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God's Place in Black History

Looking to the past provides direction for the current fight for justice.

When you are in the throes of doing what is right for righteousness’ sake, little time is taken to appreciate or envision the historical imprint your actions may have on the country. You don’t stop to ponder how your actions will alter the course of your life.

In college, I found myself watching and reading about events that were being characterized as civil resistance and civil disobedience. I often went to God in prayer to ask how I could be an instrument of change in what was happening in Alabama at the time. I didn’t realize then that the civil rights movement would become so richly commemorated and celebrated during Black History Month.

It is crucial to continue to remember not only those days, but all the ideas and events that have shaped the history of African Americans and our nation. And none is more important than this: the place of God in all of it.

In 1976, as part of the United States bicentennial, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month, calling upon America to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Long before President Ford’s official recognition of Black History Month in 1976, African American, Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and prominent, African American minister Jesse E. Moorland founded an organization, known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). The ASALH was dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans. The organization sponsored the first national Negro History Week in 1926, selecting the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays ...

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Saturday is for Seminars—Talbot Seminary at Biola, and Ignite is Going Viral

Looking forward to being at Talbot Seminary and Ignite!

Talbot School of Theology—La Mirada, CA

March 1 & 3 I'll be speaking at the Robert L. Saucy Lectures Series and chapel at Talbot School of Theology. Talbot is described as:

a theologically conservative, evangelical seminary in Southern California near Los Angeles. With over a 60-year heritage of biblical fidelity, the seminary couples solid evangelical scholarship with intentional character development to prepare students for a lifetime of relevant, effective ministry.

I'm very excited to spend time with the faculty and students there.

Ignite Church Planting Conference—Gilbert, AZ

March 2 I'll be at Ignite in sunny Arizona. Billed as a "ministry-transforming event where church staff and leaders gather to increase leadership and best practices while being encouraged to influence the world through church planting and multiplication," Ignite will host dozens of speakers and multiple breakout sessions.

Here's the Ignite video from 2015:

Here's the link to register for Ignite.

Coming Soon

February 14, 2016
Preaching at St. Luke's Cathedral
Orlando, FL

February 20-21, 2016
Christ Fellowship Miami
Miami, FL

February 23, 2016
National Religious Broadcasters Convention
Nashville, TN

March 1 & 3, 2016
Talbot Faculty Forum
La Marida, CA

March 2, 2016
Ignite Church Planting
Gilbert, AZ

March 12-13, 2016
Christ Fellowship Miami
Miami, FL

April 8-10, 2016
Colson Center Wilberforce Weekend
Washington, D.C.

April 17, 2016
The Moody Church
Chicago, IL

April 22, 2016
AWANA National Meeting
Streamwood, IL

April 23-24, 2016
Christ Fellowship Miami
Miami, FL

April 26-28, 2016
Exponential East
Orlando, FL

April 27, 2016Reformed Theological ...

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Lawsuit Claims Gospel for Asia Misused Most Donations to 10/40 Window

(UPDATED) Citing 'innocent until proven guilty,' GFA calls class-action suit a 'blessing' for chance to put allegations to rest.

One of the world’s largest missions agencies, Gospel for Asia (GFA), has long promised that it spends 100 percent of donations in the field—specifically, in the 10/40 Window.

More like 13 percent, alleges a lawsuit filed this week by a couple in Arkansas who donated to GFA based on that promise.

Their lawyers hope a judge will grant the suit class-action status. Such a request will take months to resolve. But if granted, the lawsuit could encompass hundreds of thousands of people across America who have donated millions of dollars to the massive ministry founded by K. P. Yohannan in 1979.

Despite a robust Christmas catalog and other fundraising materials that advertise how donors can support specific needs among Christians in India and other Asian mission fields, “GFA spent only $14.9 million of $118.9 million on actual relief efforts, instead spending far more on salaries and overhead for Believers Church and construction of the GFA headquarters,” claims the lawsuit, reviewed by CT. The numbers come from 2013, the latest year for which financial reporting is available and the year plaintiffs Matthew and Jennifer Dickson donated about $1,750 to GFA.

Lawsuits only tell one side of a story. GFA told CT it will "respond accordingly and transparently" once it has studied the allegations. On its website, the ministry stated it has been "grieved to discover that too many [journalists and bloggers] have chosen to consider us 'guilty until proven innocent' as opposed to 'innocent until proven guilty.'"

"We must take the time to fully understand the nature of the accusations being leveled against us, and then we will respond accordingly," GFA stated ...

