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Christianity Today 

That means dropping the façade and admitting their own struggles.

As Generation Z teens grow up, many are moving further away from Christian faith and challenging church leaders to adapt to new expectations from the youngest in their flocks.

Last month, Barna Research reported that young adults aged 18 to 22 are half as likely to identify as Christian and follow Jesus than teenagers aged 13 to 17. A slight majority of today’s young adults—52 percent—don’t identify as Christians.

The young people of Gen Z are diverse, educated, and social media savvy. When it comes to faith, they’re open to Jesus and his teachings but skeptical about institutions and leaders putting on a façade.

Kendall Johnson, 20, became a believer in college and established her faith through campus ministry, but it was the “real and raw” women of her local church in Raleigh, North Carolina, that helped her grow spiritually. Though older than she, they reached out to talk and share struggles from their own lives.

Their openness, Johnson said, “allows me to see how much faith and trust they have in Jesus. It showed me Christianity is relational with one another [and] relational with God.”

Young Christians like Johnson expect the same kind of transparency, honesty, and authenticity from their leaders.

“For some generations, the more mythical their spiritual leaders, the more they trusted them,” said Darrell Hall, author of Speaking Across Generations: Messages That Satisfy Boomers, Xers, Millennials, Gen Z, and Beyond. “Gen Zers want there to be no gap between Darrell and Dr. Hall. No gap in persona. No gap in who I am and who I present myself to be.”

To cultivate genuine relationships, Hall said leaders need be accessible to students, meeting ...

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More than 70 percent of the country’s inmates are jailed for drug-related offenses. Christian groups seek to help them reenter society.

Freddy Wee, the deputy director of a Christian halfway house for drug addicts in Singapore, understands what the men coming to Breakthrough Missions Singapore are going through. That’s because the 69-year-old has lived through it too.

Wee started smoking marijuana as a teen before graduating to painkillers, heroin, and eventually morphine. “I was always begging for money for drugs, threatening people,” Wee said. “It was a shameful life. It owned me for many years till I was caught.”

Even when Wee was arrested and sent to the government-run Drug Rehabilitation Center (DRC) for six months in his 20s, nothing changed. He returned to his old ways only to be arrested again.

His second stint lasted 15 months, and this time, members of a Christian group shared the gospel with Wee and other inmates. Years earlier, Wee had heard the good news from friends and even attended church with them. But he didn’t consider his conversion genuine as his lifestyle didn’t change.

At this point, Wee was desperate to be free from drugs and realized that only God could give him the power to overcome his addiction. He became a Christian, started studying the Bible, and led a Bible study group made up of fellow inmates. When he got out, he admitted himself to a Christian halfway house, House of Hope, realizing that without support, he would likely relapse. He promised God, “This time around, I am serious about my life. I want to follow the Lord.”

After two years at the halfway house, Wee was able to find a job and get married. Eventually, he started his job at Breakthrough Missions in 2002. Reintegrating into society hasn’t always been easy as he has faced rejection based on his past. Often, it’s ...

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Meet an early evangelist, an education reformer, and a preacher who held Bible studies with the royal family.

Christianity arrived in Japan in 1549 through Jesuit missionaries and challenged the dominant Confucian view on the hierarchical position of women in society.

The Confucian instructional book Onna Daigaku (School of Women) instructed parents to raise their daughters to be submissive in order to marry into other families, where exercising too much independence would be impertinent. The most desirable qualities for women were obedience, chastity, compassion, and emotional balance. Wives were expected to revere their husbands as if they were deities and to never become jealous, as that would risk alienating their husbands.

The Christian faith that the Jesuits shared offered unprecedented opportunities for women to discover and embody new social roles and positions. The Protestants also represented this newfound reality as women comprised about two-thirds of the missionaries sent to Japan from 1859 to 1882, according to Japanese historian Rui Kohiyama.

“Christianity required women to make a personal decision about their religious choices and confess it publicly in a society where women’s opinions mattered little,” writes Haruko Nawata Ward, a church history professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, in her book Women Religious Leaders in Japan’s Christian Century, 1549–1650.

“It required them to maintain a stronger loyalty to Christ than to their feudal lords, fathers, elder brothers, husbands and sons. It empowered women to take vows of celibacy, or choose their marriage partners from among Kirishitan men.”

In the early 17th century, Christianity was banned. Believers were persecuted for just over two and a half centuries, with many practicing their faith in secret as Kakure Kirishitans, ...

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What Scripture tells us about the story of this “outstanding” Jewish woman in chains.

About a decade ago, when my family was on vacation in Rome, Italy, we visited the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli (“Saint Peter in chains”)—where tourists and Christian pilgrims come to see Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses and a set of prison chains that tradition claims belonged to the apostle Simon Peter during his imprisonment (Acts 12:3–19).

