Saturday, October 22, 2016

Weekly Web Roundup (10/22/16)

Photo Credit: Duke TIP
Here are some interesting stories that I have noticed from around the web this past week:

Most College Students Are Leaving the Church. Here's How This Congregation Is Bucking the Trend by Daniel Darling (Christianity Today)
"I believed the college campus is the largest mission field in our city and the "10/40 Window" of America. We didn't want a church of exclusively college students, but rather a church of all ages that was passionate about reaching the campus. In the early days, though, people weeded themselves out quickly; they’d walk in and say, "Ugh, look at all these college students." Instead, we built the church with people who would say, "Wow, look at all these college students!""
Black Millennials lead in digital, Nielsen says by Jessica Guynn (USA Today)
"African-American Millennials spend about two hours more a week (eight hours and 29 minutes versus six hours and 28 minutes) using the Internet on personal computers than total Millennials, and about an hour more weekly (three hours and 47 minutes versus two hours and 33 minutes) watching video on personal computers. African-American millennials are 25% more likely than all Millennials to say they are among the first of their social or work circle to try new tech products."
From Cultural Competency to Cultural Humility by Natasha Iwalani Hicks (Next Church)
"In the past I used to get fired up about the assumptions that people make about me and my cultural/ethnic background, especially because it often came with a lack of expectation based on my appearance and my quiet presence.  However, as I have grown to be more and more comfortable in my own skin and to truly value my experiences as a multi-cultural person, I have increasingly learned to lean in and to engage in conversation instead of allowing anger or disappointment to lead my response.  I will admit though, that I still do experience those knee-jerk responses of anger and disappointment at times, especially when I see assumptions being placed upon others."
White Evangelicals Noticeably More Forgiving of 'Immoral Behavior' in Elected Officials Today Than in 2011 (Sojourners)
"A poll by PRRI, published Oct. 19, reveals that 72 percent of white evangelical Protestants now believe that immoral behavior by an elected official doesn’t mean the official is incapable of performing their duties. This is a dramatic increase from the year 2011, when only 30 percent of white evangelical Protestants shared this view."
White Privilege in Western Missions (A Life Overseas)
"Even (and perhaps especially) in missions work, the resources that are used, the ideas that are disseminated, and the methods that are implemented are most likely created, introduced, or advanced by white men. While their intentions are undoubtedly benevolent, this comes at a cost. When those with white privilege are the only people with influence, people of color inevitability feel stripped of power. When theirs are the only voices we hear, people of color feel unheard.  When there is a lack of representation and diversity within the missions community, people of color feel dismissed. These seemingly benign acts of commission and omission seem trivial taken on their own, but when experienced day after day, what we hear is “I don’t need you.”  The message we receive is that we are weaker, less honorable, and unpresentable."
Racial Reconciliation May Not Be What You Think It Is by Rich Villodas (Missio Alliance)
"To be sure, diversity is a good thing, but in itself it is not reconciliation. On the surface diversity looks wonderful. However, the temptation is for us to stop there. When we do we are no different from New York City subway cars. NYC subway cars are crowds of diverse, anonymous people in close proximity. But the church is called be more than a sanctified subway car."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

5 Things Every Christian Can Do This Election Season

Photo Credit: Theresa Thompson
It is now less than three weeks away until the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and the amount of coverage the candidates are receiving seems to be increasing by the day.

With the third and final debate now completed, voters will be making their choice about who they will be voting for to become the 45th President of the United States of America.

Possibly more so than any election in recent memory, there is a great divide among Christians about who should receive their vote and which criteria should be considered in making that choice. Without endorsing any candidates or political parties, here are five things every Christian can do this election season:

