Archives For Culture

At some level, all Christians want their churches to be influential in carrying out the work of God. One pathway to increased influence is a road we often overlook – the one behind us.

Looking back can be good. It can give us wisdom and perspective. It can also help us look forward to what God is doing next in your churches and ours.

This helpful book looks back at ten historic spiritual shifts of the last century and identifies a church closest to the center of each one. You may not have heard of these pioneering churches and their leaders, but we suspect you have been influenced by them far more than you realize. And we strongly suspect that after reading each of their stories, you’ll be glad you did – and you’ll have a better perspective on your own church and how God is at work in and around it.

It is hard to imagine anyone more qualified to identify and describe these trends and the personalities behind them than our friend, mentor, co-author and fellow researcher Elmer Towns. Starting in the 1960s he became the nation’s leading figure in…

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TVI “accidentally” became a TV evangelist two years ago after pulpit-filling for my grandfather’s nearly empty and bankrupt Crystal Cathedral church in Southern California. Since then our team has done a lot to revitalize both our church and its TV ministry — The Hour of Power.

In the process I have discovered the reality of TV evangelism world, and trust me — it has been an adventure. Out of that experience, our new producer, Phil Cooke (who has worked with many of the most successful media ministries in the world) and I have put together this list of five things you probably don’t know about TV evangelists.

1. The day of “big time TV evangelists” is coming to an end — which is good.

The media world has changed dramatically over the last 25 years, and the digital revolution has transformed the way Christians use the media.  While television is more important than ever for sharing the Christian message, most leaders are focusing online, using social media, podcasts, and other digital tools. Those who continue to use TV will be vital, but they won’t have the profile the previous generation of TV preachers had…

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OscarsRecently, as I’ve been speaking at conferences and events around the world I’ve been urging Christians to stop looking at Hollywood as the enemy, and start looking at Hollywood as a mission field. After all, what if Christians stopped just criticizing, and actually started praying for the most influential industry in the world? Something amazing might happen. But that’s long been the focus of two very effective ministry organizations based in Hollywood: The Hollywood Prayer Network and Mastermedia International. Now, both organizations are asking churches to do something many would never expect:

On Academy Awards night – February 22nd – have an “Oscar Party” at your church.

Yes – you read that correctly. As Dr. Larry Poland, founder of Mastermedia International stated in a recent email blast:

Would you like to see how God could use you and your church to impact Hollywood for good? To impact media eternally? Well, it could happen through prayer . . . in your church!

What if Hollywood’s biggest day of the year was also your church’s biggest day of prayer . . . for media and entertainment?

What if pastors and congregations and Sunday school…

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Rick Warren Martin Luther King JrOne of the greatest privileges of my life was being invited by Dr. King’s children and family to preach from the same pulpit that he preached from at the great Ebenezer Baptist Church , the congregation Dr. King pastored in Atlanta. The occasion was the 40th Anniversary of Dr. King’s death, and the family told me that I was the first white preacher to preach there.

People forget that, first and foremost, Martin Luther King was a PASTOR, He was not a politician. He was a Baptist minister of the Gospel, and a pastor of a local church. Everything he did to promote freedom, justice, and racial equality flowed out of his understanding of God’s Word. I have read hundreds of his sermons and they are rich biblical content.

Hanging on the wall of my study is hand typed and signed note from Dr. King. It hangs next to a handwritten note from Mother Teresa and a letter of encouragement from Billy Graham. Each of these 3 Christian leaders left their mark on me as I was a young man.

In honor of Pastor Martin Luther King…

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Go see Selma. Angie and I caught it on Saturday night and were moved by its message. Be prepared for Lyndon Johnson’s profanity and some scenes that are shockingly violent. Both represent realities of the era. Here’s the trailer…

Dr. King has been an inspiration to me for a number of years because of his intense passion for seeing a world where color no longer divides humanity. One doesn’t have to read much of the New Testament to discover that this was certainly a priority of Jesus as well. His new Kingdom would be one in which “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28 NLT)

This verse, and plenty of others, aren’t about denying the physical realities of variances in our skin pigmentation or the anatomical differences between male and female. The bigger point is that when confronted with Christ, we must acknowledge the universality of certain characteristics on a spiritual level.

  • We are ALL created equal in worth and dignity, in God’s image.
  • We are ALL sinners in need of the redemptive grace of God.
  • We are ALL made acceptable to…

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The Supreme Court announced today that they are taking cases on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Effectively, this means that the highest court in the land will decide, this year, whether marriage, as defined for thousands of years, will exist in our country any longer. Here’s what we should keep in mind.

First of all, this is not something we should shrug off. Marriage isn’t merely a matter of personal import or private behavior. States recognize marriage for a reason, and that reason is that sexuality between a man and a woman can, and often does, result in children. The state has an interest in seeing to it that, wherever possible, every child has both a mother and a father. The state doesn’t create this reality. It merely recognizes it, and attempts to hold husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, accountable to their vows and to their responsibilities. In every aspect of the Sexual Revolution, from the divorce culture to cohabitation to casual sex to the abortion revolution, children have borne the burden.

