Archives For evangelicals

Attack on church kills 14 in Burkina Faso
The president of a West African country condemned “the barbaric attack” on one of his nation’s churches Dec. 1. Christianity Today reports Islamic extremists have been active in Burkina Faso since 2015, recently striking in the eastern region of the country. At a church in Hantoukoura last Sunday, 14 people were killed and several others injured when gunmen opened fire during a worship service.

Christians in India face heightened persecution, restrictions on freedoms
An estimated 65 million Christians in India are being threatened with increased persecution for their faith, amid the rise of extreme Hindu nationalism. New security measures in the former Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir make it “nearly impossible” for Christian congregations to meet, Morning Star News reported. Nationwide, Christians were attacked in at least 24 of India’s 29 states in a two-year period ending in July, Aid to the Church in Need reported Nov. 14.

>Related: Persecution watchdog group Open Doors ranked India #10 on its 2019 World Watch List of the top countries for Christian persecution. “The view of the nationalists is that to be Indian is to be Hindu, so any other faith—including Christianity—is considered non-Indian,” the organization said.

Muslim minorities held in Chinese camps
Around one million Muslims reportedly are being held in Chinese internment camps designed to make them loyal members of the Communist party. The Ethics and and Religious Liberty Commission has issued an explainer on the camps, which Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, has said are “created to wipe out the cultural and religious identity of minority communities.”

The ERLC has called for the U.S. government to hold China accountable for religious freedom abuses, including those against Muslims in the country.

>Related: China frees Christian prisoner amid ongoing persecution

Evangelical leader says faith and practice, not name, is what matters
Leith Anderson, retiring president of the National Association of Evangelicals, told Religion News Service he likes the word evangelical. “But if people want to abandon the term,” Anderson said last month, “let them abandon the term. That’s really not what matters. What really matters is their faith and their practice.”

Sources: Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Open Doors, ERLC, Religion News Service

Survey says conservatism is group’s top defining characteristic
New research from Barna found only 30% of Americans have a positive opinion of evangelicals, while 25% have a negative perception and 46% are neutral. When Barna asked respondents to identify adjectives that describe the evangelical community, the most commonly selected terms were “religiously conservative” and “politically conservative.” Those terms topped positive descriptors like caring, hopeful, and friendly, but also edged out adjectives like narrow-minded, homophobic, and puritanical.

Scripture on the campaign trail
Eight of the top 12 Democratic candidates for president have quoted the Bible while campaigning, Christianity Today reports, employing Scripture in their discussion of economic reform, welfare policy, and LGBT rights. The New International Version and New Revised Standard Version are the most quoted translations, but passages from the King James Version and New Living Translation also have been referenced in candidates’ talking points.

Jury sides with Planned Parenthood in undercover video case
Planned Parenthood was awarded $2.28 million Nov. 15 after a federal jury said pro-life investigators were guilty of fraud, trespassing, illegal recording, racketeering and breach of contract. The investigators secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing their sell of fetal body parts, Baptist Press reported. “Whatever questions some may have about the legality of the recordings,” said Ethics & Religious Liberty President Russell Moore, “we should not forget what the recordings revealed: The cruelty, dishonesty, and lawlessness of Planned Parenthood.”

Opioid crisis hits churches
Just over half of Protestant pastors in the U.S. say a member of their congregation has personally been affected by opioid abuse, according to new data from LifeWay Research. “The drug epidemic has infiltrated our churches and neighborhoods,” said Robby Gallaty, author of a new book about his past struggles with addiction. “It is not localized to a particular region or socio-economic class. Addiction is no respecter of persons.”

‘Work was his ministry,’ says Mr. Rogers’s wife
Currently portrayed in the new film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” children’s television pioneer Fred Rogers was an evangelist to the people watching from home, his wife, Joanne, told The Christian Post. “That work was his ministry. There was never a time that he ever forgot that.”

