Vital Magazine "Preview Issue"

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IS CHANGE HAPPENING IN HOLLYWOOD? (PHIL COOKE THINKS SO) V I T A L M A G A Z I N E . C O M

What will the future be like, and how will our faith exist within it? Some of today’s leaders share their vision.

WHAT IS VITAL? INTRODUCING A NEW BRAND OF CHRISTIAN MEDIA

4 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA HABITS


WHAT’S IT LIKE

KID BIBLE HEROES® The interactive app where your kids can learn about ordinary boys and girls in the Bible who were used by God to do extraordinary things. Five interactive stories about everyday heroes help kids discover biblical truth. ~ KidBibleHeroes.com ~

God uses young David to defeat the mighty giant Goliath. Kids gain an understanding that they can do great things for God at a young age.

A young boy doesn’t hesitate to give to God and not hold anything back. Demonstrates that kids will be rewarded for trusting in God.


BEING A HERO?

Miriam is brave in a difficult time for her family. Encourages kids to show courage as they learn God’s incredible plan for their lives.

When God speaks to him, young Samuel is willing to listen and obey, even when it’s hard. Kids learn they can hear and respond to God.

God asks Mary to do something difficult. She willingly accepts. Shows kids how to be obedient and willing to complete whatever task God gives them.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Science of Doubt

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A Harvard Ph.D. on finding faith in both the sanctuary and the laboratory

p52 Living in the Gap Wilfredo De Jesús points to voids in society—and believes Christians might be the ones to fill them

The Church of Tomorrow “The way we will get the work of the Church done tomorrow is together, and the skill of the age will be collaboration.”

8 VITAL SIGNS 10 THE LEAD • An Introduction to Vital

12 FEEDBACK 15 PULSE • World • Nation • Church

p44 28 THINKING ABOUT • Is Change Happening in

Hollywood? • A Personal Invitation to

Church Still Matters • Can You Be Political—

Without Being a Jerk?

34 THE CHURCH OF TOMORROW What will the future be like, and how will our faith exist within it? Some of today’s leaders share their vision.


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Escaping Social Media Envy “Information is not the same thing as interaction” (and other keys to cultivating contentment on and off the Web)

Is Change Happening in Hollywood? Renewing the hope that Christians might be better represented—as characters and in credits

Noteworthy: Chris Tomlin “I’m just so thankful for God and the songs that are in my heart.”

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44 LIVING IN THE GAP Abuse. Addiction. Racism. Poverty. Violence. Are you willing to stand in the world’s gaps ?

52 THE SCIENCE OF DOUBT Why it’s OK to have a faith that asks big questions

56 MULTIPLIERS • Beth Grant: Reaching the

World Through Women’s Advocacy • Media Missionaries • Experiencing the Bible Anew

66 TEACHING • Why Tithe? • A New Approach to

Protective Parenting • Escaping Social Media

Envy • What Your Devotional Life

is Missing

76 NOTEWORTHY • Books • Music • Media

89 MAKE IT COUNT 96 ONE MORE THING


VitalMagazine.com

VITAL MAGAZINE 1445 N. Boonville Avenue Springfield, MO 65802-1894 Vital magazine is published by My Healthy Church. President: Sol Arledge Vice President / Publications: Steve Blount CONTRIBUTORS Heath Adamson, Lisa-Jo Baker, Thomas Barclay, Omar Beiler, James Bradford, Malcolm Burleigh, Mike Burnette, Joseph Castleberry, Samuel Chand, Phil Cooke, Robert Cooley, Herbert Cooper, Robert Crosby, Ben Dailey, Wilfredo De Jesús, Jodi Detrick, Hal Donaldson, Mark Entzminger, Nick Fatato, Martha Lesperance-Garcia, Roger Gibson, Bobby Gruenewald, Kregg Hood, Randy Hurst, Kent Ingle, Cheryl Bridges Johns, Rob Ketterling, Crystal Martin, Greg Mundis, Annalee Mutz, Steve Pike, Christina M.H. Powell, Joy Qualls, Christina Quick, Chris Railey, Samuel Rodriguez, Karl Vaters, Rich Wilkerson, Scott Wilson, George O. Wood, George P. Wood, Alyce Youngblood SPECIAL THANKS TO: Wini Arledge, Susan Blount, James Bradford, Douglas Clay, Alton Garrison, Gregory Mundis, Gary Rhoades, Zollie Smith, Tim Strathdee, George O. Wood EDITORIAL For editorial information or queries, contact editor@vitalmagazine.com. ADVERTISING Display rates available upon request. Contact advertising@ vitalmagazine.com. By accepting an advertisement, Vital does not endorse any advertiser or product. We reserve the right to reject advertisements not consistent with the magazine’s objectives. For subscription rates, go to vitalmagazine.com/subscribe or contact feedback@vitalmagazine.com. Please send all other feedback, requests and questions to feedback@vitalmagazine.com. All rights reserved. Copyrighted material reprinted with permission. All Scripture references taken from the New International Version (NIV) , unless noted otherwise. Website: VitalMagazine.com Twitter: @TheVitalMag Facebook: Vital Magazine

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Vital magazine brings a New Testament calling to the modern Church through timely editorial about the complex and ever-changing world we live in. In-depth feature stories, effective teachings, thought-provoking op-eds and captivating profiles will engage you in how God is working around the globe. Each issue is anchored with an interactive devotional that brings it all together. Bulk subscriptions are only $12 per subscription. Please visit vitalmagazine.com/subscribe.

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VITAL SIGNS

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“... I HAVE COME THAT THEY MAY HAVE LIFE, AND HAVE IT TO THE FULL.” What makes you fe e l a l i v e — n o t o n l y physically but also s p i r i tu a l l y ? I n th e s e w o r d s fr o m J e s u s in John 10:10 and th r o u g h o u t th i s i s s u e , we are reminded th a t w e a r e c r e a te d to th r i v e i n C h r i s t, e m b r a c i n g l i fe a n d s h a r i n g i t w i th o th e r s .

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THE LEAD

LIFE TO THE FULL

An introduction to Vital

“I

have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). I learned a great deal from my parents. They were committed to living for the Lord. They never quit, even in some really difficult circumstances. They taught me about faithfulness and hard work, even in the midst of struggling. They wanted the best life for me—because Jesus did too. Although nothing could replace the hope of heaven, my parents believed Jesus was calling us to live in fullness here. When Jesus talked about life-to-the-full, He said in John 5:24: “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” Eternal life, in other words, begins today. Jesus came so we might have life-to-the-full—today! Helping us experience that full life, in ever-increasing measure, is the purpose of Vital. The dictionary gives two basic meanings of the word “vital”: (1) absolutely necessary or important; essential; and (2) full of energy; lively. It is my prayer that this publication will be truly vital to your life in both senses—an essential part of your growth as a disciple of Christ and a constant reminder of the full

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life only He can give you. Vital offers a space to engage culture from a Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered point of view. You’ll read stories that give a faith perspective on what’s happening in the world, profiles of ordinary individuals making an extraordinary difference in their communities and reviews of resources and entertainment worth paying attention to. Along the way, the unique Make It Count feature will provide you with prompts for personal reflection and group discussion to help you worship God, connect with others, grow in Christ-likeness, compassionately serve those in need and go across the street— or around the world—with the good news of Jesus Christ. In January 2015, Vital will officially launch as a bimonthly print publication. It will also live on digital platforms, available to you 24/7. But Vital is much more

than a magazine. It’s a trusted daily spiritual companion. It’s an avenue for the Church to extend its discipleship beyond walls and pulpits. I hope you enjoy this first look at Vital magazine. I believe it is a creative tool that will help you develop your worldview— but more importantly, it will help you identify a clear plan of action for how you can make a difference within that world, by moving you from spectator to participant. Healthy Christians bring life to their churches. Healthy churches bring life to their communities. And when healthy churches work together, they bring life to the world. May we live in fullness together. George O. Wood is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (USA) and chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship.


N O G U I LT I N L I F E N O F E A R I N D E AT H One man answers the calling of his childhood by taking his family to shine the light of God's love into the darkness of Istanbul, the heart of the Muslim world, offering peace, grace, and a new hope for the lost. Over a decade after embarking on the greatest adventure of his life, Stan now faces the next great adventure. Diagnosed with stage 4 colon a n d l i v e r c a n c e r , h e s h a r e s h i s j o u r n e y t h r o u g h t h e Va l l e y o f t h e Shadow of Death.

THE BIOGRAPHY OF A SILK ROAD NOMAD

A documentary DVD is also available in English and Spanish

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FEEDBACK

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? In the future, this Feedback page will be reserved for comments, suggestions, questions—hey, even criticism—from readers like you. Share your thoughts via feedback@vitalmagazine.com or get in touch with us on social media.

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hrough media marked by creativity and integrity, Vital’s mission is to provide a Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered perspective that propels people to engage their faith—as individuals, in community and with the global Church.

VITALMAGAZINE.COM Check in every day for insightful articles on religion, current events, culture, career and daily life. Sign up for newsletters, and we’ll meet you in your inbox with whatever is best or fresh on the site.

ARE YOU A VITAL VOICE? 12

Whether you’ve got a knack for breaking down lofty theological concepts, a heart for sharing the stories of individuals around the world, an understanding of the


VITAL MAGAZINE The magazine you hold in your hands is just a preview of the Vital bimonthly print publication, officially launching in January 2015. Find out how you or your church can receive Vital at vitalmagazine.com/subscribe.

FOLLOW ALONG WITH VITAL Keep up with Vital conversations wherever you are through social media. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to stay in the know.

MAKE IT COUNT Both online and in print, Vital’s content will often visually and thematically tie into five key callings of Christianity: to Connect, Grow, Serve, Go and Worship. These are reminders to go beyond the words—to Make It Count. We’ll list action steps, prayer suggestions, additional resources and other ways to continue interacting with an article long after you’ve finished reading it. At the back of each print issue, an expanded Make It Count section acts as a devotional for individual study or group discussion. Print navigation:

Website navigation:

@TheVitalMag Vital Magazine

The color-coded key: CONNECT GROW SERVE GO

spiritual significance behind cultural phenomena and major headlines or a wealth of advice on the many aspects of the everyday, there’s a place for you on Vital’s platform. Email editor@vitalmagazine.com to introduce yourself, and we’ll go from there.

WORSHIP

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Discover a truly

BEAUTIFUL LIFE

also available as an eBook and in spanish

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PULSE WATER SATISFACTION RISING Satisfaction with water quality has increased worldwide as the United Nations pushes toward its 2015 Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. More than seven in 10 people worldwide report water quality satisfaction, according to a survey conducted by Gallup, Inc. Though progress is slow in the water crisis of Sub-Saharan Africa, 24 percent of their population has gained access to improved water since 2000.

“WHAT DOES THE AVERAGE ... MAKE IN AMERICA?”

$ 235k 31k 30.8k 26.6k 18.9k Anesthesiologist

Animal trainer

Pharmacy technician

Model

Fast-food cook

Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013

ABOUT 80 PERCENT OF SMARTPHONE USERS WOULD LIKE TO INTERACT WITH DOCTORS THROUGH MOBILE DEVICES.

KEEPING YOU CONNECTED WITH CURRENT EVENTS

“DISCIPLINES ARE NOT STATIC. STAYING CURRENT IN ANY FIELD REQUIRES ENDLESS READING OF CONTEMPORARY THINKING AND INTERACTING WITH ANY PROGRESS.” —Steve Badger, Genesis & Genetics: Proceedings of the 2014 Faith & Science Conference

A Philadelphia news station recently prompted debate when it suggested the “praying hands” emoji might be a high-five. The verdict, after consulting corresponding Unicode (and some opinionated tweets)? It’s a “person with folded hands,” symbolizing pleading, sorrow or regret.

MILLENNIALS: UNATTACHED BUT UPBEAT • 19% say most people can be trusted

• 50% describe themselves as political independents

ONLINE GIVING: LAST YEAR’S 5 BIGGEST GIFTS

$1,000,000 to the National Christian Foundation

$150,000 to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

$127,305 • 29% say they are not affiliated with a religion

• 49% say America’s best years are ahead

to Habitat for Humanity International

$100,000 to the American Society for Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

$100,000 to the University of Rochester

FICO, 2014 Pew Research Center, 2014

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 2013

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WORLD

KEEPING YOU CONNECTED TO THE HEARTBEAT OF THE WORLD

VACATION HESITATION: MANY COUNTRIES CHOOSE WORK OVER REST A

good majority of the world is spending excessive hours at work—and, as a result, leaving their vacation hours behind. Expedia’s Vacation Deprivation study found that countries such as the United States, Japan and South Korea are leaving as much as 40 percent of their vacation time unused. Europeans tend to utilize their holiday time a bit more than other countries. France generally offers up to 30 vacation days, and the majority will take and use it all. Still, these countries often report feeling vacation-deprived and staying connected to work while away from the office. People cited scheduling, budgets, too much work and mean bosses as reasons for skipped vacation days. Some also showed financial opportunism, as 18 percent report they can be paid for unused vacation days. In America—the only developed economy that doesn’t require paid vacation time— one in four people simply don’t have any days to use, according to the Vacation Equality Project. Even though most don’t use vacation time fully, statistics show they could benefit from doing so. As James Morrey, vice president of Expedia, says, “Rested employees are more productive employees.”

A SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT OUR DISTRACTED CULTURE A recent study featured in the journal Science demonstrated human dependency on physical distraction—which, in our digital culture, most often takes the shape of a smartphone. Participants of the survey were placed in an empty room and stripped of common distractions, such

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as mobile devices. Participants shared the room with just one form of electronic “entertainment”: a 9-volt battery that gave off a “severe static shock” when touched. Out of boredom and curiosity, researchers say, many participants reached for the battery to pass the time.


PULSE : WORLD

71% OF THE WORLD HAS HEARD THE GOSPEL IN SOME FORM

PURSUING CHURCH GROWTH IN AFRICA Twenty-six African Assembly of God national fellowships have committed to collectively planting more than 45,000 new churches by 2020. They’ve also resolved to send indigenous missionaries to 208 of the more than 1,000 unreached people groups across Africa. These church planters will work with existing pastors, Bible schools and churches in these regions.

“SERVANT LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT USING WHATEVER WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN TO MEET THE NEEDS OF OTHERS AND TO HELP THE POOR ACHIEVE THEIR GREATEST POTENTIAL.” —Lazarus Chakwera, former president of Malawi Assemblies of God and former candidate for the Malawian presidency, upon taking his oath to be a Member of Parliament

DEPORT, OR OFFER SUPPORT? As of mid2014, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, operated by Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, reports 80,200,000 Bibles are distributed per year. They estimate 2,106,206,000 people in the world remain unevangelized.

What responsibility does the United States have toward the influx of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border from Central America? According to the Public Religion Research Institute, most people from all religious backgrounds—from white evangelical Protestants (56 percent) to minority Protestants (74 percent) to the religiously unaffiliated (75 percent)— believe the government should shelter and support them while cases are reviewed.

MOST CHILDREN LIVE IN TWO-PARENT HOMES The Middle East has the highest percentage (89) of children who live with two parents, according to World Family Map figures. Most in European, Asian and North American countries had at least one parent at home. As many as 20 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa live without either parent.