1. Pray (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Proverbs 3:5,6)
Pray for wisdom. Pray for the candidates. Pray for our country as we make an important decision.  If you're not praying at all about who you should vote for, I wonder who it is that you're primarily listening to in order to make this decision. 
If you're struggling who to vote for, pray that God would give you direction and guidance. If you've already decided who to vote for, pray that God would make it clear that is the right choice. 
Look to God's Word -- the Bible -- as a guide for the qualities that God looks for in leaders and for the issues that are closest to God's heart. These may not necessarily be aligned with what is listed in the voters' guides distributed by partisan organizations. Seek God above all else.
2. Vote (Matthew 25:29; Romans 13:7)
One of the great things about living in a democracy is the privilege we have to choose our elected officials. Unfortunately, tens of millions of eligible American voters sit at home and do not participate in the political process each election cycle. If you are eligible to vote, please take advantage of this opportunity. This is a stewardship with which God has entrusted us.  
Throughout the history of the U.S., there have been many people who have given their lives and put themselves at great risk in order to enjoy the privilege of voting in elections. Don't take this stewardship for granted.
We give honor to those that have gone before when we participate in the very thing for which they put their lives on the line. Don't neglect to vote.
3. Consider all the Candidates & Issues (Proverbs 8:16; 29:2) 
Though we have a two-party system within the United States, there are many voters, especially during this election, that do not find either of the major party nominees an attractive option. Many have bemoaned the fact that they feel trapped into choosing the "lesser of two evils." 
However, this is not necessarily true. There are more candidates than the two most prominent ones. If you feel like neither of the well-known candidates are qualified to serve as the leader of our country, consider a third party or independent candidate. 
I've heard Christians say that a vote for X is really a vote for Y. Or a vote for X is really a vote for Z. Some may feel like this is "wasting a vote" or "throwing a vote away." I do not subscribe to this belief. The only wasted vote is the vote that is never cast. 
In addition, the presidential election is not the only election taking place. There are federal, state and local candidates and measures to consider. Educate yourself on these other elections and cast your vote for the candidates and initiatives that most closely align to your values.
4. Respect Others (Colossians 4:6, I Peter 2:17)
It is no secret that this has been a contentious election cycle. The rhetoric surrounding this election has grown increasingly combustible. In many circles, it seems that people are not advocating for their candidate as much as expressing their disagreement with the candidate they oppose.  
Sadly, this seems no different among Christians. I've been dismayed by the statements I've heard in person and the comments I've read online from otherwise pleasant followers of Christ. The attacks on those that vote differently is quite unsettling. For many of us across the political spectrum, our voting allegiances appear to have taken priority over our allegiance to Christ.  
I said this on Facebook a few weeks ago and it still rings true: If there's anything we've learned within the Christian community during this election season is that people that read the same Bible and follow the same God can come to drastically different conclusions when it comes to our political preferences. Our life experiences, cultural backgrounds, friendships and news sources shape each of us more than we probably realize. 
Yes, it is possible to disagree with others without being disagreeable. It is even possible to share our political views with grace, kindness and respect. But if that's not possible for us, then it's probably better to remain quiet than to dishonor God and others with political discourse that undercuts our witness as followers of Jesus.
5. Trust God (2 Chronicles 20:6, Isaiah 40:23)
When it's all said and done, God is still in control. No matter who wins or loses the election, God remains the sovereign king of the universe. Nothing -- no person, no political party, no government -- can thwart His purposes or plans.  
This is not to say that who is president does not matter. It very much matters. We elect real leaders who enact real policies that affect real people. And because God cares about people, we need to care about who leads us and how their leadership affects people. 
But, ultimately, God is still sovereign. He knows our realities and cares about what we are facing. Whether our candidate wins or loses, God remains our King. In this we can take comfort. 
In the remaining days of this election season, please be a person who: 1) Prays, 2) Votes, 3) Considers all the candidates and issues, 4) Respects others, and 5) Trusts God.

Long after this election is over, our Christian witness, for good or bad, will remain. I fear that too many prominent Christian leaders have sacrificed fidelity to their gospel witness because of how they have chosen to engage this election cycle. Will this be said of us?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Weekly Web Roundup (10/15/16)

Photo Credit: bjmccray
Due to Hurricane Matthew storming through Florida last weekend, I did not write a "Weekly Web Roundup" post last Saturday. So here are some interesting stories from around the web that I've seen during the past couple of weeks:

Seeking Clarity in This Confusing Election Season: Ten Thoughts by Kevin DeYoung (The Gospel Coalition)

Many evangelical Christians find ourselves in a quandary as to whom should receive our vote for president this election, or even if we should vote at all. Pastor Kevin DeYoung offers some helpful things to consider.

It's Never Too Soon to Talk about Race in Your Church by Jemar Tisby (Christianity Today)
"I desire for churches that are predominantly white right now, but [are] looking to become more diverse, [to] do the groundwork first. You’ve got to pull the weeds. You’ve got to break up the soil. You’ve got to cultivate the land that would make it amenable to planting the seeds that would bear fruit of diversity. . . . The minority shouldn’t be the first one at your church to broach topics of race and diversity. That should’ve already been done by the leaders, and it should’ve been done in such a way that they’re shepherding the congregation through those issues."
When Compassion is Exhausting by Melanie Dale (The Mudroom)
"But for our passions, for the things burning deep in our souls keeping us up at night moving us to tears liquefying our insides, it’s going to take more. It’s going to take partnering with really smart local people who have big plans for their own communities. It’s going to take lawyers and therapists and social workers. It’s going to take a lot. Which is why you can’t care about everything because the thing you need to care about the most needs your attention over the long haul. So find a thing and dig deep."
InterVarsity Asks Staff to Choose a Stance on Sexuality by Kate Shellnutt (Christianity Today)

One of our partner ministries, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, made the news this past week when the response to a 20-page paper on their theological beliefs on human sexuality was made known. A number of their staff members will be leaving IV as a result. Please be in prayer for both the leaders of InterVarsity and all the staff members affected.

What it Means to be Black in the American Educational System by Kevin O’Neal Cokley (The Huffington Post)
"The results of a recent survey by the Pew Research Center underscore this point. The survey found that black Americans with some college experience are more likely to say that they have experienced discrimination compared to blacks who did not report having any college experience. Additional survey results revealed several differences between blacks with college experience versus blacks without college experience. For example, in the past 12 months, 55 percent of people with some college experience reported people had acted suspicious of them, compared to 38 percent of those with no college experience. Similarly, 52 percent of people with some college experience reported people had acted as if they thought the individual wasn’t smart, compared to 37 percent of people with no college experience."
Maps Shows History of US Immigration

The topic of immigration has been of great interest during this election season. This animated map from Business Insider illustrates immigration patterns to the U.S., including which countries were allowed to send people to the U.S. and when they were allowed to do so.