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Thousands of Jen Hatmaker Fans Bought Her Book for Strangers

For the Love, indeed.

I know what you’re thinking: Not another story about how anonymous people on the Internet can be so nice to each other.

Haven’t we all heard enough about the empathy and kindness within those never-ending comment threads? Aren’t we tired of all the excited exclamation points and heart-eyes emojis?

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, and here’s one more heartwarming account of online generosity and love. It comes from author Jen Hatmaker’s blog and Facebook page, where readers regularly chime in to share affirmations, funny anecdotes, and helpful parenting tips. Since Hatmaker’s latest book, For the Love, came out last summer, something else has been happening in the comments: whenever someone would mention how she wished she could afford a copy, another woman would chime in to offer to send her one.

This kind of exchange went on so often—about once a week since the book released in August—that this month Hatmaker decided to orchestrate a campaign around it, in partnership with her publisher, Thomas Nelson, and the charity retail site Givingtons. First, any woman could request a copy of the book for herself or a friend in need. Then, at the start of this week, readers could “share the love” by paying $15 to cover the cost of another woman’s request.

“I believe that we can generously love each other, even with something as simple as a book meant to nurture souls,” the Texas writer and speaker told her online tribe. “We all take turns needing each other and loving each other.”

They had 2,250 women sign up for books, and within 48 hours, all of them were paid for. That's a total of $33,750. Over the past few days, dozens ...

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Amplifying Evangelism—The Future of Outreach and Mission

The Future of Outreach

Because of the overall ineffectiveness of the North American church’s ability to evangelize, I frequently get asked about the future of outreach. The truth is that outreach will not get any easier. Why? There are at least three reasons.

First, our culture will continue to experience a decrease in nominal Christianity and an increase in “Nones.” (See article on this here, here, and here.)

So more people will distance themselves from Christianity and cease to even identify as Christian. This will create more skepticism towards Christianity and the institutional church.

Second, our culture will continue to be dominated by secular people, both in worldview and in numbers.

Many who hold a secular worldview in the halls of power—especially in the media or Hollywood—will attempt to marginalize the Christian faith. This attempt to discredit Christianity will continue to seek to push the church into the periphery of American culture.

Third, our culture will continue to experience a rise in religious pluralism, where Christianity will increasingly become one voice among a sea of competing voices (and narratives).

The continued rise of pluralism will give credence to individual autonomy and relativism, where truth for one person isn’t seen as truth for another.

Given that all of these elements are present now means that we are in the present future. So the future of outreach is now. But, what will be the most effective forms of outreach? I believe churches that make the following three shifts will be more effective at outreach in an increasingly skeptical, secular, and pluralistic culture.

1. Churches that shift from a temple mindset to a network mindset will be more ...

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Weekend Edition—February 12, 2016

The draft, Valentine's Day, Mary McLeod Bethune, and more!

Forcing Women Into Combat: Are We Seriously Talking About This?—Joel Rainey

The idea of women being coerced into battle is problematic on many levels.

7 Ways Dads Can Make Valentine’s Special for Their DaughtersSelma Wilson

As the dad of three daughters, Selma's thoughts really resonate with me.

Do You Know (this) Mary?Scot McKnight

Scot gives us a meaningful lesson appropriate for Black History Month, or anytime.

South Carolina bill worries immigration advocatesAdelle Banks

The religious liberty implications here are important. We dealt with some of these issues at the GC2 Summit.

Preaching and ControversyKevin Smith

Preaching is crucial. That's why I've started a series on it. Kevin has great thoughts on the subject.

Want to read a weekly digest of The Exchange blog? Click here to subscribe to Christianity Today's Newsletter for The Exchange to get weekly wrap-ups in your inbox.

Download this week's edition of The Exchange Podcast with my guest Dennis Choy.

Earlier this Week at The Exchange

Supporting Discipleship Teams

Viewing Black Lives Matter—Part 2

Thinking about Expository Preaching—Part 1

Trend #2 for the Future of Church Planting—Bivocational Ministry

Nominal Nation—The Shift Away from Self-Identified Christianity

Sunday Journeys: Millcreek Community Church and Starting New Things

Church Signs

I took this one, and I'm just leaving it right here...

Taking Christmas Wars to a whole 'nutha level!

Because faith without works is dead...or ransacked.

Thanks to Justin Shamblin and Rob Fisher for this week's signs. As always, you can tweet your church sign pics to @EdStetzer.