OH, THE PLACES YOU MIGHT GO Maybe you’ve felt the thrill of adding a stamp to your passport—but not all travel documents are created equal, a recent GOOD infographic shows. Ranked by travel freedom, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom have the most “powerful” passports and are granted visa-free access into most nations. Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan are the most limited.

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PULSE : WORLD

A GLOBAL PICTURE OF CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION

“P

ersecution.” It’s a word often thrown around, and perhaps not always fully grasped. But recent headlines have given it new and grave meaning, particularly in northern Iraq, where Christians currently face displacement or death if they hold to their beliefs. A review of statistics shows Christians—who make up one-third of the global population— have become the most persecuted religious group in the world.

100,000 CHRISTIANS 60 COUNTRIES

(11 per hour) die every year because of their faith.

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States

Christians in more than

face persecution from their governments or neighbors for their beliefs. U.S. Department of State

The top 5 nations where Christians face extreme persecution are: North Korea

Somalia

Syria

Iraq

Afghanistan Open Doors

largest displacement of religious 2013 “The communities in recent memory,” MARKED many of which belonged to Christianity.

U.S. Department of State

As of August 2014, the city of Erbil was home to

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500,000 REFUGEES

and internally displaced people from Iraq and Syria. United Nations

MAKE IT COUNT Here’s how you can stand with Christian communities around the world: • Download the free Assemblies of God World Missions iOS app to get updates on prayer needs of suffering churches. • Use social media to stay informed and be vocal about issues facing regions where Christians are at risk. • Read books like Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians (Thomas Nelson) to learn how you can be a better advocate of religious freedom. • Give to a missionary who is serving persecuted believers by contacting Jeff Hartensveld, Director of AGWM Mobilization, at jhartensveld@ ag.org. • Speak up for the right of every person to know the Gospel of Jesus. Learn more at thehumanright. org.


CONFRONT SOCIAL INJUSTICE

GOD’S WAY

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NATION

KEEPING YOU CONNECTED TO THE HEARTBEAT OF THE NATION

“HONEY, I’M HOME.” T

% OF AMERICANS WHO HAVE “A GREAT DEAL / QUITE A LOT” OF RESPECT FOR: 37% 34% 30% 2 0 1 2

2 0 1 3

2 0 1 4

The U.S. Supreme Court

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37% 36% 29% 2 0 1 2

2 0 1 3

The Presidency

2 0 1 4

13% 10% 7% 2 0 1 2

2 0 1 3

U.S. Congress

2 0 1 4

hough fathers still make up the smaller share of stay-at-home parents, studies show more men are choosing domestic roles over an office job. The number of stay-at-home fathers has risen dramatically in recent years, according to the Pew Research Center, doubling since 1989. The highest point came after the official end of the recession, with 2.2 million fathers reporting they stayed home with their children. Gretchen Livingston, author of the study, says not to credit the increase only to the recession, though. “Even if you take out that trend altogether, the fact is, the number has been going up over time, regardless. And the biggest increase is in the share of fathers who want to stay at home to take care of the kids. That’s very striking.” Twenty-one percent of stay-at-home dads want to care for their home and family. Other reasons they stay include leaving employment due to illness or disability (35 percent), being unable to find a job (23 percent) and other circumstances like being in school or retired (22 percent).

AMERICANS LOSING CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT A recent study by Gallup, Inc. shows Americans’ level of trust in all three branches of the United States government has fallen to record lows. Americans place more faith in police and military than in Congress, the Supreme Court or the presidency.


PULSE : NATION When asked how they feel about where they live ...

WESTERNERS & MIDWESTERNERS praise their states.

EAST COASTERS

WHY THE GATES FOUNDATION DOES NOT FUND ABORTION Melinda Gates, Bill Gates’ wife and co-founder of the widely respected charity The Gates Foundation, recently blogged about why the organization does not fund abortion services in its health initiatives. “I understand why there is so much emotion, but conflating these issues will slow down progress for tens of millions of women,” Melinda writes. Despite criticism from pro-choice camps, she feels the “personal debate about abortion is threatening to get in the way of the lifesaving consensus regarding basic family planning.”

are less optimistic about where they call home.

According to a recent Gallup poll, some of the top states to live in, as rated by their residents, are: MONTANA (77%) , COLORADO (65%) AND OREGON (61%) .

77% States at the bottom of the poll: MISSOURI (29%) , MICHIGAN (28%) AND RHODE ISLAND (18%) .

18%

WHERE TO STAND ON SITTING DOWN? Conflicting studies about the health harms of sitting down have been making headlines lately—but less time in a swivel chair and more time on the treadmill can’t hurt. Any prolonged sitting can be linked to lower heart fitness, according to Dr. Jarrett Berry at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Even people who exercise regularly spend the vast majority of their time not exercising,” he says.

THE FAITH PRESENCE IN FERGUSON Following the death of Michael Brown, a black teen shot by a white Ferguson, Missouri, police officer in August, the city has been consumed by grief, protests and racial tension. Churches of various denominations have stepped up to minister, march, clean and point to peace. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted about observing people “talking about walking with each other through Christ across their differences,” and many pastors, like Aubrey Kishna of nearby Jubilee Worship Center, have offered resources and comfort to those in areas of conflict.

DESPITE E-READERS’ RISE, PRINT IS STILL PREFERRED E-reader usage continues to grow, with 28 percent of adult readers reporting they read at least one e-book in the past year, up five percentage points over the year before. However, 69 percent picked up at least one print book, a 4 percent gain from the previous year. “Though e-books are rising in popularity, print remains the foundation of Americans’ reading habits,” Pew Research Center reports.

AMERICANS FAVOR “MAKING OR SHARING ARTS” A recent study by the Endowment for the Arts surveyed the role the arts play in Americans’ lives. From 2008-2012, there have been drops in play attendance (9-12 percent decline) and museum visits (2 percent decline), which are regarded as more traditional forms of art appreciation. Participation in hands-on activities like fiber arts are becoming popular; 13 percent of adults say they weave, knit, crochet, quilt or needlepoint. Forty percent of 18- to 34-year-olds favor social dancing, which is the most common “making or sharing” art.

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PULSE : NATION

A CASE FOR COLLEGE EDUCATION

C

ollege students in America today often face uncertainty in their education decisions, student loans during their studies and a shaky job market following their graduation. So, is a degree even worth it? Absolutely, both statistics and experts say. We talked to a few Christian leaders in education about the college experience and why they believe in it.

Why is a college degree still valuable today? By all indicators, a college degree still has the best return on investment. A Pew Report concluded that college graduates have much higher earnings and lower unemployment. And the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution estimated that the benefits of a four-year college degree were “equivalent to an investment that returns 15.2 percent a year, even after factoring in the earnings students forgo while in school.” During our current recession, unemployment among college graduates was 3.9 percent, compared to 7.5 percent for the workforce overall. Today a high school diploma alone is worth 62 cents to the college dollar, showing a growing earnings gap for young adults without at least a four-year college degree. —Dr. Carol Taylor, President of Evangel University

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How does higher education benefit Christians, and how can it equip them to then benefit the Church and the world? All Christ-followers are called to be good stewards of their gifts, talents and callings. Higher education is one way to shape and steward those gifts. Education empowers Christ-followers to reach unique positions where they can have an effective impact for the cause of Christ. Education gives the proper tools that Christ-followers need to succeed in whatever field they are called to, so they can lead in a Christ-like way and set the example in the professional world through their lifestyle. —Dr. Kent Ingle, President of Southeastern University

What is the greatest challenge or opportunity ahead in the world of higher education? Higher education has tremendous capacity—the capacity to not only act in the present, but to look to the future as we help our students consider who they are and where they want to go. One of the biggest perils, while at the same time one of the greatest possibilities, is technology. Technology, for both good and bad, has altered the way we do education, the way we connect with the world. We must be able to embrace change, rethink possibilities and continuously revitalize the way we connect and communicate with one another. —Dr. Marilyn Abplanalp, President of the Alliance for Assemblies of God Higher Education

What is the most important factor in choosing a school? When choosing a college or university, ask yourself, “What kind of person do I want to be when I graduate?” College does more than hone your job skills—it shapes the trajectory of your adulthood. Jesus said “everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40). Choose wisely. —Dr. Michael Beals, President of Vanguard University

The Brookings Institution reports not all young-adult households have crippling education debt.

$50k 7% have or more $10k 18% have to $20k less 58% have than $10k



CHURCH

KEEPING YOU CONNECTED TO THE HEARTBEAT OF THE CHURCH

FAITH, FOOTBALL AND FÚTBOL A

recent Barna Group study found that “Americans believe athletes have greater influence than any faith leaders.” It’s a startling statement—but not so surprising. Consider the 111.5 million people who tuned in to the 2014 Super Bowl. The Barna research shows America’s athletic interests typically surround football. As a result of this past summer’s World Cup, there has also been a significant increase of viewership of the other fútbol, specifically among Millennials who have grown up with a global perspective of the sport. Nearly 89 percent surveyed believed sports are important to American culture. Of this percentage, men (46 percent), Boomers (48 percent) and practicing Christians (55 percent) made up the largest groups. Do Americans care too much about sports? Most in the study would say so. More than six in 10 adults believe professional sports in America are “very corrupt,” nearly nine in 10 say athletes are overpaid, and 62 percent feel sports “distract from more important events.”

CHURCHES ENTERTAIN “MYSTERY SHOPPERS” UNAWARE A recent church marketing project by Faith Perceptions gathered insights about congregations— from results collected by more than 4,000 unchurched “mystery visitors.” Smaller churches with fewer than 80 people scored well for greeting their guests, preand post-service atmosphere and friendliness. Larger churches scored well in programming, such as children’s ministry and outreach, and quality of the service.

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AN APP FOR THE SPIRIT? How do your routines impact your spiritual life—and vice versa? A new app, SoulPulse, could tell you. Developed by psychologists and sociologists, SoulPulse uses regular surveys to create a diary of sorts and report on users’ spiritual “progress.” Pastor John Ortberg, a SoulPulse creator, says it uses “technology to gauge and enhance a tremendously old practice ... to look for the divine in everyday experience.”


PULSE : CHURCH

RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION IN HIRING DOES HAPPEN Sociologists at the University of Connecticut conducted a study determining that resumes that mentioned “any form of faith affiliation” were 26 percent less likely to get callbacks. This was more prevalent with Muslim, pagan and atheist job applicants. Jewish and evangelical applicants received the least discrimination. Perhaps this study is another indicator that many in the United States prefer to keep belief separate from their business.

24%

OF U.S. HISPANICS ARE “FORMER CATHOLICS” For decades, a majority of Hispanics in the United States associated themselves with Catholicism. They’re now also likely to connect with Protestants, the unaffiliated and evangelicals. Today’s U.S. Hispanic community breaks down as:

55% Catholic

22% Protestant

18%

THE RISE OF NEUROTHEOLOGY Does faith affect your brain? “Neurotheology” seeks to find out. Brain scans of nuns show multiple regions of the brain are activated during a religious experience, and neuroscientist Andrew Newberg claims those that speak in tongues can “let go of frontal lobe activity.”

DREAM CENTER LEADERSHIP SCHOOL + NORTHWEST UNIVERSITY The Dream Center Leadership School in Los Angeles recently named Northwest University as an academic partner. “It is the best of all worlds: a fully immersive urban ministry experience combined with fully accredited university curriculum,” the DCLS announcement states. NU offers to better prepare DCLS students with tools to “impact one of the most influential cities in the world” as well as the opportunity to earn up to 24 college credits.

Unaffiliated

16% Evangelical

5% Mainline

3% Other Christian

1% Other Pew Research Center, 2013

TEEN YOUTUBE SENSATION SINGS OF A “FATHER WHO WILL LOVE YOU” Eighteen-year-old Molly Kate Kestner’s song “His Daughter” was first recorded on a cracked iPhone and old piano. It then made its way to YouTube, where it has been viewed nearly 10 million times. Kestner, a member of River Valley Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota, recalls “crying” as she wrote this track about finding healing in faith. Expect to hear a studio version soon.

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PULSE : CHURCH

GRAB YOUR BIBLE— AND YOUR MUG Four ministries using coffee creatively

®

Ebenezers

Eurasia Coffee & Tea

Portico

Corner Church

The Church and Capitol Hill cross paths at Ebenezers, operated by National Community Church in Washington, D.C. All profits from the fair trade coffee go toward the church missions budget. General Manager Heather Corsi tells us about ...

Eurasia Coffee & Tea uses stories and environments to cultivate global community. They give 10 percent of sales and 40 percent of profits to those meeting social and spiritual needs in unreached areas. Director of Operations Justin Beiler tells us about ...

Portico Coffeehouse opened on the campus of Southeastern University to serve Lakeland, Florida a quality coffee product and give profits to international and local missions. Senior Manager Naida Lindberg tells us about ...

For Minneapolis’ Corner Church, a coffeehouse isn’t an extension of their ministry but its primary location. Through their two current shops—Corner Coffee and The Beat—the church maintains a neighborhood presence. Lead pastor Scott Woller tells us about ...

Coffee and community: There is comfort in holding a mug of hot coffee. Coffee facilitates relationship.

Coffee and community: It’s an experience that crosses cultures and generations.

Coffee as ministry: It makes sense that Christians would want to use this opportunity to form intentional relationships. We talk a lot around here about how Jesus hung out at the local well. Coffeehouses are the modernday well; as Christians, we should be there too.

Coffee as ministry: Coffee culture is intensely relational. We’re able to move beyond misperceptions and reveal the true essence of Christianity: a personal relationship with Christ, lived out through our relationships with others.

Her coffee order: I love the Americano, but for something sweet, the caramel whip.

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His coffee order: A Viennese “Melange” (black coffee, milk and whipped cream).

Coffee and community: Whether you are the barista, the casual attender or the native local, it is a home away from home. Coffee as ministry: I think it is a natural gathering place for people, and I believe the mission of the Church is to do just that: bring people together. Her coffee order: I think the drink that meets you in the middle is the Cortado (a double shot of espresso, steamed milk and light milk foam).

Coffee and community: The thing that is unique to coffee is it’s a daily item. Hundreds of people come in and out of our doors, and we get to be a valuable part of their day. Coffee as ministry: We’re not really passionate about coffee; we’re passionate about people. How we do evangelism, how we would represent Christ clearly … that’s done through relationship. His coffee order: I would get an iced vanilla latte.


