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New Life After the Fall

Patton Dodd's article on New Life Church offers caution and hope. Having served in two megachurches, I am reminded that while entrepreneurial talent is a volatile ingredient in the personal chemistry of a lead pastor, it is usually a necessary one. Yes, Ted Haggard eventually made destructive choices. But many of his choices were good, and New Life's current leadership is now pressing on to prayerfully pursue God's next chapter.

If the megachurch movement is to be an ongoing blessing, we cannot let the occasional train wreck force us off track. Entrepreneurial talent, like any other endowment from God, must be completely and surrendered to the lordship of Christ.

Jim Futrell
Pastor of Pastoral Care, Fairhaven Church
Dayton, Ohio

Let My People Go

Editor's Note: CT's desire is to nuance every story as accurately as possible within our space constraints. To this end, we include excerpts from two letters about our report on South Sudan. An updated version of the story is at

Barnabas Fund would like to clarify some points from the article:

1. There are no payments to "third parties." Almost all our support has been used to charter planes and hire buses and trucks. We are not paying slave-traders.

2. There is no danger of culture shock on arrival. They are leaving an alien culture (Arab and Islamic), and returning to their homeland (African and Christian).

3. They will not need "very long-term" support after making their journey. Both the South Sudanese government and the Africa Inland Church have programs to provide short-term care for the returnees, who then join their relatives and are re-absorbed into their old communities.

These people—who are too poor to buy plane tickets or even bus tickets—just want to go home to South Sudan. Barnabas Fund, at the request of the Africa Inland Church, is making this possible.

Patrick Sookhdeo
International Director, Barnabas Fund/Barnabas Aid
Pewsey, Wiltshire, United Kingdom

The article refers to 3,400 Sudanese being relocated to South Sudan. Actually, those who have been repatriated in this exercise have been South Sudanese. They are citizens of the new country of South Sudan and have been formally declared aliens by the Khartoum government and ordered to leave. However, they were not given the necessary paperwork to leave, and they did not have the financial wherewithal to leave under their own steam.

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The desire of the Africa Inland Church–Sudan in accomplishing this great exodus was not only to bring relief and help to thousands of needy brothers and sisters; it was primarily to bring glory to God, and that has been achieved in wonderful ways.

John D. Brand
Chairman, Friends of Sudan
Livingston, West Lothian, United Kingdom

Relaxing over Drinks

I am sure there are benefits to admiring the beauty of craft beer. They just pale (no pun intended) in comparison to the negative effects. There is probably no single thing that causes more damage to people's lives than alcohol: One out of three traffic deaths in the United States involves drinking and driving, and 10 percent of the population is genetically predisposed to alcoholism. Other data show huge loss of productivity and acts of violence globally (usually against women).

People argue they can handle a drink of wine or beer, that they don't have a problem. That may very well be true. The problem comes when they model that for their children, students, and other young people who cannot. Like many CT readers, I know of committed, mature believers who drink and who have seen children's lives damaged or ruined.

I pray we can see past the cultural coolness of this amazingly destructive drug, especially among our young people.

Greg H. Parsons
Global Director, U.S. Center for World Mission
Pasadena, California

Asbury Theological Seminary's current ethos statement continues to embrace an alcohol-free campus. The 2010 change to our ethos statement actually broadens our community understanding of holiness to embrace both personal and social dimensions. Furthermore, our community ethos is now more firmly rooted in the 18th-century Wesleyan covenant, which takes the seminary out of a more collegiate in loco parentis role to a more appropriate graduate model of mutual accountability for the whole community.

While we reframed our position on alcohol, it is unfair to characterize our position as "relaxing over drinks." On the contrary, we have deepened and broadened our historic commitment to holiness by moving it beyond a handful of issues, to a mature life lived in purity before God and the world, and in covenant with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Timothy C. Tennent
President, Asbury Theological Seminary

Open Question: Why confess sins in worship when it seems so rote?

I grew up in a Baptist church, lacking any type of public confession. In my 30s I joined a Presbyterian church. Having experienced both traditions, I discovered how public confession exposes my heart. Public confession reveals the sins in my life that I become "comfortable" with, sins I tell myself "weren't really sins." Public confession also unveils any delusion that I am sufficient. Only God is sufficient. The ritual of public confession orients my life, my heart, my soul to God's standards and displays my dependence on him.

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Chany Ockert
CT online comment

A Whirlwind Take on Culture

Upon reading James K. A. Smith's review of David F. Wells's book God in the Whirlwind, I found myself dismayed. Smith makes several missteps, including perhaps not a false dichotomy, but a weird one, when he suggests Wells doesn't see that the Bible is a product of culture itself. Surely Wells's point is that we have lost—thanks to giving in to, borrowing from, and being influenced by our secular culture—any notion of wisdom that is trans-cultural, that is to say, objective.

Another misstep is the straw man that Smith sets up: he criticizes Wells for writing a book that does not emphasize the imagination as a panacea. Writes Smith, "He prescribes an intellectual antidote for an imaginative disorder." But from where does our imagination originate? Does it not require an intellectual realignment to direct our imagination rightly?

Finally, there is a snarky, if not downright offensive, comment: "It's like how I would expect a theological grandfather to harrumph about 'kids these days.'" It occurs to me that if a theological elder is harrumphing about something, we may be prudent to lend an ear.

Rod Miller
Conway, Arkansas

When we are in union with Christ, we find ourselves "walking to the beat of a different Drummer." We can't just try to change our ideas about God. Through worship and spiritual disciplines, we need to get our toes tapping to the new music of the kingdom. Smith's corrective of Wells is based on a fuller understanding of human nature. We are much more than the sum total of our thoughts and convictions. People are also (and maybe mostly) products of their affections and desires. Although Christian faith does bring a renewal of the mind, it starts with a change of the heart.

Matt Kamps
CT online comment

Mormon No More

Lynn Wilder's story of leaving the LDS church left me breathless. A few months ago, a pair of Mormon missionaries came to our door. Rather than shoo them away or engage them in theological battle (as we often have done), we invited the young men in. As we shared a meal, God broke my heart for them. Reading this reminded me to pray with fervor that God may yet prompt them to "take up and read" the Gospels, and lead them to life and freedom in himself.

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Bronwyn Lea
CT online comment

Correction On the map for "What They Brought the World" (January/February), South Korea should have been identified as Democratic.

Net Gain

"I have often wondered how is these busy pastors can get to accomplish so much and still run/oversee a church. And here Andy gives us an insight into how. But also raises the important point of the perception being created of superhuman people."
Darryl Schoeman, personal blog.
"The Real Problem with Mark Driscoll's 'Citation Errors,'" by Andy Crouch.

"Does the fact that there is so much raunchy behavior mean that the review cannot be high? I don't think so."
BJ Nelson, CT online comment.
"The Wolf of Wall Street," by Alissa Wilkinson.

"My wife and I thank God for AA and thank AA for God!"
Chuck Long, CT online comment.
"Dealing with Alcoholism," interview by Ed Stetzer.

"Wait, not all #homeschooling is stupid and harmful!?"
Bobby Ross Jr. @GetReligion
"The Normal, Drama-Free, Totally-Healthy Christian Homeschool Movement," by Ruth Moon.

"@CTmagazine Thanks for being the source for those eager to engage the world for Christ & curious about trends shaping the church & culture."
Lee Strobel @LeeStrobel

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