This past weekend at Eastbrook we took a pause on our preaching series, “Who Do You Say I Am?”, in order to begin our annual MissionsFest. We had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Ed Stetzer for this kick-off weekend of MissionsFest. Ed Stetzer is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books.
“The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.
“Evangelical Has Lost Its Meaning” – Ever since the last presidential election, there have been debates about the meaning of the word ‘evangelical.’ Books have been written not merely about the history of the movement and meaning of the word, but, more recently, whether the word has any continue relevance (watch for the forthcoming book edited by historians Mark Noll, David Bebbington, and George Marsden, Evangelicals: Who They Have Been, Are Now, and Could Be). I think, in many ways, the central question is whether the word ‘evangelical’ has any shared meaning that communicates broadly, as it did in the past. I doubt that it does, and here is Alan Jacobs to make a much more convincing case than I could about that as he reviews Thomas S. Kidd’s recent book, Who Is an Evangelical? The History of a Movement in Crisis. You may also enjoy Christianity Today‘s recent “Quick to Listen” podcast with editor Mark Galli, “So, What’s an Evangelical?” and The Englewood Review of Books booklist “Evangelicalism – Ten Books for Assessing its Present and Future.”
“Why it matters if your Bible was translated by a racially diverse group” – Esau McCaulley, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, engages with whether the make-up of Bible translation committees is important or not. “As a New Testament scholar, I’ve discovered that people of color and women have rarely led or participated in Bible translation. On one hand, this doesn’t trouble me much. It is hard to mess up the story of the Exodus, distort the message of the prophets or dismantle the story of Jesus. It is all there in every English translation. On the other, I believe it matters who translates the Bible, and that more diverse translation committees could inspire fresh confidence among Christians of color. Such a translation would allow black Christians and others to ‘know with certainty the things that you have been taught’ (Luke 1:4).”
“Black Christians Deserve Better Than Companies (And Churches) Like Relevant Media Group” – When I read this article I was simultaneously disappointed and not surprised. These issues are so very difficult to navigate, and few are doing it well. Every majority culture leader/pastor needs to pay attention to what Andre Henry is saying as he recounts his negative experiences as an editor at Relevant. “RELEVANT remains without excuse for the patterns of tokenization of black people and fetishization of racial justice efforts that characterize their work, and the harm it has caused to Black people within and outside of the organization. As long as they refuse to acknowledge this about their praxis, they’ll remain an unsafe environment for Black people and a collaborator in the racist status quo while giving themselves credit for being an ally.” You can also read Relevant‘s response here and a summary of related news gathered by Religion News Service.
Visual Commentary on Scripture – I was talking after our worship services this past weekend with an artist within our church about some of the images I use while preaching, which are often taken from paintings on themes somewhat related to the passage from which I am preaching. Not too long ago, I came across The Visual Commentary on Scripture, which is a fascinating resource “that provides theological commentary on the Bible in dialogue with works of art. It helps its users to (re)discover the Bible in new ways through the illuminating interaction of artworks, scriptural texts, and commissioned commentaries.” Maybe you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.
“Wheaton College students sue city, say rights to free speech, religious liberty were violated by guards booting them from Millennium Park, restricting access” – When I was an undergrad at Wheaton College, I decided to join in with a team of students sharing their faith in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. This team was led by a group of students with a passion to share Christ in a loving yet clear way with others. One of them was my wife, Kelly, who challenged me then (and still does today) to let the passion I had for Christ make its way out of my mouth through spiritual conversations. With all the conversation about the loss of evangelistic zeal in the North American church today, I was surprised on several fronts to read this Chicago Tribune story of Wheaton College students sharing their faith at Millennium Park in Chicago and also the free speech lawsuit that has arisen around them being asked to not share in the park. This isn’t just about religious groups, but also pertains to political groups and the like. It does raise the question of the nature of free speech in contemporary democratic societies. I also can’t help but think of the fascinating tradition of Speakers’ Corner in London’s Hyde Park.
“‘Afraid We Will Become The Next Xinjiang’: China’s Hui Muslims Face Crackdown” – Religious freedom in democratic societies seems lightweight compared to what happens in non-democratic societies. If you have not paid attention to the intensification of pressure on religious minorities in China, let me urge you to start paying attention. This latest NPR piece focuses on minority Hui Muslims, and is an echo of the efforts brought against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and Christians throughout the country.
