On Court Prophets and Wilderness Prophets

Christian responses to the president.

Recently our president made the latest in a long line of comments demeaning immigrants and minorities. The furor brings to mind two biblical prophets, both for their differences and for what they hold in common.

Nathan was an advisor to the royal court and a messenger of God. He pronounced God’s covenant with David, supported the ascension of Solomon, and wrote histories of the legendary kings. The Bible rarely speaks positively of court prophets, who often serve as apologists for rulers who flout the will of God. Yet Nathan was a court prophet, and a good one. Most memorably, he approached King David and convicted him of his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah. Nathan might have lost his head. Instead he won a repentant king.

John the Baptist is the very image of a wilderness prophet. His ministry raises a clarion cry in the desert, far from the center of political power. He wore a camel-hair shirt, ate locusts and honey, and heralded the kingdom of God. John the Baptist condemned the marriage of Herod Antipas. Unlike Nathan, he ultimately paid with his life.

One was a court prophet and the other a wilderness prophet. One was welcome in the precincts of power. The other was not. What does this have to do with us today?

Some of our readers voted for Trump, in enthusiastic support or in reluctant pragmatism. Others rejected him. Christianity Today should be a place where brothers and sisters in Christ reason with one another passionately and charitably. Let’s seek to understand as much as we seek to be understood.

As for me, I wonder if we have too many court prophets in an era when wilderness prophets are needed. I also wonder if our court prophets are willing to call out sin when they see it. Whether you view Trump as ...

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Canadian Anglicans to Continue Same-Sex Ceremonies, Even After Failed Vote

The church’s bishops are “are not of one mind” on the definition of marriage.

Though the Anglican Church in Canada last week failed to amend its canon to sanction same-sex marriages, in the wake of the narrow vote, dioceses have opted to continue with them anyway.

The amendment, first passed in 2016, required a two-thirds majority vote among lay delegates, clergy, and bishops at two triennial general synods in a row. While it met the threshold among lay and clergy (80.9% and 73.2%) during this year’s synod, the bishops’ vote last Friday fell just short of two-thirds (62.2%).

On Monday, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Primate of Canada, read a statement to the delegation saying the bishops “are not of one mind” on the issue, but that “we are walking together in a way which leaves room for individual dioceses and jurisdictions of our church to proceed with same-sex marriage,” according to Anglican Planet.

The initial rejection came as a blow to the majority of Canadian Anglicans, who support same-sex marriage, which has been legal in the country since 2005. But after Monday’s announcement, several bishops indicated that they would be taking advantage of the “local option,” which permits dioceses to follow their “contexts and convictions” on this issue, the CBC wrote.

The conservative minority in the Anglican Church in Canada has raised concerns over the decision to permit same-sex ceremonies despite the failed vote.

“In a church that affirms the ‘One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’ I can’t make sense of what local option means in this context or in the global Church,” Bishop Joey Royal, a suffragan bishop of the Arctic, told Anglican Planet.

“This is something that has not yet been fully acknowledged despite ...

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One-on-One with J.D. Greear on the Gospel ‘Above All’ Else

“What the church needs now is what the church has always needed: a return to the gospel.”

Ed: What prompted you to write Above All?

J.D.: Evangelical Christians have always been gospel people. It’s in our very name! The word, “evangelical,” is a transliteration of the Greek word “gospel.” So, in that sense, the gospel has always been our “brand.”

But it seems like a lot of us are increasingly tempted to turn elsewhere for renewal and life and to give our energies to other agendas. I wonder if Paul’s words to the Galatians might characterize a lot of our attempts at ministry today: “You foolish (Evangelicals)! Who has cast a spell on you? … Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:1–3).

We get engaged in a lot of things—important things—that end up keeping us from the one essential thing—the gospel.

Think about this: The gospel is the one thing in the New Testament, other than Jesus himself, that is referred to as the power of God. Not contains the power of God. Not channels the power of God, but is itself the raw, unstoppable, death-defeating power of God.

Paul referred to the gospel as “of first importance,” and put so much emphasis on it that he told the Corinthians that he only wanted to talk about one thing with them: the cross of Jesus. Most scholars say that was an overstatement; after all, his letters to the Corinthians are filled with many important instructions for the Christian life. But in Paul’s mind, the gospel was so important he didn’t mind saying it was all he wanted to be known for.

We should be known as a gospel people. We only have bandwidth in our communities to be known for a couple of things. I want that thing to be the gospel. ...

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Michael W. Smith, Kevin Jonas Launch Liberty University Music Label

Liberty Music Group is the latest venture to help students “take worship to the nations.”

Grammy Award-winning artist Michael W. Smith hopes to share the secrets of his success with students at Liberty University this coming fall.

He'll be joined by Kevin Jonas, the father and original manager of the Jonas Brothers, the megapopular sibling rock trio.

Both will play key roles at the new Michael W. Smith Center for Commercial Music, which opens August 1 at Liberty, in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Smith will direct the center. Jonas' role is still being defined but will involve working with Liberty students to record and promote their work and connecting with mainstream artists interested in signing with the new music label it plans to launch alongside the center.

