I Was a Theological Drifter, Then a Reform Jew, Then an Orthodox Jew, Then...

How I finally crossed the road to Christ.

I came of age in an ardently literary family. My father served as United States Poet Laureate in the late 1950s, published more than a dozen books, and won most major literary prizes. I grew up surrounded by creative people, friends of my father. Their burning energy gave me a small, mirror-like glimpse into God’s creation of the entire universe. And, like Dad and them, I felt that I might be a writer too.

I grew up in the Episcopal Church. But in my high teens and young twenties I drifted. At seminary in Berkeley, California, during the 1970s—a time and a place where anything you wanted went—I created my own religion. I called it Godianity. Certainly, I believed in the existence of God, hence the name of my religion. But I didn’t know much about that Son of God fellow, and the little I did know seemed impossibly weird.

God and I were pals. We talked to one another, like the creatives we were, discussing my new books. I was sure, in fact, that he had dictated the final 60 pages of one of my novels—Paradise—during an 18-hour burst of ecstatic writing.

Then something happened. I married a Jew. She was an atheist, and her family was mostly secular. My wife’s atheism and my Godianity coexisted comfortably enough, since my Godianity was a private credulity that didn’t war against anything else, not even against unbelief. At any rate, our passionate love triumphed over any possible squabble in the holy zone.

Then my wife became pregnant. Nine months later, our first daughter squirmed in her mother’s arms. Here’s the sudden realization of an atheist: Such a perfect, urgent, demanding, and beautiful creature must be the gift of God, not the product of some random swirl of atoms. ...

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On MLK Day, Be Still and Listen

Hearing each other is a miracle. We need to practice receiving it as such.

Years ago I sat alongside a dozen pastors in a sun-baked, mud-caked church in rural northern Mozambique. They’d gathered to test a recent translation of Isaiah in Lomwe, their local dialect. The Isaiah passage was familiar to me, but not the language. Still, as we went around the circle—each pastor reading aloud to hear how the new translation sounded—I picked up enough to pronounce some words. When it came my turn to read, rather than pass, I plunged in and read a few verses myself. The Lomwe pastors heard me speaking their language even though I didn’t fully know what I was saying. They beamed with delight. A white American minister had traveled all the way to their village to understand them without insisting they first understand him.

I can’t help but connect this experience to the first Christian Pentecost. In the wake of Jesus’ ascending to heaven and the Holy Spirit’s descent, Acts 2 reports new-and-improved Aramaic-speaking apostles speaking the gospel in the wide array of languages to the peoples gathered in Jerusalem (2:4). The crowds heard their own native tongues being spoken even though the apostles didn’t know the dialects (2:6). This is why we refer to Pentecost as a miracle of speech. But what if it was just as much a miracle of hearing?

I counted on such miracles most Sundays in my many years as a preacher. After a sermon, a listener would thank me for saying “just what I needed to hear.” When I asked what it was that I said, the person would relay the words they heard—words I knew I never spoke (being the manuscripted preacher I am). This was the Holy Spirit’s doing, I believe, making my words work in ways I hadn’t dreamed they ...

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The Confessions of a Recovering Evangelist

In a society full of people who would rather speak than listen, people are starving for someone who is willing to offer them their ears.

Years ago, I flew to Colorado to help people increase the quantity and the quality of their God conversations in a church in Colorado Springs. On the shuttle ride over from the Denver airport to my rental car company, I struck up a conversation with a young man in his early twenties. He had just flown back into the U.S. after a year of graduate study abroad. We started talking about his career aspirations after his studies were finished.

We got off the shuttle bus and headed to the counter to pick up our rental cars. As I was getting my rental car, I couldn’t help but overhear the bad news this young man was getting about his. Unbeknownst to him, his driver’s license had expired while he was out of the country. Nudged by the Holy Spirit, I offered him a ride. He was totally taken back by my seemingly small offer of kindness.

As we headed into Denver, he asked me what I did for a living. I had a “holy hunch” that if I told him I was an evangelist, our conversation might have ended quickly and awkwardly.

