CT Blog

News: A Tale of Two Calvary Chapels: Behind the Movement’s Split

Chuck Smith’s successor says he is expanding founder’s vision. Other leaders say he’s diluting it.

What would Chuck Smith do?

Three years after the Calvary Chapel founder’s death, church leaders continue to look to his legacy to defend competing views of the movement’s future.

Smith’s son-in-law and successor at California flagship Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Brian Brodersen, left the Calvary Chapel Association (CCA) this past fall with plans to build on Smith’s vision—but from outside the fellowship that “Pastor Chuck” began.

“As I look at the current situation within Calvary Chapel, I don’t see this separation as negative but rather [as] necessary for God’s work to be expanded,” announced Brodersen, who launched a broader, looser body focused on international missions called the Calvary Chapel Global Network (CCGN).

His statement likened the split to the biblical example of Paul and Barnabas going different ways based on different understandings of mission.

However, a CCA council member compared Brodersen’s departure to a different biblical example: Mark leaving Paul’s authority.

Brodersen’s congregation maintains CalvaryChapel.com, and still includes the association’s 1,700 churches in the new CCGN unless they opt out. The CCA council stated they “cannot endorse” Brodersen’s network and recommended that churches leave it.

What he sees as growing Smith’s vision, they see as diluting it.

“Pastor Chuck left us a glorious legacy. Yet the new [CCGN], established by Brian Brodersen, now threatens that legacy,” the CCA council stated in late November. “Such a network will ultimately de-emphasize our Calvary Chapel distinctives … and will cause confusion.”

A post on Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa’s ...

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The BGCE Gospel Life Podcast (Ep. 3)

Start each week with this encouragement to show and share the love of Jesus.

Episode Three | Is There a One-Size-Fits-All Evangelism?

Today Christina Walker, Associate Director of Academic Programs at the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, talks about how people experience love differently and why our evangelism must take that into account. How can we best love each individual person we encounter this week? We show and share the love of Jesus best when we move past a one-size-fits-all strategy.

Episode Two | Are You Praying for Gospel Conversations?

John C. Richards, managing director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, discusses the importance of praying for gospel conversations. Once we start praying, God will begin to open doors, and it will astonish us what He will then do. So if you aren’t, start praying this week that God would lead you to the people He wants you to engage with the good news of Jesus.

Episode One | Why is Gospel Witness Important?

Join Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, as he discusses the reality of where we are without Jesus, the importance of gospel witness, and our role in pointing others to Jesus.

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

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Died: H. Wilbert Norton, Who Taught Christian Colleges to Care About Missions

Congo missionary and TEDS, Wheaton, and RTS educator organized first Urbana conference.

H. Wilbert Norton, whose lifelong leadership brought a missions focus to Christian higher education, died last Monday, less than a week after celebrating his 102nd birthday.

Norton served at more than a half-dozen Christian schools prior to his retirement in 2003, expanded theological education in Africa as an Evangelical Free Church missionary, and helped organize InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s earliest student mission conference.

“Norton’s widespread impact as a church and denominational leader, educator, and missionary has left an amazing legacy,” said Trinity International University president David S. Dockery, who gave the sermon at his funeral Saturday. “We offer thanks to God for [his] life and influence.”

Norton launched missions programs at: Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he also served as president; Wheaton College Graduate School, where he also served as dean; and Reformed Theological Seminary, where he taught in Jackson, Mississippi, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Norton’s warm heart for sharing the gospel and visionary leadership for global missions has an enduring legacy in the world today through the many lives he touched and the many thriving institutions … that he worked to start or helped to grow,” stated Philip Ryken, Wheaton’s president.

Part of the first masters-level cohort at Columbia Bible College in the late 1930s, the Chicago native and Wheaton alumnus served as one of the first leaders of the Student Foreign Missions Fellowship—an evangelical counterpart to the Student Volunteer Movement, which had shifted more theologically liberal.

The organization became a part of the early InterVarsity Christian Fellowship ...