The school hopes the center and label — working name: Liberty Music Group — not only will give students experience recording an album but also will attract artists — both mainstream and Christian — from across the country, according to Vernon M. Whaley, dean of the School of Music.

“Our mission for the university is training and equipping champions for Christ," Whaley said. "What I tell my students is it doesn't matter what kind of music you're going to go into, God's called you to take worship to the nations."

Liberty’s School of Music has about 980 resident students, according to the dean.

When it opened its music and worship program in 2005, it grew exponentially semester to semester — 89 students, then 210, then 318, now nearly 700.

So, he said, “We decided, OK, we're going to claim the territory for training and equipping for worship majors and worship pastors and those who are going to be involved on a vocational basis in the area of worship.”

The new center will take that ...

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Died: Jesse Miranda, Hispanic Evangelicals’ Bridge-Builder

The ministry founder, educator, and Assemblies of God leader elevated the voices of his community and paved the way for future leaders.

Jesse Miranda, a Pentecostal leader and the “granddaddy of US Latino Protestantism,” died last Friday at the age of 82.

Several weeks ago, Miranda learned that he had inoperable B-cell lymphoma and entered hospice care.

As founder of the National Alliance of Evangelical Ministries (AMEN, Alianza de Ministerios Evangélicos Nacionales) and then executive director of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), Miranda was known for bringing together Latino leaders and elevating their voices within American evangelicalism.

A 2002 CT profile called him “the primary visionary uniting disparate US Hispanic evangelicals” and praised his “reputation as a sharp listener and bridge-builder who has put his vision, imagination, and wit to the service of the Latino church.”

“His commitment to Christ, real. His prophetic voice, renewing. His love for the marginalized, relentless,” wrote current NHCLC president (and a CT board member) Samuel Rodriguez in tribute this week. “I love and forever will honor you Bro. Jesse! You changed my life!”

Assemblies of God pastors and National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) cofounders Gabriel and Jeannette Salguero considered him “a mentor to our generation of evangelicals.”

One of the most important lessons Miranda passed down was showing how to lead in both Hispanic and majority culture spaces, said Dennis J. Rivera, director of the Office of Hispanic Relations for the Assemblies of God.

“Jesse modeled and taught young leaders that Hispanics are not either/or, but are both/and, bilingual and bicultural, and therefore can navigate and serve in two worlds,” Rivera said.

Miranda’s organization, ...

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What It’s Like When Your Wife Is ‘Christian Famous’

Hearing from the husbands of some of our favorite authors, teachers, and ministry leaders.

By now, the church has come to recognize the challenges faced by pastors’ wives, a role weighed with expectations, attention, and personal sacrifice. But as women rise in prominence across areas of ministry, another question comes up: What about their husbands?

There’s no template in our minds for what it looks like to be married to women in today’s generation of influential Christian teachers, writers, artists, and more.

It’s not unusual for ministry husbands to have jobs outside traditional church settings: Ann Voskamp has blogged for years about her husband, The Farmer, and Beth Moore’s mister is a plumber. “Never been a deacon or church leader,” she once tweeted, “but as I live & breathe, this Bible study ministry wouldn't exist w/out him.”

CT reached out to a handful of men whose wives are serving the church in increasingly visible ways to hear their perspectives from behind the scenes.

These husbands contribute to God’s kingdom work in their own unique ways—including by helping their spouses do theirs. In fact, Roy Prior, husband to teacher and writer Karen Swallow Prior, and Doug Johnson, husband to pro-life activist Abby Johnson, said they view their primary calling as in part to support their wives.

“The kids will always be my top priority, to make sure Abby can travel and do what she needs to do,” said Johnson. “She’s the go-getter. She has a deeper passion for something out there that’s really changing the world.”

Ministry husbands find themselves called to be sounding boards, sources of inspiration, prayer partners, and even just extra hands to keep the household running while deadlines and travel keep their ...

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One-one-One with Eric Geiger on Building Leaders and Change Leadership

“Without a shared conviction, you will have systemic chaos.”

Ed: Could you give us a brief overview of the book?

Eric: There's one chart in the book that’s my go-to chart that I use if I'm ever asked to speak about leadership in a non-Christian environment. It's from Dave Ulrich and all the research he did about the common characteristics among leaders in the book The Leadership Code.

It's a chart later in the book where there's a circle in the middle, and it's four different domains, and he says all leaders have to be a strategist, executor, talent manager, and then human capital developer. The higher you go in leadership, the more you have to be great at all of these things. Really, my book is essentially a deeper dive into human capital developer.

Ed: Out of these four things a leader needs to be, what is the least developed among leaders?

Eric: After having spoken several times at leadership events, I noticed that the most common one that leaders said they struggled with is human capital developer. What I was seeing and hearing prompted me to reach out to Ulrich and see which element he had found in his coaching and research to be the lowest of all the leaders he coached. His response was human capital developer.