>Related: Christian movie critic Phil Boatwright calls Rogers film ‘desperately needed for our times’

Sources: Barna, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, LifeWay Research, Christian Post

Report promotes civility in public discourse
The Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm released a report Sept. 26 on how Christians can help heal the country’s political divides. “Faith and Healthy Democracy,” released by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and based on interviews with nearly 50 evangelical leaders, found that “toxic” was the most common adjective used to describe today’s public discourse.

Ahead of election, evangelicals report surprising priorities
A LifeWay Research survey in conjunction with the ERLC report found evangelicals are more likely to say healthcare, the economy, national security, and immigration are the public policy concerns most important to them, rather than religious liberty, abortion, providing for the needy, or addressing racial division. Only 8% say they are single-issue voters.

Pastor condemns impeachment effort
Following the announcement of an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, one of the President’s most vocal evangelical supporters said the country could be headed for a “Civil War-like fracture” should Trump be removed from office. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, also said of fellow evangelicals: “…I have never seen them more angry over any issue than this attempt to illegitimately remove this president from office, overturn the 2016 election and negate the votes of millions of evangelicals in the process.”

2020 will see 40% decrease in refugees resettled in U.S.
Christian leaders decried the Trump administration’s announcement last week that the U.S. will resettle only 18,000 refugees in the 2020 fiscal year. Christianity Today reported the ceiling for resettling refugees hadn’t dropped below 70,000 for 30 years before it dropped to 45,000 in 2018, then 30,000 the next year.

SBC President opens U.S. House session with prayer
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear prayed Sept. 25 before the U.S. House of Representatives, asking God to “grant that this body rule in a way that directs the men, women and children of this country toward your goodness, and enables them to respond in thankfulness to you.” Baptist Press reported Greear’s visit to the Capitol also included meetings with several legislators.

Sources: Baptist Press, LifeWay Research, Times Record News, Christianity Today

 

The generation that changed everything is changing its mind. Growing numbers of Boomers are interested in church again.

By Meredith Flynn

boomerang

The Boomers are coming! The Boomers are coming! Thom Rainer exclaimed as he reported new research showing that one-in-five Baby Boomers are more interested in spiritual things than they were earlier in their lives. One-in-five Baby Boomers represents about 19 million people, the president of LifeWay Christian Resources noted—presenting the church with a huge opportunity for growth and new ministry.

But the trend also means an increase in needs—for evangelism, discipleship, and intentional relationship-building. Many Boomers aren’t coming back to church as fully-formed Christians ready to participate in outreach ministries. They have questions. They can be skeptical.

Chaplain Matt Crain led a multi-generational church in southern Illinois before becoming a chaplain at Shawnee Christian Village in Herrin. At his church, Crain said, it was the Boomers who acknowledged, “I’ve been out of church for 20 years. And I’ve got a friend that said I really ought to try this.

“But I want you to know, pastor, I may not be back.”

Boomers may not be coming back to church in big waves yet, Crain said, but they have renewed interest and “they want to see if anything’s changed.”

The children of the 60s who fought hard for social change are also held responsible for the  ballooning the national debt. They’re “tanned and healthy and living way past average life expectancy,” Philadelphia Magazine reported. They also face financial and health crises avoided by the generation before them, Crain said.

“There is just under the surface an undertow current of ‘Wow, I see my own mortality now, and my health is beginning to fade,’” Crain said. “Am I going to have any legacy? Will it matter that I was here?”

Helping Boomers answer those questions is the church’s challenge—and an historic opportunity.

Prodigal generation
Boomers fill an interesting middle ground in American culture. Most were raised with a foundation of values straight out of Mayberry. But the tumult of their formative years took them far away from the comfort of Aunt Bea’s kitchen. In ways physical and spiritual, they moved away from what they knew as children, and raised their own families (which many started later in life than their predecessors) with new values.

But as they reach the later stages of their lives (the first Boomers turned 65 in 2011), they’re thinking about what really matters. And in some cases, they’re returning to a form of the faith they were raised with—although it may be more about personal spirituality than organized religion.

“We have seen some Boomers thinking more about eternity and about what really matters most in life,” said Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon. Boomers have the same spiritual needs as other generations, he said—a personal relationship with God through Christ, forgiveness of their sin, and meaning and purpose for their lives.

