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Body image is the mental representation we create of what we think we look like; it may or may not bear a close relation to how others actually see us. Body image issues are often treated as if they were only a problem for women (see here for 9 Things on female body images issues). But men suffer from many of the same debilitating problems caused by skewed perceptions of their bodies. Here are nine things you should know about male body image issues:

1. When it comes to weight concerns, a key difference between young men and young women is that females want to be thinner, while males tend to feel pressure to gain weight. “There are some males who do want to be thinner and are focused on thinness,” says Dr. Alison Field, an associate professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, “but many more are focused on wanting bigger or at least more toned and defined muscles. That’s a very different physique.”

2. One common body image problem for men is dissatisfaction with their muscularity (i.e., with having well-developed muscles). Research suggests that exposure to the media ideal of muscularity, and not muscularity per se, elicits body dissatisfaction in men with pre-existing muscularity concerns.

3. According to The Atlantic, even toys contribute to the distorted messages boys receive about the ideal male form. In the last decade or two, action figures have lost a tremendous proportion of fat and added a substantial proportion of muscle. “Only 1 or 2 percent of [males] actually have that body type,” says Dr. Raymond Lemberg, a clinical psychologist and expert on male eating disorders. “We’re presenting men in a way that is unnatural.”

4. Muscle dysmorphia – a pathological preoccupation with muscularity – appears to be a form of body dysmorphic disorder with a focus on muscularity (bodybuilders sometimes refer to this condition as “bigorexia”). One study found that those with muscle dysmorphia were more likely to have attempted suicide, had poorer quality of life, and had a higher frequency of any substance use disorder and anabolic steroid abuse.

5. A national study of adolescent boys published in JAMA Pediatrics found that males with high concerns about thinness but not muscularity were more likely to develop high depressive symptoms. Males with high concerns about muscularity and thinness were more likely than their peers to use drugs, and males with high concerns about muscularity who used supplements and other products to enhance physique were more likely to start binge drinking frequently and using drugs

6. Nationwide, about 4 percent of male high school students have taken steroids without a doctor’s prescription. The prevalence of having ever taken steroids without a doctor’s prescription was higher among Hispanic (4.2 percent) than white (2.8 percent) and black (2.3 percent) students. 

7. A survey in the U.K. found that four out of five men confess to being unhappy about their body. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they would trade a year of their life to achieve their ideal body weight or shape.

8. Research studies have found that approximately 4 percent of male college undergraduates are at risk for an eating disorder. The proportion of the male population estimated to have a condition at some point in their lifetime is 0.3 percent for anorexia nervosa, 0.5 percent bulimia nervosa, and 2.0 percent for binge eating disorder.

9. The only complete way to overcome the problem is to have our beliefs about body image transformed by the Holy Spirit. As Heather Davis Nelson says in the Journal of Biblical Counseling:

In pursuing worldly beauty, we strive to become this elusive image in place of who we really are. You and I are created in the image of the living God. Our purpose is to reflect His image to the world. But since the fall, we let the world inscribe its image on us. It is the very picture of sin and ultimately death. Instead of being transformed to God's image, we conform to the world's image. We are hopelessly stuck in a lifeless cycle, exchanging God for the creature as our object of worship. But God in His mercy rescued us! In love, God sent Jesus Christ to take on the consequences of our idolatrous affair. He became sin so that we might become righteous. In Christ, God gives us freedom from sin's power now and hope for its eradication in heaven. God makes you beautiful with the beauty of His Son, Jesus. It is in gazing at God's image in Jesus Christ that you are transformed. Romans 12:1-2 says, "Therefore, I urge you, (sisters) in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Other posts in this series:

Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • TGC • Prayer in the Bible • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • C.S. Lewis • Orphans • Halloween and Reformation Day • Down Syndrome •World Hunger • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 6th Street Baptist Church Bombing • 9/11 Attack Aftermath • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues

As a ministry dedicated to supporting the local church, The Gospel Coalition expects all our staff to give their time, talents, and tithes to that body for which Jesus Christ died. Many of us had studied and trained for pastoral ministry before God redirected us to TGC. Some of us loan these gifts to the events planning, international outreach, and online publishing tasks of TGC before we end up following that full-time call to ministry based in the local church. Such is the case with two TGC staffers now focusing their energies on the tasks of teaching, counseling, and leading in the church.

Moving On

John Starke worked several years full-time for TGC as an editor while also serving as solo pastor of his congregation on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Recently he began work as pastor for preaching at Apostles Church in New York City. We at TGC have long recognized and supported John's pastoral gifting, so we're thankful that he can now focus all his energies on his family and this blessed congregation. John served five years with TGC as he lived in three different states. He launched our book reviews and developed strong relationships with scores of writers. We will miss his godliness, wisdom, knowledge, and especially his love for God on the weekly editorial calls where we discuss ideas and debate issues.  We're grateful that he will continue to write for TGC as a contributor and weigh in on how we can support pastors facing various ministry challenges. 