If the Court finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, we will have a generation of confusion about what marriage…

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by Tom Strode

The Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity has announced a summit on race relations in the wake of grand jury decisions regarding police killings of black men that have provoked widespread protests and a nationwide discussion.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission will hold a leadership summit with the theme “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” March 26-27 in Nashville, it announced Thursday (Dec. 11). The ERLC previously had announced the topic of its second annual leadership summit on the same dates would be developing a pro-life ethic but changed the topic in response to recent events.

On Dec. 3, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner despite a widely viewed video of the incident. The failure to indict also occurred in spite of a ruling by the New York City medical examiner’s office that Garner’s death was a homicide.

That decision in a New York City borough followed by only nine days a St. Louis County grand jury’s refusal to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. No incriminating video existed of Brown’s August death in…

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Mental HealthEvangelical leaders are increasingly speaking out about mental health issues. Many have begun to open up about their own bouts with depression or a family member’s illness.

Last month, The New York Times ran a front page story about pastors breaking the longtime silence around mental illness. The Times story led with the account of Southern Baptist pastor Matt Brogli receiving an anonymous phone call from a suicidal man.

Brogli, pastor of Eagle Springs Baptist Church in Eagle Springs, N.C., was new to the pastorate and admittedly ill-prepared for the exchange. Fortunately, he was able to talk the man out of taking his own life. Two years later, Brogli is the unofficial mental health counselor for the rural community of Eagle Springs.

The Times article cited a study by LifeWay Research, which revealed 59 percent of Protestant pastors have counseled someone who was later diagnosed with a mental illness. Nearly a quarter of pastors say they, too, have experienced some kind of mental illness.

In November, LifeWay Research in partnership with Focus on the Family released the findings of a study on faith and mental illness. The study included surveys of senior Protestant pastors,…

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In recent years there has been some significant discussion and controversy over the de-Christianization of Christmas. With shop workers being told to say “Happy Holidays” the over-emphasis of Santa Claus, Elf on the Shelf, and other such traditions, many have felt as though we’ve been committing treason against the reason for the season.

New LifeWay Research data released yesterday afternoon suggests that most Americans concur with the Christian idea that Christmas should be more about Jesus.

Here are some key stats from the new data:

  • 63% of Americans say poeople should visit church for Christmas
  • 79% agree that Christmas should be more about Jesus
  • 70% say Christmas would be better with a Christian focus
  • 39% say “X-mas” is offensive
  • 29% say “Happy Holidays” is offensive
  • 56% say God’s son existed before Jesus was born in Bethlehem

Here’s an interesting point on the singing of Christmas songs in school music programs:

Most Americans (86 percent) say children in public schools should be allowed to sing religious Christmas songs in school-sponsored musicals. About one in 10 (12 percent) disagree. Two percent are not sure.

Nine in 10 women (89 percent) and eight in 10 men (83 percent) agree. So do most Westerners (80 percent)…

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Ferguson ProtestsThe mood in Ferguson, Missouri, is tense, after a grand jury decided against indicting a police officer for the killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. The tension ought to remind us, as the church, that we are living in a time in which racial division is hardly behind us. That reality ought to motivate us as citizens to work for justice, but also as the church to seek to embody the kingdom of Christ.

We haven’t as of yet sorted through all the evidence the grand jury saw and we don’t know precisely what happened in this nightmarish incident. What we do know is that the Ferguson situation is one of several in just the past couple of years where white and black Americans have viewed a situation in starkly different terms. White Americans tend, in public polling, to view the presenting situations as though they exist in isolation, dealing only with the known facts of the case at hand, of whether there is evidence of murder. Black Americans, polls show, tend to view these crises through a wider lens, the question of whether African-American youth are too often profiled…

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FergusonThe grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri has decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson following the death of Michael Brown. Last night, after the grand jury’s announcement, peaceful protests quickly turned into violence, arson, and looting.

It breaks my heart to see.

As the family of Michael Brown and the President of the United States ask for peace and change and this is what we see. However, it is important to note that this does not mean most African Americans are involved in the looting. Not at all.

Yet, the looting itself is repugnant in more than one way. It will cause many to lose property and some may lose their lives. However, it may also cause many to say, “See, this is what happens with those people.”

Even more, we need to be careful about our discussion of “facts.” Bryan Loritts says, “Facts are a first and last resort in a court of law, but when it comes to human relationships, let us first stop and feel before we go to facts.”

Please do not be one of those people who ignore the hurt. You would not do…

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I love small churches. I love medium-sized churches. And I love large churches and “megachurches” (typically defined as an evangelical congregation with 2,000 or more weekend service attenders). I also agree with a principle shared by Bailey Smith who once said, “There are no large churches. All churches are small, some are just smaller than others when compared to the surrounding lost population.”

I’ve pastored churches of 30 and I’ve served as a staff Pastor at a church that averaged about 22,000 attenders at the time. In many ways, the largest of them was also the smallest – the most capable of shaping and nurturing my soul. For whatever reason, church size is a very, very sensitive topic. Within the church, everyone seems to favor whatever size the church they’re part of represents. Some view small churches as ineffective and unwelcoming. Others view large churches as doctrinally weak or merely as corporate structures who prefer making dollars over disciples.

Why all the sensitivity? I think it’s social. We’re all a little protective of our identity, especially when we feel that someone is judging and assessing us as more or less worthy by secondary measures such as church size.

At Grace…

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