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Christians aren’t always seen as “the bad guys” anymore on TV and in movies PHIL COOKE

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e’re in what’s called “premiere season” on primetime television—when all the new shows debut and the favorites return. During this time of year, it’s always a bit disconcerting to realize that the majority of our population calls itself “Christian,” yet we see so few modern Christians represented well on programs. When it comes to the overall entertainment industry, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, according to film scholar Terrance Lindvall, at the beginning of the 20th century— during the birth of the movie industry—churches made more movies than Hollywood. Yes, you read that right. Back in

those pre-TV days, pastors and other Christian leaders saw the motion picture’s potential for sharing the Christian message. I’ve actually been to a church in New Jersey where they uncovered a film projection booth that had been originally built into a wall. In the early 1900s, the massive lobby was often turned into a screening room for movies. But within a decade or two, the wider Church lost its passion for film. Although major studios occasionally made classic films like The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur, it wasn’t long before it was difficult to find a Christian character in a movie. Unless, of course, the Christian was a little unstable—or at least unlikable. As influence shifted in the culture,


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Christians gained new status in novels, movies and TV programs. In novels, evil Christians began proliferating, from a charming psychopath in Henning Mankell’s novel Before the Frost, to evangelical bank robbers in Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day. And when it came to movies and primetime television, just a few years ago Bob Bonebrake, author of King of America, wrote: “It’s easy to spot the evangelicals in the movies and TV these days. They’re the ones wearing the black hats. We seem to be well into the era of the Christian bad guy. It’s especially noticeable in television, where I’ve recently seen a host of TV dramas with hypocritical ministers and priests revealed as murderers.” So what’s going on? As a writer and producer working in Hollywood for the last three decades, I can honestly say that the entertainment industry isn’t anti-Christian. Certainly there are some high-profile atheists like HBO talk show host Bill Maher who regularly skewers people of faith. But for the most part, religion—of any kind—simply isn’t on their radar. Last year, when Mark Burnett’s The Bible TV series shattered audience records, I was interviewed by three major news networks on the same day. Each one was absolutely baffled at why anyone would be interested in watching a TV show about the Bible. They weren’t disrespectful or critical; they were simply shocked. My answer took them by surprise. I reminded them that Hollywood has spent years bending over backward to reach all kinds of special interest groups. But with Pew Research Center reporting there are more than 91 million evangelical Christians in the United States, we’re actually the largest “special interest group” of all. From a business standpoint alone, it’s smart to reach out to Christians. Which is one reason why, more recently, we’re witnessing a real turnaround. As I write this, three explicitly Christian movies are in the top 10 at the box office—which may be the first time that’s happened in history. Plus, I know producers currently developing Christian-friendly TV programming for secular network television. So what should we expect from the future—and how should we react? Hollywood is making an effort, but don’t expect them to always get it right. The entertainment industry isn’t a school of theology, so while studio executives see the potential of producing more Christian stories, they will occasionally miss the mark. Take, for example, last spring’s Paramount Pictures movie Noah. The creators spent 16 years researching and developing the film, but it wasn’t necessarily the

biblical Noah. It was told through the lens of numerous flood stories from different cultures and Jewish Midrash sources, with a lot of imagination thrown in for good (or bad) measure. If you kept up with the press surrounding Noah, you know Christians were either impressed or horrified by the creators’ efforts. But perhaps more important, during the three-day opening weekend of Noah, the YouVersion Bible app reported a 300 percent increase in people reading or listening to the Noah story from the book of Genesis. In actual numbers, that means just during the opening weekend, the Noah story was read or listened to on the app 389,794 times—or about 129,931 times per day. It’s the highest number of people exploring that passage that they have ever recorded. BibleGateway.com reported similar increases—and keep in mind these aren’t counting the number who read it in a printed Bible (remember those?). It’s also worth noting that the American Bible Society’s office in New York City reported a spike in people coming in off the street asking about the account of Noah. The bottom line is that entertainment does influence how the public views and explores faith. And, as Christians, we can criticize or boycott Hollywood—or consider it a mission field. After all, if boycotts worked, then why don’t missionaries do it? Why don’t missionaries go to the developing world, surround a village, criticize them, call them names and refuse to have a relationship until they change? It doesn’t work in the mission field, and it won’t work in entertainment culture. When was the last time you prayed for the most influential industry in the world? When was the last time you offered to help support a talented Christian working in the movie or TV industry? When was the last time you openly praised a show or film for what they’ve gotten right, instead of what you feel they did wrong? Ultimately, real change happens from inside, and today there are thousands of dedicated Christians working at all levels of the entertainment industry making a positive difference. As Christians we should be vigilant and discerning but always ready to engage today’s culture with the greatest story ever told. Hollywood is getting the message that there are millions of people across this country who take their faith seriously and want to see entertainment that takes it seriously too. How we respond will determine if they continue. Phil Cooke is a writer, producer and media consultant based in Burbank, California. His most recent book is One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do (Thomas Nelson) . Find out more at philcooke.com.

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A PERSONAL INVITATION TO CHURCH STILL MATTERS It doesn’t have to be weird—and it just might work MIKE BURNETTE

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very week, pastors across the country encourage members of their congregations to come back next week for the newest part of the series, join in a small group—and “make sure you invite your friends!” Most in the congregation are comfortable with the first two parts of that request. However, inviting a friend often makes many nervous. Interestingly, we are eager to invite our friends to all sorts of activities we love. We invite them to sporting events, concerts, neighborhood picnics, even community outreach events through our church. But there seems to be something unnerving

about inviting peers to a Sunday service at our church. In fact, a LifeWay survey suggests that nearly half of congregants have never asked an unchurched person to join them. Assuming you are a part of a healthy church home, I want to give you a few reasons I believe a personal invitation still matters— and some advice on overcoming the obstacles of extending one. 1. You are the best PR for your church. No amount of mailers or flyers can replace the value of a personal invitation from you to someone else. You are the best PR for your church. You know the reasons why


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you love your church, and you are the best person to convey those reasons to the person you are inviting. A peer will always communicate stories and values better than any billboard. A personal invitation has also been proven by many researchers to be the most effective way to increase visitors in a church. I tell my church all the time, “You are the best advertising we could ever have.” 2. There is nothing to be afraid of. We live in a culture that is so concerned with offending people or hurting feelings, it has paralyzed many of us. We are afraid of talking about important things, like politics or religion, and somehow we have assumed that inviting someone to church means we could potentially offend. Yet, have you ever gotten into a fight with anyone because you simply invited them to join you for church? I haven’t. I’ve never been ostracized, ridiculed or blacklisted from friends because I extended myself in this way. The truth is, most of the people I have relationships with already know I am a Christian and involved with church and ministry. Some have even said they were glad I finally invited them. Is going to church something you value? If so, you should be excited to invite someone to join you. Don’t be more concerned that the worst may happen (they say no or get upset) than you are hopeful that the best could happen (they make a decision to follow Christ, recommit to faith or finally find a church home). 3. Your church is not THAT weird. Sometimes I hear about Christians who are nervous or embarrassed to invite their friends to their church because they think something unusual or uncomfortable might happen. As a pastor, I’ve gotten the emails or calls from well-intentioned church members letting me know they are bringing someone and giving me their “wish list” of what should or should not happen. Here’s a thought: Rather than depend on what people do or don’t do in your church, simply invite your friend and beg God to show up and change their heart. Pray that your church maintains a balanced approach to ministry; maybe even offer to help bring that balance by becoming an integral part of the culture.

And don’t forget, you are there too. If someone chooses to join you at a service, they probably don’t think you are weird, so they are most likely openminded to your church community. If necessary, you can always offer to help them navigate any questions or discomfort that may arise. 4. If we take Scripture seriously, we should take church seriously. If we truly believe the Bible, then we understand a few things: Heaven and hell are real, every human being will stand before God in judgment, Christians have been commissioned to make disciples, and the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the world through the Church. Pentecostals, historically, have had a real urgency about these realities. That is what shaped our missional beginnings. God desires that no one should perish but all come to repentance. And it is through the Church that salvation is preached. Of course, you should participate in the mission of God every day and reach lost people, but don’t forget the value of the local church and the weekend experience in seeing those lost people come to Jesus, with those who were once lost themselves. My hope is that everyone in our churches realizes what Bill Hybels has said for years: “The local church is the hope of the world!” I suggest we change our attitude from assuming people will say no and just believe that many people will be interested in a personal, sincere invitation to church. Even if your neighbor, co-worker or classmate already attends another church, it can create an open door for a deeper Christ-centered relationship and accountability in the areas where you do interact. It is God who builds His church, it is God who draws all people to Himself and it is God who saves—not you. But we get to be a part of this glorious process. We are co-laborers with Christ and joint heirs with Him for eternity. What a blessing to welcome others into this promise.

You are the best PR for your church ... A peer will always communicate stories and values better than any billboard.

Mike Burnette is Lead Pastor of LifePoint Church in Clarksville, Tennessee. He and his wife, Stephanie, have four daughters and share a strong passion for the Lord and the local church. Follow him on Twitter @mikeburnette or watch online at lifepointclarksville.com.

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CAN YOU BE POLITICAL— WITHOUT BEING A JERK? A call for discussion without discord JOY E. A. QUALLS, PH.D.

If

you feel like our politics in America are more divided than ever, you are probably right. According to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines … than at any point in the last two decades.” These divisions manifest themselves in a variety of ways in our everyday lives. The Pew Center reports that “these divisions are greatest among those who are the most engaged and active in the political process.” I believe that Christians are and should be engaged politically—however, that means if the Pew research is correct (and I believe it is), we are contributing to these political divisions.

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We all arrive at our politics by various means, but regardless of our conclusions, it is very personal. I love politics. And when you love political engagement like I do, that means sometimes the passion for the game and the desire “to win” overshadows your relationships with others and your witness as people of Christ. If I am honest, because of a combination of personal interest, love of debate and constant access to provocative rhetoric, I have often failed in this area. Given the propensity for division and discord, how can Christians be political without being jerks? First, listen more than you speak. James 1:19 commands us as believers to be quick to listen, but slow to speak or get angry. Too often, we are trying to formulate our response to someone before they have finished making their case. When we fail to listen, our own politics become ignorant, and our ignorance of others’ beliefs and motivations results in rudeness. Be slow to anger. When you feel that emotion rising, it is time to take a step back and a deep breath. When we become angry, we forfeit our opportunity to be heard and risk relationships. Second, be nice. What I mean by that is simply to be aware of your tone. Ask yourself, Am I sharing an

article online that is disparaging of a person or political party? Do I use mocking words or titles when I speak of others with whom my politics differ? When we share information that is disrespectful in tone or makes unqualified assumptions, we may make a mockery of ourselves. Hostile speech immediately creates defensiveness, and the conversation devolves quickly. No one wins in these situations, and our perspective may not be taken seriously. Third, assume the other knows as much and cares as much as you do. When we start from a place of respect for the person and how they arrived at their politics, then we create an environment in which we are respected for what we bring to the political table. We do not have to agree

with their conclusions, but it allows for more opportunity to understand and even persuade one another. Finally, my mama often said, “When you know you are right, be quiet.” We do not need to view every expression of political opinion as an opportunity for debate. Obnoxious debaters are often unpersuasive debaters. Learn to identify instances when silence is the better option—when you need to preserve a relationship, choose a better medium, manage time well or prioritize your own mental health. Sometimes it is best to keep still until we can examine why and how we should speak up. If political issues were small stakes enterprises, they would not be worth our contribution, but the issues we face in our nation and world have great implications. Let’s use current divisions as opportunities to build bridges, offer solutions and demonstrate grace in how we communicate with one another—in spite of our differences. Joy E. A. Qualls, Ph.D., is a professor of rhetoric and communication at Evangel University.


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THE CHURCH OF TOMORROW What will the future be like—and how will our faith exist within it? Some of today’s leaders share their vision. ROBERT CROSBY

Here’s the church, Here’s the steeple, Open the doors and … Remember that? This two-handed, rhyming childhood ritual tapped my earliest imaginations about the Church. It tested more than my dexterity; it formed ideas and expectations in my mind about where, how and with whom we worship. I pictured the church as a building whose architecture pointed toward heaven and opened up to reveal a place teeming with (really wiggly) people. My childlike understanding of Church has evolved and expanded as I’ve grown. While our faith is forever tethered to the person of Jesus and our essential beliefs, I now understand that, throughout history, it has experienced both sweeping and subtle adjustments of form and function in order to reach an ever-changing world. It is as they say: Change is constant.

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J ust imagine what the church of 50 years ago would have thought of today’s Church. Some of the things then considered new or innovative included transistor radios, garage door openers, power steering and cassette tapes. It makes you think: How different will the Church of tomorrow be from the one we know and love today? What kinds of technologies will we discover and incorporate? What do today’s trends reveal about tomorrow’s possibilities? How will the next generation picture the body of Christ—its “steeples,” “doors” and “people”? ENGAGING THE O P P O R T U N I T I E S OF TOM O R R O W TODAY: FIVE T R E N D S A N D R ESPONSES We’re not alone in feeling the future holds a certain fascination; the Apostle Paul also wondered. In fact, he poured his mind and soul into envisioning the Church of tomorrow. Even so, with all his inspired imaginations, he knew he could never outdream God: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9, NLT). We begin this exercise—this dreaming about the future Church—knowing we can’t fully predict or even understand what it will be like. Yet, we can hope, we can ponder, and perhaps we can prepare.

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Think about your personal church background. How has your opinion of ministry, worship and discipleship changed over the years? How has your church (or churches) evolved?

Together, with a group of experts and leaders in today’s Church, we’ve examined five trends that show us where we are and where we could go as believers. Each of these trends will bring distinct opportunities and challenges. The engagement of these may quite possibly become vital signs of tomorrow’s healthiest churches—churches that face the future boldly. 1. More Diversity—Much More “The America of the near future will look nothing like the recent past,” says Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center. In 1960, the population of America was 83 percent white; by 2060, it will be 43 percent white. This shift is bringing changes to America, and its churches as well. Chris Railey, director of Church Leadership and Development for the Assemblies of God (AG), says the fellowship is “now 42 percent ethnically diverse, and in the next 20 years we will be a majority minority movement.” Notably, Hispanics are now the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States.