Josh Mathews directed TGC operations, a monumental task that ranged from accounting and bookeeping to conference planning and promotion. Since graduating from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Josh has frequently shared his desire to transition into full-time church ministry. We give thanks that he'll be returning to Kenosha, Wisconsin, and joining the pastoral staff at CrossWay Community Church, led by TGC Council member Mike Bullmore. Josh will continue to share his accounting experience and gifting with TGC. But the thousands who attend our national conference each year will miss his ever-present smile and calm demeanor amid the tumult of these complex events.

Moving In 

Even as TGC braces for these losses we welcome new staff members with varied experiences and talents. We're excited to watch with you as they exercise their considerable gifting for the sake of the church around the world. 

Jeff Robinson joins TGC as an editor for our channels dedicated to ministry and Bible/theology. He earned his PhD at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and serves as senior fellow for the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist History and Tradition at Southern Seminary. Prior to entering ministry, he spent nearly 20 years as a newspaper journalist in Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky, covering everything from politics to Major League Baseball and SEC football. He is co-author with Michael Haykin of the new book To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Mission Vision and Legacy. Most recently he served for three years as a pastor in Birmingham, Alabama. Jeff and his wife Lisa have four children, and they will be moving back to Louisville where they look forward to reuniting with many friends and colleagues.

Gavin Ortlund will collaborate with Jeff on those two channels in his new role as TGC editor. Gavin is a youth pastor at Sierra Madre Congregational Church and PhD student at Fuller Theological Seminary in historical theology. He and his wife, Esther, live in Sierra Madre, California. They have one son named Isaiah and another child on the way. You will likely recognize Gavin from his many excellent articles and book reviews for TGC. Already we look forward to Gavin connecting TGC staff and readers around the world with the exciting work of God in Southern California. 

Andrea Froehlich, our new operations manager, has a background in politics and most recently served at Desiring God. Andrea has already worked to expand our translation initiative by handling much of the project management. She is also a valued asset in helping pull off our national conferences. Her diligence, creativity, and attention to detail allow her to help with many special projects within TGC. Andrea lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Steven Morales joins Coalición por el Evangelio director editorial Jairo Namnún as associate editor for TGC’s Spanish site. He works alongside Spanish-speaking contributors, editing and curating original Spanish articles, as well as translated content. 

 

Steven lives in Guatemala with his wife, where they are pursuing church planting in Guatemala City. He is also working on his MDiv at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Please join us in thanking our departing colleagues, welcoming new staff, and especially praying that God's will might be done through their tasks at TGC. 

Working in youth ministry you see the first wave of cultural changes. Just five years can make a major difference in how you communicate the good news of Jesus Christ. Where one class takes a keen interest in the individual aspects of salvation in justification and regeneration, a later cohort wants to know more about how God welcomes us together by adopting us into his family by faith. 

This new 10-minute video explores several of these challenges in youth ministry. It features insights from David Plant, director of youth ministry at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City; Cameron Cole, director of youth ministries at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama; and Liz Edrington, who is pursuing her master's degree in counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. 

Plant says youth workers need not fear change, because the Scriptures are alive and interesting, and students are curious to learn when they're taught effectively. Cole speaks from a different geographic context and reveals the fear of telling reckless teenagers that when they believe in Christ and receive his imputed righteousness, they are free to walk in faith, and not even their sin can destroy the covenant bonds. Edrington notes the rapid change in technology and how it alters perceptions of truth and the nature of relationships. 

All three serve on the board of advisers for Rooted, which aims to transform student ministry by fostering grace-driven and cross-centered leaders through rich theological and contextual engagement. This year's Rooted conference on "Truth in a World of Mixed Messages" runs October 9 to 11 in New York City and features Andrew Wilson as the keynote speaker.

I studied law under some of the top legal minds in the world. I learned about foreign affairs and the Constitution from an adviser to the State Department, corporations law from a former SEC commissioner, and criminal investigations from a United States circuit judge.

Throughout my three years in law school, though, there was one word that my professors never uttered and my classmates and I never mentioned. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw it referenced in any of the hundreds of Supreme Court cases that I read. Yet this one word—hospitality—is integral to the biblical idea of justice, order, and flourishing. 

Justice Is Personal

Justice needs a face. Yes, God created the world to have order and, in a broken world, we need curators of that order—governing bodies to cultivate the conditions for the various spheres of society to flourish. Yes, we need to work in the government and advocate in the public square.

But seeking justice must always be personal. It must always include vulnerability and hospitality—not just to members of the household of faith, but to strangers as well (cf. Heb. 13:2). For we cannot have true justice unless we remember that each person is made in God’s image. “Hospitality is saying, ‘You are significant. I honor you. I love you. You are under my roof,’ says John Perkins of the Christian Community Development Association. “Love and hospitality is the platform that makes justice—any kind of justice—available.”

Love Precedes Law

In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Jean Valjean is released from prison after having served 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread and attempting escape. When he tries to start anew in the town of Digne, though, no one is willing to give him shelter because he is an ex-convict. In desperation, he knocks on the door of the bishop, Monseigneur Bienvenu—whose name means “welcome”—and finds hospitality.