So I told him I was an author and speaker. He quickly asked me what I write about and I responded that he could actually help me with what I was writing about. Intrigued, he asked, “How can I do that?” Here was my response: “I’m on my way to speak at one of the largest churches in Colorado. If I gave you 30 minutes to tell these Christians what not to do to have a spiritual conversation with you, what would you tell them?””

Without any hesitation, he said, “I’d tell them if you are not willing to listen to me, I am not going to listen to you. Every conversation I’ve ever had with Christians has been one-sided. They always want to do all the talking and ...

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Colegas na Seleção Brasileira, Firmino é Batizado por Alisson

Roberto Firmino, campeão mundial de clubes pelo Liverpool FC, diz que agora seu maior título é o amor de Cristo.

Milhões de torcedores cristãos estão comemorando a maior jogada fora de campo do famoso jogador brasileiro de futebol Roberto Firmino: ele entregou sua vida a Cristo.

Menos de um mês depois de marcar o gol da vitória sobre o Flamengo na Copa do Mundo de Clubes da FIFA, o atacante Firmino do Liverpool Football Club, time da Premier League da Inglaterra, confessou sua fé publicamente e foi batizado em uma piscina por seu colega de time, o goleiro Alisson Becker, e pelo músico cristão brasileiro Isaias Saad. Firmino, de 28 anos, compartilhou um vídeo do batismo em seu Instagram na quinta-feira, tendo mais de 3.2 milhões de visualizações em um único dia.

“Te dei meus fracassos e as vitórias te darei também. Meu maior título é o teu amor Jesus!”, escreveu Firmino.

Becker, que também é brasileiro, foi considerado o melhor goleiro da FIFA em 2019. Sua fé cristã é bem conhecida. Ele atribui seu sucesso como goleiro ao trabalho duro e à fé. “Você precisa se concentrar muito no futebol” — disse ele — “e acho que a fé também é importante. Se você acredita em Deus, sabe que precisa fazer o seu melhor em campo e colocar amor em tudo o que faz na vida”. Quando teve a chance de jogar pela Seleção Brasileira na Copa do Mundo, ele postou no Twitter: “Realização de um sonho!!!” “Glória a Deus!”.

Becker foi encorajado a falar sobre sua fé pelo técnico do Liverpool, Jürgen Klopp, um ex-jogador alemão, que teve uma forte ...

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Soccer Champ Baptized by Christian Teammate

Liverpool FC player Roberto Firmino says his biggest title is now the love of Christ.

Millions of Christian fans are celebrating popular Brazilian soccer star Roberto Firmino’s latest move off the field: He has committed his life to Christ.

Less than a month after scoring the winning goal at the FIFA Club World Cup, Firmino professed his faith and was baptized in a swimming pool by his Liverpool Football Club teammate Alisson Becker and Brazilian Christian musician Isaias Saad. Firmino shared video of the baptism on his Instagram Thursday, where it was viewed more than 3.2 million times in one day.

“I give you my failures and I will give you my victories as well. My biggest title is your love, Jesus!” Firmino wrote in Portuguese.

The 28-year-old plays striker for Liverpool, England’s Premier League team that won the Union of European Football Champions League title in 2019, as well as the FIFA Club World Cup in 2019.

Becker, who is also from Brazil, was named FIFA’s best goalkeeper last year. His Christian faith is well known. He attributes his success as a goalkeeper to hard work and faith. “You need to be very focused on football,” he said, “and I think faith is important too. If you believe in God, you know you have to do your best on the pitch and put love into everything you do in life.” When he got a chance to play on the Brazilian team in the World Cup, he took to Twitter to write “Realization of a dream!!!” in Portuguese. “Glory to God!”

Becker was encouraged to talk about his faith by Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp. Klopp, a former German player, had an experience where he decided to put his trust in God after his father’s death in 1998. He talks about his faith regularly in interviews.

“To be a believer, but ...

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More Multiracial Churches Led by Black, Hispanic Pastors

But the task of stewarding diverse congregations remains a challenge, emotionally and spiritually.

For four hours at a megachurch outside of Dallas, pastors of color shared their personal stories of leading a multiethnic church.

One, a lead pastor of a Southern Baptist congregation in Salt Lake City, recalled the “honest conversations” he had with his 10-member leadership team before it agreed that he would present “both sides” of the controversy over quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protests at NFL games.

