That means dropping the façade and admitting their own struggles.
As Generation Z teens grow up, many are moving further away from Christian faith and challenging church leaders to adapt to new expectations from the youngest in their flocks.
Last month, Barna Research reported that young adults aged 18 to 22 are half as likely to identify as Christian and follow Jesus than teenagers aged 13 to 17. A slight majority of today’s young adults—52 percent—don’t identify as Christians.
The young people of Gen Z are diverse, educated, and social media savvy. When it comes to faith, they’re open to Jesus and his teachings but skeptical about institutions and leaders putting on a façade.
Kendall Johnson, 20, became a believer in college and established her faith through campus ministry, but it was the “real and raw” women of her local church in Raleigh, North Carolina, that helped her grow spiritually. Though older than she, they reached out to talk and share struggles from their own lives.
Their openness, Johnson said, “allows me to see how much faith and trust they have in Jesus. It showed me Christianity is relational with one another [and] relational with God.”
Young Christians like Johnson expect the same kind of transparency, honesty, and authenticity from their leaders.
“For some generations, the more mythical their spiritual leaders, the more they trusted them,” said Darrell Hall, author of Speaking Across Generations: Messages That Satisfy Boomers, Xers, Millennials, Gen Z, and Beyond. “Gen Zers want there to be no gap between Darrell and Dr. Hall. No gap in persona. No gap in who I am and who I present myself to be.”
To cultivate genuine relationships, Hall said leaders need be accessible to students, meeting ...
New revelations will require increased accountability, but pastor wants to look to the future.
Phil Dooley, the new global senior pastor of Hillsong Church, has promised he will clean house.
“I can’t change the past, but I can play a significant role in changing the future,” he said during a Sunday service in Sydney, shortly after the board chair announced a forensic audit of church spending under Dooley’s predecessors, founders Brian and Bobbie Houston. “Our structure and culture is changing and needs to change more to ensure we are held to a higher level of accountability, and I welcome that.”
The opportunity to declare a new beginning came, unexpectedly, when an Australian member of parliament representing Tasmania made a speech charging the global megachurch with misuse of funds.
“Hillsong followers believe that the money they put in the poor box goes to the poor,” said MP Andrew Wilkie, surrounded by piles of binders he said contained financial records leaked by a whistleblower. “But these documents show how that money is actually used to do the kind of shopping that would embarrass a Kardashian.”
According to Wilkie, internal Hillsong documents show the church paid for extravagant lifestyles for church leaders. He alleges, for example, that Bobbie Houston received a $6,500 Cartier watch and $2,500 of Louis Vuitton luggage, and the Houston family spent $150,000 of church funds for a three-day luxury retreat in Cancun.
“These other documents show former leader Brian Houston treating private jets like Ubers—again, all with church money,” Wilkie told parliament. “For example, in one three-month period, Brian Houston’s trips cost $55,000, $52,000, $30,000, $22,000 and $20,000.”
It is unclear whether the amounts are calculated ...
Popular meme accounts lose social media pages after being reported by Authentic Media, which says it coined the phrase.
Worship Leader Probs was a meme account and podcast dedicated to the challenges of music ministry, but last week its creators revealed that they’ve lost social media pages and had to censor their brand due to a company claiming ownership to “two out of the three words” in their original name.
That company is Authentic Media, which runs a church resource called Worship Leader, once a print magazine and now available online. Authentic Media holds the trademark for “worship leader” and last year publicly stated that it planned “to continue to defend our trademark, as we have for decades.”
The dispute between Worship Leader and Worship Leader Probs dates back to October 2022, when Authentic Media explained its concerns about the name during a phone call with the creators of the meme account.
According to Joshua Swanson, editor in chief of Worship Leader and managing partner at Authentic Media, the company “woke up to the fact that people were using our brand,” and in 2022, he and others at Authentic Media became particularly concerned about brand confusion with Worship Leader Probs.
“It became a material issue for us. Our mission and their mission do not align,” Swanson told CT. “It became a major conflict. We would be at events, and people thought we were them and they were us.”
The phone call last fall did not resolve things, and after months at an impasse, Authentic Media began reporting Worship Leader Probs’ social media accounts for trademark infringement in February 2023.
Before losing its accounts, Worship Leader Probs had 15,000 followers on Facebook and 45,000 followers on TikTok. ...
Hunt admits to “kissing and some awkward fondling” but alleges defamation after the account was reported in last year’s Guidepost abuse investigation.
A disgraced former Southern Baptist president is suing the denomination he once led, saying he was defamed by allegations he assaulted another pastor’s wife.
In a complaint filed in the federal court for the Middle District of Tennessee, lawyers for the Rev. Johnny Hunt, a longtime Georgia megachurch pastor, admit Hunt “had a brief, inappropriate, extramarital encounter with a married woman” in 2012, but claims the incident was consensual and that it was a private matter that should not have been made public in a major 2022 report.
