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Why Africa Needed Its Own Study Bible

And why Americans might want one too.

If you ever get invited to a wedding on a Friday night in Morocco, the invitation will say the ceremony starts “the evening of Saturday.” North Africans consider each day to begin the evening before nightfall—just the way Genesis describes each day of the world’s first week: “And there was evening, and there was morning. . . .”

This small connection between Scripture and one of Africa’s myriad cultures appears at the beginning of the Africa Study Bible (ASB), set to launch in February 2017. The first English-language study Bible written by African scholars for an African context, it’s also attracting Western readers.

Using the New Living Translation, the ASB includes explanations of unfamiliar words, African proverbs, and ways to apply Scripture to life in Africa.

“A lot of the analogies and cultural phrases in American study Bibles don’t relate fully to many of the issues a lot of Africans are going through—like civil war, polygamy, and the worship of idols,” said Natalie Cameron, spokesperson at Oasis International, which helped to develop the ASB. Conversely, some Bible stories resonate especially well, such as those of the Israelite tribes, given that many Africans are deeply connected to their own tribes.

Just as Westerners generally spend more time in the New Testament, African Christians can over-relate to the Old Testament, said Priscilla Adoyo, a lecturer at Africa International University who worked on the ASB.

“Sacrifices, blessings and curses, family and other relational practices, drought and famine are all familiar ground to the African,” she said. “Unfortunately, some have embraced the Old Testament teachings and picked and ...

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One on One with the Small Church Pastor who "Took Over" the SBC Pastors Conference to Highlight Smaller Churches

An "average" church pastor is the president of the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference.

Ed: You’re a small church pastor and yet you won the election to be President of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. I think there was a message that Southern Baptists were sending to themselves. Sometimes people forget what a typical church looks like in the United States. Why are small churches—which are actually typical churches—overlooked so often?

Dave: We have been using the term “average church.” The Caskey Center uses “smaller membership,” but it is the same thing.

In our convention, 96% of churches have 400 or fewer people on Sunday morning and there are about 150 to 180 mega churches that run over 2,000 at their services. That means that the heart and soul of Southern Baptist work is to be found in churches that have fewer than 500 at Sunday morning worship.

But everything in our life as a denomination seems to be designed around the mega churches. They run things. They are the speakers at conferences, which are often geared toward teaching us how to turn our churches into mega churches like theirs. We love them and appreciate them, but many of our churches are never going to be megas, and in our context we don’t want to be. We tend to ignore the twin realities that many churches are not mega churches and never will be and act as if the SBC is a megachurch factory tooled to produce one product.

We wanted to demonstrate several things. More than anything, we wanted to bless people with quality preaching of God’s word. We also wanted to show that our churches had something valuable to offer our denomination.

I have grown up and spent my life ministering in small to medium-sized Southern Baptist churches. The biggest church I served was around ...

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Introducing the New BGCE Gospel Life Podcast

A new short podcast to help you show and share the love of Jesus each week.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over seven months since I officially took the role of Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College. It’s been a fun journey so far with some great (and creative) people. One of the reasons I came to the Center was because I wanted to spend more time focusing on evangelism and training the Church to show and share the love of Jesus more often and more effectively today.

At the Center, we are building out initiatives and launching institutes. We are also creating lots of helpful resources to equip Christians today to share their faith, moving them beyond apathy or fear and into our call as followers of Christ.

Last week, we launched our latest resource: the Gospel Life Podcast. Gospel Life is our multimedia brand of resources we have created, which includes a blog, a YouTube channel, and now a podcast.

We launched the podcast to help you start your week thinking about ways to engage those around you with the good news of the gospel. The podcasts are short—less than two minutes. But our hope is that what you hear would give you more courage to start engaging people with the gospel.

Research has shown that 79% of unchurched people said that they would engage in a faith conversation if their Christian friends asked. That’s great news. What isn’t so great is that only 30% of Christians have actually shared with an unchurched people how to become a Christian.

