Americans are rapidly giving up on church. Our minds and bodies will pay the price.
The Reverend William Glass is an Anglican priest and theologian, fluent in five languages and possessing an impressive résumé in marketing. His story isn’t one of privilege, however. In Glass’s view, the church saved his life.
Glass grew up desperately poor in a Florida trailer park. His family went to church perhaps once a year, but his religious background was, in his words, “Southern alcoholic.” His father was either absent or abusive, he had no close friends, and when he attended school it was a torment. Barely into his teens, he began to manage the stress with drugs and alcohol.
But then Glass visited a Presbyterian youth group to “impress a girl.” It didn’t change everything overnight: He continued to have a rough life, including a brush with homelessness. But Glass also had friends in churches who took care of him during crises, helped him stay connected, and showed him another way to live.
As Glass sees it, church above all offered him “social and relational capital” that was in short supply in his fragmented communities. “The bonds I formed in church,” he says, “meant that when things got bad, there was something else to do besides the next bad thing.”
Glass’s case might be a dramatic one, but it illustrates a documented pattern in our society: People find their social and personal lives improved—sometimes their lives are even physically saved—when they go to church often.
In 2019, Gallup reported that only 36 percent of Americans view organized religion with “a great deal of confidence,” down from 68 percent in 1975. The study’s authors speculate that this trend has been driven in part by the ...
How God used a stiff prison sentence and a church invitation to rescue me from a downward spiral of guns, drugs, and despair.
Growing up as a Black American male in a rough Seattle neighborhood almost doomed my future. In many ways I was marked for failure. Even a violent early death.
My mother, a nurse, worked long hours providing for my sister Angela and me after our father left us. Although he lived 10 blocks away, he was never active in our lives, financially or otherwise.
My mother loved us and disciplined us, but I needed a strong and responsible male figure in my life. None of my friends were raised in a traditional two-parent home, either.
Racial disparities surfaced early on. In my preteens I learned how differently teachers disciplined white and Black kids. They singled us out more.
Yet I never crusaded against racial injustice. It just seemed normal for our community. The police hassled us regularly for just hanging out at a bus stop or street corner. Sometimes three or four squad cars pulled up with officers jumping out, yelling and cursing, to search our pockets for no good reason.
Seduced by the streets
In elementary and middle school, I made good grades and obeyed my mom’s warnings to behave. She never allowed me to stay out late in the streets. I was more or less a loner, rarely getting into trouble.
Things changed, however, when I entered high school in 1981 after being bussed into the suburbs. I began hanging out with the wrong guys. The gang culture, drugs, and partying eventually seduced me. I loved hip-hop music and street dancing. At 16, I joined the Emerald Street Boys Rap group. We performed around the city and made an album. Then I slowly lost interest in school, skipped classes, and quit altogether, worrying my mother.
California gangs began migrating to our neighborhood, where they sold cocaine and bred more violence. I ...
Leading InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has given me a chance to see how younger believers model spiritual resilience.
Recent reports of declining religious engagement paint a sad picture about the future of the church in the United States. But from my perspective leading InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I’ve seen how younger Christians may offer us a road map for hope, particularly for those of us from earlier generations.
In some ways, it’s almost remarkable that Gen Z students still have a desire to grow spiritually at all. During a pivotal stage of life, which most of us remember as a season of optimism and opportunity, they are grappling with an ongoing pandemic, political divisions, racial injustices, and campus openings and closures.
In a time when practical discipleship may be the least of their worries, it would be easy to let the complexities and pressures of life crowd out the spiritual. But these recent crises have had a spiritually clarifying effect on them. This generation has a spiritual hunger and a desire to grow into disciples prepared to engage a turbulent world.
Here are five ways I’ve seen Gen Z college students modeling a deeper, more resilient faith that older generations can learn from.
1. Spiritually resilient people know how to wait
God is showing Gen Z how to wait in a culture that hates to wait for anything. It might come as a surprise that this generation of Christians—all of whom grew up with instantaneous access to the internet—has the capacity for patience. But I have watched them embrace what author and pastor Ben Patterson says in his book Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent: “At least as important as the things we wait for is the work God wants to do in us as we wait.”
Where many in older generations have responded to delayed gratification with self-soothing, ...
One year since the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, a Russian-led reconciliation summit is the first meeting between spiritual leaders since 2017.
After 17 tries, there is still no peace in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Almost a year ago, Russia brokered a November 2020 ceasefire to end the 44-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Caucasus mountain enclave. Azerbaijan reclaimed most of its internationally recognized territory occupied since 1994 by ethnic Armenians, who demand independence.
Armenia has been a Christian nation since A.D. 301. Azerbaijan is majority Muslim. But spiritual leaders have been no more successful than politicians or generals at securing reconciliation.