“Some of the precise details are disputed, but at most, the encounter lasted only a few minutes, and it involved only kissing and some awkward fondling,” according to the complaint.
The complaint said Hunt sought counseling and forgiveness for the incident, which the complaint said was “a sin.” However, Hunt never disclosed the incident to the First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia, where he was the pastor for three decades, or to the SBC’s North American Mission Board, where he was a vice president until resigning in 2022.
But the incident became public in May 2022, after it was discovered by investigators at Guidepost Solutions, a consulting firm that had been hired to investigate how SBC leaders had dealt with the issue of abuse.
Guidepost’s investigators included the incident as part of their report and described it as a sexual assault. Those investigators said they found the allegations against Hunt credible. The former SBC president at first denied the allegations, then claimed the incident was consensual.
The complaint alleges the SBC and Guidepost engaged in defamation and libel, that they invaded Hunt’s privacy, and intentionally ...
Hkalam Samson, former head of the Kachin Baptist Convention, was internationally known for his advocacy
In July 2019, Hkalam Samson, a pastor from a predominantly Christian ethnic group in Myanmar, met with President Donald Trump at the Oval Office. Standing with a group of victims of religious persecution from around the world, he shared how the Kachin people were “oppressed and tortured by the Myanmar military government” and thanked the Trump administration for placing sanctions on four top generals.
Three and a half years and one military coup later, Hkalam was arrested at the Mandalay International Airport on December 4. The junta charged him with unlawful association and breaking the country’s counterterrorism law for meeting with Kachin armed forces and praying with the leaders of Myanmar ’s government in exile, the National Unity Government. Hkalam, the former head of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), faces up to 13 years in prison.
At the time of his arrest, 65-year-old Hkalam was traveling to Bangkok for medical appointments. His family is now concerned for his health: In January, his wife said he was suffering from pneumonia and high blood pressure, and she had not been allowed to send him medicine or food.
Known internationally for his diplomacy and peacemaking skills, Hkalam has been a leading advocate for the Kachin people, who have been engaged in an ongoing civil war with the military junta for decades. Calls for Hkalam ’s release have sounded from around the globe, including from the U.S. State Department, human rights groups, and the Kachin diaspora.
“He's the image of Kachin Baptist churches, and he's the image of the Kachin people,” said Labya La Seng, the pastor of Dallas-Fort Worth Kachin Baptist Church and president of the Kachin American Baptist Association. ...
Anonymous Christmas condemnation of invasion offers insight into antiwar movement as it seeks reconciliation with Ukrainian believers—who want names.
On an Advent Sunday in a small Protestant church in St. Petersburg, a Russian pastor nervously approached the pulpit. While his senior leadership was publicly neutral about the war, he was about to preach from the Sermon on the Mount against the invasion of Ukraine.
And in the pews before him was another potential land mine.
A congregant had been bringing along a childhood friend, who happened to be a Wagner Group mercenary. Wounded during combat for Russia’s private paramilitary company, the man was not there to spy. Yet while the pastor knew his close-knit congregation well, he could not predict the fallout from his message.
Relations remained good with the pastor’s mentor afterward, while the mercenary recovered and returned to the front lines. For now, the pastor has been left free to continue in ministry and—whether known to the intelligence services or not—in clandestine theological work against the war.
“Of course, we could go out and protest, but this would get you in jail,” he said, requesting anonymity. “For us, the most effective means are to work within your spheres of influence—and ours are very small.”
Over the course of the yearlong conflict, only a tiny minority of Russian Christian leaders have voiced complaint publicly. The response from authorities has been uneven: Minor church figures have been fined or jailed, while others continue to use their names on social media.
But no major denomination in Russia has condemned the war outright.
The St. Petersburg pastor, along with about 25 of his scattered multifaith colleagues, desired to confront their silence at the biblical source. Christianity Today spoke with three of them, on condition of anonymity, for insight ...
And among the worst-rated by everybody else.
When asked about their views of the country’s biggest religious groups, most Americans don’t have strong feelings either way—except when it comes to evangelical Christians.
In a Pew Research Center report released Wednesday, 27 percent of Americans expressed an unfavorable view of evangelicals, compared to 10 percent who have a negative view of mainline Protestants or 18 percent who have a negative view of Catholics.
About as many have a favorable approach to evangelicals—28 percent—but that’s mostly due to positive sentiment from American evangelicals themselves, about a quarter of the population.
The findings follow a trend from Pew. Six years ago, researchers reported that Americans were warming up to each major religious group in the US, from Mormons to Muslims, except for evangelicals.
Other surveys over the past year have pointed to Americans’ negative perceptions of certain evangelical denominations and traditions.
When asked about 35 specific “religious groups, organizations, and belief systems” in a 2022 YouGov poll, Americans gave the best ratings to Christianity and Protestantism, the biggest religious affiliations in the US.