“They want to know what matters most deeply and how they can find that,” Munton said.
The research that showed Baby Boomers might be returning to their spiritual roots highlighted three reasons for the shift: more time on their hands, a realization of the brevity of life, and an awareness of life’s fragile nature. There are currently more than 70 million Baby Boomers, but data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the group will shrink to 16.6 million by 2050.

It’s in this environment that the church can help meet practical needs of Boomers, as well as spiritual ones, Crain said. The simple things a church does to help a Boomer improve his or her quality of life can build relationships that can lead to gospel conversations. Encourage physical health, diet, and exercise, Crain suggested, or offer to take someone to a doctor’s appointment.

And when Boomers do come to your church, he added, they may be surprisingly nostalgic. “They are OK with singing some hymns,” Crain said. “They might put it to a new beat and add a couple of instruments…remember, they are children of the 60s.” In other words, don’t forsake “The Old Rugged Cross,” but jazz it up.

Ready to invest
At 62, Pastor Bob Dickerson is on the younger end of the Baby Boomer spectrum. But he identifies with a generation closer to the end of their lives than the beginning, and wanting to use their time well.

“I want to finish well,” said Dickerson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Marion. “I’m not going to accept just ‘doing stuff,’ because I don’t have enough time left to just do stuff.” Dickerson, and many fellow Boomers, want to see results from the things they do. They want what they undertake to matter.

At FBC Marion, retirees minister at the local homeless shelter. They’re involved in Disaster Relief. The church’s JOY choir of 70-80 older adults put on their first Christmas concert this year for an audience of more than 400. (JOY stands for “Just Older Youth.”)

Crain cited North American Mission Board church planting specialists who have noted the similarities between Boomers and their children. “Baby Boomers and Millennials are alike in the sense that they’re concerned with acts of love, kindness, justice, and mercy,” he said. “They want to know: What are you doing for our community? What are you doing for someone who can’t repay you?”

Even before they’re believers in Christ, Crain said, “they will jump into an opportunity to bless someone.” And once they’re in the church, their need for meaningful action is a warning for church leaders. “I can’t just make them ushers,” Crain said. “That’s not going to scratch that itch. They want to know, ‘When are we going to help somebody?’ That’s really important to them.”

My generation, and yours
The sheer number of Baby Boomers makes them a force to be reckoned with, especially for churches tasked with the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (and ages within them). But they’re not the only generation in need of Jesus. Reaching them may provide churches with new potential for multi-generational worship and discipleship.

“Most of your Baby Boomers long for cross-generational experience,” Crain said. “They may not have learned how to do it, but they want to do it.” He encouraged churches to look for ways to connect people of different generations that are less about programming and more about building friendships.

Boomers are worried about their children and grandchildren, Dickerson noted. FBC Marion encourages opportunities for older adults to interact with youth, and to serve as surrogate grandparents to kids in need of them.

Amy Hanson is the author of “Baby Boomers and Beyond: Tapping the Ministry Talents and Passions of Adults Over 50.” She noted the similarities between Boomers and Millennials (generally, adults born 1981-1996) in an 2017 interview with the National Association of Evangelicals.

“They both care about social justice issues and making a difference with their lives,” Hanson said. “Both have an entrepreneurial spirit and are not afraid to try new things. Both groups are technologically savvy, and both are interested in strong friendships that cross generational lines.

“Focus on these things. Don’t be afraid to put people together and see what happens.”
The potential of a Baby Boomer boom in churches is a reminder of the call to reach all people with the gospel, regardless of age. Especially when presented with so great an opportunity, Thom Rainer urged leaders.

“Please, church leaders, don’t take this information lightly,” he wrote. “I can’t recall a generation in my lifetime potentially returning to church in such numbers.” The opportunities are incredible, Rainer said, “maybe they are groovy.”