“We have been embracing diversity, pursuing it, celebrating it—not simply tolerating it.” —Ben Dailey

An article in TIME magazine last year actually referred to the impact of the Hispanic influx on the Church as the “Latino Reformation.” This diversity “trend” will soon simply be a common reality. In response to this and the Gospel itself, the effective Church of tomorrow will have a bigger heart for all peoples and nations. Ben Dailey pastors a megachurch, Calvary Assembly, located in what Trulia.com recognizes as one of the most diverse areas in America—Irving, Texas. He says Christians have too often focused on their differences rather than common connection points. “At Calvary,” he says, “we have been embracing diversity, pursuing it, celebrating it—not simply tolerating it.” This may be challenging for those used to the predictability of homogenous surroundings. “Embracing diversity and our differences sounds glamorous, yet it is very difficult.” Crystal Martin, Chi Alpha’s Internationals director, acknowledges. “It requires a new kind of love.” However, more diversity also provides the Church with a great opportunity to foster unity at new depths; and not just unity, but community. We will continue to reach out to the world through missions, but we will also welcome the world into our homes. Thomas Barclay, international presiding elder for the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God (UPCAG), has experience with this kind of bridge-building. He recalls how, when the majority of white families moved out of his community, he decided to continue inviting white speakers to his predominantly

African-American church. The Church must change, Barclay says, by “opening our doors, inviting others into our churches that don’t look like us, those who don’t speak like us.” Martha Lesperance-Garcia, a missionary who coordinates church plants among ethnic minorities in the Gulf Region of Alabama, lives in a city with immigrants from 62 nations— almost none of which are represented in local churches. She notes that fewer than one in 10 immigrants there will ever have an American friend. Christians who serve a God who “sets the lonely in families” (Ps. 68:6) “must see the immigrant and be willing to reach out,” Lesperance-Garcia says. 2. More “Natural Virtuals” While Boomers were the welcoming generation for the personal computer, “Millennials are taking technology back to the group, back to the community experience,” says noted researcher and LifeCourse Associates president Neil Howe. Put simply, the future Church will use technology more naturally. James Bradford, who holds a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering and serves as the general secretary of the AG, believes “the everyday interface between human activity and advanced technology will become increasingly seamless and intuitive.” And Robert Cooley, a leadership consultant and president emeritus of GordonConwell Theological Seminary, says “digital technologies will alter our communication practices, impact the location of our congregations,” and even “change how biblical content is distributed.” Understandably, there are questions of how this kind of technology should influence the spiritual and interpersonal work of the Church. “We can never rely totally on technology or programs,” Greg Mundis, executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM), cautions, reiterating that the Church is made up of people first. The challenge will be not to use technology more, but to use it well. The effective Church of tomorrow will make wiser use of virtual tools and resources. Bobby Gruenewald, founder of YouVersion. com (the Bible App, which exceeded 150 million downloads this August) forecasts that “ultimately the Church will build appropriate

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SORRY, NO FLYING CARS … … but what emerging technologies could soon change the way the world works? - The global medical bionic implant market is predicted to be worth $17.82 billion by 2017. (Markets and Markets) - The NASAfunded 100-Year Starship Project’s goal is to send a spaceship to another planetary system within the next 100 years. (Space.com) - A microbiologist who developed the concept of “vertical farming”—urban farms stacked in several story buildings— believes it could be a widespread agricultural method within 50 years. (Wall Street Journal) - Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized selfdriving cars. Meanwhile, the number of drivers under the age of 20 who choose to hold licenses continues to decline. (Wired)

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... amidst the Pentecostal movement today, a new generation is rapidly emerging.

boundaries while still increasing the integration of technology in a way that [results in] a stronger level of engagement in our church services.” Jodi Detrick, a writer, religion columnist and former chairperson for the Network for Women in Ministry, feels “[technology] holds potential as a means for even greater connectivity … and our ability to share the Gospel.” Smaller and less wealthy churches in particular stand to benefit from the increasing availability and affordability of these media tools. “Though it’s impossible to predict what technology we will be using in 25 years,” Gruenewald says, “what we do know is that the Church has endured for 2,000 years because it’s continued to renew itself and find new ways of reaching people. Both today and in the future, to reach people no one is reaching, we’ll have to do things no one is doing.” 3. The “Bigger Smallers” The decline of the American shopping mall is another major societal trend, says Thom Rainer, church growth expert and president of LifeWay Christian Resources. The privacy and convenience of online shopping has impacted big box businesses (e.g., Circuit City) and led to the closure of many malls. This is just one of many indicators that Millennials seem to want more

personal and intimate settings; thus, the popularity of coffeeshops and small groups. Eighty-two percent of megachurches say small groups are now essential to their spiritual formation strategies. We are indeed entering the age of the “bigger smallers.” By all signs and studies, megachurches will continue to grow. However, the only way a modern big church can become a future strong church is by finding ways to develop smaller “churches” within it. They will need new forms of cohesiveness that not only bring people together, but also keep them together. On the other hand, small churches could have increasing significance, as they are already positioned to emphasize individual connections and personal environments. Regardless of size, the effective church of tomorrow will have a bigger focus on the “smaller” places. With the prevalence of new technologies to come, intimacy will become more treasured, especially in our places of worship and community. Karl Vaters, a pastor and small church advocate, agrees: “Churches will become bigger and smaller [in the future]. The coming generation will not do church the way their parents and grandparents did.” Vaters says beautiful buildings and programs will mean less; friendships will mean more. Creating community, authentic and enduring, will be vital to the Church of tomorrow. The challenges ahead, according to Railey, “will force us to really wrestle with what community means, and how we cultivate it.” Roger Gibson, director of National Adult and Family Ministries for the AG, believes it is best cultivated by reconnecting to the family unit—God’s original design for experiencing community. The way we will accomplish the work of the Church tomorrow is together, and the skill of the age will be collaboration. 4. A Greater Pentecostal Presence Pentecostalism may be the foremost phenomenon of today’s church. This movement that began with a handful of tongue-talking worshippers on Azusa Street in Los Angeles in 1906 has reportedly grown to almost 600 million worldwide, approximately one-fourth of all of Christendom. Respected historian Vinson Synan predicts that by the end of the twenty-first century, Pentecostals will comprise half of all Christians in the world. Synan also estimates that, at its present rate of growth, the AG will become the largest Protestant communion of churches in the world. As the Pentecostal church is changing, other groups are feeling the impact as well. Noted Catholic journalist and Boston Globe editor John L. Allen recognizes that Pentecostalism is also changing the Catholic Church. In his book, The Future Church (Doubleday), he foresees a “more evangelical Catholicism” and lists 10 trends shaping this, including “Pentecostalism.” Allen defines it as “a movement within Christianity emphasizing direct personal experience of God through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” He predicts that the Church of the future will be predominantly four things: “global,” “uncompromising,” “Pentecostal” and “extroverted.”

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Yet, amidst the Pentecostal movement today, a new generation is rapidly emerging. Bradford says they “are hungry for experience with the Holy Spirit.” However, these young Pentecostals do not want to see ministry and gifts of the Spirit restricted to church meetings, but poured out in the community. The effective church of tomorrow will gain a better understanding of this new kind of Pentecostal. Lesperance-Garcia says this emerging generation doesn’t “want to become Pentecostal [simply to] become ‘like us’; they want to become Pentecostal because they want to do something greater for God and their community.” 5. Evangelism + Compassion Jack Hayford, a pastor and chancellor of The King’s University, says, “There is a huge awakening for social concern today, especially from age 30 and down.” Five years ago, recognizing this interest in social concern, AG general superintendent George O. Wood successfully spearheaded an effort to add compassion as the AG’s fourth “reason for being.” This new generation craves a Gospel that, while still valuing the dynamic manifestations of the Spirit, does not overlook the practical needs of people’s lives. They not only appreciate the altar; they are deeply concerned for the streets. They not only want to speak in tongues; they desperately want to feed hungry mouths and souls. Hal Donaldson, president of Convoy of Hope, says, “Churches that are truly into discipleship and lay-mobilization will thrive and have a significant impact on their community and the world.” The effective church of tomorrow will embrace a blended passion for the lost and the hurting. Yet, while the interest in

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“compassion” is on the rise, it is important to avoid a vacuous trendiness in the Church. Rob Ketterling, pastor of River Valley Church in Twin Cities, Minnesota, says young believers must learn to “be more generous with their resources and make significant investments in evangelism and the Church.” He believes they may have been “lulled into sleep” by thinking that altruistic acts like buying a pair of shoes equates a substantial sacrifice for the poor, when even a single tithe check may involve much more personal “sacrifice.” In her new book, Courageous Compassion (My Healthy Church), Project Rescue founder Beth Grant sums it up by saying, “In order to be biblically lifechanging, compassion ministries must be integrated with all aspects of Jesus’ Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).” Compassion and conversion go hand in hand. The Jesus of the New Testament saved souls, healed bodies and fed empty stomachs, as well.

The effective church of tomorrow will embrace a blended passion for the lost and the hurting. THE CHALL ENGE OF C HANGE There are parts of our past that should never change: our faithful commitment to Biblical beliefs, Jesus, the Gospel and one another as Christ-followers. While we adapt fresh cultural approaches of faith, we must hold firmly to the Word of God and our Spirit-filled heritage. But we must also be willing to let go of approaches and systems that are outdated. With the future coming at us fast, the temptation is to cling to the moment or to yearn for days gone by. While celebrating our present and our history is vital, Nick Fatato, executive director of minister development for the AG’s Southern New England Ministry Network, says we can also get stuck in the past because “the past is safe, it is static; either good or bad. It’s easy to select out the good, forget the bad and simply enjoy the memory. The future,

How can a church or a believer achieve a good balance between preaching the Gospel and living the Gospel?


however, is still undefined. Therefore, it may feel unsafe to venture out into.” It is also important to remember what Jesus said the Church could expect in the future. “[He] promised that the church would suffer,” Herbert Cooper, pastor of People’s Church in Oklahoma City, says. “It is not popular, but that is part of our future; to suffer for Christ.” “Christianity is going to continue to lose its privileged place in our society,” says Cheryl Bridges Johns, a pastor and professor at Pentecostal Theological Seminary. She cites the tension of pluralism and religious freedom versus a Judeo-Christian heritage and believes it is pushing the Church back “to the margins.” Regardless of this, her hope is

“that, in becoming more marginal, we will become more prophetic.” Could the Church of tomorrow be more like the early Church? If so, we need to remember that the book of Acts is not a story of the Church influencing as the majority, but from the margins. Could it be that the Holy Spirit prefers the margins? These challenges the Church faces will bring churches and Christians together as never before. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says, “The Church will be less denominationally divided and more united around basic Christian doctrines.” Gruenewald also says the future will bring “more unity,” and that while “it’s likely the Church will operate in a harsher climate in the future … this will bring the global body of believers closer together.”

WHAT ABOUT THE “NONES?” Recent polls have shown millions of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, especially among those in a Millennial age-range. The term “Nones” has been coined to describe this group—a reference to checking “none of the above” regarding religious preference. Studies also indicate, however, that even as these individuals resist labels, they don’t necessarily resist God. Nearly a quarter of Nones say they still believe, and many are also products of an age that welcomes religion-hopping. It’s a group that’s easy to misperceive, but pastors like Rob Ketterling, of River Valley Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota, are hopeful the future Church could learn to understand and engage them. “I think that the Millennials are attracted to deep passion, life application … I think the gifts of the Spirit are going to be so attractive to this generation.”

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The way we will get the work of the Church done tomorrow is together, and the skill of the age will be collaboration.

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IN O U R H E A R TS— O U T O F O U R HANDS Maybe the challenges in your past make it difficult to be hopeful about the future. The fact is every yesterday in our lives was once a tomorrow. Every part of our history was once a part of our future. Everything and every person now familiar were once unfamiliar. So stepping into the future will require faith and courage; it always has, and it always will. The future in many ways remains a mystery. While God allows us to consider it, its entirety is far beyond us: “He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11). Like Paul, we pray and we ponder, we hope and we wonder—but we realize that God will ultimately do far beyond all we could ever “ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20).” Forming that little church with 10 “members” in the palms of my hands as a child was a fascinating and comforting ritual. Yet, as it turns out, the Church’s future is not in my hands, or yours— not really. It’s in God’s. In fact, we are called to “humble [ourselves] under God’s mighty hand” (1 Pet. 5:6) and offer our own hands in worship to Him and service to others, watching with anticipation to see what He will do through us in a world so full of need. This time, we put our grown-up hands together and pray, Help us to truly open the doors and see all the people as never before.

FAST FORWARD More insights from future-minded leaders on what will define healthy churches: “Denominations that facilitate healthy networks of churches will thrive. Denominations that ignore networks and attempt to lead with a top-down approach will decline.” —Steve Pike, President of Urban Islands Project and Former Director of the Church Multiplication Network

“We’ve gotten away from inclusion. We’re trying to build the Kingdom, but you’ll never build it through exclusion.” —Malcolm Burleigh, National Director of Assemblies of God Intercultural Ministries

“Technology and social media platforms just might be the means of … fostering an environment where people who feel isolated can finally begin to connect in an authentic, meaningful way.” —Jodi Detrick , Author and religion columnist, former Chairperson of the Network for Women in Ministry

“Every church in America will have to have a compassion component built in, or it will become completely irrelevant in its community.” —Rich Wilkerson, Founder and pastor of Trinity Church in Miami, Florida

“The Church and leaders are realizing that our effectiveness is contingent only on the levels of partnership as we affect beyond our four walls.”

Robert Crosby is co-founder of Teaming Life (teaminglife.com) and a professor of practical theology at Southeastern University. He has pastored churches in New York, Ohio and Massachusetts. He and his wife, Pamela, speak on church development, marriage and family. He has written several books including his newest The One Jesus Loves (Thomas Nelson)

—Samuel Chand, Leadership expert and change strategist

and The Teaming

In the coming months, you can read more interviews and forecasts about the future of the Church on vitalmagazine.com.

Press). Follow him

Church (Abingdon on Twitter @teaminglife.

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LIVING IN ABUSE. ADDICTION. RACISM. POVERTY. VIOLENCE.

T H E G A P

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The world is filled with gaps … Are you willing to stand in them? WILFREDO DE JESÚS

Pause and consider how friends, relatives, mentors or strangers have filled the “gaps” in your life. Has God used the prayer, finances, advice or mere presence of others to show you His love? What are those gaps like now?

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gap, by definition, represents a place of weakness, vulnerability and danger. It is a defenseless location of exposure and limitation, a point where people face real threats. Gaps exist in our countries, our communities and at home with our families. When an enemy attacks the gaps in our lives, we are hopelessly overwhelmed—if not for the grace of God and the intervention of His divine hand. People are in distress, and God is looking for men and women to stand in the gap in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our cities and towns, in our nation and in every corner of the world. Every news account tells us that people are in trouble. They are weak, vulnerable and in danger. If no one stands in the gap for them, it will be a catastrophe. In many cases, a series of catastrophes has already occurred—and the gap has grown even wider.

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Huge gaps have opened up in our world. Do we even notice? Do we care? God is asking: “Will you stand in the gap for these people? Will you stand in the gap for My sake and My glory?”

THE BIBLE’S “GAP PEOPLE” TOD AY ’ S G A P S This isn’t a black or white problem, or a socioeconomic problem. The problem isn’t affecting some of us, but all of us. It affects our deepest hopes and fears. The gap looks like: • a prodigal child • an unfaithful spouse • an abusive family member • an addict who is out of control • lying, stealing and cheating • sexual promiscuity • parents who have lost hope for their kids • neighbors (even church members) who hate each other and poison their communities • gangs, violence and other crimes • the elderly who are forgotten and overlooked • children who grow up unable to read • poverty from lack of training and skills • social breakdown • human trafficking • attacks on the sanctity of marriage • racism • immigrants lost in the system • prostitution • people who have made terrible choices and feel cut off from the goodness of God

Below are defining characteristics of nine courageous individuals in Scripture.

Do you recognize any of these gaps around you right now? You may have protected yourself and your family from many of them, but all of these lifethreatening problems are only minutes away from all of us—and many of us live with these difficulties all day, every day.

