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Why Chinese diaspora churches remain silent while Christians in Hong Kong take to the streets.

On the afternoon of Sunday, August 18, about 70 people gathered for a prayer meeting at a church in Vancouver organized by the group Vancouver Christians for Love, Peace, and Justice. Their focus was the same as their three previous gatherings: to pray for the ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong, for those affected, and for human rights and freedom in the city of 7.4 million people.

Before the meeting ended, the Tenth Street church building was surrounded by as many as 100 pro-China demonstrators waving Chinese and Canadian flags. The attendees inside, according to a spokesperson, feared for their safety and were escorted out by Vancouver police officers.

This confrontation took place more than 6,300 miles from Hong Kong and six months after Chief Executive Carrie Lam introduced a controversial extradition bill that would allow fugitives to be extradited into mainland China. The proposal was seen as a ploy to grant Beijing more power over the city, setting off large-scale demonstrations that have continued to this day.

While Lam canceled the extradition bill in September, unrest has continued as protesters press for Lam’s resignation, an inquiry into police brutality during the protests, the release of those arrested, and greater democratic freedoms.

The situation in Hong Kong hits close to home for the 500,000 Hong Kong immigrants residing in Canada and the more than 200,000 in the US. Many still have relatives and friends in Hong Kong, which is part of China but governed by separate laws. Others have directly benefitted from the freedoms and opportunities offered by the semi-autonomous region.

Pastor John D. L. Young grew up in Guangdong Province in mainland China, and then spent about six years studying for his doctoral ...

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Some evangelical supporters consider the shift away from Christian charities a betrayal.

Chick-fil-A has announced plans to end charitable giving to Christian organizations—including the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA)—amid concern over LGBT backlash as the popular Christian-owned business expands beyond the US.

The strategic shift has disappointed evangelicals who admired the chain’s stance and leaders at Salvation Army, who say its outreach supports members of the LGBT population facing homelessness and poverty.

“There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told the site Bisnow on Monday. “There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.”

Chick-fil-A—the country’s third largest fast-food chain, behind McDonald’s and Starbucks—has been blocked from opening new locations in the San Antonio and Buffalo airports this year over criticism for donating to organizations with a traditional Christian view of sexuality. Previously, it has faced resistance for the same reason from politicians in Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Internationally, a shopping center in Reading, England, announced eight days into Chick-fil-A’s lease on a new location that the lease would not be renewed when it expired. The mall cited a desire to “offer an inclusive space where everyone is welcome.”

An unnamed Chick-fil-A executive told Biznow the chain was “taking it on the chin” in media reports about LGBT protests and could not ignore the threat to its growth.

Several years ago, the restaurant chain stopped giving to some organizations ...

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A church existing for the Kingdom of God will always be reminiscent of a heroic, rescue mission for one very loved and lost lamb. 

What is important and what we find ourselves doing are often two very different things. We get that. We often drift away from significance in many realms of life. Drift is easy to start and hard to stop.

But what seems more troubling is when we actively measure our drift as calibrated metrics of success. Like an adolescent proudly declaring how many days he has not eaten a vegetable, the evangelical subculture still finds itself comparing and competing on frivolous metrics while neglecting that which is spiritually substantial.

The church growth hangover is tough to shake off.

Rewiring our long-established ecclesiastical hardwiring can be an exasperating procedure. Much of our spiritual muscle memory has been dedicated to the objective of growing a worship gathering—and it is not easy to train new muscles.

Rethinking and recalibrating this instinctive pattern can be a challenging assignment for those gutsy enough to attempt it. But for those who dare, they just might discover something more powerful than the most polished gathering. An ecclesiological upgrade that more resembles the first century than the twenty-first.

It starts with what we measure.

Physicians instinctively get this idea. They rarely look at a patient’s stature and predict his level of health. To a physician, ‘tall’ doesn’t mean healthy, nor ‘short’, unhealthy. Instead, they have a handful of significant metrics that they measure which are commonly called ‘vital signs.’

Vital signs are significant to a physician for quickly ascertaining the general health and wellbeing of a patient. These are not a comprehensive picture of a person’s health, but if something is awry in any one of them, major health complications ...

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A new study suggests that the rite doesn’t bind young Christians to a certain level of faith commitment, but to a faith community.

Most researchers studying religious trends among young people tend to focus on what’s making younger Americans walk away from religion. Some have emphasized life course transitions such as leaving home, going to college, or becoming sexually active. Others have examined frustration with politics. And still others have rightly pointed out that younger Americans are increasingly raised him homes where they’re no longer exposed to religious faith in the first place.