YouGov respondents weren’t asked about evangelicalism as a category, but traditions with mainline denominations—Presbyterianism, Methodism, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, and the Episcopal Church—were ranked favorable, while those that fall more squarely in evangelicalism—Pentecostalism and the Southern Baptist Convention—skewed negative. (The worst ratings, though, went to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, and Satanism.)
Additionally, just over half of Americans are turned off by Pentecostal churches, more than ...
Uncovering decades of allegations out of the Christian Academy of Japan, investigators tried new tactics to facilitate repentance and healing.
Decades after dozens of missionary kids suffered physical and sexual abuse at the Christian Academy of Japan (CAJ), mission agency leaders associated with the Tokyo school fell prostrate on the ground to perform dogeza, Japan’s deepest form of apology.
The 13 leaders met with victims at a private retreat in Colorado last fall to hear their stories and offer a formal apology.
“On their knees, heads on their hands, sobbing,” recalled Janet Oates, a 1963 alum of the academy, which was founded in 1950 as a boarding school for missionary children. “Alumni were sobbing too … one moment of justice.”
The moment of repentance followed an unconventional abuse investigation process that involved CAJ alumni acting as consultants and advocates. Alumni like Oates pushed the school and its founding mission agencies to investigate historic abuse in the first place.
The results of the investigation were devastating—turning up 72 cases of alleged abuse from 1957 to 2001. But the recent response has brought a degree of healing for some victims and could demonstrate a new approach for other organizations facing historic abuse allegations.
A number of boarding schools for missionary children have faced records of abuse. Investigations have uncovered mistreatment and mismanagement at a New Tribes Mission school in Senegal, the Christian and Missionary Alliance’s school in Guinea, and Hillcrest School in Nigeria. Few of the 150 schools serving missionary children around the world still offer boarding.
Four years ago, CAJ alumni and survivors said they wanted accountability and an apology from the school and the six mission agencies that founded it.
At the retreat last fall where leaders apologized, “the ...
Three years into his pancreatic cancer diagnosis, the New York pastor will undergo immunotherapy again.
Tim Keller shared on Sunday that he will once again go through a “brutal” treatment for his pancreatic cancer and asked for prayers.
Last June, Keller participated in an inpatient immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute, which he said had “shown great promise in potentially curing cancer.” The 72-year-old is returning to the Bethesda, Maryland, facility next month to do another variation of that immunotherapy on new tumors.
The tumors “are unfortunately in some fairly inconvenient places,” Keller said, “so the doctors encouraged us to go through the treatment again, this time targeting a different genetic marker of the cancer.”
“It was brutal last June, so we approach this with an awareness of how much prayer we need,” Keller wrote on Twitter. “Please pray for our trust and dependence on God, for his providential oversight of the medical preparations now in process, and for our desire to glorify God in whatever comes our way. Thank You.”
The longtime pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, Keller was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in May 2020. He went through 14 rounds of chemotherapy, followed by a surgery to remove nodules the following year.
In June 2022, he first went through the month-long immunotherapy treatment at the National Cancer Institute. At the time, his son Michael Keller posted an update saying, “Things were scary for a bit but God was gracious, working through your prayers and the skill of the doctors, and now he is doing much better.”
Last July, Keller reported that the initial signs from the immunotherapy were encouraging. Eight months later, he said it ...
Leaders of Russian-speaking followers of Yeshua discuss whether making aliyah is a commandment, a blessing, or a choice.
Jews should leave Russia if they can.
The stark warning was issued by Pinchas Goldschmidt, the former chief rabbi of Moscow, as 2022 came to a close. After 30 years in office, he left two weeks after the invasion of Ukraine and later revealed the Kremlin pressured him to support the war—“or else.”
A student of history, he fears Jews will again become scapegoats as the government tries to “redirect the anger and discontent of the masses.”
The resulting question: Where does God want them to go?
Goldschmidt, currently in Israel, has been joined by 41,813 Russian Jewish immigrants since the war began a year ago, according to recent data released by the Knesset. [Editor’s note: On March 15, Goldschmidt updated this figure to 50,000 during a webinar hosted by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. An additional 30,000 Russian Jews have fled to other nations in Europe or the Middle East.] Another 90,000 arrived in Israel without immigrant status. Israel’s immigration minister stated 600,000 Russians are currently eligible.
But according to its 2010 census, Russia has only 156,000 Jews.
The discrepancy comes from the concept of aliyah—the Hebrew word for “ascent”—in which Israel grants automatic citizenship to anyone who has at least one Jewish grandparent and has not converted to another religion. A controversial coalition deal in the new government includes revising the Law of Return to ensure these olim (immigrants) qualify under religious law—and thus reduce intermarriage. Over 70 percent of last year’s war-induced immigrants are not considered Jewish per Orthodox law, stated the Aliyah and Integration minister.
In many cases, Messianic Jews ...
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