Category Archives: church issue

The Iranian Protests and the Church




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The protests currently shaking Iran have enormous implications for U. S. foreign policy—and for the Church.

Iranian citizens are rising up against their oppressive Shiite government. They shout, “Death to the Dictator!” while enduring tear gas, water cannons, arrest—and death.

The demonstrations initially had to do with the sagging economy, high unemployment, and the increased cost of basic foods. As one protester quoted in the Washington Post said, “When we don’t have bread to eat, we are not afraid of anything.”

But these protests may have evolved into “an open rebellion against Iran’s Islamic leadership itself.”

The outcome of these protests of course will have enormous implications for the Middle East and for U. S. foreign policy. The Iranian government is a staunch ally of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, supports Hezbollah, the Shiite terrorist group and arch-enemy of Israel, and is fomenting unrest (and that’s putting it mildly) throughout the Middle East.

And no doubt you’ve heard about the Iranian government’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

But there’s another reason Americans—and especially American Christian—should be following events there: the growth of Christianity in Iran.

In the online journal “The Stream,” my friend Michael Brown writes that Iranian converts, Christian leaders, and missiologists all tell him the same thing: “Iranian Muslims are converting to Christianity at an unprecedented pace.” Indeed, according to the Iranian Christian News Agency, Islamic clerics are alarmed at the growing number of Iranian youth who are abandoning Islam, converting to Christianity, and joining house churches. That despite the enormous risks of conversion in a country that openly suppresses the Christian faith.

The news comes as no surprise to Reza Safa, a Muslim convert to Christianity and the author of “The Coming Fall of Islam in Iran.” Safa, who now lives in the U.S., notes on his website that “Despite severe persecution by the Iranian government against underground churches, God’s Word is spreading like a wildfire all over Iran.”

That’s exciting news. And the protests against the regime raging across Iran may be a sign of hope for Christians, according to Iranian journalist and Christian convert Sohrab Amari. Amari told the Catholic News Agency that “the Iranians who are pouring into the streets have had it with an ideological regime that represses them.” Many are even chanting “nostalgic slogans” about pre-revolutionary Iran—a time when religious minorities like Christians, Jews, and Bahai’s could live well enough alongside their Islamic neighbors.

The outcome of the protests remains to be seen. Will they lead to more freedoms, or to even worse repressions?

And as the number of conversions continues to rise, will the government target churches even more fiercely, or will those who have tasted the freedom to become children of God through Jesus Christ act as leaven in Iranian society, inspiring more people to seek freedom from their authoritarian overlords?

We don’t have to look far back in history to see epoch-shaking movements of God’s people. As Chuck Colson documented masterfully in his book “Being the Body,” the fall of communism in Poland, in Romania, and throughout eastern Europe was fueled by Christian faith—and the human desire for freedom kindled by that faith.

At one time, those of us old enough to remember the Cold War couldn’t have imagined the demise of European communism. But it happened. The fall of an authoritarian Islamist regime should not be beyond our hopes and prayers.

So please, join me in prayer for our brethren in Iran—for safety, for wisdom, and for the conversion of many more to freedom in Jesus Christ.


The Iranian Protests and the Church: Bread, Freedom, and Faith

As events are unfolding in Iran, believers everywhere have the opportunity to intercede for Christians and new converts in that country. Read more about this critical news and its implications by clicking on the links in our Resources section.


What No One Is Telling You About Iran

  • Michael Brown | | January 2, 2018
Could Iranian protests bring religious freedom for Christians?

  • Michelle La Rosa | Catholic News Agency | December 29, 2017
Christianity is Rapidly Growing in Iran

  • CBN News | August 15, 2017
Being the Body: A New Call for the Church to Be Light in Darkness

  • Chuck Colson and Ellen Santilli Vaughn
  • Thomas Nelson

  • 2004

BreakPoint This Week: Where Was God in 2017?



“Where was God?” It’s a question that John and Ed believe Christians must be prepared to answer in the midst of natural and man-made disasters. Certainly in 2017 we saw God at work in and through his people, the Church, as they responded with love and relief efforts in the wake of the monster hurricanes in Texas, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico.

John and Ed also review the tumultuous political year, the fate of religious liberty as we know it before the Supreme Court, and what the declining fertility rate means for Western nations.


