Archives For Culture

Culture Wars

By Tim Harlow

Life on MissionI believe that God puts us where He wants us. I know that’s an obvious opening statement, but that means that I actually believe that God put me in Chicagoland in 2015 because He gave me certain gifts and abilities that He wants me to use.  I don’t think I would have fit in as a preacher in Mayberry in the 1960s. I just could not have dealt with the legalism. I would have probably opted for Woodstock.

I was recently at an event where I heard a lot of well-meaning Christian leaders talking about “taking our culture back.” There are many church leaders who would love to bring back the “moral majority” to America. And while I hate what immorality does to people’s lives and also to the heart of God, my study of church history shows me that Christianity is usually most potent when it comes in from the outside. Jesus didn’t call us to be the majority of the earth.

He called us to be the salt and light.

I want to lead the Christians who are cellphone lights in a movie theater. Do you know what I…

Continue Reading

As I’ve said before, Christianity is not dying; nominal Christianity is.

Today, Pew Research Center released a report drawing a variety of headlines—everything from “Christianity faces sharp decline as Americans are becoming even less affiliated with religion” to “Pew: Evangelicals Stay Strong as Christianity Crumbles in America.”

So what are we supposed to think of Christianity in America?

The nominals are becoming the nones, and the convictional are remaining committed.

The big trends are clear, the nominals are becoming the nones, yet the convictional are remaining committed.

In other words, Americans whose Christianity was nominal—in name only—are casting aside the name. They are now aligning publicly with what they’ve actually not believed all along.

The percentage of convictional Christians remains rather steady, but because the nominal Christians now are unaffiliated the overall percentage of self-identified Christians is decline. This overall decline is what Pew shows—and I expect it to accelarate.

As I have said before, not one serious researcher thinks Christianity in America is dying. What we see from Pew is not the death-knell of Christianity, but another indication that Christianity in America is being refined.

As such, let me share three takeaways from…

Continue Reading

Flag

America is in its worst condition in our generation. Politically, our government has been paralyzed by partisanship. Culturally, we’re becoming more and more secular. And internationally, our reputation has never been lower.

America needs healing.

We need healing in our economy. We need healing in our businesses. We need healing in our schools. We need healing in our marriages and our families. And, most of all, we need healing in our hearts.

But our wounds are not fatal. I’m very hopeful. My hope is not based upon some vague wish. It’s rooted in the Word of God. It’s rooted in the belief that even when life is tough, God is good and he has a plan and purpose for our lives and for our country.

So what will it take to heal our land?

Almost 3,000 years ago God made a promise to King Solomon that’s particularly appropriate for us to internalize today. It’s a promise that he has made to all of us – even 21st century America. God says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I…

Continue Reading

Baltimore

Our television screens glow with images of criminal rioting and assault on police officers in the streets of Baltimore. This is in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, despite the pleas from Gray’s family for calm. The horrific scene seems to bring out the worst ideological responses from divergent corners. Some, wrongly, excuse the rioting, pointing out the issues leading up to it as justifying such criminality. On the other side, some suggest, wrongly, that such rioting is part and parcel of what peaceful protesters are about, distracting from the very real systemic issues that must be addressed. But behind all of this is a question the church must ask: what does Baltimore need in a time such as this?

There’s no question that Baltimore needs order and restraint of violence. There’s no question that Baltimore needs investigation and justice in the untimely death of Freddie Gray. There’s no question that Baltimore suffers from poverty, racial injustice, family breakdown, illegal drugs, gang activity, and a thousand other ailments. Government, civil society, law enforcement, and community organizations must confront all of these. But I would argue that the primary…

Continue Reading

Dr. Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in North Texas, will lead the country in prayer as Honorary Chairman for the 2015 National Day of Prayer next month.

A minister for more than four decades, Dr. Graham leads the nearly 40,000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church, which includes three locations in the Dallas area. He is also the voice of PowerPoint Ministries, a radio and television broadcast ministry that shares the message of the Gospel proclaimed from the Prestonwood pulpit throughout the world.

The National Day of Prayer Task Force, led by Shirley Dobson, named Dr. Graham as chair for the 64th annual prayer event on Thursday, May 7, in Washington, D.C.

“I’m so pleased to have Pastor Jack Graham serving with me as our 2015 Honorary Chairman,” Mrs. Dobson said. “And together, we are calling our great nation to repentance and prayer.”

Mrs. Dobson said the theme this year is Lord, Hear Our Cry, drawn from 1 Kings 8:28.

“We would like to invite all Christians to cry out together with us on May 7,” she said, “asking God to bring us spiritual awakening in…

Continue Reading

prayformarriage

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether states can legally choose to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It is a watershed moment in our nation’s history. As an organization, we have filed briefs with the court, argued in public and in private about why marriage, defined as the union of one man and one woman, matters as a social good, and more than I have space to list in one post. But beyond all this we as Christians and churches need to pray—because marriage is not just another culture war issue.

As Christians we know that it is not even possible for any government to actually redefine what God has defined from eternity. Marriage is about more than registering relationships at a courthouse. Marriage is about the common good and flourishing of society, but is also an icon of the union between Christ and his church, embedded in the creation (Eph. 5:22-31). Without a Christian vision of marriage, we have no Christian vision of the gospel.

As a church we need to pray that marriage will not be treated as if it were a tattered house standing in the way…

Continue Reading

views2

By Lisa Green

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Although most Americans believe church is on the decline, the overwhelming majority say they find value in attending.

