I have a dirty little secret when it comes to Facebook. It’s not something I should share in public; in fact, doing so could get me in trouble. But I’ve held it within for too long, and it’s time I finally let the cat out of the bag.
I’m over it.
There, I said it: I am officially over Facebook. In fact, I’m over Twitter and LinkedIn and a host of other social networks as well. It happened unexpectedly to me a few months ago. I’d been an active user for the past three years, sharing everything from my son’s birth to the play-by-play when my alma mater won a national championship (War Eagle!). But one day I woke up and, without reason, had no desire to post an update.
The next day the same feeling was there—and the next week, and the week after that. Before the month was up, I realized my account had been stagnant with the exception of others writing, tagging or messaging me. It wasn’t that I had nothing to say, nor had Facebook done anything wrong to me. I was simply over it. read more
No one has ever called me a daredevil. I’ve never bungee-jumped off a cliff, parachuted from an airplane or spent time in a shark cage. But when my friend Michael Cole from Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI) asked me to speak at a leadership retreat in Ohio—and he informed me that we would be participating in a high ropes course—I said to myself, Bring on the challenge!I thought it would be fun!
I was wrong! Before I describe the terror I faced when I stood on a thin metal cable 25 feet above the ground, let me give some backstory. The night before this aeronautical challenge, I spoke to a group of leaders from Tabernacle of Praise, a church Michael pastored for several years before moving to CFNI in Dallas. We had gathered at a camp for a time of worship, teaching and fellowship.
On Friday night I shared a message from the life of Gideon. I pointed out how Gideon received supernatural courage from God so he could tear down the pagan altar in his father’s house and lead a small army into battle (see Judg. 6:11-7:25). After the session, people gathered in groups, confessed their fears and prayed for one another. read more
They make an odd couple—Christian conservatives and secular media. Yet they’ve locked arms in charging that the New Apostolic Reformation is a shadowy cult seeking to control the outcome of the 2012 U.S. presidential elections. Here’s my answer to their claim.
The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) has recently become a topic of discussion in the political media. I noticed some mention of it in connection with Sarah Palin’s run for vice president, but I considered it relatively insignificant. Then more talk of NAR surfaced around Michele Bachmann, but it soared to a new level when Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the race for the Republican nomination for president in August.
On Aug. 24, NPR aired a story (and published it elsewhere) titled “The Evangelicals Engaged in Spiritual Warfare,” naming me as NAR’s architect and tying Perry and other politicians to NAR in a negative light. Since then, I’ve been observing how the media has sought to taint Christian political candidates with false notions about the movement.
The best I can discern, NAR has become a tool in the hands of certain liberal opponents of the conservative candidates designed to discredit them on the
basis of their friendship with Christian leaders supposedly affiliated with NAR. To bolster this attempt, they accuse NAR of teaching false doctrine and paste on it the label of “cult.” read more
How Pentecostalism is gradually changing the dynamics of American politics
A phenomenon is emerging in politics today, one off the radar of most political observers. This movement hasn’t come crashing on the scene all at once, but instead has been steadily forming like a tsunami, untraced by most and even ignored by those aware of its potential yet who dismiss it out of personal bias. As this wave surges, its rising water line can lift political candidates to new heights of influence almost overnight.
The tsunami I speak of is the new wave of proactive involvement among Pentecostal/charismatic Christians in the American political system, and it is becoming an increasingly powerful force with enough potential to change a nation. Donald Miller, professor of religion at the University of Southern California, has said that “Pentecostalism is reshaping the face of Christianity.” I would argue it is also reshaping the face of American politics and represents a significant part of a larger movement to return America to its Judeo-Christian values.
According to the World Christian Database, there are almost 80 million “renewalists” in the U.S., which would include Pentecostals, charismatics and neo-charismatics (often referred to as the “Third Wavers”). Yet to understand just how influential the Pentecostal political movement is becoming, we must first understand how far charismatics (a term that, for the sake of brevity, I’m using interchangeably with Pentecostals) have come regarding politics. read more
When Sarah Palin became the Republican nominee for vice president in 2008, reports quickly surfaced saying she had long been a member of a Pentecostal church. With that news, any grand American tradition of religious tolerance for her vanished. More than simply being disrespected for her Pentecostal beliefs, Palin was derided for them with smears that were close to bizarre in their misuse of the facts.
She was a heretic, bloggers claimed, and under the hypnotic sway of modern Elmer Gantrys. She was robotically devoted to the cult of a witch hunter. She attended a church in which people ranted in tongues, raised Nazi salutes and trained their children to be Christian versions of suicide bombers.
The truth was, Palin was a member of one of the fastest-growing movements in Christian history, one that must be considered mainstream today by any standard. From a handful of adherents when modern Pentecostalism began in the early 1900s, Pentecostals now number more than 580 million worldwide. They are growing by more than 19 million a year, some 54,000 per day, and researchers predict by 2025 there will be more than 1 billion Pentecostals and charismatics in the world, most located in Asia, Africa and Latin America. read more
Thank you for the profound article by Christopher Alam, “Not All Muslims Want to Kill You” (September). It gives a history of the Muslim background, but not as the media presents this situation. This article was God’s truth, explaining how we as Christians can reach Muslims with God’s love. Hopefully it took the fear out of our way of thinking about Muslims.
