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Making America Hospitable for Religious Outsiders

Muslims (and other minorities) shouldn’t have to elevate national ideals above faith commitments before gaining a seat at the table of citizenship.

Eboo Patel’s latest book, Out of Many Faiths, explores the daunting challenges and encouraging possibilities at work amid America’s religious diversity.

In what might be the book’s most important contribution, Patel explores the history of America’s wrestling with religious diversity through an alternative and revealing lens—the Muslim American experience.

As a Muslim himself, Patel considers many illuminating themes and episodes from Islam’s complex history in America. He uncovers how Islam itself was repeatedly discussed by the Founding Fathers in their earliest deliberations about the nature of religious freedom in America. Countering a popular fear that Muslims came to America with dreams of dogmatic dominance, Patel reminds us that many of America’s earliest Muslims arrived on our shores in slave ships. Far from an invasion, it was a kidnapping.

Invoking another important historical episode, Patel discusses the complex and illuminating relationship America had with the great boxer Muhammed Ali and his Muslim faith. He examines the numerous ways in which Ali had to navigate being both beloved and vilified, accepted and rejected in his path toward inclusion in the greater American story.

Patel goes on to examine how Muslim Americans attempted to establish a community center in lower Manhattan after 9/11. Their original hope, he explains, was to serve not only their own Muslim community but the greater city of New York itself. That said, their hopes were frustrated by their fellow Americans, many of whom saw the community center as a disrespectful and intrusive act of religious aggression in the former shadow of the twin towers.

Patel skillfully uses the lens of American history to ...

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The Danger of “Christian” Infamy

Fallen flesh doesn’t like simply being sent. We’d rather build our own tower for our own glory.

Last week, the Send Institute ran a poignant piece by John Davidson that argued for the decoupling of church planting and entrepreneurship. Davidson writes, “Rather than framing planting as ecclesial entrepreneurship, the church would be better served if we framed it biblically. The way to do that is by calling it what it is, apostolic ecclesiology.”

He argues that the business nomenclature that characterizes entrepreneurship stands in stark contrast to the simple sentness of the biblical apostles and those who follow in their patterns. I’m a big fan of John Davidson.

Simple sentness.

Is there anything our world needs more of?

Our present missiological matrix necessitates a wholesale change in the normative ambition of kingdom disciples. This begins, at least in part, by the posture of both those leading existing churches and those starting new ones.

The public perception regarding this work might be at an all-time low. There was once a day when the mention of the word “pastor” conjured images of maturity, wisdom, and tender care. These days the term is more often conflated with abuse of power, predatory behavior, or chauvinism.

Much of this we’ve brought on ourselves. The siren’s call of the grandiose platform, international audiences, and the adoring fans, has lulled far too many of us from the simple course to which we were called.

For many, there may have been a time when “simple sentness” was the passion of our hearts. God captured our very souls with the good news of Jesus and we longed for others to experience his grace.

But something happened. Simple sentness wasn’t enough, so we continually grappled for more. In reality, Jesus wasn’t enough. As with most ...

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Emerging Adults and the Church: Is There Really an Exodus?

Are emerging adults are leaving their faith behind? We are hosting a conference to explore this question.

It seems every few weeks a new article makes the rounds on social media heralding the collapse of religion in America. Often central to these pieces is an emphasis on the role of emerging adults, focusing either on their declining church attendance or their rejection of traditional beliefs or practices.

Emerging adulthood describes that phase of life between adolescence and full adulthood as marked by transitions like marriage and kids, settled careers, and owning a home. This life stage covers people ages 18-29 or so.

So what are we to make of the claim? Are emerging adults are leaving their faith behind?

Yes.

And no.

And maybe.

Let me explain…

Let’s start with yes. There is ample evidence to suggest that many emerging adults are questioning the religious beliefs and practices of their Christian upbringing while still others are leaving church altogether.

According to the Pew Religious Landscape study published in 2015, younger emerging adults (18-24), identify as nones at a 36 percent rate compared to only 25 percent in 2007. Just last month, LifeWay Research reported that “two-thirds (66 percent) of American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager say they also dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22.”

While many return, Kara Powell in Growing Young estimated the long-term loss at around 50 percent of those who initially left. Attempts to explain this exodus vary and often include descriptors of emerging adult spirituality like “Spiritual by not Religious” to characterize those who still value spirituality but have rejected religious organizations or doctrines as ways of pursuing their spiritual interests.

Turning to the ...

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How to Jump Back In to Bible Reading

Christian leaders have their own reasons for not reading Scripture.

It’s worth remembering that Augustine was “weeping, with agonizing anguish in [his] heart” over his inability to control himself before he read Romans 13:13–14.

We tend to think that Scripture usually works the other direction. We read seeking instruction, wisdom, or intimacy and then read a challenging word like Paul’s that prompts contrition: “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” We’re convicted by Scripture, then we repent.

But in Augustine’s archetypal testimony, Confessions, that’s not what happened. First he was in anguish, then he heard a child chanting, “Pick it up! Read it! Pick it up! Read it!” He wrote (in Sarah Ruden’s 2017 translation) that when he obeyed the voice and read Paul’s words, “I didn’t want to read further, and there was no need. The instant I finished this sentence, my heart was virtually flooded with a light of relief and certitude, and all the darkness of my hesitation scattered away.” His response was not to wallow or to regret how long it took him to repent. Instead, he immediately and joyfully told his friend Alypius and his mother what had happened.

Many times the Holy Spirit really does use Scripture to illuminate our sin and to make us deeply uncomfortable. It is, after all, “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). And “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful” (Heb. 12:11). Nevertheless, ...

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