But it wasn’t just male apostles who were privileged with the unwanted gift of shackles. Paul tells us in Romans 16:7 that Andronicus and his wife, Junia, were both imprisoned for the sake of Jesus: “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.”

Two elements of this verse have been the subject of deep scrutiny and vigorous debate: Was Junia a woman? And was she really an “apostle”?

With respect to the first question, there was a span of several hundred years where Bible translations treated this person as a man (with the name Junias—notice the s), mostly because it was unthinkable that Paul could call a woman an “apostle.” But biblical scholars have rediscovered her female identity in the last few decades for several reasons, including the fact that Junia was a popular female name in the Roman period, while the name Junias is not attested at all.

And in regard to the second question, Paul acknowledges the married couple were Jewish like him and followed Jesus before he did. Since we know Paul came to believe in Jesus not long after the Resurrection (let’s say, around A.D. 33), Andronicus and Junia were among the “first generation” of Christian apostolic leaders.

In fact, most ...

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The former president’s potential arrest shows that character does matter.

This piece was adapted from Russell Moore’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

As I write this, I have no idea if or when we will see something no generation of Americans has ever witnessed: a mug shot of a former president of the United States. What I do know is that the entire country is waiting with a sense of unease about just that possibility and about what happens next.

Last weekend, former president Donald Trump posted on his social media platforms that he expected to be arrested this week, on charges by a New York grand jury of illegally reporting the hush money cover-up of an alleged affair with “porn star” Stormy Daniels.

Part of the confusion is that this potential indictment is almost universally considered the weakest of the (at least) four criminal investigations now ongoing regarding the former president.

The biggest difficulty related to this potential prosecution is the fact that we are dealing with probably the single most polarizing figure in American life in at least a century.

Not many families were divided into seething groups who refused to speak to one another over the relative merits of Hubert Humphrey or Bob Dole. I can’t imagine that very many pastors agonized over whether they would lose their pulpits over inadequate enthusiasm for Adlai Stevenson or Gerald Ford.

Imagine trying to find a jury of 12 people without already-fixed views on Donald Trump, even if the entire country were the pool for the search. That’s amplified for us as evangelical Christians because there’s an assumption in American life that “evangelical Christian” and “Donald Trump enthusiast” are synonyms.

Not all of us are, by any means. But it is fair to say that, in some ways, the ...

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In an age of functional atheism, ‘tis the season for traditional fasting and prayer.

“I’m giving up God for Lent,” said the post on my social media feed.

I had to reread the line again while my brain did a bit of reorienting. Wasn’t the person who posted this a Christian?

For some believers, the argument goes like this: By intentionally “giving up” God for a season, we give ourselves the chance to put to death any inaccurate idols we may have unintentionally created out of him.

Engaging in this practice, they argue, allows us the chance to see what life would be like without God—and that, in turn, should make us want to draw closer to him. The principle goes that by choosing to lean away from God and depriving ourselves of his presence, we can learn His true value in our lives.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this practice is also promoted by atheist philosopher Peter Rollins, who is offering an online course called ‘Atheism For Lent’—aiming to critique theism and set aside “questions regarding life after death to explore the possibility of life before death.”

As a native and resident of the Bay Area in California, none of this is shocking to me. But what’s intriguing to me after searching online is that so many Christians, and even some churches, are intentionally engaging in this practice as a form of spiritual formation.

My question is this: Aren’t most Christians already “giving up God” in their daily lives?

Many of us are living our day-to-day existence without reference to the Lord instead of involving him in the day-to-day choices and decisions we make. Some have called this “functional atheism,” which I find a fitting phrase. Parker Palmer defines this concept as “the unexamined ...

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After leaving Maverick City Music, the singer is launching his own label focused on authenticity in a field increasingly crowded by celebrity.

Grammy Award–winning worship artist Dante Bowe is starting a new chapter.

After years with some of today’s most influential worship music collectives, Bethel Music and Maverick City Music, Bowe has launched TRUE Music, a label and management company that he hopes will become a hub for creativity and spiritual growth for emerging artists.

Bowe has shared a worship stage with the biggest and hippest names in the industry: Chandler Moore, Upperroom, Housefires, We The Kingdom, Crowder, Pat Barrett, and Brandon Lake. He’s known for his soulful, raspy voice and powerful performances on “Old Church Basement,” “Take Me Back,” and “Yes and Amen.” His energetic stage presence and emphasis on spontaneity in worship make him a dynamic and sought-after performer.

Bowe left Maverick City Music in September 2022; a social media post by Maverick City announced the departure, citing “behavior that was inconsistent with [its] core values and beliefs.”