In the morning, Valjean rises early, steals the bishop’s silverware, and leaves. When the police arrest him, they bring him to Bienvenu for accusation. Yet the bishop covers for Valjean, telling the officers that the silverware was a gift. He then picks up the candlesticks, which were not taken, and hands them to Valjean, saying, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.” In this act, the bishop extends the ultimate form of hospitality—hospitality of the heart. His gift of grace is an effectual love, a love that invites the ex-convict to live in accordance with the law.

Divine Justice and Hospitality

In much the same way, Christ offered himself for us when we were still strangers (cf. Rom. 5:8). We were once “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).

But God set his divine justice on the platform of hospitality and love: “God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7).

Open Invitation

Few of us work in the public justice system, but all of us can do justice in our lives by showing hospitality. Seeking justice is not fundamentally about designing the right programs and systems, but about living in accord with the true vision of those made in God’s image. All of us can do what one theological teacher suggests: “Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.”

So when we think about these big ideas of justice, order, and flourishing, let us give them a face. Let us welcome the gift of each person—especially the stranger, the poor, the widow, and the orphan—into our homes, our churches, and our hearts. May we be invested, vulnerable, and hospitable, as we increasingly make spaces for them in our lives and places for them at our tables. For they are a gift of God in whom he himself delights.

*****

Summer Film Series: For a free 72-hour rental of the second episode of For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles ("The Economy of Order"), click here and enter code "TGC4." (Note: This TGC-exclusive rental code expires at midnight tonight. If you would like to purchase the entire series and its study guide at a special discounted price, visit Hearts & Minds.)

Dear brother and sister in Christ,

Although we haven’t met, God often places you in my thoughts and prayers. My heart is broken for you and your family. I'm so sorry that you have been temporarily parted from your little one. I know your child is safe with him, but I also know you miss your child terribly and long to meet and know him or her. I’m thankful that God will fulfill this longing of yours (and mine for my son Parker) someday.

I can appreciate the confusion you feel (This wasn’t supposed to happen, certainly not again or Why did you allow this, God? You could've have prevented my children from dying!), and we do feel cheated when death takes our loved ones, especially when they die so young. But you and I also know the Lord is upholding us and is trustworthy in everything he says and does. We won't necessarily have all our questions answered here, but we will always have our Father here with us to lead, instruct, comfort, and encourage us. Psalm 68 says that God daily bears our loads (another translation is he daily carries us in his arms). He is doing that for you, dear sister and brother.  

He knows what it is to suffer the death of a beloved Son. And the Son knows what it is to suffer in our place—he is the Man of Sorrows, well-acquainted with our grief. And the Holy Spirit is our constant Counselor and Comforter. Our Good Shepherd has given us all that we need.

You’re wondering when you’ll feel better, when the heaviness will lift. I don't know when your sadness will dissipate, but I know God will sufficiently sustain and help you in each moment. He won't fail you, not even when it seems your faith is faltering. He won't let the enemy snatch you from his hand. You are seen by the Lord even when the darkness and sadness of death shrouds you and you feel hidden from God's view. Even the darkness is light to him (Psalm 139).

You’re quickly discovering how difficult and painful it is to share (over and over) the news of your child’s death with acquaintances who didn’t initially hear of your loss. I am praying for God to pour out his great grace to you. He did that for me in the months following Parker's death when I encountered acquaintance after acquaintance (at the YMCA, grocery store, church, and so on) who didn't know he was stillborn and asked with great joy, “So, you had your baby?!”  

The Lord gave me grace upon grace to respond with honesty in my sorrow while helping me testify of his saving love to Parker and his great comfort to us. It was awkward at times, but God made it easier than it otherwise would have been. He will help you too. He goes before you to prepare others to hear your sorrowful news, and he comes behind to help comfort you and them, and relieve the awkwardness.  

You are constantly upheld in prayer—the Holy Spirit is praying for you with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8). I will continue to pray for you too.

I want to encourage you not to rush through your mourning, but to submit to the grace of God as you wrestle and weep and wait. The Lord will keep you moment by moment, day by day, month by month, year by year. My heart didn't begin to feel free of the overwhelming sadness of losing Parker until just after his first birthday. But like I said before, I don’t know when that time will be for you. I'm asking the Lord to give you courage and help you trust him each moment of each new day. 

I have been comforted by the hope we have as believers for resurrection and new life, when Christ returns to raise us up and make everything new. He will wipe away our tears, and there will be no more death, or sorrow, or crying or pain, because all of these things are gone forever (Rev. 21). I pray that you are overwhelmed by this encouraging reality too. We have hope that will never be disappointed. 

May our Father continue to comfort you in every longing for your child. May you be convinced that he is with you, and he will always be enough. May you rest assured that he will keep on comforting you and holding you. Take heart, dear ones. The Lord will soon turn your mourning into joyful dancing.  He will take away your clothes of mourning and clothe you with joy, that you might sing praises to him and not be silent (Psalm 30).

We thank God for his outpouring of blessing on about 4,000 women from 38 countries around the globe as we gathered in Orlando, June 27 to 29, for The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference.

