The ‘Protestant Work Ethic’ Really Does Fight Poverty

How Christian discipleship affects household income.

Before World War I, German sociologist Max Weber famously linked the work ethic of Protestant Christians to the economic development of Europe. The “spirit of capitalism,” he argued, was sparked by Martin Luther’s emphasis on calling and his argument that “worldly” labor was no less holy than the ascetic “spiritual” practices of monks and priests.

Puritans and other Calvinists, he said, later recast that labor as an ascetic practice itself—working was a way of fulfilling one’s duty to God. Wealth for Protestants became “bad ethically only in so far as it is a temptation to idleness and sinful enjoyment of life.”

Methodists, Baptists, and others shared these basic ideas, Weber said. He cited John Wesley’s advice as representative: “If those who gain all they can and save all they can will likewise give all they can, then the more they gain, the more they will grow in grace and the more treasure they will lay up in heaven.”

In short, Weber argued, these Protestant religious beliefs led inevitably to Europe’s work ethic, to its attitude toward wealth and specialized labor—and, in short, to modern capitalism. It’s worth noting that Weber’s essay is more lament than celebration. “The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so,” he said. “Since asceticism undertook to remodel the world and to work out its ideals in the world, material goods have gained an increasing and finally an inexorable power over the lives of men as at no previous period in history.” But summaries of Weber are often less polemical and more descriptive: Europe experienced economic growth largely because of its Protestant ...

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One-on-One with R. York Moore on ‘Do Something Beautiful: The Story of Everything and a Guide to Your Place in It’

Jesus does not merely change our world––He changes the world.

Ed: What is ‘the story of everything?’

York: I’ve intentionally written the book to be accessible to ‘nons’ and anti-churched readers. So many great Christian books will never be read by those who need them most because we speak in coded, theocentric language. This book is accessible for the urban justice advocate who has never been to church and for the Harley Davidson biker who lives to glide over the mountains of Virginia.

This book is inspiring for those who have become one of the millions of ‘de-churched,’ who have lost their belief in the possibility of righteousness and beauty. It is accessible for just about any reader and I’ve intentionally made it so by inviting the reader into a story—the story of everything. This is my way of describing the incredible in-breaking kingdom of Jesus and how it invades our darkness and the darkness of the world.

Ed: What was the inspiration behind the book?

York: For the past several years, I’ve watched scores of Millennials come to Jesus in meaningful ways. In recent years, the number of college students coming to faith in Christ through InterVarsity USA has exploded. As I’ve studied the major heart-felt themes of new Christians and those still on their way, I was inspired to write Do Something Beautiful.

My aim is to engage the three major kingdom draws for this generation—righteousness, beauty, and purposed community. These three themes form the foundation for how nons and even anti-churched Millennials are finding their way into meaningful Christian community. There are also two places in the book where the reader can pray to receive Jesus and begin their journey into ‘the story of everything!’

Ed: ...

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Iranian Christian Refugees Are Still Stranded in Austria. But Are Things About to Change?

Dozens of Christians and other religious minorities from Iran have been on a resettlement roller coaster. It just took a new turn.

Around 100 Iranian refugees who were invited to resettle in the United States and then denied entry after a year of waiting in Vienna have two reasons to hope.

After being rejected from America, the migrants have applied for asylum in Austria and four have already been approved. This latest development occurred after many had already exhausted their savings and been divided from their families—the denials separated two women from their fiancés and cut parents off from their children.

Earlier this year, Austrian member of parliament Gudrun Kugler learned of the refugees’ plight and invited the group to meet with her.

“With tears in their eyes, these people were telling me how much they wanted to start to work and live meaningful lives,” Kugler said. "One young woman told me that she had not been to a school in two years. She could not sleep, and she was self-medicating. This uncertainty was very difficult for them.”

Kugler, who believes helping the community is part of following her call as a Christian, reached out to a number of NGOs to help the migrants find health insurance, enroll in German classes, and take advantage of job training options.