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Supporting Discipleship Teams

Teams need expectations, definition, communication and proper tools

One of the more common roles in a church is discipleship leader. Recently, as I was updating Planting Missional Churches for its next edition, Daniel Im and I listed discipleship coordinator as one of the seven key roles in a new church. In other words, someone holding up the banner of discipleship, helping everyone participate, is key.

Yet, the role of discipleship leader in a church can be an extremely difficult one. If it is a staff role, I would argue that discipleship and students are two of the most scrutinized positions on a church staff, which probably explains the short average-tenure for both. Everyone seems to have an opinion on teenagers and spiritual growth.

Most church leaders would agree that discipleship should be a priority for the church, but they are unclear on how to best support the team tasked with designing and executing a system for helping make disciples.

No matter how the church is structured, there are a few things that a church can do to help those discipleship leaders keep a church-wide focus on making disciples.

Have clear expectations

It's difficult to know what the wins are when there are no clear expectations to start with. This is easier with some ministries than others. For instance, there are measurable benchmarks with most weekend programs: are there more kids attending than last year? Are there more first-time visitors to the services?

But, how do you measure the making of disciples?

The leadership has to decide what and how to measure discipleship, and then evaluate success based on those measurements. There will always be a measure of subjectivity when it comes to assessing discipleship success, but some objective measures are possible: are there stories of life-change ...

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Why Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill Made Christian History in Cuba

(UPDATED) ISIS persecution of Christians prompts first meeting between Catholic and Orthodox primates since 1054.

Update (Feb. 12): World Watch Monitor offers a summary of the history-making meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in Cuba's Havana airport.

Gathering for the first time in nearly 1,000 years to jointly address the record levels of modern-day persecution of Christians, the leaders of Roman Catholicism and Russian Eastern Orthodoxy wrote:

In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response. ... We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence. ... We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer ...

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Finding Healing in Front of the Camera

A Christian considers the benefits of boudoir photography.

This post is part of a weekly Her.meneutics series called The Sex We Don’t Talk About, designed to feature female perspectives on aspects of sex and sexuality that can go overlooked in the church.

Sarah, a professional photographer based in Atlanta, photographs women posing in unbuttoned Oxford shirts, lacy bras, strappy tank tops, and tied-up corsets. Her subjects are not models or professional pinups; they are moms, brides, students, and business owners.

Her studio specializes in boudoir, a style of intimate portraits with subjects in undergarments, lingerie, and various states of undress. Over the past several years, boudoir shoots have taken off with the rise of specialty photography and the body positive movement.

“It’s helping women be able to embrace themselves, be able to feel beautiful, and to acknowledge that they are stunning creatures,” Sarah told me when I met with her last year.

I was fascinated by her work and philosophy. Her shoots are for all types and sizes of women, not just married women who hope to give the photos as gifts to their husbands, or “traditionally beautiful” women who are comfortable in front of the camera.

But the idea of stripping down to take sexy photos poses real questions for me as a Christian. I wonder, am I allowed to feel sexy, for the sake of it? Do the Bible's teachings on modesty prevent us from actually desiring to feel beautiful? Stunning? Confident?

Given our current cultural context, in which many women feel pressure to attain an impossible beauty ideal, I love the idea of women pursuing boudoir shoots to embrace their bodies and overcome hangups with their own sexuality. But does the trend end up playing into our societal ...

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Viewing Black Lives Matter—Part 2

D.A. Horton continues his analysis of the Black Lives Matter movement

In this part I briefly analyze #BlackLivesMatter as a movement by leveraging the words of the founders regarding: the movement’s definition, their appeal for recognition of Black-centeredness, an often overlooked core value, the movement’s funding, their guiding principles, and rebuttals to the movement’s misconceptions. My goal is to surface foundational beliefs that are not common knowledge among Evangelicals. This will afford them an opportunity to think critically about becoming co-belligerents.

Defining the Movement

Black Lives Matter is a chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black Life.[1] It should be noted chapter policies and needs differ from chapter to chapter.[2] The movement was created by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin. According to Garza, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.[3]

Asking for “Black Lives” Recognition

The founders want the basic human rights and dignity restored to all Black lives. They are not saying Blacks are better than all other lives rather, they’re asking for the same recognition given to the women’s movement, Chicano liberation movement, and queer movements, be granted equally to a movement centrally focused on Black lives.[4]

An Essential but Overlooked Core Value

The founders no longer want to see the labor of queer Black women neglected by mainstream media and those ...

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