In TGC’s women’s initiatives, we aim to encourage the growth of women in faithfully studying and sharing the Scriptures; in actively loving and serving the church; and in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in all our various callings. We believe TGCW14, by God's grace, helped move us on toward these goals.

And now we’re ready to keep on moving. Enjoy learning from dozens of workshops, plenary addresses from Nehemiah, and other resources captured at this remarkable event. We invite you to share these free resources with friends and family that they might know Christ and grow in their faith and love for him. 

TGC 2014 Women's Conference Video from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

PRECONFERENCE PLENARIES

CONFERENCE PLENARIES

CONFERENCE WORKSHOPS

Barbara Bancroft. Running on Empty:  The Gospel for Women in Ministry. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2014. 224 pp. $17.99.

Barbara Bancroft, missionary and pastor's wife for more than 30 years of ministry, has given the church a gift. In her new book, Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry, she seeks to encourage women who minister faithfully on church staffs, as missionaries, and as pastor’s wives. These women often labor in unseen ways and quietly give their lives for the kingdom, yet few books address their unique struggles and sacrifices.

I have longed for such a book for years, and Bancroft’s words encouraged me with truth, humor, wisdom, and grace. 

Stuff People Say

Bancroft brings to her writing decades of ministry as both a missionary and pastor’s wife. She reflects, “Those of us who have devoted our lives to ministry have a special sisterhood of crazy stories, shared joys, and deep sorrows. (The things people say to us!)” She speaks with insight to the unique struggles experienced in a variety of ministry roles without elevating one area of service over the other. She also sympathetically engages and encourages single women serving overseas or in the local church. 

While this book primarily addresses women working in a church or missions context, it would be a helpful read for men in leadership as well as members of the congregation. Understanding the criticism that discourages (e.g., “You’re a missionary, but took a vacation?”) and the spiritual attacks that frequently assault those in ministry would be helpful for all in the church to reflect on so that they might rightly encourage and build up women in ministry.

Bancroft writes each chapter in three parts. She begins with an analysis of a common problem or topic for those in ministry. Midway through the chapter she offers five or six questions for personal consideration and then concludes the chapter with a portion of Scripture and devotional thought titled “Pause and Reset." I found this to be a helpful way to make the book both practical and devotional. Its structure allows it to be an excellent resource for an older woman in ministry to use in mentoring a younger woman. 

Refresh and Revive

Bancroft adeptly covers a variety of topics ranging from cultural awareness, church expectations, notions of fairness, suffering, and the common struggles of envy and pride. She readily shares stories of her own failings and sympathizes with the struggles of others, while also being willing to share the positive effects of God’s grace on her heart after years spent walking with him. Her words challenge and confront, but also refresh and revive by continually pointing those in ministry back to the gospel in their own lives. “As people see how the gospel works to change us," she writes, "they are encouraged to believe that it will also work to change them.”

Reading Running on Empty felt a bit like sitting down with a wise friend for a cup of tea and an encouraging chat. It’s often difficult for those in ministry to find time for their own spiritual encouragement because they spend most of their time pouring out to others. Thankfully, Bancroft has taken the time to pour out once more and refresh the hearts of younger women following in her footsteps. She ends the book with a helpful clarification:

Perhaps these ideas don’t feel like enough of an answer to the hardships of ministry. For many years I looked for a Christian manual that would tell me what to do in every situation. I wanted a book that gave me the how-to of ministry life. But eventually I learned through experience that there is no case law big enough to cover our response to all of the people and situations we encounter. We can encourage one another with the wisdom we have gleaned over the years, but nothing will replace the work of the Holy Spirit to change hearts, minds, attitudes, and circumstances and to open new doors of ministry for us.

Our rights come from God, not government. As John Adams, one of the drafters of the Declaration of Independence, explained, “I say RIGHTS, for such [we] have, undoubtedly, antecedent to all earthly government—Rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws—Rights derived from the great legislator of the universe.”

Although the state doesn't create rights, it does have a God-given role to maintain the harmony and order of society (Rom. 13:1). The government is one of many spheres—such as family, economics, art, church, and education—that has been established by God with unique patterns of activity. As to one another, each sphere is sovereign—that is, one does not derive its authority from another. As to God, however, each sphere stands coram Deo—that is, in the presence of God, under his authority and for his glory.

Hospitality in Broken Spaces

In cases of societal breakdown, the state sometimes oversteps its bounds, violating the proper limits of its sovereignty. It tends to move in with the blunt instruments of money and power, creating atrophy in those spheres that need restoration and robbing them of sovereignty over their own affairs.

In these broken spaces, however, Christians have an opportunity to protect the health of those spheres by practicing hospitality. For example, instead of waiting for the state to be the benevolent actor, we can feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick (Mt. 25:35-40). As Abraham Kuyper once said

The government cannot take the place of Christian charity. A loving embrace isn’t given with food stamps. The care of a community isn’t provided with government housing. The face of our Creator can’t be seen on a welfare voucher. What the poor need is not another government program; what they need is for Christians like me to honor our Savior.

When we do these things, though, we must remember that, just as the government doesn't create rights, neither do we. God alone bestows dignity; we merely affirm it.

