Patrons’ Saints: Christians Turn to Patreon, Substack, and Kickstarter

As more evangelical figures embrace crowdfunding, is the format demanding too much of them?

To release her first contemporary Christian music album back in 2004, Beth Barnard signed a contract with Sparrow Records during her freshman year of high school.

Her 11-song debut was self-titled Bethany Dillon, a stage name she adopted at the recommendation of execs who thought her maiden name—Adelsberger—would be a mouthful. Through Sparrow (now Capitol Christian Music Group), Barnard spent most of her teen years recording music. Her hit songs were nominated for Dove Awards and appeared on WOW compilations.

She then married Shane Barnard—one Shane-half of Christian music group Shane & Shane—and realized that she wanted to stay at home with her family rather than record and tour. More than a decade and four kids later, Barnard sensed last year that she had another collection of songs to share. Only this time, she launched a Kickstarter campaign.

The crowdfunding site had allowed Barnard to release a worship album, A Better Word, in 2017. She turned to Kickstarter again in 2021 to bypass some of the business baggage she was happy to leave behind when she stepped away from the music industry years ago, like marketing efforts and hitting the road to promote the album.

Her fans remembered her and came through, giving more than $20,000 in the first 12 hours of the fundraiser in January.

“Thank you, thank you … not only for helping us meet the financial part of rolling this out, but also for what that speaks … that you’re behind this and excited about it,” Barnard told backers in a recorded video after her project was funded.

Kickstarter, where supporters can pledge for a one-time project, and platforms like Substack and Patreon, where they can pay to subscribe for content ...

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Nine Years, 782,000 Words Later, South Carolina Woman Completes Handwritten Bible

Caroline Campbell’s project aims to inspire Christians to learn Scripture and see disabilities as a gift to the church.

Kenny Campbell was doing some spring cleaning when he found a stack of papers with his daughter Caroline’s handwriting on them. He looked at the pages and realized there was something special about them. It was Scripture, copied word for word by hand.

The Campbells attend Community Bible Church in Beaufort County, South Carolina, and their teenage daughter, who has Down syndrome, was writing down the verses their pastor preached on. Carl Broggi is an expository preacher, going verse by verse; Caroline had recorded those verses in her own hand.

“This is amazing, Caroline, how much you’ve written,” Kenny told her.

On a whim, he said she could do the whole Bible.

“Yeah, okay,” Caroline said.

Those two words kicked off a nine-year project. Starting in January 2012 and finishing in June 2021, Caroline, who is now 28, copied the entire Bible by hand. She started in Genesis and worked her way through Revelation, writing down all 782,815 words from her 1973 New American Standard Bible.

Caroline’s mother, Jennifer, estimates the completed manuscript is more than 10,000 pages. It is compiled in 43 binders.

Once she started, Caroline said, she just didn’t stop. She persisted out of her devotion to the Bible and her desire to encourage others.

“I want to inspire people to learn the Bible,” she told CT.

Kenny and Jennifer say this has been key to their experience of having a daughter with Down syndrome. They have had to learn not to put limits on her. When their daughter was diagnosed, they had deep concerns. But they soon decided to treat her like any other child. And then they learned that she would, on occasion, completely blow them away with the amazing ways she was different.

Bethany ...

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‘They Cannot Burn Jesus Out of Me’: Mozambique Pastors Minister to Survivors of Violent Insurgency

Despite the risks in the region, Christians are flocking to camps and targeted villages to provide resources and spiritual care.

Back in April, when armed men began attacking his village in the middle of the night, a pastor of a local church in northern Mozambique woke his family to flee. He took his two older sons and his wife took their two younger sons. In the midst of chaos and confusion, shouting and shooting, they escaped in two different directions.

The pastor and his sons hid in the surrounding bush all night before returning to the village, near the town of Palma, to look for the rest of their family. The next morning, he found their hut caved in and the remains of his four-year-old son, who had been beheaded by the attackers. All he and his sons could do was dig a hole in the ground to bury the young boy’s body and weep together. To this day, his wife and second-youngest son are still missing.

