Free at Last: Andrew Brunson Released by Turkey After Two Years

American pastor was imprisoned on false charges of terrorism.

American pastor Andrew Brunson has been released after being detained for two years in Turkey.

At a hearing this morning, a Turkish court freed him from judicial control, which lifts his house arrest and travel ban.

Despite a guilty verdict sentencing him to 3 years, 1 month, and 15 days in prison, Brunson may return home to the United States as soon as today due to good behavior and time already served.

NBC News broke the news yesterday of the expected deal between Turkey and the United States over Brunson, a North Carolina pastor who had worked in Izmir for decades and was arrested on terrorism and espionage charges in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016.

US officials and religious freedom advocates considered the charges against Brunson to be erroneous, and multiple witnesses retracted their testimonies against him during today’s hearing.

Trump administration officials were optimistic but cautious that Turkey would follow through on the deal, reported The Washington Post. The deal would likely lift recent US sanctions in exchange for Brunson’s release by being sentenced today to time already served.

Officials expect Brunson to “be handed back his passport and put on a plane to the US,” reported The Wall Street Journal.

World Watch Monitor was with Brunson and his family and lawyers in Turkey at 8 p.m. local time (1 p.m. eastern time in the US). He was expected to leave for the airport at about 9 p.m. local time/2 p.m. Eastern.

Facing up to 35 years in prison if convicted, Brunson flatly denied all charges. He had declared in court, “I am an innocent man on all these charges. I reject them. I know why I am here. I am here to suffer in Jesus’ name.”

After being held in a number of different ...

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Love Your Neighbor as Yourself—And Bring Your Kids Along

Raising children to love like Jesus did.

I am the child of Christian parents who were deeply committed to raising kids who care about others. My dad was a pastor and we were homeschooled, but my parents worked hard to intentionally break open our lives to learn and be in relationship with diverse communities. We volunteered in special ed classrooms. We spent multiple weeks in the summer in tiny indigenous villages. I grew up believing that every family invited a hodgepodge of lonely and isolated people to every holiday gathering. And yet, for all that was modeled to me to be outward looking, as a young adult in Bible college I struggled to find theological language for what seemed to be a fairly straightforward concept: that Christians have a responsibility to care about their neighbor, especially the most vulnerable.

When I was in my 20s, I read The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day (who started the Catholic Worker Movement) and was electrified by the language of the common good. This, I thought, was what my parents raised me to believe in, and it was something I wanted to pass on to my own children. But now, as a mother, I realized I underestimated the challenges—both cultural and personal—to modeling for my children a life that is lived with our neighbors in mind.

What Do We Really Want?

It is hard work to parent well in this, or any, age. Consumed by busy schedules, technology, and the desire to do it all perfectly, many of us can feel overwhelmed and go into autopilot. This is why it is helpful to step back consistently and ask ourselves: What is it that we really want for our children?

Judging by blogs, sermons, and Instagram posts, what many in our culture desire is to raise children who are safe, happy, and loved. These are admirable and incredibly ...

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Eugene Peterson Enters Hospice Care

Beloved pastor and author nears completion of his long obedience in the same direction.

“Every moment in this man’s presence is sacred.”

So concluded the son of Eugene Peterson in a weekend announcement that the 85-year-old retired pastor and bestselling author of The Message and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction is receiving hospice care.

Robert Creech, a professor of Christian ministries at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary, shared the announcement from Eric Peterson on Facebook.

“Eugene Peterson has encouraged, formed, and often literally saved the ministry of more than one pastor over the years through his writing and thinking (I would include myself in that list),” wrote Creech in a Saturday post now shared more than 1,000 times. “He has refreshed Scripture for many through his thoughtful paraphrase of the Bible published as The Message.

“He has taught us to pray,” Creech continued. “It is time for those who have benefited from his ministry to return the favor to him and his family with prayer over the next several weeks.”

This past Tuesday, Peterson was hospitalized after “a sudden and dramatic turn in his health caused by an infection,” wrote his son on Friday to friends and family (with the encouragement that they share the news). “He is now being treated for pneumonia and is responding well to the IV antibiotics. He is eating again, and went for a very short walk this afternoon. He is much improved as of today.”

Eric Peterson continued:

Elizabeth and I joined Jan and Leif in his room this afternoon for a meeting with his health care team of three doctors. They confirmed for us that the two main medical issues he is facing—heart failure and dementia—are advanced and progressing. Based on their recommendation, ...

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Renewing Your Church: Recalibrating Your Vision to Create Sustainability

I narrowed the process of church recalibration down to four phases.

I remember the first Sunday of January 2004 like it was yesterday. I had just been elected Lead Pastor of New Life Church, the church where I was saved and had served as youth pastor. It was my first official Sunday, and our Superintendent was going to “commission” me as Lead Pastor.