Deborah earned a reputation of wisdom and strength. (Judges 5:7)

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Nehemiah identified a problem to solve. (Nehemiah 2:5) Esther understood her times. (Esther 4:14) Noah was “all in,” no matter what the cost. (Genesis 7:5) David was anointed by God to do the work. (1 Samuel 17:37) Barnabas saw hidden potential. (Acts 9:26-27) John the Baptist was willing to take risks. (Matthew 3:3) Gideon was sensitive to the voice of God. (Judges 6:22)

Caleb had “a different spirit.” (Numbers 14:24)

BEC OMING A “GAP PERSON” What is a “gap person”? Who is the kind of person God is looking for, the type of man or woman, young or old, who has insight into the problem and courage to take bold action? God isn’t looking for people who feel no fear. He’s looking for people who walk toward their fear and stand in the gap to help those in need. The Bible uses a Hebrew term to describe the kind of person who stands in the gap for others: ish habinayim. Ish is a man; isha is a woman. Habinayim is “one who places himself between the two camps and offers single combat.” The effort involved means to break or burst out, like a child coming out of a womb, to break through, break open or break the limits of a stronghold. So, an ish (or isha) habinayim is a champion for a cause, a person who protects or supports someone in need, a man or woman who finds the courage to sacrifice everything to represent God and block


evil from destroying those He loves. All of us have the privilege and the responsibility to stand in the gap for those around us. Love, courage and tenacity, though, don’t come out of a vacuum. We look at Jesus. John the Baptist told people, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) When we look at Him—and begin to realize the wonder of His awesome power and consistent love—our hearts are transformed. The message of the Gospel never gets boring. When we were weak, vulnerable and in danger, Jesus stepped out of the comfort and glory of heaven to give not just His time but also His life for you and me. He didn’t just risk His reputation; He poured out His blood for us. We were broken sinners, but Jesus loved us so much He gave it all to pay the ransom to bring us back home to God. People who are in desperate need may have nothing to offer us in return for our care. That’s how Jesus loves us—unconditionally—and that’s what it

means for us to love people in need. His story of the good Samaritan demonstrates what it means to stand in the gap for someone: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and

Are there other people in Scripture who were great examples of “gap people?”

This isn’t a black or white problem, or a socio-economic problem. The problem isn’t affecting some of us, but all of us.

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“Random acts of kindness” are wonderful, but most people in need have complex problems that aren’t solved easily or quickly.

when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have’” (Luke 10:30-35). First, we need to notice—to see others’ needs: spiritual, physical, relational and emotional. Our hearts need to be soft enough to feel the pain of others and strong enough to care. Then, we need a plan. “Random acts of kindness” are wonderful, but most people in need have complex problems that aren’t solved easily or quickly. When you encounter hurting, struggling people, you need to resist the temptation to pass by on the other side of the road, assuming that “it’s not my problem.” Why are we hesitant to stand in the gap for those in need? There are many reasons. We don’t want anyone

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Look at the list of gaps on page 46. Do you know anybody living in one of them? How can you begin to better understand the conditions—and solutions—for these voids?

to take advantage of us. We have our own priorities of comfort and pleasure, and we don’t want the inconvenience. We fear that people will think we’re weird if we invest our time and hearts in the lives of those who can’t give us anything in return. We may be fearful that if we pour ourselves out for others, God will leave us empty and alone. Selfishness and fear—these are the most common reasons we’re reluctant to stand in the gap for hurting people around us. The men and women today who stand in the gap in their families and communities believe in a God of awesome power, strong love and infinite wisdom. In spite of the complexities of their situations, they trust God is greater—far, far greater— than the problems people face. Out of hearts filled with God’s kindness and strength, they pour themselves out to mend broken hearts, restore relationships and rescue the souls of the people they find on the side of life’s road. “FOR ONE OF THE LEAST” In the days before Jesus was betrayed, arrested, tortured and killed, He explained what it means to be a gap person. He told what will happen when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne and considers the people before Him. One group will be those who saw others in need (those who were hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and in prison) but didn’t bother to help them. The other group will be those who went out of their way to care for misfits and outcasts. The King will be pleased with them and will say to them:


FE ATURES

MAKE IT COUNT Where are the vulnerable places in society? Here’s a quick look at a few big problems—and some suggestions for how you might improve them: Since 2002, the United States has had the highest incarceration rate in the world. (Bureau of Justice Statistics) - Ask if your church has a prison ministry. Support a correctional chaplaincy program, like U.S. Missions Chaplaincy Ministries (chaplaincy.ag.org). Malnutrition affects almost one-third of the children in developing countries. (UNICEF) - Support a missionary or organization that feeds the world’s food insecure, such as Convoy of Hope (convoyofhope. org). Every two minutes, another American is sexually assaulted. (RAINN) - Emphasize respect, consent and individual value. Sign up for training to answer phones at a rape or crisis hotline. Over 3 million kids drop out of high school each year. (NCES) - Volunteer to tutor or encourage students relationally through an after-school program or community center. In 2012, the U.S. military hit a record for the number of suicides among troops on active duty. (Department of Defense) - Donate money to organizations that provide mental health treatment for the military. Ask if you can bring food, babysit or pray for a family adjusting to the return of a service member. Nearly three in 10 women will have an abortion by age 45. (Guttmacher Institute) - Have honest conversations with the women and men you know about the power of choosing life. Pray about becoming an adoptive parent yourself.

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matt. 25:34-36).

Selfishness and fear—these are the most common reasons we’re reluctant to stand in the gap for hurting people around us. The people will ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” (Matt. 25:37-39) The King will smile and reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40). The astounding truth Jesus taught was this: When we stand in the gap for hurting, discouraged people who are often difficult to love, He considers that we’re actually pouring out our love on Him. And nothing pleases Him more. There are many good motivations to be a gap person. We’re being obedient to God’s command, He pours out His Spirit on us, and we see lives changed. But perhaps the most compelling motivations are that we represent and resemble Jesus when we pour our lives out for others—and that makes Him proud.

Wilfredo De Jesús, better known as Pastor Choco, is the head pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, Illinois. His most recent book is In the Gap (Influence Resources) , from which this article was adapted.

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YOUR WORLD IN PERSPECTIVE

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THE SCIENCE OF DOUBT Why it’s OK to have a faith that asks big questions CHRISTINA M. H. POWELL, PH.D.

H There’s a good chance a class, article or study has caused you to rethink some aspect of your beliefs. What kind of questions did it bring up? How did you approach these questions? What was their ultimate affect on you?

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ow do you think faith and science relate to each other? Are faith and science avowed enemies? Are they former friends who no longer talk to each other? On a personal level, can a scientist believe in God? Should universities locate the theology department on the opposite side of the campus from the scientific laboratories? These questions arise from the widespread interest in the relationship between faith and science, demonstrated by the recent popularity of shows like Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos or the attention given to last year’s creation debate featuring Bill Nye and Ken Ham. Many Christians desire to learn more about the relationship, because they worry that science causes people to doubt their faith. For example, a 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press found that scientists are roughly half as likely to believe in God as the general public. We should not be surprised that science asks hard questions of believers. At its core, that’s what science is: the art of asking questions. The scientific method demands proof and looks for reproducibility. This approach is key to understanding natural processes. But factors central to religious belief—such as miracles—are not natural processes. They are exceptions to the rules of nature. As a result, religion does not lend itself well to analysis by the scientific method. However, even if we cannot prove the claims of faith through science, perhaps the scientific approach to questioning can refine and enhance a person’s faith.


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P U R S U I N G K N O WLEDGE Both science and faith, though they use different methods, share in the pursuit of knowledge. Their searches often start with a good question. In the laboratory, scientists pose questions and then seek answers through careful and systematic study. Researchers verify all facts through experimentation and thorough investigations. They do not accept information based solely on authority. On the other hand, spiritual knowledge is most often revealed by faith or Scripture, as described in Romans 10:17: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Faith may even be handed down from generation to generation. But faith asks questions too. While science asks how something can be done, ethics, derived from faith-based teachings, asks what should be done. What is good? What is fair? Faith pursues the answers to these questions, which in turn brings joy to the human condition, offering grace to cover for failure, love to strengthen human relationships and hope for eternal life. M E A S U R I N G C E RTAINTY One source of misunderstanding between religion and science is the definition of doubt. This word carries a different connotation to scientists than it does to people of faith. Christians tend to view doubt as the opposite of faith. Consider the teaching in James 1:5-8. James contrasts the man who doubts with the man who believes. The doubter is unstable, like a ship tossed by the wind and ocean waves. The man who believes receives the answer to his prayer for wisdom. The doubt described by these verses functions as a stumbling block to faith, and it’s true that unhealthy doubt has the potential to be spiritually destructive if it brings discouragement and isolation. At its core, faith requires an appreciation that spiritual truth cannot be determined through human reasoning alone, because “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). The doubt applied within science, however, is a specialized term that does not describe insecurity or fickleness. Scientists have to approach their work with a certain degree of skepticism, and researchers must doubt a conclusion until they gather enough data to support it. In this context, it is simply a gauge for measuring certainty in experimental results. Have you ever tried to focus a lens on a camera or a telescope? When the lens is out of focus, you may have trouble discerning the identity of the image you are viewing. This uncertainty is how doubt in science

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functions. As you bring the image into focus, you can be more confident of the identity of the object under investigation. Your level of doubt of the object’s identity alerts you to the need to sharpen the focus of the lens. A researcher’s doubt about the validity of experimental findings helps refine future scientific investigations. Skepticism is necessary in the laboratory and keeps scientists striving for excellence in their work. As a result, science protects people from believing in superstitions and making decisions based on outmoded information. Similarly, in our journey of faith, healthy doubt can help us discern the difference between error and biblical truth, alerting us to the need to focus the lens of our spiritual thinking. UNDERSTANDING REALITY Faith and science can coexist together, as they have in my life and the lives of my Christian friends who are also scientists. A quick review of the history of science will also reveal that Christian believers have made many foundational scientific discoveries. Christians today should not refrain from pursuing a career in science, nor view scientific education as hazardous to faith. Likewise, scientists should not dismiss spiritual truth as invalid or irrelevant because it exists beyond the reach of the scientific method. We need to study both faith and science to capture complete knowledge about the human experience; consider how collaboration between medical doctors and hospital chaplains can deliver care that meets patients’ needs on all levels. Perhaps a new generation of researchers, fluent in the languages of both theology and science, will lead us to an even better understanding of how these areas of knowledge relate to Christina M. each other. H. Powell, In the same way, embracing Ph.D., is a the questions that arise in our minister, day-to-day life can deepen our Harvard-trained scientist and understanding of reality. Though author of doubt can sometimes cause Questioning uncertainty within our faith, Your Doubts: it may also highlight our need A Harvard to seek godly wisdom. Dealing Ph.D. Explores Challenges productively and honestly with to Faith doubt can help us define what we (InterVarsity know, why we believe—and how Press) . to make peace with what we may never understand.


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Beth Grant: Reaching the World Through Women’s Advocacy “I didn’t intentionally set out to focus on women’s issues, but that’s where God has brought me.” CHRISTINA QUICK

B “Whether a woman is in the board room or was born into a brothel … the message is the same.” 56

eth Grant never could have predicted she would venture from a sheltered, churched upbringing to one day work near brothels in dirty back alleys. But when she became a Christian at the young age of 7, she envisioned Jesus reaching toward her, saying, “Beth, I want you to follow me; here is my hand.” Over the years, that call has led Grant into some of the most wretched and depraved places on earth, where she reaches out to women and girls in desperate need of hope. “Some of the places He’s led me to walk have been strewn with broken people literally dying on the sidewalks in red light districts, with their babies crying beside them,” Grant says. “Sometimes this journey with Jesus leads me down pathways littered with used condoms and all the vicious violation and trauma of little girls that represents.” Today, Grant is the co-founder of Project Rescue, an Assemblies of God World Missions ministry to survivors of sex slavery. Grant and her husband, David, have long worked with churches and Bible schools in India, but their mission to rescue enslaved women has taken them to more than 30 nations around the world.

The couple was sounding the alarm about sexual exploitation long before the media, celebrities and social networking regularly acknowledged human trafficking as an international crisis. Grant first encountered enslaved women nearly two decades ago in Mumbai, India’s most populous city. There she met women who had left home as young teens to pursue promises of education and honest work. Lured or abducted from their families, they became prostitutes against their will. When these women became pregnant, their children were born into a lifetime of sexual slavery. Many of the trafficked women died at an early age from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. In response to these overwhelming realities, the Grants partnered with K.K. Devaraj, founder of Bombay Teen Challenge, to establish the first shelter there for women and children seeking a way out of the dark underworld of sex trafficking. Project Rescue now has 14 affiliated ministry


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“[Jesus] sends us to take His healing and liberty to those living in dark places.” sites in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Moldova, Spain and Tajikistan. In 2013, these affiliates ministered to more than 32,000 women and children impacted by sex trafficking. Project Rescue initiatives include aftercare homes and vocational training for women and children leaving sexual slavery; afterschool programs in impacted neighborhoods; night care shelters to get children out of the brothels during peak business hours; red light district churches and Sunday Schools; prevention education programs; and free medical clinics that treat people with HIV and other serious issues. Grant points to Luke 4:18 as her ministry mandate: “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” “If we’re going to set people free, we have to go where the slaves and captives are,” Grant says. “Our colleagues are out there every day in those areas of darkness, rescuing those in slavery—not through raids but through relationships. As the body of Christ, we shouldn’t hide from darkness. Jesus came to impact the darkness, and He sends us to take His healing and liberty to those living in dark places.” When Grant accompanied her husband to India 37 years ago, she entered a culture that overtly looked down on women. Yet she quickly learned to square her shoulders and seek her identity in Christ alone. Since that time, she has dedicated her life to helping other women and

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girls find wholeness and fulfillment in Jesus, wherever they may live, work or minister. Grant is an executive presbyter for the Assemblies of God, representing ordained women, and also serves as a faculty member at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. “I didn’t intentionally set out to focus on women’s issues, but that’s where God has brought me,” Grant says. “In a world where the majority of the population grows up thinking little girls have lesser value, and fathers sometimes weep over the birth of a daughter, I say: ‘You have a God who rejoiced the day you were born. He is your Father, and He gave you life.’ Whether a woman is in the board room or was born into a brothel and lived a life of exploitation, the message is the same.” Grant’s passion is for others to know the Jesus she serves: a Savior who would reach out to a young girl, take her by the hand and make her a world changer.

MAKE IT COUNT Read more from Beth Grant in her book Courageous Compassion (My Healthy Church). Find out how you can fundraise, pray or be a voice for Project Rescue at projectrescue. com.


