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  • Gary Chapman Doesn’t Know He’s Famous
    by Kara Bettis on September 29, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    The top-selling author’s love language books have transformed millions of lives—except, maybe, for his. Gary Chapman’s team had been trying for ten years to get him on Oprah Winfrey. When they finally got a callback, a producer asked if they would be okay filling an hourlong slot on Oprah’s Lifeclass, a primetime show on her cable network, for Valentine’s Day weekend 2013. On air, Winfrey told her audience she’d noticed Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, never seemed to leave The New York Times Best Seller list. When she asked her staff about it, her wardrobe manager spoke up and said it had transformed her marriage. “It was such a game-changer for me,” stylist Kelly Hurliman explained on the show. “There’s such simplicity in its message, but I feel like it’s so powerful.” That simple message was Chapman’s theory that there are five main ways that people feel loved or tend to show love: words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, receiving gifts, and physical touch. Most other forms of love fall into these categories as “dialects” of the languages, he argues. Chapman became a household name for evangelicals in the mid-1990s after publishing his iconic purple book that helped people discover their primary ways of giving and receiving love. The Five Love Languages sold 8,500 copies its first year. It more than doubled that in the second year. The fourth year, it sold 137,000 copies. And it kept going. The book will mark its 30th anniversary next year, and it’s still crushing records. It was the top-selling Christian book for much of 2021. It has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Only six other evangelical books have reached the 10 million mark, including Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life (30 million), Sarah ... Continue reading...

  • Boy Scouts’ Bankruptcy Leaves Churches Liable for Abuse Suits
    by David Crary – Associated Press on September 29, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    Top denominations and thousands of churches are reconsidering whether to keep hosting scout units. Amid the Boy Scouts of America’s complex bankruptcy case, there is worsening friction between the BSA and the major religious groups that help it run thousands of scout units. At issue: the churches’ fears that an eventual settlement—while protecting the BSA from future sex-abuse lawsuits—could leave many churches unprotected. The Boy Scouts sought bankruptcy protection in February 2020 in an effort to halt individual lawsuits and create a huge compensation fund for thousands of men who say they were molested as youngsters by scoutmasters or other leaders. At the time, the national organization estimated it might face 5,000 cases; it now faces 82,500. In July, the BSA proposed an $850 million deal that would bar further lawsuits against it and its local councils. The deal did not cover the more than 40,000 organizations that have charters with the BSA to sponsor scout units, including many churches from major religious denominations that are now questioning their future involvement in scouting. The United Methodist Church—which says up to 5,000 of its US congregations could be affected by future lawsuits—recently advised those churches not to extend their charters with the BSA beyond the end of this year. The UMC said these congregations were “disappointed and very concerned” that they weren’t included in the July deal. Everett Cygal, a lawyer for Catholic churches monitoring the case, said it is unfair that parishes now face liability “solely as a result of misconduct by Boy Scout troop leaders who frequently had no connection to the parish.” “Scouting can only be delivered with help of their chartered organizations,” Cygal told The Associated Press. ... Continue reading...

  • Why LuLaRoe Belongs in the Faith and Work Conversation
    by Hannah Anderson on September 29, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    Multilevel marketing isn’t a hobby. And its workers need discipleship. When LuLaRoe leggings showed up in my small community a few years ago, a farmer in our church dubbed them “tight britches.” Colorful and comfortable, the style quickly became de rigueur for women and girls in our area. But the trend took off for a much simpler reason too: network marketing. Sometimes known as direct or multilevel marketing, network marketing leverages established social circles to sell directly to consumers through local representatives. Companies like LuLaRoe do particularly well in communities that have thick relational networks, which is likely why they flourish in churches, homeschooling co-ops, and mommy groups. But despite its growing presence (and generating over $40 billion annually), network marketing rarely shows up in evangelical theologies of faith and work. We might address the toll it takes on relationships, how it affects women’s formation, or whether it makes good financial sense, but few of our conversations take multilevel marketing sales seriously as work. And if we don’t, we won’t take the motives, questions, and dilemmas of those involved in this work seriously either. This was especially clear to me as I viewed the recent Amazon documentary LuLaRich, which chronicles the woes of the aforementioned apparel company. Following a meteoric rise, LuLaRoe became the object of a spate of lawsuits, claiming damages for everything from poorly crafted merchandise to an incentive program that looked a lot like a pyramid scheme. Independent representatives were left with mounting debt, and some even found their relationships and marriages—the very things that had propelled them into the work in the first place—collapsing. While watching the docuseries, ... Continue reading...