Our world is longing for something that will fill their hearts. We are the message-bearers. Our prayer is that this podcast would encourage and equip you to show and share the love of Jesus in new and creative ways.

Episode One | Why is Gospel Witness Important?

Join Ed Stetzer, ...

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How Pastors Perceive Domestic Violence Differently

Most pastors want their churches to be a safe haven, but dont have a plan to get there.

When it comes to domestic violence, Protestant pastors want to be helpful but often don’t know where to start.

Most say their church would be a safe haven for victims of domestic violence.

But many don’t know if anyone in their church has been a victim of domestic violence. And only half say they have a plan in place to help if a victim comes forward.

Those are among the findings of a new report on churches and domestic abuse from LifeWay Research, based on a phone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors.

The study was sponsored by Autumn Miles, a radio host and speaker whose church was caught off guard when she told them about her domestic violence experience.

“If a woman comes forward and says, ‘I need help—I am being abused,’ a church needs to respond,” she said. “There’s a lot to lose if churches get this wrong.”

Most pastors (87%) already believe that “a person experiencing domestic violence would find our church to be a safe haven.” Eleven percent somewhat agree. One percent are not sure.

And most pastors (89%) also believe their church regularly communicates that domestic violence is not okay.

Yet almost half of pastors say they don’t know if anyone in their church has been a victim of domestic violence in the last three years (47%). A third say a church member has been a victim of domestic violence (37%). Fifteen percent say no one has experienced domestic violence.

Church size plays a role in whether pastors know of a domestic violence victim. Pastors at bigger churches—those with more than 250 attendees—are most likely (65%) to know of a victim of domestic violence in their church. Pastors at smaller churches—those with fewer ...

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Theology for Life (Ep. 12): Rhetoric and Preaching the Gospel

Dr. Theon Hill is Assistant Professor of Communication at Wheaton College.

What is rhetoric, and why were the early prophets breaking all the rules when it came to communications? What does the Bible have to say about rhetoric? Rhetoric which is good is that which pushes people towards God and tells the truth.

What is the role of rhetoric in the public square and in enacting justice? Hill explains that rhetoric shapes our identity. How we describe and term things in our world helps shape that around us and how people see the possibilities.

Hill discusses what he is learning about the rhetoric of the Black Church in the 1940s and 1950s right before the Civil Rights Movement. Hill reminds us that the Church served as a foundation for the Movement.

How do we need to think about language, communications, and the gospel today? Language defines how we see the world and deeply shapes our identity. Language carries with it a set of ideas. How do the communications methods we use either reflect or deflect the gospel?

What should the Church avoid in terms of rhetoric? Hill explains that his motivation for studying rhetoric is that he got tired of bad preaching. The Church needs to give more attention to our communications and the reality around us. How then do we persuade Christians that the things they say are unhelpful to our witness? We not only need to consider our rhetoric, but we must seek to understand what others are saying, even if it comes across as different or offensive to us.

How does rhetoric help us to love? Rhetoric in its purest form, Hill says, is not about ourselves, but it is to serve others. Jesus was a wonderful example of the effective use of rhetoric to point people to God.

Where do Christian communicators struggle, and where are we doing well? Ultimately, we must be authentic and make ...

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Interview: A Stroke Freed Me to Redefine Beauty

Former model Katherine Wolf reveals how a nearly fatal experience altered her faith.

On April 21, 2008 at the age of 26, Katherine Wolf experienced a brain bleed from a massive brain stem stroke that nearly killed her. She survived but was left unable to walk, talk, or swallow and with severe double vision, right ear deafness, and right-side facial paralysis. The former beauty queen, model, and mother to a then-six-month-old baby boy had to redefine her life.

“I am grateful that the Lord has allowed me to experience suffering at an early age,” says Wolf. “The Cross and the suffering of Christ doesn’t appear beautiful at face value, but in the kingdom of God, we know it is the ultimate source of beauty because it means that the end of the story is no longer sadness, pain, and death, but new life—and that’s a beautiful thing.”