It snowed the entire night before (In Seattle, snow shuts down everything.) The Superintendent called, saying he couldn’t get there. So, I was up to preach—my first time as Lead Pastor. Even better, only 30% of the normal Sunday crowd arrived! Nevertheless, I stood at the pulpit and started preaching, not realizing the winding, complex road that lay ahead.

New Life was a good church, but it had plateaued. The church was in a dangerous place, what I now describe as “deceptively healthy.” It had signs of health, but if not revitalized, it would slowly die. I knew it needed new vision and leadership, however I had no understanding of the courage this would take––or the pain it would cause.

I soon realized that the changes needed were more than a new preacher or some quick cosmetic modifications. New Life was a choir-driven church, with a strong Sunday school and midweek program. I recognized that necessary changes would be deep and cultural: music style, discipleship approaches, transition to an intentional church model, and a change of core priorities.

The first three years were really hard. I quickly learned, “It would be easier to change the Bible than the music style.” Many at New Life saw change as a threat; they watered down the gospel and lessened the church's impact.

I remember the day when the top giver left the church. Over lunch, he said, “I am leaving. I don’t agree ...

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The Difference A Metaphor Makes: Men & Women Working Together

Unearthing and critiquing the guiding metaphor about women is one of the most important leadership tasks in our era.

Each workplace has a guiding metaphor about women, and while most never bring it out into the open for honest dialogue and critique, it communicates loudly throughout an organization’s culture, policies, processes, and how people relate with one another.

As I reflect on research I conducted with talented women from approximately 30 nations who are serving and leading in God’s mission, I believe unearthing and critiquing the guiding metaphor about women in our ministries and workplaces is one of the most important leadership tasks in our era.

Females make up more than half of the people in our congregations and more than half of the global mission work force. To do their best work, they need a guiding metaphor that is affirming of their gender and humanity.

Women as Temptresses Who Cause Men to Stumble

Sometimes, it feels like the prevailing metaphor in many evangelical ministries and workplaces is “women are temptresses.” Ever since Eve took a bite of that forbidden fruit, it can feel like women are blamed for many of men's shortcomings and character defects,especially in the area of sexuality.

In all my years of ministry, I have yet to meet one woman leading in God's mission who had the intent of snaring a man and leading him down a destructive sexual path.

Nevertheless, because of this guiding metaphor, women leaders are often separated from men and frequently shut out of opportunities that impede their development. I believe in exercising wisdom when it comes to sexual temptation, just as I adhere to wisdom when establishing processes in other areas such as integrity regarding how money is handled.

There are basic principles that are simply wise to implement in a wide array of situations because ...

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A Day of Rejoicing! Lessons from Two Years of Petition for Pastor Andrew Brunson

After years of prayer before the Lord, Andrew Brunson has been set free.

Today, after years of prayer and petition before the Lord, Andrew Brunson has been set free from imprisonment in Turkey. Praise be to God.

Many of us have been following the news throughout the duration of Brunson’s unlawful detainment. We watched in confusion as authorities arrested him in October of 2016, sending him to a detention facility.

I’m very thankful for the work of President Trump and his adminstration in working for Pastor Brunson’s release, and particularly for his vocal advocacy.

Persecution is Real

We were horrified to hear the accusations made by Turkish authorities implying his “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” We waited impatiently as Congressional figures, President Trump, Vice President Pence, and so many others eagerly advocated for his release.

If anything, this long period of waiting opened the eyes of churchgoers in the West to an important reality: Persecution is real. It’s not just something that happened back in the second and third centuries during the days of the early church.

Still to this day, it happens all over the world to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The right to independently exercise one’s religions beliefs—to worship God without fear of repercussion or government intervention—is not afforded to all people everywhere. Consider this reality as you go to church this Sunday, recognizing the blessing that it is to come before God so freely; we mustn’t so easily take these liberties for granted.

Even in the 21st century, we understand that religious freedom is still a cause worth championing. Just because we don’t see persecution or discrimination of this magnitude happening in our own backyard doesn’t deny ...

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One-on-One with Greg Stier on Dare 2 Share—Live Tomorrow in 95 Locations

"We're praying for a movement. We're praying for revival. We're praying for transformation."

Dare to Share is having a live simulcast tomorrow and I was recently able to talk with Greg Stier, Founder and CEO of Dare 2 Share, about it. Check out our conversation below and join the event tomorrow!

Ed: You have an event coming up. Tell me about it.

Greg: This Saturday, October 13th, we're doing Dare 2 Share Live, which is a live simulcast from Denver to 95 satellite sites across the nation. Basically, churches are saying, "We're going to invite the churches community, the teenagers in our community, to come together and we're going to train them, equip them, on how to share the gospel of Christ, and then mobilize them to actually go do it."

It is a live simulcast. There is a 9 A.M. West coast start and a noon East coast start, so every student is getting the exact same training at the exact same time. There's worship dance in every room and live trainers that we've pre-trained in every room. It doesn't feel like you're just watching a screen. You are involved in the room, and students are being energized and mobilized simultaneously.