Yet that has not stopped Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I from trying.
“Our religions have a unique peace-making potential,” he stated at last week’s tripartite summit of top clerical leaders. “No matter how difficult Armenian-Azerbaijani relations are at this stage, we believe that it is faith in God, and love, that can help heal the wounds.”
And they are many.
The post–Soviet Union conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh—called Artsakh by Armenians—killed 30,000 people and displaced 1 million. As Azerbaijan recaptured the territory—slightly larger than Rhode Island—last year, another 7,000 were killed. Mutual acrimony has characterized relations, with both sides accusing the other of destroying their religious heritage.
The first meeting of spiritual leaders was held in 1993. The 16th in 2017.
Simply by bringing these leaders together, Kirill achieved a level of success. Standing with Karekin II, the Armenian catholicos on his right, and Allahshukur Pashazade, Azerbaijan’s Grand Mufti of the Caucasus, on his left, he read a joint statement calling for respect for shrines and monuments, resistance to radicalization, and the avoidance of hate ...
New law puts additional requirements on any religious leader who was trained abroad.
For half a decade, Russian evangelicals have feared the repercussions of anti-extremism laws that monitor and restrict religious life in the country. New amendments to the religion laws, set to go into effect this month, extend government regulations on religious training following a string of recent seminary shutdowns.
The country has mandated that all clergy, religious leaders, and missionaries who were trained abroad take a course in “state-confessional relations in the Russian Federation” and then become recertified by a centralized religious organization, Forum 18 reported earlier this year.
Like many Russian evangelical leaders, Moscow Theological Seminary president Peter Mitskevich is concerned about the implementation of the new amendments, which are said to be the biggest increase in government control of religion since the 2016 Yarovaya law banned evangelism in the country.
“We want to work legally in Russia so we can focus on influencing Russia for the gospel,” said Mitskevich, who also serves as executive director of the Russian Baptist Union. “We are taking steps to make sure we understand the requirements and try to meet all the issues.”
Moscow Theological Seminary has already experienced the effects of the country’s legal oversight. The seminary lost its license and had its buildings sealed after an inspection by the Federal Service for Supervision in Education and Science (Rosobrnadzor) in October 2018.
The agency reported the seminary had lacked a “developed and approved educational program” and listed what government inspectors considered occupational safety and health issues. It wasn’t until July 2021 that the government issued a new license for the ...
Exit appears to mark end of internal struggle over RZIM culture review.
The CEO of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) has stepped down to start a new apologetics organization.
Sarah Davis led RZIM through her father Ravi Zacharias’s death, the posthumous investigation of his sexual abuse, and the breakup and dramatic downsizing of the global apologetics ministry. Now, she will go out on her own and launch a new ministry called Encounter.
According to incorporation papers filed with the state of Georgia, Encounter’s purpose is “carrying the Gospel invitation to individuals and engaging in their questions so that they may encounter the love of Christ and enter relationship with Him.” It will also engage “thoughtful individuals in Gospel conversations,” and work on “training and discipling messengers of Christ’s love for their spheres of influence.”
The mission is not that different from the one stated on RZIM’s incorporation papers filed in the state of Georgia in 1986, when Davis was 10. RZIM was founded for “proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world” and “assistance in the development of evangelical Christian leadership.”
Davis, now 46, declined to answer questions about the new ministry. An RZIM spokesperson did not return a request for comment.
Davis’s departure may pave the way for RZIM’s relaunch. The ministry announced in March it would regroup and rebrand as soon as a complete culture review was finished.
The exit appears to mark an end to the internal struggle over that culture review. RZIM leadership disagreed over whether the ministry bears any corporate responsibility for Zacharias’s sin and whether there was a need for a full examination of RZIM’s culture and practices ...
Some Copts cheer Sisi’s stance and new five-year reform strategy, while others focus on absence of attention to problematic ID cards and reconciliation committees.
Committing Egypt to a five-year program of human rights reform, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did not mince words about religion.
“If someone tells me they are neither Muslim nor Christian nor a Jew or that he or she does not believe in religion, I will tell them, ‘You are free to choose,’” he said. “But will a society that has been conditioned to think in a certain way for the last 90 years accept this?”
The comment sent shockwaves through Egyptian society.
“Listening to him, I thought he was so brave,” said Samira Luka, senior director for dialogue at the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services. “Sisi is fighting not only a culture but a dogma.”
Last month, the government released its first-ever National Human Rights Strategy after studying the path of improvement in 30 other nations, including New Zealand, South Korea, and Finland. The head of the UN Human Rights Council praised the 100-page [in English] document as a “key tool” with “concrete steps.”