This pastor shared his story with CT through English-speaking ministry partners in Mozambique. He asked that he and his village remain unnamed for security reasons, but his story is not unique as conflict escalates in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

Countless innocent civilians are fleeing the area where insurgents have been burning entire villages to the ground and brutalizing their inhabitants—including beheading, recruiting, capturing, enslaving, and committing sexual crimes against them. The violence has killed thousands of people and displaced upward of 800,000, a number that is growing rapidly and may soon reach one million, United Nations officials warn.

“The north of Mozambique, especially Cabo Delgado province … is being affected by Islamic insurgents, who at some stage claim to be linked with Islamic State,” said Mauricio Magunhe, faith and development coordinator for World Vision Mozambique.

“For the ...

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Mexican Worship Leader Layla de la Garza on the Power of ‘Sung Theology’

Despite the lingering stereotypes, the Monterrey-based singer and minister set out to prove contemporary worship services can hold to the authority of Scripture.

For Layla de la Garza, worship music has been a way to draw nearer to Jesus and the Word.

Having grown up in a conservative traditional church, Layla was transformed by listening to Passion’s worship music as a teenager. Many years later, in 2015, she met CCM musician Christy Nockels, who became her mentor and invited her to participate in IF:Gathering. De la Garza has used her talents in this ministry to serve as a worship and teaching leader, multiplying IF’s reach among the international Spanish-speaking community.

Back in her hometown of Monterrey, a city of more than a million in northeastern Mexico, some still remain suspicious of contemporary worship, with its bright lights and big stages. But at VIDAIN church, where de la Garza and her husband, Diego, serve as part of the pastoral team, they’ve set out to show that high production value does not mean compromising on the truth of the gospel. She’s also the host of Notas con Dios, a podcast where she discusses finding God and hope in everyday life.

CT spoke with Layla about her vision for the church, the role of women in the church in Mexico, and her call to worship, ministry, and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. (This interview was originally conducted in Spanish.)

How would you describe the evangelical church in Mexico to people from other countries?

Latin Americans in general are very passionate. Relationships and building community are very important to us. Our relationships are very warm: We hug each other and create intimacy easily, even with people we have just met. These characteristics of Latin culture are very present in the evangelical church in Mexico.

It is beautiful because I believe we have the potential to be like the first ...

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Biden Names First Muslim Religious Freedom Ambassador

(UPDATED) 12 Christian IRF advocates praise Rashad Hussain, Obama’s OIC envoy, for his credentials and credibility. Two USCIRF commissioners and antisemitism envoy also named.

The White House announced Friday a slate of nominations and appointments for top religious affairs roles, including the first Muslim American nominated to be the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom (IRF).

President Joe Biden will select Rashad Hussain as his nominee for that post, filling a State Department slot vacant since former Kansas governor and US Senator Sam Brownback—who co-chaired a bipartisan IRF summit for 1,200 attendees this month—left at the close of the Trump administration.

Hussain, who would need to be confirmed by the Senate, currently works as director for Partnerships and Global Engagement at the National Security Council. He previously served as White House counsel under President Barack Obama, as well as US special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and US special envoy for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, among other roles.

Knox Thames, who served as the State Department’s special advisor for religious minorities during both the Obama and Trump administrations, told CT that Hussain was “a strong pick.”

“He knows human rights and cares about religious freedom,” said Thames. “I saw firsthand how he raised these issues when he served as [OIC envoy]. I know he’ll be able to hit the ground running from day one to combat religious persecution.”

Judd Birdsall, a senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University who served with Hussain at the State Department from 2009–2011, told CT that the nomination is a “fantastic choice” because Hussain has “impeccable credentials, extensive diplomatic and legal experience, ...

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Died: H. Eddie Fox, Who Urged Methodists to Share Their Faith

The ministry leader believed declining US churches could be revitalized by hearing Wesleyans “with a different accent.”

H Eddie Fox, who hoped to renew American Methodism through evangelism and increased connections with global Christianity, died on Wednesday at age 83.