One of her partner organizations, the Nazarene Fund, offered rent support and aid for medical and psychological care and legal services. In addition, it reached out to the US government to learn why the group had been denied entry after their initial acceptance. Since then, the US State Department has asked that the group to resubmit their requests for asylum.

Another reason for hope: Earlier this month, a US district court judge for the Northern District of California sided with the refugees, challenging the US government’s blanket denial ...

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Study: U.S. Churches Exclude Children with Autism, ADD/ADHD

Children with the greatest need for a supportive community were the most likely to feel unwelcome.

America’s religious communities are failing children with chronic health conditions such as autism, learning disabilities, depression, and conduct disorders.

And they have been doing it for a very long time, suggests a just-published national study following three waves of the National Survey of Children’s Health.

The odds of a child with autism never attending religious services were nearly twice as high as compared to children with no chronic health conditions. The odds of never attending also were significantly higher for children with developmental delays, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, and behavior disorders. However, the study does not provide data for specific types of religious communities, such as evangelicals.

Sanctuaries were much more sympathetic to children with health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, or vision problems. Those children were as likely to be in the pews as children with no health conditions.

But children with conditions that limit social interaction, who are often excluded from other social settings and have the greater need for a community of social support, were most likely to feel unwelcome at religious services.

“I would like to think that this research could serve as a wake-up call to the religious communities in our nation,” said Clemson University sociologist Andrew Whitehead, the study researcher. “In many ways, this population is unseen because they never show up, or when they do, they have a negative experience and never return.”

Whitehead, who himself has two children with autism who are non-verbal, currently attends a Wesleyan church, though it hasn’t always been easy to get to church. “We have had a church tell us that there ...

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Evangelism: Just Do Something

It’s high time we started sharing the gospel with the people around us.

Sometimes, when people read the word evangelism, they stop reading. They think it doesn’t matter to them and they move on to doing something else with their day.

Below I want to highlight a few things to help you, especially if you are a pastor or church leader, to find new, intentional ways to prioritize evangelism in the life of your church and ministry, as well as in your own personal life.

Decline in Evangelism

The major problem with evangelism today is that we have seen a bottoming out of interest on the subject. There are a few reasons for that. Reason number one is that older methods of evangelism have lost credibility. That’s not always a good thing. I can see how people might think a different method would work better, and that’s great—if you’re actually doing it. But what I hear is people more likely to make fun of evangelistic methods than engage in evangelism.

What we have today is that most of the old evangelism methods, such as Spring and Fall revivals for evangelism or door-to-door visitation evenings, are not being used as much today. People say they’re too obtrusive or ineffective. Again, I’m not 100% sure that’s helpful. I’m for any means of evangelism where the gospel is shared.

Instead of people replacing older evangelistic strategies with new strategies that they feel better fit our time and cultural context, we seem to have replaced these old strategies with a new level of angst.

Ultimately, that means evangelism doesn’t get done.

For example, evidence of lessening interest in evangelism can be seen in the huge decline in the number of evangelism conferences that are hosted and attended. We just finished hosting the Amplify Conference, which is now ...

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The Gospel in Suburbia: Living on Mission in a “Soul-less” Place

The deep power of the hope of Jesus Christ can overcome any amount of separation, not matter how soul-less we may feel our communities to be.

When you hear the word “suburbia,” what’s your first thought?

Quiet, tree-lined streets? Isolation and a lack of connectivity? Kids’ sports games and white-picket fences?

And where is God in all of this anyways?

My Irish Catholic family progressively moved from an urban context to a suburban one. My mother was born in the Bronx and my father in Queens. When I was born, my parents took me home to Floral Park, which is right on the edge of the city and the rest of Long Island.

When I was a child, my parents moved to a place called Levittown.

And, Levittown was the quintessential American suburb, and the very definition of what would be seen by many as the souless suburb.

Though our ministry journey has taken us to the inner city of Buffalo, NY and to rural Georgia, we live in Chicago’s western suburbs today.

Some Important History

One of the reasons many people today see the suburbs as “soul-less” is that most suburbs separate people from others who are different than them. And, we can’t talk about the missiological implications without first consideirng some history.