Ed: What is a grid or framework that leaders can use to develop others?

Eric: In the book, Kevin and I talk about the 3 Cs: Conviction, Culture and Constructs. Conviction is first because without a shared conviction, you will have systemic chaos. Conviction brings people together under one banner of what the organization cannot live without. Everything that follows revolves around conviction.

Culture is the shared beliefs and values—things like character and competencies—that guide an organization in everything it does. Constructs are ...

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The 13 Persecuted Christians Chosen by the State Department to Share Their Stories with the World

At this week's second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, 30 survivors from 19 countries from all faiths were given a global platform in Washington DC.

At this week’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, billed as the largest human rights event the US State Department has ever held, 30 people were invited to share theirs or their loved ones’ stories of religious persecution.

Below are the 13 Christian survivors from 13 nations, followed by the non-Christian survivors.

Christian survivors of religious persecution:

China: Ouyang Manping is the wife of Pastor Su Tifan, who on December 9, 2015, was placed under administrative detention after law enforcement raided the Three Living Stone Church.

Cuba: Reverend Mario Félix Lleonart Barroso is currently the pastor of the Iglesia Bautista de Waldorf (Baptist Church of Waldorf), where he ministers to the Latino community. While in Cuba, he planted and pastored Baptist churches in the province of Villa Clara and in Havana. In 2016, after years of being harassed, detained, and arrested multiple times because of his faith activities, Pastor Leonard, his wife, Yoaxis, and his two daughters sought asylum in the United States. They arrived in the United States on September 11, 2016.

Egypt: Demiana Kamal Youssef Shehata Hanna is a survivor victim of the November 2, 2018, attack in the governorate of al-Minya, in which armed assailants attacked three buses carrying Coptic pilgrims to the Saint Samuel the Confessor Monastery in al-Minya, killing seven and wounding 19. In addition to being among those attacked, she spoke to the assailants. She was identified with the assistance of Coptic Orthodox Bishop Makarios, bishop of al-Minya, the governorate with the highest incidence of sectarian attacks and tension. She would be accompanied by a male relative: Youssef Nady Youssef Shehata Hanna.

Eritrea: Helen Berhane was held in ...

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Pompeo: Why We’re Hosting the World’s Biggest Event on Religious Persecution

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explains to CT why the State Department invited 100 nations and 1,000 participants to its second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.

This week, the US State Department invited more than 100 countries to come to DC and discuss how to stop the dramatic decline of religious freedom worldwide.

CT’s global director, Jeremy Weber, interviewed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on what has changed between last year’s first-ever ministerial on international religious freedom (IRF) and this week’s second, bigger event.

CT: Why hold a second ministerial on religious freedom?

Pompeo: This is America’s first freedom, and we want to work to make sure other countries understand how central it is to the individuals that are in their country to have the opportunity to worship as one chooses or chooses not to worship, and to know that their government is not going to restrict, impose, impede, or punish those activities is central to human dignity. And so we believe that here at the State Department, we can lead this conversation. We can encourage other countries to recognize this most fundamental human right. And when we do so, we will make life better for millions and millions of people around the world.

What successes came out of the first ministerial?

We saw a couple of things. First, we saw a marked increase in the level of discourse around this as a central right. Lots of conversations. It spurred satellite groups and others to hold similar related conversations inside their own countries. In November of 2018, we sponsored something with the United Kingdom; in February 2019, the United Arab Emirates hosted a conference to discuss the challenge of promoting interfaith understanding. The list is long. There were examples in Taiwan and other places where the elevation of the conversation has taken place. And we’ve actually seen governments continue ...

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And Now, the Star of the Show....

How we inadvertently create a cult of personality around our preachers.

Here is the “most effective” and terrible sermon illustration I’ve ever used:

One day my wife and I were arguing about something—the exact subject has long been forgotten. In the course of the argument—probably when she was getting the best of me—I became so frustrated that I hit our dining room wall with my fist. The wall didn’t move, of course, but I expected to at least put a hole in the drywall. As fortune (or providence) would have it, the place I decided to punch with all my force was backed by a two-by-four stud. Let’s just say it hurt.

We both fell silent after that, and I set about sweeping up the kitchen and dining room (we were remodeling at the time). It became immediately apparent that there was something wrong with my hand, as I could barely hold on to the broom with my right hand.

My wife noticed that I was in pain and that my hand didn’t look right. She gently lifted my hand to look at it. “I think it’s broken,” she said. “We need to get you to the emergency room.” Her diagnosis was soon confirmed by the medical staff at the clinic.

From the point where she looked at my hand, there was no anger, resentment, or moral superiority on her part—all of which would have been justified. She was just concerned about my welfare. She very well knew that there was some part of me that was striking out at her when I hit the wall, but instead she focused on the fact that I vented my anger elsewhere than at her and was in deep pain as a result of my foolishness.

I used this illustration in a sermon on grace. It was the final illustration, tailored to drive home the truth that God treats us with kindness and grace even when we show ourselves ...

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