For the Life of the World

Today, we’re delighted to share with you Episode 4: The Economy of Order. It is the fourth installment in the seven-part film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to Exiles, that we’ve been featuring this summer. FLOW seeks to examine the bigger picture of Christianity’s role in culture, society, and the world, by asking as its central question, “What is our salvation actually for?”


To watch the full episode, click here. Enter "TGC4" today or tomorrow for a free 72-hour rental. 

*****

Each Monday—from July 7 to August 18—we will highlight one episode and share an exclusive code for a free 72-hour rental of the full episode. (Note: You have to redeem the code today or tomorrow, but once you do, the rental is free for 72 hours.) To purchase the full DVD collection and its study guide for a $10 discount, visit Hearts & Minds

The possibility of an argument does not necessitate probability.

Let me leave that sentence up there by itself. Read it again. It creates a basic epistemological thesis for everything that follows. The idea is that just because someone offers an alternative explanation for something, this does not make it likely. We live according to this principle every day. For example, if I were to point my remote at the TV and push the power button and the TV turned on, the most probable explanation is that the radio waves from the remote triggered the TV's main power switch. Are there other possible explanations? Sure. There could have been a glitch in the TV. My neighbor's remote could have somehow activated my TV at the exact same time as when I pushed the power button. There could have been a timer set on the TV to turn on and it happened to be when I pushed the remote. There are infinite possibilities. The question is, what is the most probable?

When it comes to the resurrection of Christ, there are an infinite number of possible alternative explanations for the development of belief in a risen Christ other than opting for the most obvious (Christ actually rose from the grave). For centuries skeptics and non-believers have offered their possibilities, but, in my opinion, they are never a probability.

Recently I read four possibilities that I want to address. 

1. Jesus' body was taken straight from the cross to the criminal graveyard by a devout Jew. We know that the Jews did not want to leave a person hanging on a tree or a piece of wood overnight. Deuteronomy 21:23 says: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged [is] accursed of God); that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee [for] an inheritance.

Is this a possibility? Absolutely. Probability? I don't think so. How could it be? There is simply no evidence to believe such. It would take a blind leap of faith to turn this possibility into a personal creed.

2. Jesus' body was taken straight from the cross and thrown into Gehenna. Perhaps a Roman soldier did this. Louis Feldman has argued that it was the Romans who put Jesus to death and that the Jews had nothing to do with it. See "Who Really Killed Jesus? A Critical Response to The Passion." Feldman maintains that the Gospel accounts, which place the blame on Jewish leaders, are so full of mistakes that it obviously did not happen the way they describe it.

Here we are again with a possibility without any historical warrant to make it responsible to believe. Notice the overstatement here: it "obviously did not happen the way they describe it." Obvious to whom?

3. Jesus' body was taken by Joseph of Arimathea and placed into a different tomb. We know that the first tomb where Jesus is said to have been placed was a new family tomb and maybe Joseph had another tomb somewhere else to which he moved the body. The Bible says he was a rich man, so it is reasonable to assume, he may have had another tomb.

Yes, it is reasonable to believe that he may have had another tomb, but . . . so? It is reasonable to believe that Joseph's son had another tomb that Jesus was taken to. It is reasonable to believe that Joseph donated tombs out of his good fortune to many who were in need so he had dozens of tombs. But because a possible condition of a historical theory (i.e. Joseph could have had another tomb) has been met, this does not mean that people are justified in placing their faith in such a theory over another that is much more probable, being supported by real evidence.

4. The empty tomb story was a later embellishment of the Gospel narrative. In other words, the story as we have it in the Gospels did not happen at all. This is certainly possible. We know that the earliest account of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 contains no mention of the empty tomb nor of the women visiting it. The earliest Gospel record, Mark, ends abruptly with the women leaving the tomb scared and silent. As Robert Price remarks: Isn't it obvious that the claim that the women "said nothing to anyone for they were afraid" functions to explain to the reader why nothing of this had been heard before ("By This Time He Stinketh").

Yes, this is certainly possible, but it has no evidence to back it up. It purports but does not create any reasonable doubt in the event of the resurrection. Especially since there is so much other collaborative evidence that Christ did rise from the grave besides the tomb (i.e. the phenomenon of the rise of Christianity in a hostile environment, the willingness of the apostles to die for their confession, the early testimony of the New Testament, the embarrassment factor in the Gospel accounts, and the inability of skeptics to produce a body in the first century). Not to mention how foreign it was for such a belief (i.e. a crucified and risen Messiah) to arise in this first-century Jewish setting.

In the end, there can be all kinds of possible alternative explanations (I could come up with a thousand more). But we should never be fooled into thinking that just because an explanation is possible that this makes it worthy of actual consideration. The simplest explanation is that Christ did rise from the grave. If you do not start with anti-supernaturalistic presuppositions (i.e. dead bodies can't rise, therefore, Christ did not rise from the grave), then you can truly follow the evidence and not search for far-fetched, yet possible, explanations. Acrobats like these make me that I think it takes more (blind) faith not to believe in the resurrection of Christ than to believe.