In 2013, Wolf and her husband, Jay, started Hope Heals, a ministry that serves those who face physical disabilities and other challenges with the end goal, says Wolf, “of imparting hope that Jesus brings healing to the deepest pains we all carry.”

Wolf shared with CT about how her stroke and the ensuing suffering have transformed her outlook on life, faith, and the nature of enduring beauty.

How has God used the tragedy of your stroke to redefine your understanding of beauty?

When I had the stroke, so much was stripped away in terms of my physical abilities—I couldn’t use my hands, couldn’t eat, or walk—that my appearance was just one more thing I was dealing with. The beauty stuff wasn’t as big of a deal; learning to walk again was a big deal. It put my appearance and beauty in its rightful place.

My baby was being raised by other people. While I was watching him grow up, I couldn’t tell you when he ...

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Missions Sunday: Are You Ready to Change?

Church in California supports more than 90 missionary families.

When you have been doing something for almost twenty years, you had better be able to change with the times. If you aren’t, get out of the way because you are certain to get run over and left behind. God placed me in a very strategic and exciting role many years ago and has entrusted me with the opportunity to make change, accept change, and change myself.

The Church

Calvary Church in Santa Ana, California, was founded in 1931. From its beginning, it has had missions in its DNA, sending out and supporting individuals financially, emotionally, and spiritually. Over four hundred Calvary members have gone overseas as career missionaries to countries around the world.

Today, we have over ninety families on our roles. This includes twenty retired families/individuals (many in their eighties) and a dozen national missionary families. Each has been supported through our Faith Promise giving since 1967. Hundreds more have served in short-term capacities which have led to many becoming full-time missionaries. Others have been trained through our Future Missionary Focus individualized training program, and in 2012 fourteen students headed to the 2012 Urbana Missions Conference.

…during a Time of Change

In 1994, I transitioned into my role at Calvary. There was a hiring freeze, several staff had left, and we were in the midst of senior pastors. It was indeed a time of great change and Calvary’s mission giving dropped with the loss of people. Only with some additional funds that had been saved for a “rainy day” were we able to pull through financially.

In late 1995, our newly-appointed senior pastor, David Mitchell, came to Calvary. In time, he made some changes—one of the most important for missions was ...

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Trump Advisers Megachurch Withholds Major Donation from SBC

Prestonwood Baptist diverts denominational giving over concerns about Russell Moores ERLC.

A Dallas-area megachurch has decided to escrow Cooperative Program funds temporarily in order to evaluate future support of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) causes.

At issue are what the congregation calls “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission [ERLC] that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention,” according to a statement the church released to Louisiana’s Baptist Message.

Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, will escrow what would amount to $1 million annually, the Message reported Thursday.

[Editor’s note: Within the SBC, individual churches give to the Cooperative Program each year as a way of funding state conventions and denominational agencies and seminaries. Prestonwood, one of the biggest churches in the SBC, gave $500,000 to the Cooperative Program in 2015. The state convention splits the funding with the SBC, with 45 percent staying in Texas and 55 percent going to national ministry and missions.]

In a text to Baptist Press, Message editor Will Hall noted he had queried Prestonwood about its giving to SBC causes after pastor Jack Graham was interviewed in December by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Graham told the newspaper that the church was “considering making major changes in our support of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

At issue, Graham said in the interview, was alleged “disrespectfulness” by ERLC president Russell Moore toward evangelical supporters of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Moore, who publicly opposed Trump during the primary and general election cycles, said in a December blog post he never intended to criticize all evangelicals ...

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News: A Tale of Two Calvary Chapels: Behind the Movements Split

Chuck Smiths successor says he is expanding founders vision. Other leaders say hes diluting it.

What would Chuck Smith do?

Three years after the Calvary Chapel founder’s death, church leaders continue to look to his legacy to defend competing views of the movement’s future.

Smith’s son-in-law and successor at California flagship Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Brian Brodersen, left the Calvary Chapel Association (CCA) this past fall with plans to build on Smith’s vision—but from outside the fellowship that “Pastor Chuck” began.