“Seeing the Beauty of Dappled Things: Gerard Manley Hopkins” – Confession: my favorite poet of all time is Gerard Manley Hopkins. I appreciate the poetry of so many other poets that I hate to mention them by name here, but I find myself returning to Hopkins again and again. Perhaps that’s because my first reading of his poetry in high school startled me awake to literature and faith with such vibrant metaphors, skipping rhythms, and striking imagery. I hope that you enjoy as much as I did reading this 2017 article by physician Raymond C. Barfield on how Hopkins’ poetry enabled him to see the beauty of God’s world with fresh eyes.
“North America Has Lost More Than 1 in 4 Birds in Last 50 Years, New Study Says” – John Stott, the renowned Bible teacher and author, enjoyed birds for their own sake and as teachers of theological truths. In his most unique book, The Birds, Our Teachers: Essays in Orni-theology, Stott takes the reader on an adventure inside his own wonder and theological reflection over the variegated beauty of birds. In his own way, Stott was attempting to live out what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Consider the birds of the air…” (Matthew 6:26). But today we have to consider this startling news: a recent study records a drastic decrease in bird population in North America. As stewards of the earth, we should be concerned. As those who enjoy this world charged with God’s grandeur, we should be grieved.
[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]
As a graduate of Wheaton College (IL), I received this email just moments ago related to Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is also an alumnus of the college. While this is a call to prayer for the Wheaton College campus and extended community, I encourage you to join in the spirit of this intercessory prayer wherever you may be.
As even mainstream news media have reported, Brunson is caught up as a pawn in the political machinations between the United States and Turkey. Even for those who are not Christians or religious at all, this should cause concern for religious freedom and tolerance in the public square. Sam Brownback, US ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, who is observing the trial, said: “The United States cares deeply about our relationship with Turkey. That relationship is going to have difficulty moving forward as long as Andrew Brunson is incarcerated.”
Earlier today Rev. Andrew Brunson ’88 began to stand trial in a Turkish courtroom. We invite all Wheaton College alumni to join our campus community in praying for his acquittal and immediate release. For more information, read the call to prayer below from the Office of the Chaplain.
TO: Campus Community
FROM: The Office of the Chaplain
RE: Prayers for Alumnus Andrew Brunson
As many of you know, we have been praying for the release of ’88 alumnus and Protestant Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from the time of his arrest in Izmir, Turkey on October 7, 2016 to the present. Imprisoned and held on false charges of terrorism, it is widely believed that Andrew is being used as a political pawn by the Turkish government to leverage the extradition of Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and is believed by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to be behind an attempted rebellion to overthrow the government in July of 2016.
Prior to his arrest, Pastor Brunson had peacefully lived and ministered in Turkey for 23 years.
Rev. Brunson has been scheduled to appear in court this Monday, April 16 at 9:00 am (1:00 am on Monday our time). If the charges against him are upheld — claiming he supported both the secessionist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrilla movement, and the outlawed organization of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, Pastor Brunson could be sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Please pray for God’s peace to enfold Andrew, his wife Norine and their children. Pray that Andrew will know the reality of God’s presence with him and His love for him, and be able to trust Him with his life and future. Pray for the Lord to give Andrew words to say before the Turkish lawyers and government officials who are trying to trap and condemn him. Pray for the Lord to oversee all that happens in the courtroom.
Most importantly, pray for the glory and renown of the Name of the Lord in the country of Turkey, once the seat of power of the Christian ruler Constantine. Pray, as in Daniel’s day, the power of the Lord will be revealed and the fear of the Lord would spread, overtaking the government rulers and officials who seek to dismiss and destroy His own. Pray that many in the country of Turkey and in the world will believe in the Lord as an outcome of Andrew’s imprisonment.
If you would like to join others in prayer, students have planned a prayer vigil in Gold Star Chapel in the Beamer Center throughout the day and night on Sunday, with plans to sing his hymn at 8:00 pm.
Thank you for praying and seeking the Lord on Andrew’s behalf.