In Immediate Obedience, Pastor Rod Loy teaches readers how to listen for God’s voice, and to look for the spectacular in the mundane. a l s o ava i l a b l e a s a n e b o o k and in spanish

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Media Missionaries Bill and Kim Snider communicate Christ’s hope through the stories of the Asia Pacific region ALYCE YOUNGBLOOD

In

1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul writes, “I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.” (NLT) What does that “common ground” look like? Bill and Kim Snider, missionaries and founders of Asia Pacific Media, are quick to suggest one option. “Media is a common ground,” Bill says. “Whether it’s through Facebook or watching movies or YouTube … the best way to communicate the Gospel is through telling stories.” Bill’s passion for storytelling and communications began during his time at the University of Illinois, when he took a radio job to work his way through school. He would later help start a successful Christian radio station based in Illinois, New Life Media. Then, with 15 years of audio production experience, Bill sensed God leading him elsewhere. “I just became interested out of the blue in overseas broadcasting and in overseas media,” Bill remembers. To Kim, an educator, this was no surprise; she had felt drawn toward missions work since her childhood. “We just couldn’t think of anything better

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to do than to invest our lives in the Kingdom,” she says. When an opportunity with Assemblies of God World Missions presented itself, the couple moved to the Philippines in 1988 and founded APMedia (then known as Asia Project 2000). In the 26 years since, the ministry has produced films, radio programs and print publications—all in local languages and dialects, and all centered around a Christian message. Through media training and workshops, APMedia also empowers local individuals and churches to own and amplify the narratives of their people. As a result, APMedia projects have reached 16 nations in this economically and religiously diverse region. “You hear a lot about contextualization of the Gospel, and what that really means is to make the Gospel relevant to the culture that you’re in,” Kim says. In Asia Pacific countries, that usually means focusing on the family. Early on,


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“If you’re going to present a message, it has to be well told.” the Sniders recognized a significant need to provide both practical and spiritual resources for home life. In the docudramas, video series, radio shows and publications they produced, often in partnership with other local media ministries, there emerged a clear emphasis on topics like parenting, marriage and finances. “People are struggling to find answers, and often the Church does not know how to address some of the issues that are being faced,” Bill says. “The inroad into most of these cultures was through the family.” “[Family] is the unit of trust, the unit dearest to their hearts,” Kim adds. “So if we can build up families, they can see the relevance of the message of Jesus in their lives.” Over the years, Kim’s personal focus has fallen on writing, primarily as the editor of MOMS, a quarterly APMedia magazine offering guidance to Filipino women. “I had no formal training in writing and just started doing it after we got to the Philippines,” Kim says. “Now I’ve written three books, and I have started magazines. The Lord knew that. When you get very discouraged, it’s nice to know that God does really have a plan for your life.” In the near future, APMedia hopes to use media to shed light on the realities of the 10 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and the societal strains of this system. They’re also developing evangelistic films for a nation where open access to the Internet and modern technology is still relatively new. “The places that really have captured our attention are either

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restricted countries or countries where the Christian message is so minimal that the Church doesn’t have the ability to make a major impact,” Bill says. After more than two decades in missions, Bill and Kim see a need for more workers and hope a new generation will use technology creatively and effectively around the world. “With all of these people who are being trained in all of our schools to do digital media, which ones are stepping up and saying, ‘Missions and media make sense’? That’s the challenge,” Bill says. “If you’re going to present a message, it has to be well told. It has to be a story that people can relate to.”

MAKE IT COUNT Watch videos about Asia Pacific Media’s influence and learn more about supporting their mission at apmedia.org.


THE THE CROSS, CROSS, THE THE SWITCHBLADE, SWITCHBLADE, and and THE THE MAN MAN WHO WHO BELIEVED BELIEVED A skinny A skinny preacher preacher from rural from Pennsylvania rural Pennsylvania armedarmed with only withaonly a cross cross and hisand faith histook faithon took theonNew theYork NewCity Yorkslum City world slum world and and its drug its lords. drug lords. DAVIDDAVID WILKERSON WILKERSON brought brought to thetostreets the streets of of America’s America’s most most crime-infested crime-infested city a city combination a combination of tough of tough love and lovethe and Gospel the Gospel symbolized symbolized in his in story his The storyCross The Cross and the and the Switchblade Switchblade and now andtold nowfully toldwithin fully within his life’s hisstory. life’s story.

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Experiencing the Bible Anew How book designer Adam Lewis Greene found a labor of love in Bibliotheca ALYCE YOUNGBLOOD

T

hink of your relationship with your Bible. You probably carry it to church and keep it on your nightstand. You highlight it, study it, memorize it, turn to it. But do you ever just … read it? What would make it easier to do so? How can you approach the greatest Story as just that: a story? Designer Adam Lewis Greene set out to create a reader-friendly Bible that would make this possible. He developed an original typeface, cleared the text of numbers and headers, split it into cohesive novel-size volumes and called it Bibliotheca (which is the Latin word for “library” as well as a reference to the word “Bible”). Then Greene put it on Kickstarter, hoping to get the custom set on some shelves and raise $37,000 to cover the highquality production. The project raised $1,440,345 instead, confirming there’s an audience for a Bible as beautiful and engaging as the stories it contains. Greene is now working hard to satisfy the overwhelming interest in the Bibliotheca set and hopes to offer other translations and languages in the future. “A book is to be cherished. A book is a precious artifact,” Greene

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shared in the Kickstarter video. “I want to give people the opportunity to read the biblical library with a fresh set of eyes—to experience it anew.” Vital spoke with Greene more about the vision for Bibliotheca and why he feels enjoyable reading experiences matter. Vital: Can you tell us a bit more about your background as a designer? Adam Lewis Greene: After design school, my very first job happened to be designing and typesetting an entire book, the Crossway ESV Bible Atlas. I had done a little typesetting in school, though nothing on that scale or of that complexity. So I picked up a few classic books on typography and continued my education. I quickly became obsessed with the discipline that is book design. I am fascinated by the book as an almost miraculous


object of transmission. It is the oldest and most enduring vehicle for the perpetuation of great ideas. Bibliotheca comes largely from this desire to create an intrinsically beautiful vehicle for the most foundational literature of all. It will be my first fully realized edition, and I hope not the last. In a time when the Bible has become increasingly accessible online and through apps and e-readers, why did you want to focus on print? I think these new forms of accessibility are partially what enable Bibliotheca to exist and thrive. If printed encyclopedic Bibles are indeed becoming obsolete, what new formatting options make sense for the biblical literature in print? The paradox is this “new” type of format isn’t new at all. It is largely a reversion to the way these texts were originally encountered in written form. How do you balance being reverent of the Bible’s history while still being innovative and creative with your redesign? My primary consultants have been a motley crew of great book designers, typographers and biblical historians of the last century, all of whom were/are well studied in the work of their predecessors. I believe an awareness of the historical development of any discipline to its current state will help to create a natural balance of reverence and relevance for new expression within that discipline. As far as the Bible is concerned, editions of biblical literature were always among the most elegantly simple or extravagantly adorned of all. Beyond referencing the masters of history, my wife’s outside perspective and candid input saved the project from irrelevance many times. What appeals to you personally about reading Scripture in a novel-like format?

“The biblical literature speaks into human experience regardless of our level of education.”

We all exist at different levels of education when it comes to biblical literature. And the same is true of all other literature. Having read Crime and Punishment does not mean we’ve understood it in the same way as a Dostoyevsky scholar does, who intimately knows the life and context of the author. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t read it, and it certainly doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it and glean truth from it. The biblical literature speaks into human experience regardless of our level of education. We can always learn more about the historical and cultural context of the Bible and the original languages—and we should—but we also need to read it in a form that is not only accessible to us, but also enjoyable. Sometimes we forget that leisurely reading is one form of studying and understanding a work of literature. When a Bible is littered with study helps, it could be implied that you have everything you need right there, but we should be going further … We retain knowledge to the degree that we desire it and work to attain it.

MAKE IT COUNT Learn more about Adam Lewis Greene and the Bibliotheca set at bibliotheca.co.

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WHY TITHE? Giving the first portion of your income to God isn’t just a nice suggestion KREGG R. HOOD, ED.D.

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randon and Jenny were like most young families on a tight budget. But they were also committed to tithing off the top and then paying the rest of their bills. One week, Brandon griped to Ryan, another friend from his church, that he only had three dollars left in his checking account and didn’t have enough money to pay for his haircut the next day. Ryan told him: “Hey, we’ve been talking about this at church. If you really need that haircut, God will see that you get it.” Brandon laughed and said, “I guess so, but somebody’s going to have to give me the money, or I’m going to have to find it in the

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mailbox, because I don’t have it.” When Brandon got home, he opened up his mailbox— and found a rebate check inside that he’d forgotten all about. It was for nine dollars, the exact price of his haircut. You can call that coincidence if you want to, but I’m convinced God delights in giving to His children. (Once in a while, He might give so it comes out exactly even— like a nine-dollar haircut—just so we don’t miss the point.) God has promised amazing blessings once we decide to give at least a tenth, or “tithe,” of our income back to Him. Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops, then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” This comes soon after, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” The implication is that, since we have confidence in our Father to guide our daily lives, we can trust Him to provide for us financially. Then, in Malachi 3:10, we read: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’” This is one of the most remarkable passages in the Bible. The God of the universe actually told His people to test Him. The Hebrew word for “test” means to examine. God said they could check Him out and see if He was telling the truth. Amazingly, this is the only time in Scripture when God allowed His creation to test Him. He really wanted them to see that if they put Him first and proved their devotion to Him by bringing in their whole tithe, He would shower them with provision. Giving a tithe signifies God’s ownership of the total. The practice—and the resulting promise—is not exclusive to the Old Testament. While the New Testament never explicitly commands giving a tenth, it clearly teaches we should give as we are prospered (1 Cor. 16:2), that we should excel in our giving to God (2 Cor. 8:7) and that being as generous as possible builds our faith and pleases the Lord (Luke 6:38, 2 Cor. 9:6-8). Once we fully understand these truths, we will see tithing as a starting point in our giving. It reflects reliance on God as the source of all we have. Currently, Christians only give, on average, less than 2 percent of their income. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to see that church-wide tithing would allow ministry efforts to

... since we have confidence in our Father to guide our daily lives, we can trust Him to provide for us financially. explode. Imagine how much more would be done if the Kingdom of Christ quadrupled its resources. If your giving standard has been low, starting to tithe may seem to stretch you financially at first. But in the process of tithing, you learn to prioritize your spending patterns and develop a sound financial budget. Once you establish a solid commitment to tithe, you will trim the fat out of your spending, leaving more for the Kingdom and more to spend wisely. It’s not a matter of whether you can afford to tithe; it’s whether you can afford not to. When you put the Lord first, He promises to take care of the rest.

Kregg R. Hood, Ed.D., is on the executive team at Calvary Church in Naperville, Illinois, and is an adjunct professor on the graduate faculty at Evangel University. He has worked with AG Financial Solutions as Senior Vice President in the Church Loans and Capital Stewardship divisions.

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A NEW APPROACH TO PROTECTIVE PARENTING How to equip your children for life, not shelter them from it LISA-JO BAKER

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husband tells me that it’s probably not worth investing in any “nice” home décor until our sons have graduated out of our house. The scarred sofas, battered bunk beds and duct-taped military toys testify to this. We have two young boys and a fearless daughter who is toddling behind in their muddy footsteps. They are exactly how you imagine them to be: scraped and bruised and wildly reckless. It’s terrifying at times. Trying to tame them has been exhausting … so I finally gave up. Maybe you haven’t reached that point; maybe, with your children, the roles and requirements are different. But for me, nine years into this parenting journey, I don’t think my kids need to be tamed anymore; I think they need to be challenged. I think they need to be directed and stimulated and encouraged. In a generation growing up glued to screens, acting out the heroics of animated, one-dimensional men and imitating plastic women, I want our boys to learn what it feels like to be a hero, rather than just to play one. I want my daughter to find her sense of beauty and strength on the inside. I want the three of them to build with their hands, not just pixelated blocks. I need them to grow up, and growing up is a process. We’re not going to wait until college to kick them off the sofa; it needs to start now. It’s why they ride the bus to their public school. It’s why I don’t intervene when they tell me the lunch lady was unreasonably bossy. It’s why we rehearse what they’re going to say to that kid who is being mean, and it’s why I don’t march into school and deal with it for them. It’s why bedtime often stretches on and on as we’re lying together under the comforter, next to the life-sized stuffed tiger, dissecting who said what and how to respond and more important, why. As much as it aches that I have to talk to them about things like divorce and school shootings and will one day have to address


porn, and as much as I want to research giant, plastic bubbles instead, I also want my kids to be prepared. Right now, our home is their training ground. That goes for all parents and their children. Whether we choose homeschool, private, public or even unschool, they’re training for this race called life, and we can’t let them down. We need to coach them for, not couch them from, what they’re going to run into. There’s no shielding them from the inevitable. Christ says it Himself—in fact, He guarantees it: “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Cancer. Failed grades. Broken relationships. Lost parts in the school play. Friends who die by suicide or are lost to drunk drivers. Peers who injure, starve or isolate themselves. These are not the exception. These are the rule of what it means to grow up through the teenage years and into the shoes we parents walk around in. To protect them looks like preparing them, not over-sheltering them. It looks like equipping them with the power of Christ’s words from the second half of John 16:33: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I can’t let my fear for my kids rule my love for my kids. Equipping children will look different depending on their ages, life stages and particular challenges as well as your resources as a parent. As a new mama, I remember my entire being was dedicated to protecting, coddling and cuddling every precious hair on my baby’s nearly bald head. But now, I try not to hover on the sports fields or at their interviews with a new coach. I try not to hover in the hallways of their school or at the dining room table as they practice using a steak knife. I try not to hover when I overhear a disagreement between formerly best friends or when I’ve already reminded them about packing the water bottle they forgot. But there are places to hover—sacred places. I hover at the foot of their bunk bed at night praying fervently for them, for their futures and their friendships, for their loves and losses. I hover under the twinkly lights that hang from the top bunk, in conversation with the God who made them, about who He is making them into. Rather than worry and remind, I want to pray and refine. Rather than “helicopter parenting” and its confining worries, I want a brand of “wholeness parenting” that embraces life’s struggles. In our family, wholeness parenting evolves through different seasons, but the approach is the same—and could work in your home as well. Nudge your children to find creative ways to forgive and befriend, to serve and play. Talk to them about abandoning privileged hangups to cultivate gratitude and live generously. Let them

Rather than “helicopter parenting” and its confining worries, I want a brand of “wholeness parenting” that embraces life’s struggles. earn reward and experience failure in their studies and hobbies rather than doing it for them or negotiating on their behalf. Invite them to ask the hard questions—about life, death, illness, marriage, emotions—and promise to answer them honestly, always with the hope of heaven and a future, no matter how dark it seems here. None of us will do this thing called parenting perfectly all the time. It will always be more art than science. There will be heart aches and breaks on both sides. But I want my kids to know, above all, that their mom was not afraid for them but battled alongside them. I want them to know she believed Jesus’ promise that He has overcome the world. And that means they will overcome too. I want them to be brave. So I am determined to be brave first. Lisa-Jo Baker is the author of Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom (Tyndale House) , and her writings on motherhood are syndicated from New Zealand to New York. You can catch up with her daily chaos at lisajobaker.com or on Twitter @lisajobaker.

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ESCAPING SOCIAL MEDIA ENVY The Internet makes everybody’s grass seem greener—but it’s time for a second look JOSEPH CASTLEBERRY, ED.D.