Egypt’s constitution guarantees freedom of belief and worship and gives international treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the force of law. But Article 98 of the Middle Eastern nation’s penal code stipulates up to five years in prison for blasphemy and has been used against atheists and Christians alike.
Will Sisi’s words signal a change?
Since his election in 2014, Egypt’s head of state has consistently spoken about the need to “renew religious discourse,” issuing a challenge to Muslim clerics. And prior to the launch of the new strategy, his comments even hinted at a broader application than atheism.
(UPDATED) Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries is praying members of 400 Mawozo would come to repentance and release 16 American and one Canadian adults and children.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A notorious Haitian gang known for brazen kidnappings and killings was accused by police Sunday of abducting 17 missionaries from a US-based organization. Five children were believed to be among those kidnapped, including a 2-year-old.
The 400 Mawozo gang kidnapped the group in Ganthier, a community that lies east of the capital of Port-au-Prince, Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne told The Associated Press. The gang was blamed for kidnapping five priests and two nuns earlier this year in Haiti.
The gang, whose name roughly translates to 400 “inexperienced men," controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area that includes Ganthier, where they carry out kidnappings and carjackings and extort business owners, according to authorities.
Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) requested “urgent prayer” for the kidnapped group, which consisted of 16 US citizens and one Canadian for a total of five children, seven women, and five men. The organization said they were on a trip to visit an orphanage.
“Join us in praying for those who are being held hostage, the kidnappers, and the families, friends, and churches of those affected,” CAM said in a statement. “As an organization, we commit this situation to God and trust him to see us through. May the Lord Jesus be magnified and many more people come to know His love and salvation.”
The statement cited verses from Psalm 91: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust … For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”
Christian health workers and pastors navigate stigma at Apostolic, evangelical, and Methodist congregations.
Yvonne Binda stands in front of the congregation, all dressed in pristine white robes, and tells them not to believe what they’ve heard about COVID-19 vaccines.
“The vaccine is not linked to Satanism,” she says. The worshipers, members of a Christian Apostolic church in Zimbabwe, are unmoved. But when Binda, a vaccine campaigner and member of an Apostolic church herself, promises them soap, buckets, and masks, there are enthusiastic shouts of “Amen!”
Apostolic groups that infuse traditional beliefs into Pentecostal doctrine are among the most skeptical in the southern African nation when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, with an already strong mistrust of modern medicine. Many followers put faith in prayer, holy water, and anointed stones to ward off disease or cure illnesses.
The worshipers Binda addressed in the rural area of Seke sang about being protected by the Holy Spirit, but have at least acknowledged soap and masks as a defense against the coronavirus. Binda is trying to convince them to also get vaccinated—and that’s a tough sell.
Congregation leader Kudzanayi Mudzoki had to work hard to persuade his flock just to stay and listen to Binda speak about vaccines.
“They usually run away,” he said. “Some would hide in the bushes.”
There has been little detailed research on Apostolic churches in Zimbabwe, but UNICEF studies estimate it is the largest religious denomination with around 2.5 million followers in a country of 15 million. The conservative groups adhere to a doctrine demanding that followers avoid medicines and medical care and instead seek healing through their faith.
Integrated into the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHCD) in 1993, the Apostolic ...
Q&A with Mission Aviation Fellowship President David Holsten on the challenges of reaching the most isolated villages in the world.
In a remote village on the side of a mountain in Papua, a man has been writing letters.
“I’ve written so many letters asking for teachers to come,” he says. “I’ve written so many letters, my pens have all run out of ink. I don’t have any more pens to write with. But then all of the sudden I heard you guys were coming. I was so happy hearing that I could not sleep at all last night.”
A new documentary tells the story of that arrival and the missionary pilots who support the work of Bible translators, church planters, and Christian teachers in the remotest mountain villages. Ends of the Earth will be playing in about 700 theaters across the US on Monday, October 18, and Thursday, October 21. It is also available to churches.
CT talked to Mission Aviation Fellowship President and CEO David Holsten about the importance of the documentary, his theology of missions, and the challenges of flying small planes in and out of mountain villages like Puluk, where it took the people 15 years to build a runway with picks, shovels, and crowbars.
What are your hopes for this documentary?
We want people to see with clarity how the gospel can bring lasting change to somebody living in great isolation—isolation that isn’t just geographical. They are spiritually isolated, linguistically isolated, ethnically isolated. In some of these villages, infant mortality is 80 percent, women and children are abused, and there’s constant war. It’s pretty horrific.
Liku, a Wano Bible teacher, says this in the documentary: “People in America might think we live in a pristine, beautiful place, but they haven’t seen for themselves what it is really like here.”
To birth, mature, equip and send out a body of faithful Ambassadors, who are secure in their identity, unified in purpose, effectively reaching a lost generation for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.