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News & Commentary
Interview: Melinda Gates: ‘I’m Living Out My Faith in Action’

One of the wealthiest and most controversial women in the world believes that all lives have equal value. She’s willing to spend $3.6 billion a year to prove her point.

Melinda Gates describes herself as an “impatient optimist,” something that was nurtured in her while attending Ursuline Academy, the leading Catholic all-girls school in Dallas.

Since Melinda and husband Bill created the Gates Foundation in 2000, they have given away $33.5 billion of their massive wealth from Microsoft and from their close friend, billionaire Warren Buffett. The foundation started the same year as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the 15-year antipoverty campaign centered on 8 global objectives. The two programs share many priorities, such as fighting diseases, reducing extreme poverty, and improving maternal health. The foundation partners with a wide spectrum of organizations. Faith-based groups— including Catholic organizations, World Vision, Lutheran groups, and the Salvation Army—are key recipients of more than 125 foundation grants.

This January, Melinda and Bill Gates announced they were “doubling down” on their poverty-fighting efforts. “The lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history,” they said. But along with the foundation’s big bets and big spending has come big controversy. In 2012, the couple helped launch Family Planning 2020, a global effort to make voluntary, artificial contraception available to 120 million poor women by 2020.

The foundation—which does not fund abortions—plans to spend $1 billion on contraception. This has stirred sharp criticism. In 2012, Melinda Gates made a public break with the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial birth control. She said in an interview that when poor women have little access to family planning, ...

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From the Lunch Table to the Dissection Table: The Latest Planned Parenthood Pricing Parts Video

$76 million in federal research funds drives demand.

In late 2012, Holly O’Donnell began her new job at StemExpressLLC, based in Placerville, California. She expected the firm to use her skill in drawing blood from patients as a licensed phlebotomist.

Instead, on her first day, O'Donnell was assigned to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Concord, California. There she was trained to sort through fetal tissue from an elective abortion. She recalled passing out after being told to pick up a fetal leg with tweezers.

“I thought I was going to be just drawing blood, not procuring tissue from aborted fetuses,” O’Donnell said during an interview in the latest undercover video from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). “I was looking to help the public and make blood draws easy,” the 24-year-old said. She quit her job after six months.

Human fetal tissue is in high demand from American biomedical research labs—whether for-profit, academic, or government. It’s a big business where scientists seek miracle cures to paralysis, Alzheimer’s, and other life-threatening diseases, in order to develop products for the commercial market.

StemExpress describes itself as “a multi-million dollar company that supplies human blood, tissue products, primary cells and other clinical specimens to biomedical researchers,” according to the company website. “Founded in 2010, we offer the largest variety of raw material in the industry, as well as fresh, fixed and cryopreserved human primary cells.”

Among the company’s products: a vial of 5 million frozen fetal liver stem cells for $24,250.

Some of the company’s revenue comes from federal contracts.

The National Institutes of Health awarded contracts ...

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20 Truths from Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear

You need to check out this new resource from J.D. Greear on how your church can be a Great Commission church.

1. Jesus did not say come and grow, but come and die. (17)

2. We live by losing. We gain by giving away. What we achieve by building our personal platform will never be as great as what God achieves through what we give away in faith. (18)

3. Study after study shows that most Christians have never even shared their faith—most indicating that somewhere 90 percent of evangelicals have never shared their faith with anyone outside of their family. (22)

4. The church is now Jesus’ vehicle for the completion of his mission. Jesus finished the purchase of our salvation, paying the full price for our sin on the cross and shattering the powers of death in the resurrection, but the mission of salvation is not yet complete. (31)

5. Blessing the community might certainly include growing a big church, but it would also mean giving away some of our resources. (42)

6. A “sending” ministry always starts with a heart exam. Sending out people and giving away your resources, you see, will most often compete with your church’s “bottom line,” not benefit it. (44)

7. Ask yourself, “Are there mission fields in our backyards that could contribute to the global spread of the gospel that we have overlooked because they don’t enhance the bottom line of our church? (46)

8. The question is no longer if we are called, only where and how. The call to follow him is the call to be sent and to send. (49)

9. The cross of Christ provided Paul with the motive for sacrifice, a measure for his sacrifice, and a mission in his sacrifice (2 Cor. 5:14–21). Paul wanted to see others reconciled to God as he had been reconciled. (62)

10. This intensity to do comes only from being soaked ...

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For Southern Baptists and GOP, Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Bush, Rubio interviews set at arena-sized missions conference, three months after Ben Carson controversy.