You see, suburbs do exist to keep you away from, well, undersirable realities. And, part of that reality has a tragic racist underpinning—many suburbs (like Levittown) even had covenants to keep African Americans from living in the town.

Of course, suburbs thrived for many reasons (the automobile and interstate highways, for example), but they certainly existed (at least in part) to give what people perceived to be a better place to live— which often meant removing you from proximity to the poor, people who were different, minorities, and much more.

In the book Our Kids, Robert Putnam (who is also the author of ...

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Turkey Keeps American Pastor Behind Bars—At Least for Three More Months

Andrew Brunson has spent most of the last two years in prison based on wild—or absent—accusations.

After nearly two years in a Turkish prison, hopes for the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson have been deferred. A Turkish court ordered 50-year-old pastor to remain bars until at least his next hearing on October 12.

On Wednesday, the court heard testimony from members of Brunson’s church who made “vague, unsubstantiated accusations” against Brunson, reported World Watch Monitor. When the judge asked how Brunson would respond to the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses, he said, “My faith teaches me to forgive, so I forgive those who testified against me.”

Bill Campbell, a North Carolina pastor whose church belongs to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the same denomination as Brunson’s church, was among several supporters of the pastor who attended the trial.

“As usual, there was much spurious testimony against Andrew,” Campbell told EPConnection after the trial. “Andrew’s testimony was absolutely powerful. He presented the gospel with confidence and defended himself with boldness.”

Notably, the court heard a defense witness for the first time, although the witness Brunson initially requested to testify was not permitted to do so.

Many of Brunson’s supporters had been cautiously optimistic about his release—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Donald Trump had been photographed smiling and fist-bumping each other at last week’s NATO summit in Brussels. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had also met with Erdoğan in Ankara the last week of June, though the focus of the meeting was to discuss US sanctions.

On Twitter, Freedom House’s Nate Schenkkan called the Turkish court’s ...

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Interview: Rethinking Apologetics for the Black Church

“Black people in the inner city need apologetics, but black people in the suburbs do, too,” says apologist Lisa Fields.

When Lisa Fields started college, she was a preacher’s kid who’d grown up inside of the church and never encountered opposition to her faith. That changed in her first New Testament class when she studied a textbook by Bart Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who argues against the inerrancy of Scripture.

“I’d been in church my whole life,” says Fields. “I was in a Christian bubble. I thought the class would be like Sunday school, I thought it was going to be an easy A, but I really struggled. Through that experience, my dad introduced me to Ravi Zacharias and that helped me start thinking critically about my faith.”

In the years since then, Fields has founded an organization called the Jude 3 Project, which uses apologetics to address the unique “intellectual struggles of Christians of African descent in the United States and abroad.” The organization offers lectures and seminars, training courses, podcast discussions, and a conversation forum called Courageous Conversations, which pairs black scholars and pastors trained in both conservative and progressive seminaries.

Fields is currently spearheading an event in St. Louis, Missouri, called African Americans in Theology, hosted in partnership with Covenant Theological Seminary. She’s also undertaking an apologetics tour that travels across the country to historically black Christian colleges and universities.

CT spoke recently with Fields about the first fruits of her project and why black suburbia is one of her main areas of outreach.

Why did you decide to specifically focus on African Americans?

I realized that all of the apologetics books I was reading were written ...

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The Big Conversation: A Q&A with Justin Brierley on Engaging Intellectual Thinkers around Issues of Faith

By modeling good conversations about faith between people on both sides of the debate, we can hopefully improve the discourse globally.

Ed: So what exactly is The Big Conversation?

Justin: The Big Conversation is a 6-episode video debate series in which I sit down with some of the biggest intellectual thinkers from the atheist and Christian world to debate some of life’s biggest questions.

It began with the Canadian psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson in conversation with atheist psychologist Susan Blackmore. Peterson has risen to enormous prominence in recent months and is attracting many young men with his approach to finding meaning in life. They had a very lively debate on the question “Do we need God to make sense of life?”