A founding elder of a fledgling Cincinnati congregation expressed satisfaction with her “phenomenal church,” but said “Lift Every Voice and Sing”—a hymn often called the “black national anthem” that most African American churchgoers learn in childhood—is so rarely featured at her multiethnic church that her younger daughter learned it instead from Beyoncé’s version.

A pastor of a church in Atlanta adapted his multicultural services so that its prayers, food, and sermon illustrations included not only traditions of blacks and whites but those of a member from India, who had noted that his culture had not been acknowledged.

Those leaders, who met at Mosaix Global Network’s Multiethnic Church Conference in November, are part of a decades-long, still burgeoning movement to integrate Christian worship services, aiming to refute the oft-quoted saying by Martin Luther King Jr. that Sunday mornings are the most segregated time of the week in the United States.

In 1998, 6 percent of congregations of all faiths in the US could be described as multiracial; in 2019, according to preliminary findings, 16 percent met that definition. In that time frame, mainline Protestant multiracial congregations rose from 1 percent to 11 percent; ...

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One-on-One with Andrew Peterson

Christ’s love enables us and calls us to do more than just create. It enables us, by his power, to redeem.

Ed: What prompted you to write Adorning the Dark?

Andrew: In the beginning, it was a writing discipline. I was in the thick of a new album at the time, and wondered if it might be helpful to journal about the process, in real-time, to get the juices flowing.

It wasn’t long before I wondered if other people might find it helpful, too. One thing led to another, and I realized I had a book’s worth of thoughts and opinions. (This will come as no surprise to those who know me and have suffered my rants.)

Ed: For whom did you write this book? Can those who don’t work in the arts and may not consider themselves a creative person use this?

Andrew: This isn’t a technical “this is how you write a song” kind of book. There are plenty of those, and I don’t happen to think they do much good. I wanted to write something that would be helpful to all manner of disciplines: songwriters, novelists, poets, painters, and pastors—but also parents and teachers and accountants and carpenters.

One of my soapboxes in the book is that everyone’s creative. Everyone. And my hope is that the principles I cover in Adorning the Dark can be helpful no matter what field you’re in.

Ed: What is one thing you have learned about creativity and the Christian life in your 20 years
as a singer/songwriter that you wish you could go back and tell your younger self?

Andrew: The first thing I’d say is this: “Success (or failure) isn’t going to change anything about
who you are in Christ. Relax. Be led by the Spirit, not your ambition.” The second thing I’d say is this: “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” (These two things are closely related.)

Ed: How does our calling as ...

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Trump Pledges to Protect ‘Right to Pray’ in Public Schools

Updated guidance reaffirms First Amendment protections and provides new pathways for complaints.

Days after promising to “safeguard students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in our schools” in an evangelical campaign rally, President Donald Trump backed school prayer and proposed new rules for religious organizations receiving federal funding. The announcements correspond with Thursday’s annual White House proclamation for Religious Freedom Day.

This is first updated guidance on school prayer from the Education Department since 2003. The directive orders states to verify that school districts have no policies limiting constitutionally protected prayer and to refer violators to the Education Department. That’s much like the earlier guidance, but the directive goes further in requiring states to provide ways for making complaints against schools.

Students can pray on their own or together during lunch or other free times, for example, and student speakers can pray at assemblies or sports games as long as they weren’t chosen to speak based on their religious perspectives, according to the guidance.

The president hosted more than a dozen students and teachers in the Oval Office for the announcement, including Teachers Who Pray founder Marilyn Rhames, who CT featured in 2018. Her organization gathers teachers for prayer and spiritual formation outside of classroom instruction time.

“There’s a myth out there that what Teachers Who Pray does … is not legal, and it absolutely is,” she said during the presidential gathering. “I’m here to tell teachers we need to pray … We need to do what we have to do for our kids because if we’re not strong, we can’t make them strong.”

Public schools have been barred from leading ...

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Worship God: Start a Hobby

Lately, hobbies have become a metric of personal success. But their core purpose is to help us pause and praise.

If there were ever an “age of hobbies,” this might be it. Changes in technology have made it easy for anyone seeking recreation. You want to know how to knit? There’s a YouTube video for that. You want to branch into acting? For a small fee, you can sit under the great Samuel L. Jackson in a MasterClass. Interested in making soap? There are several Facebook groups ready to teach you about the art of suds.