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Does ‘The Image of God’ Extend to Robots, Too?

On-screen depictions of artificial intelligence like 'Westworld' complicate our understanding of the imago Dei.

Christians believe that people—unlike robots—are made in the image of God. But shows like Westworld makes us wonder: In whose image are robots made?

The answer seems to be “ourselves.” As research into artificial intelligence continues, we will continue on the path of making artificial intelligence (AI) in our image. But can Christian thought provide an alternative approach to how robots are made?

The original Westworld, which starred Yul Brynner as the Gunslinger, was a product of the 1970s—a time when an intelligent robot was still a far-off possibility. At the time, filmmakers and audiences treated these robots instrumentally; there was little sympathy for the robot dead.

Times, however, have changed. Christopher Orr, writing in The Atlantic, notes that there is a major philosophical shift in the newest version of Westworld: A shift from concern for the creators, made of flesh and blood, to concern for the created, made of steel and silicon.

As Orr points out, storytellers from books and film have wondered about intelligent robots for at least a century. What is changing now, though, Orr notes, is the perspective: The former instrumental view of artificial intelligence is being replaced with a much more personal view. Like the iPhone-esque tricorder first popularized by James T. Kirk in 1967, the intelligent robot—predicated on rapid advancement in AI—is no longer a figment of scientific imagination, but a developing reality poised to take center stage in our rapidly changing world. Indeed, just this month, the European Union began discussing the establishment of “electronic personhood” to ensure rights and responsibilities for the smartest AI.

Exactly what this implies ...

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Chaplain: They Jeered My Prayer in Jesus' Name at GOP Town Hall. Here's My Response.

"Jesus has been booed many times," says chaplain jeered during town hall prayer.

Ed: What happened last week when many at the town hall meeting started to protest during your prayer?

Michael: I’m a chaplain of the state of Louisiana with a group called The Capitol Commission. I was asked a week earlier to come in, like I often do at events throughout the state. For decades, most of our events have opened up with an invocation of prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and then whatever the event is.

I fully expected to ask the blessing upon the meeting, have a sense of dependence on God and in God we trust, together we would say the pledge, and then the meeting would proceed. However, there were about 800 people present, and only 200 seats available. It was a crowd that was amped up at the start, and when Senator Bill Cassidy arrived, I kicked things off with prayer. However, there was so much shouting and chaos that I paused for a moment to see whether I should start.

It was clear after a while that it wasn’t going to stop, so I proceeded with the prayer. As I prayed in Jesus’ name, there were shouts of “Lucifer” and “separation of church and state.” Some people referred to me as a Nazi. That was the atmosphere during the prayer time. During the pledge, there was also a little disrespect. Many people turned their backs or shouted during the pledge, dishonoring the time.

Ed: Were there other factors that came into this? Many people remember the Democrats supposedly booing during the DNC when in reality the booing was because of other issues. Did something similar happen here? Or were they actually booing you for praying?

Michael: Many who came seemed to have some honest concerns. Certainly, people had strong political opinions. I think it was an organized protest ...

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What is Biblical Preaching? Meeting the Needs of the People I Serve

“I’m just one beggar telling another beggar where I found bread.”

As a seminary student, I was assigned a book on preaching called Building Sermons to Meet People’s Needs. This book has taught me so much about how to plan my preaching throughout the year. When I’m planning my preaching, whether I’m planning to look at a New or Old Testament book, or do something more theological, it’s based on the needs I see in the church calendar. It’s based on the needs of the people I serve—out of a desire to shepherd and love them for Jesus.

I know this idea might be unpopular with some, just as I know there are some who believe that expository preaching is the only biblical way to preach. And I respect that. I just don’t believe it to be the case. I do believe in rooting everything I preach in Scripture, but I don’t believe we need to necessarily go through a text verse-by-verse, week-by-week, until you come to the end of a book. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but I don’t think we can say we must do it this way. Why? For a couple of reasons.