Fox led World Methodist Evangelism for 25 years, teaching, training, and empowering Methodists and Wesleyans to share their faith, and encouraging churches to make evangelism a priority. He pioneered several new initiatives that were popular in United Methodist Church (UMC) congregations, and he helped American churches connect with fellow Wesleyans outside the United States, especially in formerly communist countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

From 1989 to 2014, when Fox directed the world evangelism program, Methodists increased around the globe by about 1 million per year, even as the US membership of the UMC declined by about 2 million overall. Fox saw a direct link between the theology of the church and its vitality.

“Wherever the church is faithful to the doctrine, the sound teaching, the Discipline, the way of life—which is the way you order your life—and the spirit, openness to the Holy Spirit, you'll find a church that's dynamic, contagious and alive,” he said when he retired. “And where that is not true, you’ll find a church to be a dead sect, having the form but not the power thereof. That’s been a focus of my ministry. It’s been a call we’ve stood on for many, many years.”

Fox taught more Methodists how to share their faith than any one else in his lifetime, and became, for many, the evangelistic face of Methodism. He also taught at the Billy Graham School of Evangelism at Wheaton College for 15 years.

“He was dynamic and alive with his passion for the gospel, especially evangelism,” ...

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This Land Is Your Land, Say More Churches in Canada Than in US

CRC congregations weigh land acknowledgements amid rising awareness of indigenous injustices on both sides of the border.

Visitors to a suburban Toronto congregation are greeted in the foyer or from the stage with the following: “The Community Christian Reformed Church of Meadowvale is located on the Treaty lands and traditional Territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.”

The statement names the indigenous community that once stewarded the land where the Canadian church stands. But a visitor to one of Meadowvale’s hundreds of fellow American congregations across the border will likely find the practice of such “land acknowledgements” to be wholly unfamiliar.

The discrepancy is part of a larger divergence within the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) as the denomination’s 1,000-plus congregations—with one quarter in Canada and three-quarters in the United States—seek to serve amid neighboring cultures and governments moving at very different paces on addressing injustices done to their indigenous peoples.

In Canada, where the native community is known as First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, the abuse that many indigenous students suffered at residential schools was the subject of a national, years-long reckoning through a federally backed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). In contrast, though many Native Americans in the United States experienced similar trauma, the schools’ aftermath has only recently gained mainstream attention.

“Because of the [TRC] and the things that the government has done, the Canadian church has been encouraged to continue doing the work,” said Viviana Cornejo, the CRCNA’s racial curriculum and instruction specialist. “The United States as a whole is having a hard time dealing with the past. If ...

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Simone Biles’s Critics Miss the Bigger Story of Bodily Abuse

Some see the Olympic gymnast as a self-serving athlete. But her withdrawal from competition is a model for how to honor rather than disdain our bodies.

The Olympics always hold surprises, and this first week of competition in Tokyo was no exception. On Tuesday, Simone Biles, captain of the USA Olympic Women’s Gymnastics team and the most decorated American gymnast of all time, withdrew from the team competition after uncharacteristic performances on both the vault and floor.

By Wednesday, Biles had stepped away from the individual all-round competition as well, citing the need to give attention to her mental wellbeing. With an almost guaranteed chance of dominating the games, Biles’s choice models something rare in both competitive sports and broader culture: the humility and courage to say, “Enough is enough.”

Although many supported Biles’s decision, others saw her choice as a failure. Conservative media voices like Charlie Kirk, Matt Walsh, and Jenna Ellis deemed her a quitter, equating her focus on “mental health” with a softness or lack of emotional fortitude. They went so far as to accuse her of failing her team and even her country. Others recalled Kerri Strug’s gritty 1996 vault, in which Strug pushed through obvious injury for a second attempt and ultimately led her team to gold.

After all, isn’t the whole point of competitive sports to push the human body to its limits—or past what we believe its limits to be? Even the apostle Paul invokes the metaphor of subjecting the body to rigorous discipline, writing in 1 Corinthians 9 that “everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. … I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (vv. 25–27). Although ...

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Bible Museum Must Send One More Artifact Back to Iraq

Update: Judge rules epic of Gilgamesh fragment belongs in Iraq.

Update (July 29): Two years after federal officials seized the artifact, a judge ordered Hobby Lobby to officially forfeit a rare clay tablet containing a portion of the epic of Gilgamesh. The tablet will be returned to Iraq.