Since writing about what happens when your 20s weren't what you expected, I've heard from many readers whose lives haven't turned out as they imagined. People of all ages echoed the idea that we don’t know how to suffer well, that we have illusions about the way life is supposed to go. Many talked of being unsure how to move forward, how to absorb these losses in a way that honors God.

In that article I talked about the need to grieve our shattered dreams but didn’t have space to talk about what that looks like. The idea of grieving our dreams may sound a bit too touchy-feely, invoking images of a weeping therapy circle. We aren't comfortable with grief, and unless an event falls in the category of “Really Big Tragedy,” we often view grief as un-American, and more concerning, un-Christian. It’s easy to label people who talk openly about their sadness as joyless whiners or frail weaklings. Although it is a delicate dance between godly grief and self-pity, the Bible teaches that grief is part of the human experience (Eccl. 3:4, 2 Cor. 6:10).

So how do we learn to grieve our shattered dreams with hope?

1. Understand our typical responses to loss. Listen for whether any of the following reactions to painful situations sounds familiar. One option is denial, coating any negative situation with a layers of unrealistic optimism or pouring energy into solving other’s problems, avoiding our own issues. The art of distraction is another popular choice, as we maintain a dizzying schedule that ensures we are always in motion, never alone with our thoughts. From hard-core addictions to seemingly innocent pleasures, we love anything that helps us escape from pain. We also love solutions, research, and detailed plans to fix anything but use this feverish work to ignore the effect of difficult events. Some of us love the pool of pain and choose to dive in and swim around until we get pickled in self-pity.

When we honestly acknowledge our knee-jerk reactions, it becomes apparent we need a better way to deal with crushed expectations. 

2. Get comfortable with grief. The word grief may seem too intense for what we are experiencing, and I’m not suggesting our summer wardrobe should be black and sackcloth. No doubt there are varying degrees of grief in proportion to each loss. Grieving doesn’t mean we should begin construction on a wailing wall in the backyard if we don’t get the job offer we wanted. But when we face the death of a dream, we should expect a time of grief to follow the loss. Depending on the level of tragedy, this grief may affect the rest of our life.

We also need to get comfortable with the fact that we all grieve differently. What is right for you is not necessarily right for me, and we need to be careful to not require we all do it the same.

3. Adjust our expectations. In the last article, we discussed how many of us had expectations for our 20s that were not rooted in reality, that we believed we were immune from living in a sin-and-death cursed world while we were young. When we understand the effect of the fall, our expectations for life change (John 16:33). It doesn’t mean that we should seek out hardship or expect all of our dreams to fail, but that we shouldn’t be surprised when struggles comes, when relationships and jobs are hard.

We must be careful we don’t air-condition our souls, becoming intolerant to any degree of pain. And we must never forget this earth isn’t our real home (2 Cor. 5:1-9).

4. Acknowledge what is real. If we want to grieve well, then we have to be honest with ourselves and God. Prayer during these times can be the last thing we feel like doing; we are often unsure how to engage with God when hurting. One refreshing thing about Scripture is that we meet people in the middle of questions and pain, giving us words when we have none. These are not people reciting perfect testimonies after they see purpose in their suffering but honest strugglers like us (Psalm 42, 62, Lam. 3, 2 Cor. 12:1-10).

It is mind-blowing to realize that Jesus understands what we are experiencing in this life. When we admit we need help, he meets us in our desperation and gives us all the grace we need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

5. Learn to see hope. When we face the reality of the broken world, it becomes clear that we need help outside ourselves, something more sure to hope in besides our ability to make life go according to our plans. We have to fight every day to see hope in the person of Christ, that he is the solution to our most important problems.

This hope doesn’t eliminate the hard things in life, but it drastically changes our perspective when we believe the promises of God, that one day all that is wrong will be made right, that we will get to dwell with God where there is no more pain or death (1 Peter 1:3-9, 1 Thess. 4:13, Rev. 21:1-4).

6. Include people in the process. We were not designed to live in isolation. We need people to walk with us through shattered dreams. I’m not suggesting we rent loudspeakers and broadcast our problems, but that at least a few trusted friends should know the messy details of our lives. During one of my hardest seasons, a friend asked me, “What could God be doing in this?” And then he helped me brainstorm possibilities when I stared at him blankly. It was such a simple question, but it reminded me again that one of God’s greatest gifts is people to weep when we weep, to encourage us when we feel like quitting, to help us see hope when we only see despair (Romans 12:15, 1 Thess. 5:14, Heb. 10:24).

I pray that what I've written doesn’t feel like a to-do list, as if six steps and a thousand words will efficiently clean up the mess of shattered dreams. Rather, I pray that God may use these reflections as a beginning, a reminder of hope, and a glimmer that there is life after crushed expectations. 

Here are some recommended resources for further reading:

Ed Stetzer - Lifeway 

Pat Hood explains what it is like to pastor a "sending church."

Tell me about some unique things your church is doing in outreach.