First, because we don’t see it in the Bible. You would think that if there was anyone who would take this approach, it would be someone like Paul; but he doesn’t. The lack of evidence of an early practice of verse-by-verse exposition makes it hard for me to say it’s the only way to preach.

Second, because I don’t believe most people really care if it’s truly verse-by-verse or not. I don’t know what your church is like, but at mine and probably any church in the deep south, I can safely guarantee that during football season, there will be people who are only attending every third Sunday. So, it doesn’t really matter to them if we were in Ephesians 1:1 ...

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Tim Keller Stepping Down as Redeemer Senior Pastor

The influential Reformed leader is moving away from his NYC pulpit as his church becomes three.

Later this year, Redeemer Presbyterian will no longer be a multisite megachurch in Manhattan, and Tim Keller will no longer be its senior pastor.

Keller, 66, announced at all eight Sunday services today that he will be stepping down from the pulpit. The move corresponds with a decades-long plan to transition the single Presbyterian Church in America congregation—which has grown to 5,000 members since it began 28 years ago—into three particular churches.

His last day as senior pastor will be July 1.

This move does not mean retirement for Manhattan’s most popular evangelical pastor and apologist; instead, Keller will work full-time teaching in a partner program with Reformed Theological Seminary and working with Redeemer’s City to City church planting network.

“Kathy and I are not going anywhere. New York is our home, and you are our people. We’re not leaving New York or the fellowship of Redeemer,” he assured the church Sunday. “I’m becoming a teacher-trainer …. There’s going to have to be a dramatic increase in church leaders in this city if we’re going to start all these churches.”

Redeemer posted a transcript and video of the announcement on its site on Monday.

“There’s a certain level of him that’s going to mourn the connection with a congregation and being their pastor,” said Kathy Keller, Tim’s wife and a staff member at Redeemer, in an interview with CT. “It’s a loss. But there’s also something very exciting that he’s going to.”

She said that her husband has been “so wired” to teach seminary courses already, and is excited to dedicate himself to teaching the next generation ...

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Study: Female Pastors Are on the Rise

And so are our impossible expectations for them.

“Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good,” stated Charlotte Elizabeth Whitton, the first female mayor of a major Canadian city.

Female leaders have experienced this firsthand for decades, and Whitton’s observation has been validated not only through personal experiences but also through study after study finding women must work harder to get hired, promoted, or named to leadership positions.

We expect a lot from women—to the point of perfection.

In its recent State of Pastors report, the Barna Group compiled findings from five different sources in addition to their own research to prompt leaders “to examine the support systems that surround pastors and imagine ways to strengthen those who serve today—and more adequately prepare the generation of pastors who will serve tomorrow.”

One trend the Barna Group noted is the slow and steady rise of female pastors. One of every 11 Protestant pastors is a woman—triple as many as 25 years ago—yet women often lead smaller congregations than men.

Though most pastors, regardless of gender, are satisfied with their role, female pastors are more likely than male pastors to wish they had been more prepared for the expectation they “must do everything” and must do it “perfectly.”

Further, the Barna Group found that female pastors are more likely than male pastors to report that congregants’ comments on their leadership were “critical,” “judging,” and “unhelpful.”

The researchers suggested that these results might be explained by the fact that women, who tend to serve smaller churches, have closer contact with congregants; by the fact they ...

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Missions Sunday: Church-Planting Catalysts for Gospel Movements (Part 1)

Catalytic Inputs that Contribute to Movement Development

Many pastors and missionaries are crossing the globe, teaching, encouraging, and resourcing with good intentions, but questionable effectiveness. Other church-planting catalysts, especially those who work within a denominational framework, manage systems like assessment, church-planter boot camp, financial support, coaching, and others. They try to maintain some church-planting momentum, but rarely achieve movement.