The Bible Museum, which was founded by Hobby Lobby owner and Bible collector Steve Green, has supported efforts to send the item back to its country of origin.

The ancient Mesopotamian text was purchased from Christie’s auction house in 2014 before being put on display in Washington D.C. in 2017. Hobby Lobby is now suing Christie’s, claiming the reputable auction house provided false information and provenance documents making it seem the tablet could be legally purchased, and was not looted during fighting in Iraq.

Hobby Lobby is also returning about 11,500 other antiquities to the Iraqi and Egyptian governments due to incorrect or incomplete documentation. Green has previously said he made a mistake, when he was building a collection for the Museum of the Bible, by trusting unscrupulous dealers.

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Original post (May 21, 2020): Another ancient document is causing controversy for the Museum of the Bible after a federal government prosecutor filed a claim that a six-by-five-inch clay tablet was stolen from Iraq. The US Attorney’s Office of Eastern New York says that Hobby Lobby legally purchased the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet for $1.6 million to loan to the museum, but the papers documenting the artifact’s purchase history were false.

“In this case, a major auction house failed to meet its obligations by minimizing its concerns that the provenance of an important Iraqi artifact was fabricated, and withheld from the buyer information that undermined the provenance’s reliability," ...

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New Evidence Points to Old Motive in 1985 Church Murders

A South Georgia prosecutor is considering whether two Baptists were killed because they were Black.

For 36 years, the murder of a Baptist deacon and his wife in the vestibule of their small white church off a two-lane highway in southern Georgia has been attributed to robbery, drugs, or revenge.

But now the district attorney in Glynn County, Georgia, is considering filing new charges and naming a new motive: racism. If the prosecutor decides to try to bring the 1985 homicide to trial in 2021, his office will argue that 66-year-old Harold and 63-year-old Thelma Swain were shot to death because they were Black.

According to District Attorney Keith Higgins’s office, the review is “ongoing,” as the prosecutor considers options and available evidence to make the case.

The new evidence, collected and processed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), showed that the man convicted of the double murder in 2003 was innocent. Dennis Perry was released from prison in July 2020 after two decades of incarceration. Last week, the prosecutor dismissed all further charges, exonerating Perry.

The GBI’s evidence points to another suspect: Erik Sparre. The mitochondrial DNA of two hairs found in the hinge of a distinctive pair of glasses left at the scene were matched to Sparre’s mother’s DNA, meaning they came from Sparre or someone in his matrilineal line.

Sparre also told at least two people he committed the crimes and was once recorded on tape bragging about the murders.

“I’m the motherf— who killed two n— in that church, and I’m going to kill you and the whole damn family if I have to do it in church,” he told an ex-wife while her family taped him, according to the extensive investigation of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

One of Sparre’s ex-wives said he ...

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The CRT Debate Distracts from God’s Justice

In the conflict over racial issues, “just preach the gospel” misses the gospel.

I remember the World War II stories I was told as a middle school student. Wearing secondhand clothes and sporting an unkempt fade, I sat in a hard wooden desk too small for my growing black body in a classroom full of distracted boys and girls. The air conditioning in Alabama classrooms was unreliable, which meant sweat was an ever-present companion to our education.

The teachers told us impressionable youths that the traumas of both world wars revealed American and British grit. These great nations set aside petty concerns and turned to the needs of others. I was told at that unforgiving desk that nations and individuals discover themselves under pressure. When the fervency of belief encounters the unforgiving realities of suffering, our deepest convictions are unveiled. When cancer invades a human body and stresses a marriage, the true depth of love and commitment becomes clear.

In more recent history, COVID-19 has been a similar pressure and a similar revelation for the United States and its churches. Just as there are tests that reveal a person’s character, there are national trials that make plain what a country is.

What has the COVID-19 pandemic said about the American church? Who have we revealed ourselves to be under pressure? I am talking not about the virus itself. I am talking about the social crisis of the pandemic, which brought to light the ongoing experience of racism and injustice by ethnic minorities in this country.

The church had an opportunity to lead in this area and show the world how our faith allows us to press for better treatment for all. Instead, some decided to litigate the validity of critical race theory. With Black and Asian blood drying on the concrete streets of American cities, some decided ...

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