In a recent study, we decided to explore one factor that might contribute to young people staying in their faith: undergoing a traditional religious “initiation rite” like believer’s baptism, first communion, or bar mitzvah.

Scholars of religion have always been fascinated with rites of passage and particularly what they accomplish for the group itself. The collective benefits are obvious. When we celebrate the entrance of new members into our community of faith, we’re collectively reminded about our common heritage, our core doctrines, and our eternal bond with one another.

The possibility that these rites of passage might have a long-term impact on the individuals themselves can seem so self-evident that it often goes unquestioned. We decided to test how powerful that impact might actually be.

Using data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, a nationally representative panel study of young Americans, our study looked at participants at two points in time: when they were ages 13–17 and one decade later when they were ages 23–28. Depending on their religious affiliation as teens, the survey asked if they had been confirmed or baptized, not including infant baptism (if Protestant); had a bar/bat mitzvah (if Jewish); ...

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My conversation with Stephen Witmer in the importance of serving in small town places.

Ed: Why did you write A Big Gospel in Small Places?

Stephen: I wrote this book because I believe the gospel is really big in terms of its importance, power, effects, and centrality, and because I’m very eager for that big gospel to have its full impact in small places.

By small places, I mean communities that are lacking in cultural and economic influence, small towns and rural areas (and perhaps also some communities with larger populations) that are mostly forgotten and unknown.

I’ve pastored for more than a decade in a small New England town, and this book is the overflow of my own joyful, painful, hopeful small-town ministry. At times, I’ve wrestled, struggled, and searched for answers, and I’m recording here some of the things I’ve discovered which will, I pray, be helpful for others.

Ed: Who did you write this book for?

Stephen: I’m writing for the many thousands of small town/rural laypeople and pastors around the world who are ministering for Christ, and who often feel as isolated, forgotten, and unvalued as the communities in which they minister.

They sometimes wonder whether their ministries even matter. I’m seeking to answer with a strong ‘Yes!’ – not based on my own wisdom, but on the Bible. The gospel is our clearest window into the character of God, and the gospel shows us that God often works in small ways, on a slow schedule, with lavish, inordinate, ‘unstrategic’ love.

Therefore, the gospel demonstrates that small is probably better than we think, slow is often wiser than we think, and strategic isn’t always what we think. In other words, the gospel makes room for small town ministry!

I’m also writing for those who are considering ...

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” That sentence also describes American journalism today. 

Today I am glad to welcome Warren Smith to The Exchange. Warren is president of MinistryWatch. Here we talk about the ministry and why it is needed today.

Ed: What is MinistryWatch?

Warren: MinistryWatch is an independent advocate for donors to Christian charity. We’re 20 years old and maintain a database of financial statements and analysis of the 500 largest Christian ministries in the country. We use this analysis to rate ministries on a 1- to 5-scale based on financial efficiency.

So, for example, ministries that spend more on administrative and fundraising activities will see their ratings lowered. Ministries that have large endowments will also likely see their ratings affected negatively. The rating system rewards ministries that use donor money directly for ministry activities.

We also issue “Donor Alerts” when ministries engage in bad behavior, or when we think donors need to beware or ask additional questions. We do not issue donor alerts often, usually a couple of times a year to warn donors (and focus media attention) on bad actors or questionable activities.

An equally vital part of our work has been to raise the profile of lesser-known ministries doing great work. We call these ministries "Shining Lights," after Matthew 5:16, which encourages us to "let your light so shine before men that they would see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven."

Ed: I’ve used the ministry to look up certain charities. Can you explain to people who might not be familiar why that matters?

Warren: The financial analysis is unique to MinistryWatch. Ministries and other non-profits are required by law to disclose publicly certain financial information. However, most people are ...

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First Baptist Church of Naples, Florida, continues to investigate whether Marcus Hayes’s rejection was the result of racial prejudice or preexisting turmoil following its previous pastor’s departure.

A black Southern Baptist minister has withdrawn his name from further consideration at the Florida megachurch that failed last month to achieve the supermajority vote required to call him as pastor, sparking accusations of racism from within and outside the congregation.

First Baptist Church of Naples, Florida, announced yesterday in an email to members that Marcus Hayes “has asked that his name be removed from consideration to be our next Senior Pastor.” The email, signed by the congregation’s eight-member senior pastor search team, called the withdrawal of Hayes’ candidacy “a major disappointment to several thousand members and supporters of First Baptist.”

Hayes has declined to make a statement to media regarding his decision.

Search team chairman Neil Dorrill had told the congregation November 2 he hoped Hayes, an African American, would allow himself to be considered a second time as a candidate for the senior pastor vacancy.