Dr. Paul Gupta from the Hindustan Bible Institute calls for another type of church-planting catalyst, one that contributes to the apostolic advance of gospel movements (1):

Expatriates have an even greater role to play: equipping and mobilizing thousands in these newly planted churches to be on mission for God. As a trainer, consultant, and facilitator, expatriates may serve the national church to develop a church-planting movement, or to equip that movement with the essential leadership skills and resources to grow mature, dynamic Christians and churches. (Gupta 2000, 98)

This article is my attempt to contribute some best practices of church-planting catalysts that contribute to gospel movements, based on fifteen years of experience, reading, and reflection. I served first as a church-planting catalyst for Latin America, then was asked to develop others globally. These are some practical outworkings of the apostolic model of church multiplication that my co-author Craig Ott and I have laid out in the book Global Church Planting: Biblical Principles and Best Practices for Multiplication (2011).

In 2001, I received a call to teach a church-planting course in southern Brazil. We wrestled with new paradigms of a lay movement during five packed, taxing, and unforgettable ten-hour days under a canopy in the sweltering ...

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News: Evangelical Critics: Franklin Graham’s Evangelism Won’t Work in Vancouver

Canadian pastors debate whether Trump baggage will hurt local outreach efforts.

Compared to Franklin Graham’s evangelistic rallies in far-off countries, his upcoming event in Vancouver is relatively close to home. But the diverse, mostly secular Canadian city is culturally a world away from the Bible Belt.

That’s partly why a group of fellow evangelicals has joined local Christian leaders asking him not to speak at the Festival of Hope, a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association event scheduled to take place next week in the Vancouver Canucks’ arena.

For months, a group of Vancouver pastors have raised concerns about Graham’s “contentious and confrontational political and social rhetoric,” particularly his characterizations of the LGBT community, Muslims, and immigrants.

Context matters for evangelism, and they worry that a figure who has made such controversial remarks won’t be a good fit to share the Good News with the more progressive people of Vancouver. Especially not right now.

“Given that the express goal of this event is evangelism, with the commitment of new believers to Christ, we do not believe that Rev. Graham … should be the exemplar that impresses itself on these new believers,” wrote four evangelical pastors and a Catholic leader who were invited to endorse the March 3–5 event, but opposed Graham’s place as keynote speaker.

The latest statement against Graham’s appearance was released Friday afternoon and signed by leaders representing 60 percent of Vancouver’s Christians. Pastors from Baptist, Reformed, Foursquare, Vineyard, and nondenominational churches signed the letter, along with representatives from Catholic and mainline churches.

“Hopefully it will differentiate the mainstream Christian vision from ...

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What are these "Five Solas" and Why Do They Even Matter? An Interview with College Church Pastor Josh Moody

Solas are essential to understand if we are to understand the Reformation

Josh Moody is the pastor of College Church. We’ve become fast friends and I drive (or walk) by his church at least five times a week. It’s a great blessing to our community and has a long and powerful history.

Josh and I have been discussing theology, and often have come back to the solas. We are even doing a conference together around the solas. But it seems to me that, outside of Calvinistic circles, people don’t talk about the solas much—and they need to. As such, I asked Josh a bit about it—but first I wanted to ask what it is like to pastor a church like College Church (formerly pastored by Kent Hughes, for example).

Josh, tell me what it’s like to pastor a historic church like College Church.

Being a pastor anywhere is a great joy and a great challenge, but pastoring a historic church is probably fascinating in its own way. There are reasons things have been done a certain way for a long time, and you have to learn them as you go. And, of course, you stand on the legacy of those who came before you (like Kent Hughes in my case), but you also are called to lead the church in a new era with new plans. But, it’s a great blessing to have such a heritage, but also such a great future.

Of course, pastoring is always a challenge. I had someone who jumped into help us with something this week observe my daily working patterns and said ‘hey do you always work this hard?’, to which the reply was ‘yeah, pretty much.’ Pastoring is dying, being the scum of the earth; it’s a serving job, it’s not a look-at-me-aren’t-I-great job. The humanity in us all sometimes baulks at being a living sacrifice, and we all have to find ways to get low and serve. And ...

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