The 29-year-old singer has reemerged after a social media hiatus with a new song “Hide Me” and a clear vision and a desire to foreground authenticity in his new project. His prominence has put him in the realm of Christian celebrity, though his heart is still to put Jesus at the center.

“I think there is a misconception that a lot of us want fame. It’s not that we want fame. We just release songs that we really sit at home, that we live with—it’s our real stories and our real life,” he said. “The general public makes it famous because they’ve encountered God through it, or they feel healed or like they can fight in their marriage or whatever the case may be. It’s the inspiration. ...

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The basic freedoms and human rights we enjoy as Americans do not require a cultural Christian majority.

A recent Pew Research report suggested that American Christians could become a minority of the population in less than 50 years. And for some, this has led to a fear that the decline of cultural Christianity in America could spell bad news for the prospects for democracy here.

Because, while many people today are talking about how Christianity (especially when combined with nationalism) might be a threat to democracy, it is still more common to think that Christianity is overall good for democracy. In fact, many conservative evangelicals believe Christianity is necessary for a free society.

After recently publishing a book on Christian nationalism, I’ve given numerous talks, interviews, and podcasts and have had countless conversations with friends and colleagues in evangelical circles on the subject. And I have found that there is a possessive, proprietary attitude toward America and democracy—along with an insistence that a Christian culture is practically a prerequisite for democracy to survive.

The conversation goes something like this: Whenever I argue that it’s a mistake to look to the government to sustain a Christian culture, they counter that the government should have an interest in promoting Christianity because it is essential to sustain our democratic society.

For example, Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said at the National Conservatism Conference in September, “I am thankful to live in a society that is the inheritance of a Judeo-Christian civilization because it has established the very freedoms that we know.” So far, so good. Mohler is right that Christianity played an important role in shaping America and inspiring some of our founding principles. ...

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Popular meme accounts lose social media pages after being reported by Authentic Media, which says it coined the phrase.

Worship Leader Probs was a meme account and podcast dedicated to the challenges of music ministry, but last week its creators revealed that they’ve lost social media pages and had to censor their brand due to a company claiming ownership to “two out of the three words” in their original name.

That company is Authentic Media, which runs a church resource called Worship Leader, once a print magazine and now available online. Authentic Media holds the trademark for “worship leader” and last year publicly stated that it planned “to continue to defend our trademark, as we have for decades.”

The dispute between Worship Leader and Worship Leader Probs dates back to October 2022, when Authentic Media explained its concerns about the name during a phone call with the creators of the meme account.

According to Joshua Swanson, editor in chief of Worship Leader and managing partner at Authentic Media, the company “woke up to the fact that people were using our brand,” and in 2022, he and others at Authentic Media became particularly concerned about brand confusion with Worship Leader Probs.

“It became a material issue for us. Our mission and their mission do not align,” Swanson told CT. “It became a major conflict. We would be at events, and people thought we were them and they were us.”

The phone call last fall did not resolve things, and after months at an impasse, Authentic Media began reporting Worship Leader Probs’ social media accounts for trademark infringement in February 2023.

Before losing its accounts, Worship Leader Probs had 15,000 followers on Facebook and 45,000 followers on TikTok. ...

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Hunt admits to “kissing and some awkward fondling” but alleges defamation after the account was reported in last year’s Guidepost abuse investigation.

A disgraced former Southern Baptist president is suing the denomination he once led, saying he was defamed by allegations he assaulted another pastor’s wife.

In a complaint filed in the federal court for the Middle District of Tennessee, lawyers for the Rev. Johnny Hunt, a longtime Georgia megachurch pastor, admit Hunt “had a brief, inappropriate, extramarital encounter with a married woman” in 2012, but claims the incident was consensual and that it was a private matter that should not have been made public in a major 2022 report.

“Some of the precise details are disputed, but at most, the encounter lasted only a few minutes, and it involved only kissing and some awkward fondling,” according to the complaint.

The complaint said Hunt sought counseling and forgiveness for the incident, which the complaint said was “a sin.” However, Hunt never disclosed the incident to the First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia, where he was the pastor for three decades, or to the SBC’s North American Mission Board, where he was a vice president until resigning in 2022.

But the incident became public in May 2022, after it was discovered by investigators at Guidepost Solutions, a consulting firm that had been hired to investigate how SBC leaders had dealt with the issue of abuse.

Guidepost’s investigators included the incident as part of their report and described it as a sexual assault. Those investigators said they found the allegations against Hunt credible. The former SBC president at first denied the allegations, then claimed the incident was consensual.

The complaint alleges the SBC and Guidepost engaged in defamation and libel, that they invaded Hunt’s privacy, and intentionally ...

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