“As I look at the current situation within Calvary Chapel, I don’t see this separation as negative but rather [as] necessary for God’s work to be expanded,” announced Brodersen, who launched a broader, looser body focused on international missions called the Calvary Chapel Global Network (CCGN).

His statement likened the split to the biblical example of Paul and Barnabas going different ways based on different understandings of mission.

However, a CCA council member compared Brodersen’s departure to a different biblical example: Mark leaving Paul’s authority.

Brodersen’s congregation maintains, and still includes the association’s 1,700 churches in the new CCGN unless they opt out. The CCA council stated they “cannot endorse” Brodersen’s network and recommended that churches leave it.

What he sees as growing Smith’s vision, they see as diluting it.

“Pastor Chuck left us a glorious legacy. Yet the new [CCGN], established by Brian Brodersen, now threatens that legacy,” the CCA council stated in late November. “Such a network will ultimately de-emphasize our Calvary Chapel distinctives … and will cause confusion.”

A post on Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa’s ...

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News: Gleanings: March 2017

Important developments in the church and the world (as they appeared in our March issue).

How Pastors Perceive Domestic Violence

LifeWay Research surveyed 1,000 senior pastors on how their churches minister to people experiencing domestic violence. Almost all evangelical pastors believe that victims would find their church to be a safe haven. But here’s what they said on how common the problem is, how they respond to allegations, and whether divorce is the best option.

India: 145,000 Compassion kids may lose sponsors

About 1 in 10 of Compassion International’s sponsored children are in India, where the government has required new approvals before NGOs can transfer foreign funds. After seeking such approval for nine months, “we have concluded the clearance process is fiction,” Compassion stated in December. Running out of funds for its 580 Indian-run child centers, the ministry asked the US government for help, saying it was “weeks away from permanently withdrawing” and leaving 145,000 Indian children behind. India is a secular country, but has seen a rise in Christian persecution as Hindu nationalists have gained political power in recent years.

#ThanksObama for more religious freedom tools

A new law strengthening the ability of the United States to promote religious freedom overseas has passed unanimously—House, Senate, and President Obama. The legislation allows the US ambassador-at-large for religious freedom to report directly to the secretary of state, flags “entities of particular concern” in addition to nations, and institutes a “designated persons list” to identify and allow sanctions against individuals who persecute religious minorities. The update to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) was named after Frank Wolf, a longtime congressman ...

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News: Egypts Anglicans Face Existential Threat from Fellow Protestants

Cairo bishop resists efforts to deny his church independence.

Egypt’s top Anglican leader is accusing its top evangelical leader of attempting a “hostile takeover” to prevent Egyptian Anglicans from achieving state recognition as an independent national church.

The dispute first surfaced in 2001, but this past summer Egypt’s High Administrative Court ruled against Anglican independence. This means the Anglican Diocese of Egypt must function as a full member of the Protestant Churches of Egypt (PCE).

Representing 18 denominations, the umbrella group coordinates the registration of marriages, deaths, property ownership, visas, and other legal—but not doctrinal—matters.

“The most important thing for me is the unity of the Protestant community,” said Andrea Zaki, president of the PCE and a Presbyterian pastor. “I don’t want it to be divided. This would weaken Protestants, and not develop the strengths we have.”

The Anglicans originally filed their case against the Egyptian government. The PCE says soon after, the court obliged them to join as defendants in the Anglican effort at independence.

After the June 2016 ruling, Anglican bishop Mouneer Anis filed a new suit in a lower court. Zaki followed up with key Egyptian agencies to apply the ruling, and the Ministry of Interior informed the Anglican diocese in September that it needed PCE approval for a visa application for an overseas worker.

At a December court hearing, Anglican attorneys addressed procedural faults in the June ruling. That court did not address their petition for the Egyptian president to recognize their denomination as independent, as they believe the law gives him the right to do.

“We were in Egypt before the Protestant church formed,” said Anis, ...

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