What’s trending in 2019

Lisa Misner —  January 10, 2019

Key issues in politics

IB Media Team Report

Will the church embrace immigrants?
After illegal border crossings declined in 2017 to a more than 40-year low, the numbers began climbing again in 2018. This included a record-setting number of people from Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico traveling in September in a caravan toward the border.

Earlier in 2018, when the Trump administration attempted to deter immigration, migration declined. The government’s zero-tolerance policy ramped up criminal prosecution of anyone entering the United States illegally. But when 3,000 children were separated from their arrested parents, the policy came under attack, including a public letter of protest written to the administration by evangelical leaders.

“As Christians, we should share the heart of Jesus for refugees and others imperiled,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “Those escaping violence and persecution in Honduras and elsewhere bear the image of God and should be treated with dignity and compassion.”

An executive order officially halted family separations in June, but immigration policy is still in limbo, a fact highlighted by a December court decision that grants those crossing the border illegally the right to seek asylum in the U.S. With its current trajectory, migration is expected to grow in 2019—increasing the challenge for the church to offer a biblical response to an increasingly volatile problem.

Is Pence courting evangelicals?
With the first Trump term at its midpoint, several questions face evangelicals: How do they view the president now, in light of increasing scrutiny over his ethical and legal behaviors and the pending special counsel’s report? And, in contrast to Trump, how do evangelicals feel about Vice President Mike Pence?

Self-described as both evangelical and Catholic, Pence has managed to stay above the fray mostly, while appealing to Republicans’ traditional faith-base. “We know that what you do in the ministries of your churches make an extraordinary difference in the life of our nation…” Pence told Southern Baptists in June. “You’re the cornerstone, not just of your communities but, in so many ways, of our country.”

Some wonder if Pence has his own presidential ambitions. In May, the New York Times reported while “[the President is] mostly uninterested in the mechanics of managing a political party” his “supremely disciplined running mate has stepped into the void.”

The Times also noted that while the two previous Vice Presidents “have played important roles maintaining the political coalitions of their ticket-mates, neither man wielded Mr. Pence’s independent influence over an administration’s political network and agenda,” referring in part to his networking with evangelicals on Trump’s behalf—and perhaps his own.

New justices differ on key issues
In a year that saw a vicious, partisan fight over a U.S. Supreme Court nominee with a pro-life record, many were surprised by that new justice’s decision in a life-related case.

The Court announced Dec. 10 it would not review decisions by lower courts in Kansas and Louisiana that require Medicare to remove Planned Parenthood as a patient provider. Controversial new Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined more moderately conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and liberal justices in refusing to consider the lower court rulings.

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s previous Court pick, joined conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in filing written dissents of the High Court’s decision. Kavanaugh’s move has caused many to speculate that he may be a more moderate influence on the Court than originally thought.

In the nearly three months since Kavanaugh joined the Court, he and Gorsuch have differed on rulings concerning abortion, immigration, and the environment, USA Today reported. “There’s a pattern here that you can’t ignore,” Curt Levey, president of the conservative Committee for Justice, told the newspaper. “It corresponds with our prediction for Kavanaugh, which is that he would be more like Roberts.”

Written by the IB Media Team for the 1/1/19 issue of the Illinois Baptist.

What voters value

Lisa Misner —  November 5, 2018

Evangelicals choose issues over candidates

Vote Yeah

With a day to go before the U.S. mid-term election, new research may shed light on how evangelicals will vote. The Billy Graham Center Institute at Wheaton College and LifeWay Research in Nashville, Tenn., released an extensive study in October on how evangelicals voted in 2016, and how they feel about their decisions today.

The study explored the voting habits and political motivations of three groups of Americans: evangelicals by belief, self-identified evangelicals, and those who are not evangelical by belief or self-identity. (Evangelicals by belief are those who hold to four key theological statements developed by LifeWay Research and the National Association of Evangelicals.)

Among the findings: 53% of evangelicals by belief characterized their vote in the 2016 presidential election as being for a candidate, while smaller percentages said they cast their vote against Hillary Clinton (18%) or Donald Trump (15%). That only half of evangelical voters said they voted for their candidate in 2016 led researchers to conclude that evangelicals are “more issue-oriented than candidate-focused,” Christianity Today reported.