Ed: It seems that evangelism has fallen on hard times with a lot of student ministries. Why does it matter if people should dare to share?

Greg: The real key, I believe, to spiritual growth is putting social equity on the line. I mean, Jesus said, "If you want to follow me, pick up your cross, die to yourself." That first death is not a physical death. It's a social death. And evangelism really risks a social death.

When teenagers at our Dare 2 Share Live are uploading gospel-conversation-starting videos to their friends in their feed, there's a chance that they'll be rejected. For a teenager, what means the most to them is how they're ...

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Longtime Christian Post Publisher Charged in $10 Million Fraud Scheme

Manhattan indictment alleges conspiracy and shady business practices between Christian Media Corporation and Newsweek rescuer IBT Media.

The former head of The Christian Post, which calls itself the No. 1 Christian website in the world, was indicted this week in what investigators say was a scheme to obtain millions in loans through false pretenses.

William C. Anderson—who served as the CEO of the Christian Media Corporation (CMC International), whose flagship publication is The Christian Post—and Etienne Uzac—the CEO IBT Media (until recently, the owners of Newsweek)—were arraigned today on charges of fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, and falsifying business documents, following a long-running investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

The indictment alleges that the two companies, which were also indicted, faked financial audits to secure $10 million in loans—with $1.5 million going to CMC International—then used the money to make up for deficits from general operations rather than purchasing the high-performance equipment they told financers they would.

Both executives have denied the charges, noting that all the lenders had been paid back in full. In court today, they pleaded not guilty.

“The notion that my client intended to deceive anyone, much less engage in a money laundering conspiracy, is absurd,” Andy Lankler, Anderson’s lawyer, told The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news of the indictment. “We will vigorously defend these charges.”

Michelle Vu, chief of staff for The Christian Post, said in a statement to CT, “There are no charges against The Christian Post (CP), no allegations of any wrongdoing by CP. CP will continue its work as usual, focusing on bringing fair, accurate and relevant news to its readers.”

Anderson, who was at the helm of CMC ...

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Half of Pastors Approve of Trump’s Job Performance

Survey of US Protestant church leaders parses support for the President by church size, denomination, ethnicity, and age.

A slim majority of pastors say they approve of the job President Donald Trump has done in the White House, but many are unsure.

A new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research of Protestant senior pastors found 51 percent approve of how Trump has handled the presidency, with 25 percent strongly approving.

“After almost two years of actions and statements from the White House, most pastors likely consider some positive and others negative,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“When asked to evaluate the president’s job performance with no neutral option, most pastors approve.”

Still, almost 3 in 10 (28%) disapprove, and another 2 in 10 (20%) say they aren’t sure.

Pastors were specifically prompted to evaluate the president’s job performance, said McConnell. There is no lack of data on President Trump, but many were still hesitant to give an opinion.

“Compared to the middle of President Obama’s first term, we see twice as many pastors say they’re undecided on President Trump’s job performance,” said McConnell.

In the leadup to the 2010 midterm elections, a LifeWay Research survey found 30 percent of Protestant pastors approved of President Obama’s job performance. More than 6 in 10 (61%) disapproved, and only 9 percent said they were not sure.

“There is no lack of information on what President Trump is doing or how he is doing it,” said McConnell, “so the undecided posture appears to be an unwillingness to identify with either of the political sides that have emerged in American politics.”

The hesitancy of pastors to take sides where Trump is concerned stretches back to the presidential election.

Despite ...

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Giving Sabbath a Rest

How God's grace turned my strict views upside down.

I grew up in a Sabbatarian religion where we practiced Sabbath observance as a matter of law. My religious community was conscious of the minute that the sun set on a Friday evening. We made sure that moment didn’t catch us still at work or at the grocery store. It was expected that we would make every effort to ensure we were adequately prepared to rest from physical labors. Our homes and cars were cleaned, errands were run, and food was prepared. Some ironed their dress clothes for church the next day. As a child, I remember getting Vaseline and a paper towel and shining my black patent leather church shoes. When the sun set, we “welcomed in the Sabbath” with worship—songs, Scripture, and prayer—marking the beginning of a sacred 24 hours.

We were constantly reminded of John 14:15: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”(NKJV) We interpreted this to mean, “If you love God, keep the Ten Commandments.” Keeping the Sabbath was the fourth commandment; therefore, if you weren’t giving it your best shot, then you were showing God, yourself, and your community how little you loved him. This mindset was not rest. In fact, Sabbath was taxing on the conscience.

My upbringing, in short, taught me how to work for my salvation. I knew what it felt like, in my soul, to wonder if I would measure up and make it to heaven. Was I trying hard enough? Could I try harder? Was I confessing sin so it would be forgiven? Was I sincerely striving to please God? I believed my eternal life depended on the answers to these questions.

Wrestling with Rest

I was convinced that the particular way I kept Sabbath was required to earn God’s favor. But in my late 20s, God began to show me that his ...

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