Although these leisures tease us with rest, we often turn them into burdens. Hobbies have become nothing more than another sphere to master. We run to reach our weight goal, paint and make some side money, or pick up backpacking and start our own YouTube channel in the process. And we love the measurable results: the Fitbit on our arm, the “likes” on our article, or the number of items crossed off our bucket list. They give us the metrics we crave to reap the reward we’re working toward. Progress is our game—even with pleasure—and we ingrain ourselves in the cycle that Nathan Stucky calls “work, reward, repeat.”

However, a recent Vox article suggests that people are starting to rethink this approach to hobbies. Hope Reese writes that “our hustle culture leaves us with no moment unaccounted for, because we feel that even our ‘free’ moments must involve the pursuit of excellence, money, self-improvement, and ‘growth.’” Her solution: “ignore insidious competition culture.”

Writing for the fashion blog Man Repeller, Molly Conway also cautions against the urge to turn hobbies into hustles. “Every time we feel beholden to capitalize on the rare places where our skills and our joy intersect,” she writes, “we ...

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Four Important Reminders for Pastors Dealing with Mental Health Issues

Sometimes, we hurt ourselves here because we don’t reach out for help when we know we need it. Sometimes, we feel guilty because we think we aren’t “spiritual enough” to make it without help.

Mental health issues in general and burnout in particular are real issues for pastors and leaders as we minister today in our complex world. We can’t ignore them. It’s easy to say, “I would never struggle with this” without realizing how much people actually do.

This topic is so important that this past December the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, in partnership with the Wheaton College School of Psychology, Counseling, and Family Therapy, hosted a GC2 Summit on Facing Hard Truths & Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Below I want to share four ways to think about these issues.

First, pastoral balance is a myth, but seasons without balance almost always destroy.

Ministry is not the kind of role where we get to create the balance that is in our lives. We may establish some regular routines or prioritize our lives in the order of disciple, husband, father, and then pastor.

That’s great in theory, but it doesn’t work that way in everyday life. There are times when that phone call comes: a tragedy has happened, and you have to switch those things around, and your routine is rerouted.

You don’t plan four funerals in one week, but sometimes they happen. Learning to say no when possible can help, but there are times when you have to drop everything and go.

Pastoring comes in waves. Waves come in, and waves go out. If you’re always at high tide, your ministry won’t last. Or to change the metaphor, we need both a thermometer and a thermostat in our lives to help us with the ebb and flow of ministry.

The thermometer says, “I’m burning a fever, doing too much, too fast, too soon.” It alerts us when we are about to crash. We also need a thermostat to help ...

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Should Christians Kill Animals for Sport?

A new book presents a range of arguments on the moral legitimacy of hunting.

I am a Christian and an academic. I am also a hunter. At first blush, this might seem peculiar, given that members of first two circles I inhabit aren’t always hospitable toward members of the third.

Two stories—one actual, the other apocryphal—give a sense of the prevailing attitudes toward hunting that I’ve encountered.

The first occurred on a Sunday after Thanksgiving at the church in the small Western Pennsylvania town where I grew up. The new pastor, just arrived from the east coast, gathered the children on the steps at the front of the sanctuary and asked, “Girls and boys, we’re about to enter a special season. Do any of you know what season it is?” Before the pastor could call on anyone, one little boy blurted out, “Deer season! And I get to go to huntin’ camp with my dad and granddad, and when we get a buck…” He then proceeded to describe in graphic detail how he helped to field dress a deer.

The pastor’s mouth gaped open in stunned silence. He had been prepared to counter the expected answer of “Christmas” with an explanation of Advent, but he was unaware that the first Monday after Thanksgiving, the opening day of deer season in Pennsylvania for generations, was a far holier day to many in my community than the beginning of the liturgical year.

The second story is a variant of the proverbial interview at the pearly gates with St. Peter after a person dies. When a group of three new arrivals shows up, Peter announces: “Before you can proceed, I just need to make sure that everything is in order in your files. One of the things we check is your IQ, so I’ll be asking you a question to confirm that your test results are accurate.” ...

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