I don't know if we do anything that's really "unique." I would describe our outreach as "simple." I think Jesus' was too. He simply told his disciples, to "Go, make disciples." That's what we teach our people. We challenge them to live sent lives in every domain of their life. We tell our people that we have no marketing campaign. We don't blanket the community with fliers. We don't rent billboards. We tell our people they are the outreach plan.

How did LifePoint transition from a traditional First Baptist to an international, multi-ethnic "sending church?"

In 2004, I felt a clear direction from the Lord to lead our church to a time of prayer, fasting and worship. We would fast for three days and then meet together at night for a time of intense worship: no preaching, just fasting and meeting together to pray and worship.

We had already begun to transition some external things like our music style and dress, and, as a result, had seen lots growth. As a result, we were in the middle of a building program to build a new auditorium. We thought this time of prayer and fasting was to prepare us for what God was going to do when we opened our new auditorium. However, during those three days of prayer & fasting, we realized that God had called us together because He wanted to open our eyes to His heart for the nation. So, our focus changed from bringing more people in to sending more people out.

How did you measure success in the past?

I've always been a pastor who loved people and love seeing their lives transformed by Jesus. But, admittedly, there was a time when I was more ...

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A Conflict of Christian Visions; An Open Letter to Church Planters; Anti-Psychotic Overmedication

If you are not reading Anthony Bradley, you really should be. In this article, he pushes a bit about our view of the creation narrative. Interesting stuff…

A Conflict of Christian Visions: Gen. 1-2 vs. Gen. 3 ChristianityAnthony Bradley

Christine was recently on The Exchange (along with my friend Kathy Ferguson Litton), for an interview regarding her new book, The Church Planting Wife. Here is a related letter that's worth a read.

An Open Letter to Church Planting PastorsChristine Hoover

We've talked a lot about mental illness lately. I've written for CNN, and at my own blog. The Huffington Post, the Blaze, CNN (here and here), and lots of others have reported on our data. In my most recent article, I wrote about the danger of overmedication. Being an evangelical, one of the biggest challenges is to encourage Christians to see mental illness as an actual illness. We have a long way to go, based on our recent research. However, the other extreme is that of overmedication, as this article explains.

Doctors: Anti-psychotic meds overused for dementia, kidsKim Painter

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with evangelist Luis Palau on The Exchange. What regrets does he have in his experience as an international evangelist? Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.

Continue reading...

Large and fast-growing churches make sacrifices for the kingdom of God.

Outreach Magazine just released their Outreach 100 issue for 2013. LifeWay Research does the research for this issue. I was particularly encouraged to see the list focus especially on fastest growing churches. You can subscribe to the magazine here. Here is my article with a bit of analysis of some of the fastest-growing churches in America.

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Each year at LifeWay Research, we work together with Outreach Magazine to create the Outreach 100 listings of the country's Fastest-Growing and Largest Churches. On one hand, these lists are one of the most anticipated things we do each year. People seem to eagerly await the lists so they can learn from these churches about what God is doing to build his kingdom across the United States. On the other hand, there are those who complain about the lists. They seem to think this is a way of exalting "big churches" in an effort to make them look better than the churches that are not on the list, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Remember folks: facts are our friends.

I love to learn. I have spent a significant portion of my adult life in the classroom, either as a student or as a professor. These lists feed our hunger to learn as we evaluate the temperature of the churches we study in an effort to learn more about the ways God is working. I hope these lists encourage you and challenge you. I hope, like me, you read them and celebrate the ways God is working. I hope they challenge you to think through your own strategy to reach your community with the gospel.

On this year's lists, we noticed many of the same trends we've seen in the past. Among the recent trends, we continue to see multisite churches becoming more and ...

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Evangelicals Wrong on Mental Illness; 4 Public Invitation Tips; Stop Copying

Amy Simpson responds to our research on mental health that has been reported at CNN (here and here), The Huffington Post, the Blaze, and lots of other places.

Evangelicals, You're Wrong about Mental IllnessAmy Simpson

I appreciated Ronnie Floyd's words here. At our church, we don't do a "come forward" invitation-- that does not work in a movie theater-- but we always invite people to Christ at the end of every message. I found his comments helpful.

4 Words to Keep in Mind When You Give a Public InvitationRonnie Floyd

Helpful article on innovation from Justin and Matt.

How to Stop Copying and Start InnovatingJustin Blaney and Matt Carter

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with evangelist Luis Palau on The Exchange. Listen to the advice he had for others who share the Gospel. Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.

Continue reading...

How church partnerships can help foster multiplication.

Denominations and networks of churches were and still are created for the purpose of partnership in mission. At times, these organizations have successfully unified churches around their common goals and accomplished much. But sometimes the very institutions meant to unify and encourage the mission have inadvertently hindered their own ability to multiply efforts through partnership.

Without a clear avenue to foster partnership for multiplication, the need for these organizations becomes less clear. If denominations and networks do not exist-- at least in part-- to multiply churches, then they have lost a big part of their purpose.

Denominations, networks, and other such partnerships (referred to occasionally as simply "partnerships" for sake of space), when functioning correctly, should help foster multiplication.

I regularly work with a variety of denominational leaders to help them chart a course toward unified missional engagement. There are several points of weakness common to many of the organizations I have seen.

