion started here has a little more to it than whether or not someone believes in new earth creationism. I want to take a moment to thank everyone who is reading this.  We tackle some pretty heady and controversial topics here (like the transgender christianity post from yesterday).  And you all do a masterful job (most all of the time) discussing very difficult topics with grace and without hate. Thanks for not being ‘haters’.

Read this post… then come back here…  There is no doubt that Christianity has a bad image.  If you read the post that I just linked to, you’ll find that one organization is trying to help change the view of Christianity from folks like these below. Interestingly, both of these examples involve homosexuality (again, I think a HUGE issue that the church HAS to deal with in the next years). I wholeheartedly believe that the Bible is very clear on homosexuality being a sin. Unfortunately, so do these people.  Take a look: The first is a video by Robert Breaud.  An ex-homosexual, who I guess wants to help people not be gay.  So he takes his guitar out in public to do this: HT to Jesus Needs New PR for this video Yesterday, we looked at how Joel Osteen answered the question of homosexuality on the Piers Morgan Show: I do NOT have the answer. I think singing anti-gay songs in public probably will get more ridicule than anything. I think the ‘you’ll die from aids’ argument doesn’t argue well any more. Some in the church are fully embracing homosexual lifestyle as totally acceptable.  This, in my opinion, is totally UNACCEPTABLE. The problem is, we have a good percentage of people in America who are homosexual that don’t know Jesus. It’s more important to me that they don’t know Jesus than that they are homosexual. That doesn’t mean that we embrace their homosexuality.  But it does mean that we’re concerned for their soul. So… then the question becomes (for me)… how can/will we best reach them? It seems to me that the best way is to convince them of their need for Jesus. In nearly every other case, we allow the Holy Spirit to do His job in the conviction of sin.  Evidently we feel we need to help the Holy Spirit out, pre-conversion, so that everyone knows up front that a part of their lives is a big ‘no-no’. I’ve been a Christian for years, and there are still parts of my life that, as much as I wish and try sometimes, still become big no-nos. So… reading these posts together… what conclusions have YOU come to? Is it possible to change Christianity’s image when we have guitar man and you’ll die from aids guy speaking for us?  What’s your approach?  What’s your church’s approach? Todd