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recent study conducted at the University of Michigan proves something many of us already knew from casual observation: The more time college-aged adults spend on Facebook, the worse they feel. A quick glance through the typical Facebook feed reveals the trivial nature of most postings, but the presence of downcast Facebook users hardly qualifies as trivial when almost 1.3 billion people now log into the site. While this study dealt only with Facebook and young adults, misuse of any social app or network may have the same effect on people of any age. Most of us know what it feels like to shut down the computer feeling a bit blue after checking our profiles and feeds. We open our favorite social media site, hoping to connect with friends or other loved ones. Sometimes we succeed, but often we close our session feeling lonelier. Here I must confess that I actually like using social media. As I wrote in my book (The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus), I have over 5,000 friends and followers on Facebook. I also connect to people on Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress blogs, YouTube and other social sites. I love staying in contact with the people I have met during more than 30 years in the ministry. Our relationships make up the field we work for God, and social media can give us terrific opportunities to reach out and touch people. Not all usages of social media, however, offer equal satisfaction. One of the authors of the University of Michigan study, Dr. John Jonides, suggested that Facebook tempts people to compare their lives with those of others. People love to show off the places they have visited. They gush over whom they have spent time with. They brag about what they have achieved. They share pictures in which they look their very best. They celebrate their kids and grandkids and new cars and new toys— and sometimes, we can respond negatively to these expressions (at least internally).


The Bible tells us we should “rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Romans 12:15) But it also warns, “Who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4) Thinking too much about what others have or experience can create a covetous spirit in us, a depressing prospect indeed. In today’s culture, the influence of social networks is becoming inescapable. So how does a Christian escape the envy it provokes? 1. Think about why you’re logging in. The best way to use social media without breeding envy involves intentional use. Using social media indiscriminately or to waste time aimlessly scrolling will almost always create feelings of unhappiness. An old proverb says that “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” and mindless entertainment of any kind seldom brings real benefit to our lives. On the other hand, if you know why you logged in, you probably will not go away unhappy. Some examples of using social media intentionally include: making a second connection with someone you recently met; catching up with friends to monitor their progress on a project; praying for an individual suffering from an illness; sharing a blog a friend poured their heart into; chatting on a messaging app with someone you seldom see; creatively marketing your services or products; or a number of other purposeful activities. 2. Trade jealousy for admiration. In most cases, everyone else has the same struggles we have—nobody lives in perfect, untroubled luxury and ease. But in those cases where another’s garden indeed grows greener (at least in patches), consider that they have most likely applied some effort to make it that way. As we focus on what others have achieved, we should do so with a sincere heart of congratulation, taking inspiration to work harder on our own lives. If you find yourself envying others, pause to pray for them—and then perhaps offer congratulations or compliments. 3. View your social media relationships as opportunities for ministry. The Spirit of God can use us in person, on the phone, by email, through text messages and on social media. We should always surrender our social media habits to God for edifying others, acting as God’s hand extended. Dedicating social media activity to ministry can go a long way toward avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome. Doing social media well will often drive you to

actually talk with someone. Research shows that sustained connection makes people feel better. The same intentional mindset of service to others that can make social media use more fulfilling offers even greater benefits in our offline interactions. In spite of the many conveniences social media have introduced, nothing can replace back-and-forth sharing in real time. Information is not the same thing as interaction. Facebook friendships and Twitter followership may take on a superficial or synthetic tone, but offline relationships have a greater tendency to include regular, authentic, unscripted conversations—which just might allow you to understand an individual rather than envy his or her image from afar.

... nothing can replace backand-forth sharing in real time. Information is not the same thing as interaction. 4. Cultivate personal contentment and identity—independent of the Internet. A godly life should envelop both cyberspace and offline routines. It’s tempting to refer to the latter as “the real world,” but I resist this definition. Online interactions have real consequences, and the virtual world is a real world. (In fact, for those who do not find face-toface personal interaction easy, the Internet might be the place in which they first discover their voices and passions.) But we fool ourselves if we confuse virtual and virtuous. We will never attain a real holiness online that we do not live out in the world of no-tech experience. The same is true for our levels of personal joy, confidence and contentment; we will never gain from social media what we do not practice and preserve throughout our day. The more we embrace a life marked by gratitude, generosity and inner contentment in the world of full presence, the less likely we’ll have time to indulge our instinct to envy online. As 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 suggests, we will “always be joyful” when we “never stop praying” and remain “thankful in all circumstances” (NLT). Joseph Castleberry, Ed.D., is the president of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, and author of The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus (My Healthy Church) .

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WHAT YOUR DEVOTIONAL LIFE IS MISSING You read the Bible, pray, attend church, go to small group—but is that enough? SCOTT WILSON

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ow are things going with you and the Lord these days? Are you growing in your relationship with the Father, or does something seem to be missing? Most Christians would respond by saying, “It’s going well!” or, “Not so well …” Then they’d perhaps give a report of how dedicated or not so dedicated they’ve been with their Bible reading, prayers, church attendance and small group participation. These four disciplines seem to be the cultural gauges used among the Christian community for measuring spiritual health. But do they really give us an accurate reading of spiritual vitality? Don’t get me wrong, I think the activities listed above are of the utmost importance. I am faithful in doing them. But are they an end to themselves, or a means to a greater spiritual result? Let’s look at a discussion Jesus had with a group of faithful worshippers of God in Luke 15. We know these worshippers as Pharisees. First, let’s remind ourselves of what the Pharisees were all about. They were a devout group of Jewish men who sought to live the holiest and most godly lives possible. They committed themselves to the study of Scripture, prayer, temple worship and synagogue participation (basically the “Big Four” listed above). The Pharisees were the “best of the best” when it came to having robust devotional lives. Luke 15 tells us that a group of Pharisees came to Jesus one day and asked Him why He spent so much time with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus didn’t answer directly; instead, He told them three consecutive parables. The first parable was about a lost sheep. In this story, there was something lost (a sheep) and someone (a shepherd) who searched for what was lost. There was also a great celebration—including the shepherd and all his friends—when the lost sheep was found. Jesus tells us the same thing happens in heaven when a lost soul is rescued and saved.


In the second story—the parable of the lost coin— there was, once again, something lost (a coin), someone (the woman) who was looking for it and a great celebration when it was found—which included not only the woman but her friends too. Can you see the pattern Jesus is setting up here? It’s starting to become familiar. Which is why we should notice that, in the next story, the pattern changes. In the third story—the parable of the prodigal son— there was now not some thing that was lost but a some one: a son. Interestingly, no one was out looking for what was lost this time. I wonder why? Was a someone not more valuable than a something? After the prodigal son lost everything, including his pride, he returned home ready to be a servant in his father’s home. But instead of receiving him as a servant, his father had a celebration. And unlike the other stories, in this one, not everyone was happy that what was lost was now found. The older son was so angry about his brother being “found” that he even chastised his father for holding the celebration. The older brother’s inability to celebrate the younger brother’s return should stick out to us, and to the Pharisees, like a sore thumb—like a big giant red flag meant to alert us that something is wrong. Jesus used these three stories to demonstrate, to whoever would listen, that outward actions aren’t nearly as important as inward conditions. It’s the state of your heart that matters the most, not your religious activity. What good is your devotional life if it isn’t causing you to become more like the one you are devoted to? If you don’t seek the Father’s heart, you will develop the same selfish attitude the older brother had in the story. You will do things “for” the Father (read your Bible, go to church, pray), but not become like the Father. When I think about the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, it makes me incredibly sad. I imagine he woke up every day, thinking about himself, applauding his goodness and effort, never recognizing how broken his father was over losing a son. I imagine he never noticed the way his dad sat on the porch, watching for his lost brother to come back home. If the older brother, or the Pharisees—or you and me—cared about the broken heart of our Father, we wouldn’t just work for Him. We would watch and pray with Him for our lost brothers. What if the third parable would have followed the pattern of the first two? The older brother would have left home and looked everywhere until he found his lost brother. Perhaps he would have found little brother eating scraps in the

pigpen. He would have gotten down in the mud with him, hugged him and begged him to come home. And when the prodigal brother said, “I’m not worthy to be called Dad’s son anymore,” the older brother would have said, “Worthy or not, you’re still Dad’s son and you’re still my brother.” Instead of the prodigal son walking home alone, the father would have run out to two brothers, coming home arm-in-arm. The three of them would have stood in a circle in the middle of the road, embracing each other, crying and rejoicing. Jesus showed us what an older brother should do when brothers and sisters are lost. He left heaven, sent by the Father, to search for those of us who were lost. That is why He was spending so much time with the sinners and tax collectors. He knew His Father was sitting on the porch in heaven, watching and waiting, for Jesus to return with His prodigal kids. Jesus was doing what any devoted older brother would do. He was sitting in the “pigpen” with His younger brothers and sisters, trying to convince them to come home. Is there someone in your life who needs your unconditional love and acceptance? Is there anyone whom the Spirit is prompting you to call or reach out to in love? If your devotional life doesn’t drive you to the pigpens of this world looking for your lost brothers and sisters, it’s missing something. Scott Wilson is the pastor of The Oaks Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and author of The Next Level (Influence Resources) and Clear the Stage (My Healthy Church) .

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ROD LOY

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usy, tired and confused.” That’s how Rod Loy describes the lives of many people in our culture, including many Christians, in Immediate Obedience: The Adventure of Tuning in to God (Influence Resources). “As we react to the external demands we face each day,” he goes on, “it’s all we can do to keep up with our priorities—and to be honest, we often choose the wrong thing to put at the top of our lists.” This hurried and harried lifestyle leaves Christians with “a secret, nagging doubt” that their choices don’t please God and don’t make a difference in the world. There is a better Immediate Obedience way to live, Loy proposes. It involves asking God “to make you sensitive to His voice, and Rod Loy then, to obey whatever He asks you to do.” Such obedience assumes, of course, that God speaks to us—through Scripture preeminently but also through other means. It also assumes that we are listening, not allowing disobedience, distraction or doubt to close our ears to God. Unfortunately, obedience is not a popular concept in our culture. It is important for two reasons, however: First, God is sovereign. He has the right to tell us what to do. Second, God loves. What He tells us to do is best for us. Immediate obedience starts with the assumption that, as Loy explains, “God’s plan for our lives is fundamentally better than anything we can dream up.” Immediate Obedience is both positive and personal, with testimonials at the end of each chapter to encourage readers with the truth that ordinary people can hear God speak and do what He asks. The book includes discussion questions, making it ideal for use in personal reflection and in small groups. “The 90-Day Challenge” offers a Bible reading, prayer guide and reflection prompts to help you practice immediate obedience each day.

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The Grave Robber: How Jesus Can Make Your Impossible Possible MARK BATTERSON (Baker Books) The Gospel of John records seven miracles performed by Jesus on earth. The miracles weren’t ends in and of themselves, however. Mark Batterson, in The Grave Robber, presents miracles as paradigms of what Jesus Christ wants to do in our lives today. “Don’t seek miracles,” he writes. “Seek Jesus.”

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Earth and Sky GUY DELCAMBRE (Influence Resources) Where is God in times of loss and grief? Closer than you think, Guy Delcambre shares in this stirring book about finding God’s goodness even in the darkness. Though he tells of unexpectedly becoming a widower and single father, Delcambre’s story leads to hope and joy and will push you to look for the same when walking through hard times.

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A Beautiful Life: Discovering the Freedom of Selfless Love KERRY CLARENSAU (Influence Resources) Americans spend billions of dollars on cosmetics every year. But as Kerry Clarensau points out in A Beautiful Life, true beauty is about how we love, not how we look. Read alone as a 30-day devotional, in groups as a 10-week study and/or with book clubs as a stand-alone text.

Courageous Compassion BETH GRANT (My Healthy Church) Whom do “the powerful view as weaker and less important” today? Christ has called us to love, serve and defend them, Project Rescue founder Beth Grant writes. This book breathes new life and urgency into the idea of being a “light in the dark.”

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5

Fire Bible for Kids Devotional

Live|Dead: The Story SHAWN SMUCKER

(My Healthy Church)

(Influence Resources)

This little book of 366 daily devotionals draws from passages in every book of the Bible. Along with a verse and devotional thought, each day offers “A Power Note,” or practical application for kids to undertake. A free app (for both Apple and Android) can be used with the devotional to enhance your kids’ experience.

Like the first believers in the early Church, Iranian Christians follow Jesus with hope despite hardship. This 28-day devotional introduces you to Iranian believers and pairs their stories with daily readings from the Book of Acts. Its goal is to inspire you toward greater intercession for the people of Iran, that they may come to know the love of Jesus.

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People of the Spirit: The Assemblies of God, 2nd ed. GARY B. MCGEE (Gospel Publishing House) To mark the centennial of the Assemblies of God, Gospel Publishing House reissued Gary B. McGee’s classic history of the Fellowship. The text has been reformatted, with a new foreword by George O. Wood and afterword by Charlie E. Self. People of the Spirit focuses on the lives of the ordinary people through whom God does extraordinary things.

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David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who Believed GARY WILKERSON, WITH R. S. B. SAWYER (Zondervan) David Wilkerson founded Teen Challenge and Times Square Church, wrote books like The Cross and the Switchblade and was a prophetic cultural voice—but he had his spiritual struggles. This intimate memoir by Wilkerson’s son, Gary, reminds us we don’t have to be perfect to serve God.


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In The Gap WILFREDO DE JESÚS (Influence Resources) When we consider the suffering, doubts and injustices that face our world—the “gaps”—it can be helpful to turn back to the Bible. That’s what Wilfredo De Jesús does in his new book, pointing to the stories of nine brave believers from Scripture who took a stand in their day, in the hopes that it might inspire others to do the same.

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Ever Increasing Faith SMITH WIGGLESWORTH (My Healthy Church) He was an extraordinary force in the history of the Pentecostal church, and a century later his sermons still convict and move. As part of the SpiritEmpowered Classics, Smith Wigglesworth’s classic Ever Increasing Faith gets a new look and gives new life to his words on healing, spiritual gifts and more.

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The Honor Key: Unlock a Limitless Life RUSSELL EVANS (My Healthy Church) Honor is what Russell Evans calls “the currency of the Kingdom.” In a culture that prioritizes the self, even to the point of manipulating others, this book reminds readers to pursue a humble and honorable life first and foremost. It’s a powerfully subversive message that could transform your relationships.

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Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story KEN & JONI EARECKSON TADA (Zondervan) Ministers and activists Joni Eareckson Tada and Ken Tada tell of a resilient love that is bigger than disability, depression and pain. This goes beyond being just a “marriage book” and pushes the reader to think about what healing and joy really look like.

All titles available at MyHealthyChurch.com

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IF YOU REALLY LOVE OTHERS, THEN WHY ARE YOU SILENT? TELL THEM ABOUT JESUS. THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW HIM.

Be the voice of The Human Right. www.thehumanright.org/voice


NOTEWORTHY

HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD - THE ESSENTIAL COLLECTION (sixstep Records, 2011) This is a sort of “greatest hits” collection not just for Tomlin but for all church music from 2000-2010.