In recent years, a series of leaders have warned against America’s largest Protestant denomination being too closely tied to one party, even as Southern Baptists and evangelicals at large remain stalwart supporters of the GOP:

  • “You just can’t always say we belong to a party,” former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Frank Page warned back in 2008. “We can’t. I have cautioned Baptists about being too lockstep with any party.”
  • “We are involved in the political process, but we must always be wary of being co-opted by it,” Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) told The Wall Street Journal in 2013, soon after his election.
  • “There continue to be perceptions in our culture that the SBC is in bed with the Republican Party,” wrote leaders of Baptist21, an influential group of young pastors with Reformed leanings, after Ben Carson was invited to speak to a national gathering of SBC pastors in Columbus, Ohio. Carson eventually withdrew as a speaker.
  • Baptist21 leaders also called for a moratorium on future political invitations. “Our suggestion is that we believe it would be prudent for future SBC leaders to stop inviting politicians to our meetings,” they wrote in April. “Period.”

But disconnecting from the GOP is proving complicated.

This past week, the ERLC announced plans to interview presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio at an upcoming Baptist missions conference in Nashville.

On Saturday, Baptist21 issued a statement, saying they “aren’t as concerned” about the Bush and Rubio interviews as they were about Carson.

The two settings ...

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Christian Pharmacists and Pharmacy Owners Lose Emergency Contraceptive Appeal

Court rules that dispensing Plan B and ella does not violate religious freedom.

A federal appeals court in Washington State has ruled that Christian pharmacy owners and pharmacists there must dispense FDA-approved emergency contraceptives, despite the pharmacists' religious objections.

“We recognize that there is a ‘trend of protecting conscientious objectors to abortions’ and that most—but not all—states do not require pharmacies to deliver prescriptions, such as Plan B and ella, in a timely manner,” wrote Judge Susan P. Graber in the decision from 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals.

“On balance, however, we are unconvinced that plaintiffs’ requests to run a business while sidestepping state rules on access to drugs “is ‘so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental.’ Accordingly, we decline to recognize a new fundamental right.”

The decision overturns a lower court decision in the case of Stormans Inc. v. Weisman.

That case began after Washington State adopted new regulations in 2007, requiring pharmacists to fill all prescriptions, including emergency contraception.

The Storman family, who own a small grocery and pharmacy, objected, as did pharmacists at two other stores and another pharmacy owner. They filed suit, seeking a religious exemption.

Kevin Storman, president of his family’s pharmacy, said in a statement that Washington State already allows pharmacies to refer customers to other stores in some cases. More than 30 other nearby pharmacies already carry Plan B and Ella, he said, so customers could fill their prescriptions there.

“All we are asking is to be able to live out the beliefs that we hold, as Americans have always been able to do,” ...

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Finding the Right Church Plant Model: An Introduction to Church Models (Part 1)

Which church planting model is best for you? Multiple options exist, and it can be tough to decide.

We just got another car. Well, truthfully, Donna (my wife) made me get one. To be completely honest, she went and bought it and brought it home and basically said, "You're getting another car."

You see, I hate car buying. I hate picking the right make and model. I just want my car to get me from here to there.

So, I pick a car model based on the purpose—getting from here to there. And, that's how we should choose church planting models: based on the mission.

Models of Church Planting

In this blog series, I will cover a total of five current church planting models: Traditional, Launch Big, Missional Incarnational, Organic, and Satellite Campus. In covering each model, I will present the main emphasis/elements/components of each model, the financial costs over the period of the first five years of ministry, the type of contexts that prove to be more fruitful (and unfruitful), the strengths and potential weaknesses, the practitioners, and the available resources helping to describe the model.

Obviously, I am not saying this is every way possible to plant a church. Furthermore, I am not saying that my description is a perfect one. However, I want us to think about WAYS to plant a church so we can be more faithful and fruitful in the process.

Just as it is in any missiological context, from a tribe in Southeast Asia, to a rural community in Atlantic Canada, the how of church planting is, in many ways, shaped by the who, when, and where of culture.

And, over time, that "how of church planting" has coalesced into certain patters that we call "models" when we do missiology.

By the end of the blog series, it is my hope that you will have more information about some different ...

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Crowdfund My Outrage

Online fundraising turns to culture-war causes

When leaders at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Chicago wanted to update their school’s playground, they turned to WeRaise, a Christian crowdfunding site. They posted a short video featuring smiling school kids and a brief description of the $9,000 project. Before long, they had raised $11,200 for the playground. Similar crowdfunding campaigns—which can raise money online through small donations for popular causes—helped to jump-start a small clinic in Nebraska, send a pastor on sabbatical, and fund youth programs in inner-city Detroit.

Crowdfunding sites have long been used to support starving artists and cover unforeseen medical expenses. Kickstarter, a site focused on funding creative projects, has been used to raise more than $1.7 billion for about 86,600 projects since launching in 2009. GoFundMe started in 2008; by 2014, it was raising $1 million a day.

Overall, about $16 billion was raised by crowdfunding sites worldwide last year, with about $3 billion going to social causes, according to a 2015 crowdfunding industry report from Massolutions.