Since these blind spots seem to be somewhat universal, it makes sense to give broad consideration to the ways of overcoming them. So, I have taken a talk I gave to the Evangelical Free Church leadership and modified it a bit to share here.

Hopefully this information can serve other groups as well. Here are six key steps toward creating the type of unity among churches in denominations/networks that leads to sustainable multiplication of a movement.

1. Recognize that Multiplication is Part of Health.

First, your partnership must understand that multiplication is a sign of health.

Healthy churches multiply disciples, groups, ministries, and churches-- and healthy partnerships cultivate ...

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Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission 

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, details the growth and personality of Hispanic evangelical churches around the world.

“We’re no longer a developing group, we’re actually one of the largest evangelical bodies in the world,” Rodriguez explains. “We are Billy Graham’s message and Dr. Martin Luther King’s march thrown into a blender with salsa on top. At least that’s how I describe us.”

<p><span class="caps">WASHINGTON</span>, D.C., July 28, 2014—Dr. Russell Moore, president of The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, offered comments today on President Barack Obama’s appointment of Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.</p> <p>Obama’s previous nominee to this role, Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, served from April 2011 to October 2013, and the position was unfilled for nine months since her resignation. </p> <p>“I applaud President Obama for making a nomination to the important position of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, a position that plays a key role in our nation’s responsibility to act on behalf of the persecuted around the world,” Moore said. “Rabbi Saperstein is a respected thinker and leader who brings gravity to this important task. He has my prayers and my pledge of full cooperation. The downgrade of religious freedom and the persecution of religious minorities around the world must end.”</p> <p>Moore joined other religious leaders in urging Obama to fill this vacancy. In December 2013, Robert P. George, recipient of the ERLC’s 2013 John Leland Religious Liberty Award and chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, <a href="http://erlc.com/article/robert-p.-george-challenges-obama-administration-on-religious-liberty-at-le">called</a> upon the Obama administration to appoint a new Ambassador-at-Large. On July 15th, Moore wrote a <a href="http://erlc.com/article/erlcs-russell-moore-urges-obama-to-nominate-ambassador-at-large-for-interna">letter</a> to Obama to nominate another ambassador for this position without further delay. </p> <p>The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over <br /> 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy entity with offices in Nashville, Tenn. and Washington, D.C.</p> <p>- <span class="caps">END</span> &#8211; </p> <p>To request an interview with Russell D. Moore<br /> contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409<br /> or by e-mail at <span data-eeEncEmail_SbebFYSWXe='1'>.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)</span><script type="text/javascript">/*<![CDATA[*/var out = '',el = document.getElementsByTagName('span'),l = ['>','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_SbebFYSWXe'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/**/

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David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Orlando, serves at a church that speaks over 30 languages and features ministries focused on many different ethnic groups. In this video, he discusses why his congregation features such diversity.

<p><span class="caps">WASHINGTON</span>, D.C., July 22, 2014—Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention&#8217;s Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission, joined other religious leaders for a tour of two Texas facilities for migrant children today. </p> <p>The tour was hosted by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and national and state Southern Baptist leaders along with the Catholic Bishop of Brownsville visited a Customs and Border Protection facility in McAllen, Texas, and a Health and Human Services facility at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.</p> <p>Moore comments on his experiences at the facilities: </p> <p>“I was struck as we were walking through the facility with two things: a sense of fear and a sense of hope. A sense of fear when I asked the kids why they made the trek up to the United States. And a sense of hope: I saw many crosses and Bibles. Many people are desperately hoping for an end to the violence where they come from. What is not complex is the truth and the reality that these children are created in the image of God. They matter to God. </p> <p>&#8220;This visit put a human face on a moral crisis for me. These children are not issues to be resolved but persons bearing dignity and needing care. The issues involved are in this crisis are complex, but our first response should be one of compassion and justice, not fear or disgust. That said, I am deeply encouraged by the response of Christians to this crisis. Pastors here are ministering to children who are alone, desperate and scared. We need to be praying for a just resolution, and quickly.”</p> <p>The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics &amp; Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy entity with offices in Nashville, Tenn. and Washington, D.C.</p> <p>- <span class="caps">END</span> &#8211; </p> <p>To request an interview with Russell D. Moore<br /> contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409<br /> or by e-mail at <span data-eeEncEmail_EHzZYYpcXZ='1'>.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)</span><script type="text/javascript">/*<![CDATA[*/var out = '',el = document.getElementsByTagName('span'),l = ['>','a','/','<',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112','>','\"',' 109',' 111',' 99',' 46',' 99',' 108',' 114',' 101',' 64',' 115',' 115',' 101',' 114',' 112',':','o','t','l','i','a','m','\"','=','f','e','r','h','a ','<'],i = l.length,j = el.length;while (--i >= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, '&#'));while (--j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute('data-eeEncEmail_EHzZYYpcXZ'))el[j].innerHTML = out;/**/

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Lindsay Swartz, ERLC, talks to blogger Lore Ferguson, sayable.net, about how the Church can do a better job of ministering to the increasing number of single adults and children of divorced families.

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