Laurie Stark, via email
Thank you for the two great articles “When Muslims See Jesus” (by Audrey Lee) and “Not All Muslims Want to Kill You” (by Christopher Alam). I celebrate the definitive insights and instructions for the body of Christ that Alam offered concerning Muslims. This sounds like Jesus to me: “We Christians should have no enemies because our DNA is one of faith and love, not fear and hatred. We must not forget we have received commandments to bless those who curse us, to overcome evil with good.”
Steve Dixon, Fayetteville, Ark.
Too much Faith in fiction?
Carol Johnson’s article “Saving Stories” (September) on the impact of fiction suggests popularity equals influence. But if Christian fiction is to impact the world, it must grow in the area where it is still weak: craftsmanship. Jonathan Livingston Seagull and The Bridges of Madison County, both hugely popular but now largely forgotten, are probably better templates for contemporary Christian fiction than a classic like To Kill a Mockingbird.
John L. Moore, Miles City, Mont.
A dilemma over our ‘gay dilemma’
This is in response to Julia Randle’s letter (September), questioning why the magazine published articles on homosexuality (“The Church’s Gay Dilemma,” July). If “Christians should not be involved,” then how is the church supposed to handle this issue? What do we do if “they” come into our congregations?
Ms. Randle, what will you do if “it” shows up in your family? Jesus said to let he who is without sin cast the first stone. It’s time for the church to lay down their stones and take on the compassion of Jesus. Thank you, Charisma, for printing articles that help the body of Christ learn more about these controversial issues.
I work with people every day who are hired to herald the arrival of a new product, campaign, author or artist. They’re called publicists, and their sole professional purpose is to stir up media hype surrounding whatever it is they’re pushing.
The good ones do this by establishing authentic relationship with media gatekeepers who, in turn, can trust the publicists to not pester them with projects outside of their audience’s interest. The bad ones aren’t just annoying, they’re often laughable with their misguided requests. Recently a publicist actually pitched me on writing an article—inCharisma, mind you—about how to help senior adults select “adult toys.” This clueless publicist figured that since our readers were within her target audience, her request was reasonable. (Sadly, she wasn’t joking.)
That’s low, but after watching some publicists at a recent political debate, I now know these hired guns can stoop lower. Amid the media frenzy succeeding this event were dozens of publicists who would follow the every move of “personalities” and hold name cards directly above the heads of these VIPs who apparently needed to be recognized. It didn’t matter if you were a politician, CEO or wannabe celebrity blogger, wherever you went these publicists were willing to look foolish for the sake of everyone knowing your name. read more
Recently two well-known charismatic leaders contacted me to voice their concerns about the sudden increase in attacks against charismatic Christian leaders—especially Peter Wagner and the New Apostolic Reformation. How timely, then, that I had already planned to publish Wagner’s response in this issue and examine the new role that Pentecostals and charismatics are playing on the national scene.
What’s being attacked isn’t new. Conservative, Bible-believing Christians have long believed we should put righteous people in government and other positions of influence. Preachers have thundered against sin from the pulpit and called people to repentance. Yet mostly we do that within the church’s four walls, out of range from hearing the cultural elites who increasingly don’t want any restraints on their favorite sin.
These attacks are part of an effort to intimidate using a spirit of fear—and sadly most of the time it works. This happened to Sally Kern, the Baptist pastor’s wife who as an Oklahoma legislator was concerned about how some gay activists were targeting Christian candidates. She sounded the alarm and was viciously attacked in ways so extreme we can’t even repeat some of them here—just because she voiced biblical principles. If you want to read more, buy her book, The Stoning of Sally Kern—if you can find a copy, that is. Most secular stores won’t even stock it, and sadly many Christian stores won’t either because they don’t want to stir up problems. (You can still order it online or buy the Kindle version.) read more
Zachery Tims’ story had a great beginning. As a young man he met Jesus and was saved from a life of crime and drugs. He and his wife, Riva, moved from Baltimore to Orlando in 1996 to launch a church that aimed to pull teens out of trouble. New Destiny Christian Center grew fast, and Tims was soon a regular on Christian television.
But things unraveled in 2009 when the young preacher was caught in an affair with a stripper he met in France. He admitted to an “indiscretion” and got counseling, but he didn’t take serious time off for rehabilitation. Riva divorced him for his infidelity.
The story did not end well. On Aug. 12, Tims was found dead—at age 42—in a New York City hotel room. His four children lost their dad, and his church lost their beloved leader. But while Tims’ family and friends face enormous grief, I’m also grieving over the fact that the body of Christ has yet another embarrassing religious scandal to explain. read more
Facing a ‘different’ Christmas while in Africa, our family discovered new meaning in the season
Christmas is the time when nothing ought to change.”
Our newly married daughter, Liz, put into words what all of us were feeling. We had come from our home in New York state to spend the holidays with her and her husband, Alan, in their new apartment in Tucson, Ariz. Outside, on Christmas Eve, cactus-wrens hopped about the mesquite bushes beneath a glorious desert sky, while indoors the four of us gulped iced tea and thought of pine woods and falling snowflakes.
“Home in Leicester,” Alan recalled of his Massachusetts upbringing, “we’d generally go skating about now.”
“And tonight there’d be the midnight service at St. Mark’s!” Liz said. “Remember, Mom and Dad, how you can see your breath, walking in from the parking lot?”
We did remember. We wanted every time-hallowed tradition just as it always had been. No changes. Not at Christmas. read more