Blackmore said ‘no’ and Peterson said ‘yes’.

Ed: Is Jordan Peterson a Christian then?

Justin: Good question! I actually spent the first and last part of the program asking that question of him.

He has consistently refused to be pinned down on his personal religious convictions. When I pressed him on it, he described himself as a “religious man” who was “conditioned in every cell as a consequence of the Judeo-Christian worldview.” The closest I could get to whether he really believed in God was that he lives his life “as though God exists,” saying, “The fundamental hallmark of belief is how you act, not what you say about what you think.”

However, he stands strongly against the new atheists who claim that religion is a force for evil. In fact, he came out strongly defending Christianity as the worldview that has shaped the values and freedoms we hold dear in Western civilization. When Susan Blackmore pressed him that certain secular Scandinavian countries are doing fine without religion, he reminded her that such post-Christian nations in the West ...

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How Christians Can Take the Lead with Paid Family Leave

A new report from the Center for Public Justice offers guiding principles for how church communities, policy makers, and employers can put pro-family beliefs into action.

“Jane” is a young mother who has worked at a call center for two years. When she was pregnant with her second daughter, she worked full-time up until she went into labor. “My work doesn’t pay for maternity leave, but they told me they would hold my job if I returned within the month,” she said. Like 20 percent of new mothers in the US, Jane returned to work two weeks after giving birth. She said she is sad she can’t breastfeed and be present with her child in the crucial first months of life.

Jane is a client of Parenting por Vida, formerly known as Mom’s Place, based in Phoenix. It’s one of the hundreds of faith-based nonprofits that give expectant and new moms financial and emotional support throughout pregnancy and beyond. Many clients grew up in poverty, steeped in trauma and abuse. But director Susan Leon said she’s impressed by the young parents’ resilience. After 17 years, the first cohort of children raised by these parents is finishing high school, and among the second generation, teen pregnancy is rare.

Even still, Leon says, most of her clients find the work-family balance extremely precarious. A majority of them work low-wage shift jobs that provide little flexibility and have no maternity leave policy, even unpaid. Yet working outside the home is an economic imperative. For low-income families, childcare presents less-than-ideal options, such as expensive childcare centers or care from extended family, which can be dangerous if there is addiction or abuse.

Jane is one of the dozens of parents that Center for Public Justice (CPJ) resident fellow Rachel Anderson and I profiled for a new report, “Time to Flourish: Protecting Families’ Time for ...

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Renewing Your Church: Growing Together to Discover Our God-Given Purpose

I asked if they were ready to see God do something new. When they affirmed that they were, I told them that we would be changing absolutely everything.

November 2014 marked the month of my 32nd birthday and my first week as Lead Pastor of what was then known as Thornville Community Nazarene, in Thornville, OH. I would take the position as bi-vocational, being on a plane three days a week for my corporate job, with the hopes of growing the position into something that might be full-time in the future.

Fifteen adults greeted me that day for my first service, though 30-35 would come in and out of the building during that first month. The church was in decline, in crisis, operating in the red, irrelevant—you throw out the title and it fit. In a town of 1,000, this church once had 200 people in the late 1990s, but then went through two splits and had averaged 25-30 people for over the last decade in a KJV-only environment.

When I sat at my first board meeting with the leaders of the church, I asked if they were ready to see God do something new. When they affirmed that they were, I told them that we would be changing absolutely everything. After they said they were okay with this, I repeated the question, being sure that they knew that I really meant it and qualified the statement by saying that if we were not getting the desired results, then everything had to be up for discussion.

They consented and off we went. I took lesser pay so we could hire a part-time youth pastor. Praise music from the 1980s and 1990s quickly transformed into the likes of Hillsong, Bethel, and Elevation. We put up a new sign, changed the name of the church, and overhauled the foyer, sound system, sanctuary, and the landscaping. We took down every single decoration, award, plaque, and memento that might remind anyone of who we had been.

One of my favorite memories from this time was when the gatekeeper ...

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