A new survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research reveals an upbeat attitude toward churchgoing. Two-thirds of Americans think attendance is admirable, and nearly 9 in 10 call it acceptable. Only 11 percent consider church useless.

Even nonreligious people have favorable opinions. Eighty percent believe church attendance is acceptable, and 43 percent label it admirable. Just 29 percent call it useless.

Yet more Americans believe the church is dying than thriving, according to the LifeWay study. Researchers asked 1,000 Americans about their views in a phone survey from Sept. 19-28, 2014.

“Americans have a much more optimistic view of the people and practice of attending church than they do of the health of the church,” said Scott McConnell vice president of LifeWay Research. “Church attendance is much like regular exercise and driving the speed limit. People do not live out everything they admire.”

Confirming McConnell’s assertion that Americans’ churchgoing is at odds with their behavior, even on Easter, traditionally the best-attended Sunday of the year, large segments of the population say they don’t plan to attend,…

Continue Reading

Yesterday, I asked a group of pastors if they believe minister’s should address pop culture related topics in their messages. Over 1500 pastors responded to the survey. A whopping 74% of them said, “Yes”—ministers can and should talk about culture from the stage.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 11.03.12 AM

Recently, I chatted with Ministry Pass’ Content Manager, Wade Bearden, about pop culture and the Bible. Along with leading our sermon series planning department, Wade is also a film critic in his spare time. His work has been featured on Christianity Today, RogerEbert.com, and ChristandPopCulture.com. He’s also gearing up to help launch a new podcast on film and television in the next few months.

Here’s a quick summary of our conversation about pastors and pop culture:

1. Jesus used the common imagery of his day to illustrate deep, spiritual truths, we should do the same. Seeds, sheep, and vineyards; Jesus utilized all of these pictures to help an ancient middle eastern culture understand the Kingdom of God. We too should leverage our contemporary culture’s interested in film, television, and art to communicate the message of the Bible. Films are modern day parables. Facebook is a contemporary…

Continue Reading

Print

By Bob Smietana

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Christian broadcasters have a devoted following, with about two-thirds of weekly churchgoers and evangelicals saying they tune in to Christian radio and television on a regular basis.

Christian books have a similar use by churchgoers and evangelicals and Christian movies remain popular, with about 4 in 10 Americans having seen one in the last year.

But many Americans ignore Christian media.

Those are among the findings of a new study on the use of Christian media from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The study, sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), included an online survey of 2,252 Americans and a phone survey of 1,009 Americans.

“Christian media delivers teaching, music, and entertainment to a predominantly Christian constituency,” says Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Not surprisingly, those who embrace Christian teaching will value and consume these the most.” Stetzer released the study’s findings during the NRB national convention in Nashville, February 24.

Researchers found demographic splits between those who frequently or sometimes listen to or watch Christian broadcasts and those who rarely or never tune in.

Self-identified evangelicals (69 percent), weekly church attenders (62 percent), and African-Americans (54 percent) are more likely to watch Christian television.

They are…

Continue Reading

Black History Month means different things to different people.

As a Nation we have a month of recognition and silence for the mighty men and women of color who paved the way for all of us. We recognize them for their hard work, tears, and for those who died fighting for equality for people of color. I am proud to be a man of color born in America.

As we take time to celebrate this notable occasion, I would like to share what Black History Month means to me.  For me, Black History Month is a time of reflection, rejoicing, and recommitting to reach the next generation.

MLK Memorial Photo 20percent

Black History Month is a Time of Reflection

Black History Month is a time to think about what it means to be an African American. We stand on the shoulders of giants who sacrificed to pave the way for a better tomorrow.  It is a time to reflect back on the activists and organizers of the past involved in the fight for racial equality. The direct action being utilized by pacifist groups, and the…

Continue Reading

isisA pastor friend told me last week that he had church members enraged with him when he suggested from the pulpit that we ought to pray for the salvation of Islamic State terrorists. The people in his church told him that he ought to be calling for justice against them, given their brutal murder of Christians, not for mercy.

I thought about my friend a few days ago when these murderous fiends beheaded 21 of our brothers and sisters in Christ because they refused to renounce the name of Jesus. I was not just angry; I was furious. Can such fury co-exist, though, with the Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 5-7)?  When we pray about such evil, how should we pray?

The complexity of the Christian calling in the world was seen even in social media. One friend of mine posted that the slaughter of Christians overseas calls for the world’s only remaining superpower to take action. Another said, quoting singer Toby Keith, that it was time to “light up their world like the Fourth of July.” To that, I say, “Amen.” Another friend, a former student of mine posted, “Oh, that there…

Continue Reading

Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month in America, is an annual observance in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.

Research has found that the proportion of young people who are daily readers drops has dropped dramatically in recent years. According to some studies, since 1984, the percentage of 13-year-olds who are weekly readers dropped from 70% to 53%. Even worse, the percentage of 17-year-olds who are weekly readers fell from 64% to a startling 40%. It’s jarring news.  Therefore, I’m sharing my list of reading recommendations.  Here are a few titles that had an impact on my life and that every African-American should read.

kid_reading_page-bg_2255

The Mis-Education of the Negro – Carter G. Woodson, Ph.D.

The thesis of Dr. Woodson’s book is that African-Americans of his day were being culturally indoctrinated, rather than taught, in American schools.  This conditioning, he claims, causes African-Americans to become dependent and to seek out inferior places in the greater society of which they are a part. He challenges his readers to become autodidacts and to “do for…

Continue Reading