More recently, however, crowdfunding has also been harnessed to fund outrage.

Take the case of Memories Pizza, the Indiana store whose owners said they wouldn’t cater a same-sex wedding. It became the target of online threats, prompting the owners to close their doors. Propelled by the politically conservative website TheBlaze TV, a GoFundMe campaign for the store raised more than $840,000 so the store could reopen.

Similarly, Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Portland, Oregon, were the recipients of funds from at least three crowdfunding campaigns after the couple was fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a wedding cake ...

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The Feminist Fight Against Abortion

Hearing from the progressive and pro-woman Christians siding with life.

Earlier this year, I watched a video of women ages 15 to 50 saying the first thing that came to mind when they heard the word “abortion.” Even in their quick explanations, they referenced common thinking in the abortion debate: that the pro-choice cause focuses on what’s best for the woman.

“I feel like when people think of pro-choice, they just think of the mom,” said a 20-year-old. “They don’t think about the life that inside of [them].”

Other respondents said, “A woman has the choice, “ and, “At 1 week or 20 weeks, it’s up to her.”

Despite our shifts away from pro-life and pro-choice labels, many Americans essentially conceptualize the issue the same way, with abortion rights seen as favoring the woman and restrictions on abortion as favoring the baby. But we’re hearing more from Christian women who challenge this false dichotomy, as well as the notion that to be liberal, progressive, or feminist, you must also be pro-choice.

They say it’s out of concern for women—for their wellbeing and empowerment and place in the world—that we can seek better options than abortion. To put it simply: To be pro-woman is actually to be pro-life.

This idea isn’t new. Feminists for Life has been around for decades, and some say that earlier generations of feminists would’ve lamented the rallying around abortion access today. Still, it’s refreshing to hear Christians from across the theological and political spectrums speak out against abortion. Their perspectives bring another dimension to the pro-life cause as it reemerges with the controversy over the recent Planned Parenthood clips.

Take Sarah Bessey, ...

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Living on Mission in Your Community: An Interview with Pastor Clayton Reed

I am thankful for the ministry of Clayton Reed and for how he serves his community.

Ed Stetzer: Clayton, what does it mean to you to be given the “Citizen of the Year” award at the 2015 Southlake Chamber of Commerce banquet?

Clayton Reed: It was totally unexpected. There were a number of local people nominated that had deep, longstanding ties to the community that were incredibly deserving of the award. I was deeply honored to be chosen by the selection committee.

ES: Can you tell us a little bit about what you do in your community?

CR: I currently serve in a number of capacities around the city. I serve as a police chaplain for the City of Southlake. This involves ongoing officer care along with dealing with local families and helping them through tragedies. I also serve on the Mayor’s Advisory Committee, a group of local non-profit leaders who work with the Mayor on the moral agenda of our city. In addition, I serve on a number of local boards, such as the Dragon Youth Football Board and the Chamber of Commerce Board.

Because of my work throughout Southlake over the years, I spend a fair amount of time just in personal conversations with different leaders in the city. For instance, for the last 6 years, I met with the Mayor of Southlake for about 20 minutes before every City Council meeting for personal prayer.

ES: As a pastor, how on earth to do you find the time to do all that you do in the community in addition to your church work, family commitments, etc.?

CR: From the beginning, our church has made serving the local community a priority for my ministry. I have been allowed and encouraged by my church family to be the chaplain of the city and the pastor of our church simultaneously. Also, much of my work flows out of my connectedness to the city through my family. For instance, football ...

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Amen to Women in Politics

From a complementarian who celebrates female government leaders.

Along with the rest of the country, I followed the debate over whether the Confederate battle flag should be removed from the South Carolina state house lawn in the wake of the massacre in Charleston last month.

What struck me most about what it took to get the flag down was the role of female voices in the public square.

From the moment we learned of the massacre, Nikki Haley—South Carolina’s first female governor—was front and center, expressing her outrage and sharing in the grief of her fellow South Carolinians. She spoke honestly and vulnerably. She let her voice shake. She cried. Haley was present at each vigil and memorial service, flanked by male politicians.

Even as a leader in the Republican Party, which had long supported the presence of the flag, she ultimately took a stand against it. "We are not going to allow this symbol to divide us along longer,” she declared just days after the shooting. “The fact that it causes so [much] pain is enough to move it from the capitol grounds. It is, after all, a capitol that belongs to all of us."

When the flag finally came down for good, who can forget the tearful speech that poured out of state legislator Jenny Horne? On the state house floor, the Republican lawmaker and descendant of Confederate president Jefferson Davis choked up as she called on her fellow legislators to vote to remove the controversial flag. One of my friends said she sounded like a mother scolding her children. (And that’s a good thing.)

We’ve heard so much in recent years about women and their emotions. Some tell women to downplay their feelings and hold back their tears, lest they be viewed as weak. After all, there’s no crying ...

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