Currently a campus pastor at Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, North Carolina, Hayes was presented October 26 and 27 as the candidate for the top leadership spot at the predominantly Anglo church. Its bylaws require “at least an 85% majority vote by secret ballot” to elect a senior pastor. But Hayes garnered only 1,552 of the 1,917 votes cast (81%).

Following the vote, FBC Naples’ executive pastor John Edie claimed in an open letter to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) that there were “racial prejudices” behind the vote, which manifested themselves in a “campaign that started just days before.” The church, he said, had already begun “to make sure that this sinful cancer is dealt with.”

That week, First Baptist’s ...

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Amid increasing polarization and shifting church trends, the black church continues to speak out on matters of justice.

Hundreds gathered in a Chicago sanctuary last night to hear Christian leaders calling on believers to engage the political process and advocate for their convictions in the election year ahead.

The Faith and Politics Rally was organized by the And Campaign, a nonpartisan group that says Christians have a “particular obligation” to provide moral leadership and seek the common good—an approach that has become increasingly contentious in the US.

A majority of Americans believe churches should “keep out” of politics, according to a survey released today by the Pew Research Center. Evangelicals and Protestants from historically black churches—both represented at the recent rally—are the only major religious traditions that still want faith communities to “express their views” on social and political issues.

“While a misappropriation of the separation between Church and State has sometimes been used to suggest people of faith are the only people who can’t consider their values when participating in politics, we know that both our faith and the demands of citizenship require that we bring our full selves to the project of self-governance,” And Campaign leaders declared in their 2020 presidential election statement.

Evangelicals (in this survey, a multiethnic sample) and historically black Protestants tend to rank as most devout among religious groups in the US. They share core theological beliefs and a corresponding desire to see those beliefs shape their lives and communities. Evangelicals and black Protestants are the two traditions that consider their faith the most important source of meaning in their lives. But they often come from different racial and cultural ...

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Pretending pastors don't struggle is a recipe for disaster.

When pastors go into ministry, we don't leave behind all of the struggles that define the human reality in which we live. Like others, we struggle with any number of things each day—interpersonal relationships, our marriages, as parents, with our health, with our self image.

And for some pastors, our struggles can go in one of two directions—either we hide them and try to deal with them in isolation, or we openly share that we, like everyone else, have a lot on our minds.

The unfortunate reality is that too many of us choose the former option. This is not necessarily because we don’t want to share, but because we either don’t know how, or we don’t feel safe. It is not easy to preach a sermon on healthy marriages even as our own is hanging from a thread. Nor is it easy to talk about the impact of sin when we are wrestling ourselves with our own addiction to porn, alcohol, technology…you pick your poison.

As a pastor, let me share six unique ways that pastors struggle. My hope is that this short list will allow both leaders and their congregations the opportunity to begin to ask, “How can we change our situation?”

First, pastors struggle with identity.

Pastors generally have three identities they need to balance: their perceived religious identity, their cultural identity, and their own identity. I remember some years back going over to a neighbor’s house. We didn’t know them well, but they knew I was a pastor. When we first came over to their house, they said it was like Jesus was visiting the house.

Well, I assure you that there is a big difference between Jesus and me! Yet because of my religious identity, this was how they perceived me. It was as though I had ...

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Queen Elizabeth’s belief is deep and sincere, says biographer Dudley Delffs, and Netflix gets it right.

When Season 3 of Netflix’s The Crown releases on November 17, viewers can expect plenty of changes as new actors tackle the lead roles and ferry the royal family through the tumultuous waters of the late 1960s and early 1970s. But they might also expect a reprisal of past scenes, including Queen Elizabeth kneeling beside her bed and praying. That practice “has been verified by numerous staff members throughout the years,” says author Dudley Delffs. “It really is part of the fabric of who she is and isn’t so much a matter of show.”

Delffs, who describes himself as a “lifelong Anglophile,” wrote The Faith of Queen Elizabeth: The Poise, Grace, and Quiet Strength Behind the Crown (Zondervan), which releases on December 3. Megan Fowler spoke with Delffs about the Queen’s faith and how The Crown gets it right.

You note that Elizabeth publicly asked her people to pray for her when she turned 21 and again when she was anticipating her coronation. This seems particularly striking, considering what a private person she was.

Elizabeth’s request for prayer from her subjects and from others has been a way to ground and demonstrate her faith and the fact that it is personal. She’s not just going through the motions, she does want their engagement and their support, and prayer is an incredible way to do that.

I think she’s keenly aware of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who had a very active, dynamic Christian faith and was very transparent about Bible reading, evangelism, and prayer. During the male monarchs, in between Victoria and Elizabeth, perhaps they were not as demonstrative or open about having a personal faith. That’s not to say that they didn’t ...

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