  • Most Kenyan Churches Ban Politicians from Pulpits, Except for Methodists
    by Fredrick Nzwili - Religion News Service on September 29, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    Evangelicals join Anglicans, Catholics, and Presbyterians in restricting campaigning during worship services. Some churches in Kenya have barred politicians from addressing their congregations, saying campaigning during services disrespects the sanctity of worship. The national Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and evangelical churches have all issued bans, as many politicians have begun early stumping for next year’s general elections and as COVID-19 public health measures have restricted how and where campaigning can take place. The Methodists, however, are keeping the church doors open for all. Joseph Ntombura, presiding bishop of the Methodist Church in Kenya, has said his church is not dissenting from the effort, but is taking a different approach. The bishop said shutting the doors to politicians would mean discriminating against some of its members. “The church is for all people,” Ntombura told RNS in a telephone interview. “Human beings are political, so there is nothing wrong with inviting the politicians in church.” According to the bishop, congregations need to hear the views of politicians on issues of national interest, such as the sharing of resources. In the past, Ntombura said, the church has invited other experts to speak to congregations on important matters, and politicians are no different. “Some of the politicians are our pastors,” said Ntombura. Kenya is about 85 percent Christian. About 33 percent of that group are from historic Protestant denominations and about 21 percent are Catholic. The rest belong to evangelical, Pentecostal, and African denominations. Muslims make up 11 percent of the population. In issuing the bans on politicking in church, denominations have said they feared that church services would become campaign rallies and that candidates would use language ... Continue reading...

  • How the Umbrella Movement Spurred Hong Kong’s Digital Witness
    by Calida Chu on September 29, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    Faced with political division and government oversight, the church began to develop richer and wider-reaching online public theology. This month marks the seventh anniversary of the Umbrella Movement and the second anniversary of the Hong Kong government’s official withdrawal of its controversial extradition bill. For many Hong Kongese, these are bittersweet memories. On the one hand, the series of pro-democratic movements since 2014 show the Hong Kongese’s urge for a better society that goes beyond the capitalistic ethos of the city; on the other, those movements became a Pandora’s box of civil unrest. Two years ago, 2 million people protested against the extradition law in June, and the implementation of the national security law the year after led to mass arrests and a crackdown on democratic parties. Hong Kong Christians famously took to the streets in prayer and in song as part of the demonstrations. But what international audiences may have not seen is how the political developments in Hong Kong launched the church into the digital public sphere too. Facing tighter religious freedoms, Christian leaders have grown their presence online and on social media. Even as the Hong Kong diaspora has scattered across the globe, leaders have taken to the digital space as a platform to show solidarity to the persecuted and to instruct followers to persevere through difficult times. The digital public theology they’ve developed over the past seven years has grown into a witness for the global church. Writing on the Mid-Autumn Festival, the day Hong Kong families tend to reunite (tuan yuan) to see the full moon (yue yuan, a play on words for “reunion”), I think of the persistent prayers for our brothers and sisters are suffering on the other side of the world and our compassion for those who cannot see their families due to exile ... Continue reading...

  • Josh McDowell Steps Back from Ministry After Race Remarks
    by Bob Smietana - Religion News Service on September 29, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    “I made comments about race, the Black family, and minorities that were wrong and hurt many people.” Best-selling Christian author and speaker Josh McDowell is stepping back from ministry following comments he made at a recent meeting of the American Association of Christian Counselors. On Saturday, he had denounced the idea of systemic racism at the national gathering, saying Black Americans and other minorities were not raised to value hard work or education. The talk, entitled “The Five Greatest Global Epidemics,” identified a series of threats McDowell claims face the Christian church. The first, he said, was critical race theory, an academic field of study on the nature of systemic racism. Known by the acronym CRT, critical race theory has become controversial among Christian conservatives and political conservatives alike. McDowell told Christian counselors that CRT “negates all the biblical teaching” about racism—because it focuses on systems rather than the sins of the human heart and said today’s definition of “social justice” is not biblical. “There’s no comparison to what is known today as social justice with what the Bible speaks of as justice,” he said. “With CRT they speak structurally. The Bible speaks individually. Make sure you get that. That’s a big difference.” He went on to say not all Americans have equal opportunities to succeed. “They don’t, folks,” he said in his speech. “I do not believe Blacks, African Americans, and many other minorities have equal opportunity. Why? Most of them grew up in families where there is not a big emphasis on education, security—you can do anything you want. You can change the world. If you work hard, you will make it. So many African Americans don’t have ... Continue reading...

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