“I see no reason that focus on issues won’t be repeated next month,” said Ed Stetzer, referencing the Nov. 6 election. The executive director of the Billy Graham Center Institute detailed the research in a press release. “In 2016, many evangelicals chose to look past a candidate as an individual to vote for a specific issue, platform, or party a candidate represented, seeing the candidates more like objects of representation than as individuals whose values and ideals fit theirs.”

According to the research, two-thirds of evangelicals by belief agree committed Christians can benefit from a political leader even if that leader’s personal life does not line up with Christian teaching.

The 2016 election
In the 2016 presidential election, 9 in 10 evangelicals agree they felt strong support for their preferred candidate, with 69% strongly agreeing. And little has changed two years later. Today, 88% agree they feel strong support for who they voted for in 2016, with 70% strongly agreeing.

Among evangelicals who voted, most did so for Donald Trump. More than half of evangelicals by belief (58%) and self-identified evangelicals (53%) cast their ballot for the Republican nominee, while 36% of evangelicals and 38% of self-identified evangelicals voted for Hillary Clinton.

African-American voters with evangelical beliefs overwhelmingly voted for Clinton (86%), while more than three-quarters of white voters with evangelical beliefs voted for Trump (77%).

Around half of younger voters with evangelical beliefs cast their ballot for Clinton—47% of those 18 to 49. A majority of voters 65 and over who have evangelical beliefs voted for Trump (72%).

The survey also measured the issues at play in the 2016 presidential election. Both evangelicals by belief and self-identified evangelicals said an ability to improve the economy was the most important reason for voting the way they did, followed by positions on health care and immigration.

Few evangelicals by belief (5%) and self-identified evangelicals (4%) said abortion was the most important issue in deciding their 2016 vote. And 7% of evangelicals by belief and 6% of self-identified evangelicals chose likely Supreme Court nominees as the most important reason.

Working across divides
Most evangelicals by belief and self-identified evangelicals say the 2016 election brought to the surface some underlying divisions among Christians. Yet, most evangelicals also believe someone in the opposing party can be a devout Christian.

When evangelicals encounter someone using biblical beliefs to justify political views that are opposite of their own, few question their political opponent’s faith. Evangelicals by belief are most likely to say they are hopeful they can find common ground biblically.

“Jesus is not coming back on a donkey or an elephant,” said Stetzer. “We have to acknowledge that people vote for different and complex reasons and that Christians can differ on politics and agree on the gospel.”

– From LifeWay Research, with reporting by Christianity Today

Most white evangelical voters plan to vote Republican in Tuesday’s midterm elections, according to research by PRRI, including many of those 18-29 years old. But the voting bloc is changing, researchers say.

“White evangelical protestants have certainly been a powerful force in American politics for a couple of generations since the ‘80s and (Ronald) Reagan, but their clout in the general population is waning over the last 10 years,” PRRI CEO Robert Jones told USA Today. “There’s been a bigger loss at the younger end of the spectrum.”

According to PRRI, white evangelicals comprise 15% of the U.S. population, down from nearly a quarter in 2008. And the median age is 56. Younger evangelicals tend to think differently about certain issues than their parents, like same-sex marriage and the environment. (The New York Times recently interviewed young evangelicals about faith in the current political climate.)

The differences in ideology could eventually show up at the ballot box, but probably not this year, University of North Carolina professor Molly Worthen told USA Today.

“The religious right, as a network of very savvy political institutions, will continue to punch above its weight politically for decades,” Worthen said. “Even as we see that secularizing trend persist, it will not likely immediately translate to a huge turnout of votes for progressive political candidates.”

Race also plays a role in how evangelicals vote, according to a recent study by LifeWay Research and Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center. The research found 77% of white voters with evangelical beliefs voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, while 86% of African-American voters with evangelical beliefs voted for Hillary Clinton.

Most evangelicals haven’t changed their minds since 2016, according to the research. Nine in ten said they felt strong support for their preferred candidate then, and today, 88% say they still do.