CHRIS TOMLIN Love Ran Red

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you’ve been in a church since 2000, you’ve sung one of Chris Tomlin’s songs: “How Great Is Our God,” “Forever,” “We Fall Down,” “Indescribable”—the list goes on. But Tomlin’s staying power hasn’t only been because of his worship hit-making ability. Rather, it’s because of Tomlin’s continued desire to serve the Church (either as a local church worship leader, or as a songwriter and leader at Passion conferences) and his love and fervor for Jesus. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that he writes some catchy music. His latest album, Love Ran Red (sixstep Records), continues his catalog of soaring melodies that will get stuck in your head and nourish your soul long after you’ve left a worship gathering or turned off the radio. “Waterfall,” the album’s lead single, features Coldplay-esque guitars and proclaims, You’re an ocean to my soul / Your love is like a waterfall, running wild and free / You hear my heart when I call, deep calls to deep. The title track is taken from a song Tomlin debuted during a Passion event and is a sweeping song about being in awe of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. With these and others on this latest collection, which releases on October 28 of this year, Tomlin has once again delivered a gift for the Church. “I’m just so thankful for God and the songs that are in my heart … just to bring glory to God and praise to His name,” Tomlin says.

AND IF OUR GOD IS FOR US (sixstep Records, 2010) It makes sense that this powerful album won a Grammy: Opener “Our God” is an anthemic reminder of the hope found in Christ.

PASSION TAKE IT ALL (sixstep Records, 2014) This album brings Tomlin together with other strong voices of modern worship like David Crowder, Matt Redman and Kristian Stanfill.

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MODERN HYMNS OF REVIVAL VARIOUS ARTISTS

ANOMALY LECRAE

(Influence Music)

In the album announcement trailer for Anomaly, Lecrae talks about how he doesn’t fit into either the standard evangelical church mold or the street rapper mold. This is fortunate for the rest of us, as listeners are treated to Lecrae’s thoughtful lyrics set to some of the best beats in today’s hip-hop. Lead single “Nuthin” ably sets the pace for the rest of the album.

These contemporary treatments of hymns are for any believer who wants to participate in their Christian heritage with the “great cloud of witnesses” before them. Popular modern artists sing perennial favorites like “Holy Holy Holy” and “Before the Throne of God Above” and new classics like “In Christ Alone,” reminding listeners that God is faithful throughout generations.

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OXYGEN LINCOLN BREWSTER (Integrity) The latest from California-based worship leader Lincoln Brewster, this powerful 11-track album includes the single “Made New,” which glorifies God for the change He sparks in believers’ lives. Other highlights include the ballad “There Is Power” and up-tempo rocker “Everybody Shout.”

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(Reach Records)

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RUN WILD. LIVE FREE. LOVE STRONG. FOR KING & COUNTRY (Word) This band of brothers (Joel and Luke Smallbone) makes music that will uplift your spirit, both melodically and lyrically. Their latest effort, in the vein of The Fray, comfortably fits slow, stirring tracks like “Without You” alongside piano-based pop songs like “It’s Not Over Yet.”


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BANNER DESPERATION BAND (Integrity Music Provident) The newest live album from the veteran worship group, Banner, sees Desperation Band doing what they do best. Their songs maintain a special quality sometimes lost outside of live worship: the sense that thousands of other believers are singing with you. Banner centers that, and listeners are brought into a Spirit-led community.

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THIS IS OUR TIME PLANETSHAKERS (Integrity Music Provident) Recorded live in Melbourne, Australia, at the yearly Planetshakers conference, this album includes worshipful favorites from the group, like “Sing It Again,” “Stronger than 1,000 Seas,” “Joy” and the high-energy “This Is Our Time.” The spirited crowd that joins in only drives home the point: Jesus is worthy of glory, honor and praise.

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ABOVE IT ALL PHILLIPS, CRAIG & DEAN (Fair Trade Services Provident) New music from this staple worship act shows why they’re still singing 23 years after they formed the band. Above It All includes inspiring reminders like “Jesus, Only Jesus,” a song member Randy Phillips credits to the “great hope” of Jesus available to all people.

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THE HUMAN RIGHT: SONGS FOR JUSTICE VARIOUS ARTISTS (Influence Music) This compilation of convicting songs celebrating God’s justice and mercy is an outgrowth of The Human Right, an international movement of the Assemblies of God to spread the good news of Jesus to everyone. This music will push listeners to pursue the lost—just as God always has and always will.

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CLUB JELLY TELLY jellytelly.com From VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer, this service offers faith-based videos, games and activities for children. Memberships are $5 a month for unlimited streaming.

KID BIBLE HEROES

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very child wonders at some point, “What’s it like to be a hero?” Kid Bible Heroes is a digital resource that could help young people—as well as their parents, pastors and teachers—better understand what a heroic life looks like, inspiring them to trust God and do good in their daily life. Kid Bible Heroes apps, available through My Healthy Church, present interactive, narrated Bible stories and feature kids from Scripture who did great things for God. Each app incorporates games and activities, life application points and fun cartoon-style storytelling. This “edu-tainment” sets out to show youth that God still speaks to and moves through His people today, no matter their age. Children are invited to complete tasks and discover the Word in a way that is engaging and memorable. Stories available to date include well-known characters like David (“David and Goliath”), Miriam (“Miriam’s Courage”), Samuel (“I Heard God”), Mary (“I Am Willing”) and the boy whose offering helped Jesus feed the 5,000 (“Fishes and Loaves”). The goal is to make their tales come alive in a relatable, exciting way and perhaps prompt the user to consider how their own resources, talents and desires could be used for the Kingdom. Each of the apps can be downloaded for Apple and Android devices and offer English, Spanish or Portuguese language options. You can learn more at KidBibleHeroes.com.

FIRE BIBLE FOR KIDS COMPANION APP Apple & Android Companion to the best-seller, this app adds 3-D animation, puzzles and trivia into beloved stories.

INCREDIBLE ISLANDS incredibleislands. com From My Healthy Church and OneHope, this digital tool deepens kids’ understanding of the Bible via a virtual world.

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MOMS’ NIGHT OUT MomsNightOutMovie.com If you’re in the mood for some slapstick hijinks, Moms’ Night Out might be just the movie for you. Three busy moms head out for a night on the town, leaving their kids with their loving husbands. Turns out, plenty can happen in a single night. Hilarious, heartwarming and family affirming, Moms’ Night Out could be a hit on your next movie night in.

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GOD’S NOT DEAD GodsNotDeadTheMovie. com This movie greatly surpassed box office expectations. But perhaps more important than its monetary success, its tale of a student challenged by a hurting, atheistic professor has prompted many to remember that God lives and loves all of us, even as we face difficult circumstances.

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MISFIT BEDDIT SLEEP MONITOR MisfitWearables.com This on-mattress sleep monitor and accompanying app are designed to make sure you sleep as well (and as restfully) as you ought to. The monitor tracks your total sleep, sleep cycles and heart rate and detects any noise in the room, such as snoring. That data is sent to a mobile app that can help you make informed decisions about your sleep health.

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NOMAD PLUS HelloNomad.com Providing what amounts to an entire extra battery for your Apple device, the Nomad Plus plugs into the wall like a normal Apple charger, but holds enough charge to refill an Apple device. Perfect for travel or those who are on the phone a lot and can’t carry a charger, the Nomad Plus is only $39.


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YAHOO! FANTASY FOOTBALL APP

NATURE BOX

Mobile.Yahoo.com

Many people love their snacks but have a hard time coming up with options that are healthy, affordable and tasty. Nature Box hopes to change that. When you sign up for a subscription, they’ll send you five boxes of snacks each month, selected by you (unless you want to be surprised!). For every box delivered, Nature Box will purchase one meal through Feeding America to help those in need.

Chances are, if you care about NFL football even a little, you’re probably into fantasy football. That’s where this Yahoo! fantasy app comes in. Yahoo! continues to update their app with year-over-year improvements. This update features better user control in addition to up-to-theminute stat tracking and point totals. Gather your closest friends and compete for bragging rights all season long.

NatureBox.com

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ARTIFACT UPRISING

IBOTTA

ArtifactUprising.com

Ibotta.com

This service allows you to get your photos “off your device, into your life.” Turn your favorite images of a home renovation, the kids’ first day of school or your church’s outreach into a priceless keepsake such as a calendar, book or wooden box. You can even upload photos directly from your phone’s camera roll or Instagram into their book-building app.

Ibotta is better than coupons: It’s a free app that pays you cash for your everyday purchases. All you have to do is unlock rebates, shop as usual and then receive a reward for the purchases you make. Your rewards can be paid out via PayPal or gift cards.

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MAKE IT COUNT

H

ow can I take my faith to the next level? It’s a question many of us are asking. But the answer might be simpler than you think—by going back to the basics. The portrait of the early church in Acts 2:42-47 shows these Christians followed a distinct pattern: connect, grow, serve, go and worship. Throughout this magazine, you’ve seen invitations to

Make It Count. Likewise, this workbook-styled section of the magazine will give you the chance to put your knowledge into practice and follow this process in your own faith walk. This section includes excerpts from Radiant Life: Curriculum for Spirit-Filled Living, Adult Teacher, Volume Seven (Gospel Publishing House, 2005). Excerpts written by: Craig Froman (Connect, Grow), Scott Harrup, Michael Jaffe (Worship, Go) and Richard Schoonover, Louis Smith (Serve).

CONNECT

GO

WORSHIP

GROW

SERVE

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MAKE IT COUNT

CONNECT “I

am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit (John 15:5). If you have gardened, you know an uprooted plant cannot survive for long. When you prune a tree or vine, branches that are cut off quickly die. They depend on a plant rooted in good soil for nourishment. A branch alone cannot seek out what it needs to survive. Jesus stated that He is the True

NOTES

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Vine, the one through whom all life flows (John 15:1). The Father is the “husbandman” or “gardener.” He prunes the branches so they will bear more fruit (John 15:2). Life flows through God, and we gain strength only by being connected to Him—and are then compelled to share that strength and connection with others. Together, we are to remain in Him to bear fruit—that is, attitudes and actions that bring glory to God.

1

How do you remain rooted in Christ?

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What comes to mind when you hear “spiritual discipline”?

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How can believers rely on the Holy Spirit in their relationship with Christ?

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How can you thrive and produce the fruit God desires you to have?


MAKE IT COUNT

GROW “V

ery early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35) . It’s not easy to make time for all the things we would like to do in a day. Work often monopolizes our time and energy, minimizing the moments we have to share with family and friends as well as with the

NOTES

Lord. Yet, Jesus made prayer a priority, even when life seemed the busiest. His time with the Father was precious and vital. Jesus told believers to find a private place to go when they prayed (Matt. 6:6) . In these times of privacy, we can be open and honest before God, not worrying about what others are thinking about us. As we shed our pride, we can humbly approach God’s throne of grace.

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How can Christians find a balance between private devotions and public ministry?

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How can you develop a lifestyle of prayer when life is so busy?

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How does thinking about prayer as having a conversation with the heavenly Father affect your desire to pray?

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What is one thing you can begin doing this week that would improve your prayers?

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MAKE IT COUNT

SERVE “E

ach of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10) . Christians are ministers and stewards of spiritual gifts. Everyone, not just clergy, has the responsibility to minister to others in some way. This is why God has placed a variety of gifts in the Church. Every gift is

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important. A local church where all members are using their God-given gifts will not lack for effective ministry. As stewards, we have the responsibility to faithfully use our gifts. Spiritual gifts do not belong to us—they belong to God. They are not for our own benefit or to be used in any way we see fit. We have been entrusted with these gifts so we might humbly use them to build up Christ’s Church.

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In what ways can you use the spiritual gifts God has given you to build His Kingdom?

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What are some ways Christians can exhibit humility, even in the successful application of their gifts?

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How is the local church strengthened when each believer uses his or her spiritual gift?

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How are those in leadership in the local church to carry out their assignment?


MAKE IT COUNT

GO “

… what kind of people ought you t o b e ? Yo u o u g h t t o live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Pet. 3:11-12) . Every day brings us closer to the Day of the L o r d . E v e r y d a y, t h e n , i s a gift to the believer, an opportunity to make the most of his or her life in God’s service.

NOTES

God invites His children to share the love of Christ, to alleviate the pain and sorrow of others, and through those acts of compassion draw the lost away from destruction and into the family of God. The Day of the Lord is one day closer than it w a s y e s t e r d a y. W h a t a r e we doing with the time at hand?

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What opportunities for evangelism might you have today?

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How can believers keep in focus each day the reality of the Day of the Lord?

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How can you find balance between being mindful of eternity while also pursuing peace and compassion in this life?

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What are ways you can “alleviate the pain and sorrows” of others in your community and around the world?

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MAKE IT COUNT

WORSHIP “T

herefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1). Many Christians believe they need only perform religious duties or rituals to please God. But even good things like church attendance and tithing are only valuable when the person does

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them with a right attitude and is fully committed to obeying the Lord. Christians must honor God with their entire lives. The Bible teaches that worship can never be separated from the worshiper. Genuine devotion will lead the person offering worship to give God his or her best. A genuinely devoted worshiper will not seek to offer cheap substitutes. True worship is never compartmentalized.

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What makes worship acceptable to God?

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Why is it important not to compartmentalize your worship?

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In what ways do your attitudes affect the way you behave?

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How might people be drawn to Christ by observing the way you live?


MAKE IT COUNT

IN THIS ISSUE Big thoughts and next steps for when you’re done reading

Connect

Grow

Serve

Go

Worship

So, how about it—“Can You Be Political Without Being a Jerk?” (page 32) Here are two ways to start: First, take a good look at your political beliefs. Are there areas in which you are lacking information? How well do you know the historical or religious implications of certain policies? Second, take inventory of your conversations and social media posts. Is there anybody you need to apologize to? Is there room to broaden or soften how you share your opinions?

“Escaping Social Media Envy” (page 70) calls out a trend people of any age may observe online: It’s easy to become jealous of others when we’re always looking at their lives. Some may feel the need to stay offline as a result, but don’t forget the uplifting and enriching content online. Add some lifegiving reading, like a favorite faith blogger or Vital’s site, to your bookmark bar; social media isn’t the only option for passing time.

In “A Personal Invitation to Church Still Matters” (page 30) and “Why Tithe?” (page 66), we read of two simple, but impactful ways to contribute in our local churches and to the greater Church—but it doesn’t stop there. Once you have developed a faithful tithing habit, determine how often you can give a bigger offering or donate to a specific department. After you have invited someone to church, take them to coffee, ask what they thought and let them know how certain sermons or ministries have affected you.

Cover story “The Church of Tomorrow” (page 34) paints a broad and bright picture of how Christians could gather, disciple and communicate in the future. What can you do to be proactive about moving into this future, not just dreaming about it? There are churches in your community and around the world that lack modern transportation, technology and other resources. If you can, invest in them. One way to do so is through speedthelight. ag.org.

“Is Change Happening in Hollywood?” (page 28) and “Experiencing the Bible Anew” (page 64) point to creativity in building the Kingdom. Whether or not you consider yourself an “artist,” think of a unique or unconventional way you worship God. Are you gifted at cooking and hosting memorable meals? Do you see spiritual benefits from your passion for physical fitness? Do you find peace in thorough organization or thrifty decorating? Maybe a church, school or non-profit could also use these skills.

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ONE MORE THING

If you are generous toward your community, it can have a boomerang effect, improving your own life as well. According to a Gallup study, people who actively serve have a higher sense of well-being and have less stress and worry. Depending on how their service has been recognized, individuals who prioritize community involvement scored, on average, 58.5 to 70 on a well-being index. (Gallup, Inc., 2014)

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