BreakPoint: 1.77 Kids Aren’t Enough

  • John Stonestreet

  • BreakPoint

  • December 18, 2017
BreakPoint: Dying Alone

  • Eric Metaxas 

  • BreakPoint

  • December 19, 2017

Mormon Baptisms of Holocaust Victims Draw Ire

Mormons are posthumously baptizing Holocaust victims as well as grandparents of public figures like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Steven Spielberg, despite church rules intended to restrict the ceremonies to a member’s ancestors, according to a researcher who has spent two decades monitoring the church’s massive genealogical database.

The discoveries made by former Mormon Helen Radkey and shared with The Associated Press likely will bring new scrutiny to a deeply misunderstood practice that has become a sensitive issue for the church. The church, in a statement, acknowledged the ceremonies violated its policy and said they would be invalidated, while also noting its created safeguards in recent years to improve compliance.

Proxy baptisms are tied to a core church teaching that families spend eternity together, but the baptisms do not automatically convert dead people to Mormonism. Under church teachings, the rituals provide the deceased a choice in the afterlife to accept or reject the offer of baptism.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only major religion that baptizes the dead, and the ritual has contributed to struggles by the faith to combat the mischaracterization of its beliefs.


The church’s stance on family and the afterlife is behind a massive collection of genealogical records the Utah-based church compiles from around the world and makes available to the public through its website . Proxy baptisms are recorded in a password-protected part of the database accessible only to church members.

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Things You May Not Know About Christmas

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BreakPoint: It’s Not About the Manger Christmas and the Incarnation







This is John Stonestreet. Merry Christmas! Today on BreakPoint, Chuck Colson shares his thoughts on the staggering implications of Jesus’s birth.

I hope you’re enjoying this holy Christmas Day in the company of your friends and family.  Today, Chuck Colson relates in a broadcast originally aired ten years ago how Christmas is a time to reflect on the babe in the manger and God’s wonderful love for us, but even more, it’s a time to reflect on the cosmic implications of the Incarnation of  God’s Son.

Chuck Colson: The manger scene inspires a sense of awe and comfort to the hearts of Christians everywhere. But we often forget the staggering implications of Christmas.

What image does the mention of Christmas typically conjure up? For most of us, it’s a babe lying in a manger while Mary and Joseph, angels, and assorted animals look on. Heartwarming picture, but Christmas is about far more than a Child’s birth—even the Savior’s birth. It’s about the Incarnation: God Himself, Creator of heaven and earth, invading planet Earth, becoming flesh and dwelling among us.

It’s a staggering thought. Think of it: The Word—that is, Logos in the Greek, which meant all  knowledge that could be known, the plan of creation—that is, ultimate reality, becomes mere man? And that He was not born of an earthly king and queen, but of a virgin of a backwater village named Nazareth? Certainly God delights in confounding worldly wisdom and human expectations.

Thirty years after His humble birth, Jesus increased the Jews’ befuddlement when He read from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives…to set free those who are downtrodden…” Jesus then turned the scroll back and announced, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

In effect, the carpenter’s son had just announced He was the King.

So yes, the birth of Jesus is a glorious moment, and the manger scene brings comfort and joy and Christmas cheer. But it should also inspire a holy terror in us—that this baby is God incarnate, the King who came to set captives free, through His violent, bloody death on the cross as atonement for us, His unworthy subjects.

It’s through the Incarnation God sets His grand plan in motion. He invades planet Earth, establishing His reign through Christ’s earthly ministry. And then Christ leaves behind an occupying force, His Church, which is to carry on the work of redemption until His return and the kingdom’s final triumph.

Do we get this? I’m afraid most of us are so preoccupied and distracted by last-minute Christmas shopping and consumerism, we fail to see God’s cosmic plan of redemption in which we, as fallen creatures, are directly involved.

Well, the average Christian may not “get” this announcement, but those locked behind bars do. Whenever I preach in the prisons, and I read Christ’s inaugural sermon, Luke 4:18, and when I quote His promise of freedom for prisoners, they often raise their arms and cheer. The message of Jesus means freedom and victory for those who once had no hope. They’re not distracted by the encumbrance of wealth and comfort.

People in the developing world get it, too. Whenever I’ve shared this message with the poor and oppressed people overseas, I see eyes brightening. Stripped of all material blessings, exploited by earthly powers, they long for the bold new kingdom of Christ.

Today is Christmas. Go ahead, enjoy singing about and celebrating the birth of the Savior. Set up a manger scene in your home. But don’t forget this earth-shaking truth: The birth of the Baby in the manger was the thrilling signal that God had invaded the planet. And that gives us real reason to celebrate Christmas.


(This commentary originally aired December 25, 2007.)



It’s Not About the Manger: Christmas and the Incarnation

As this commentary from Chuck reminds us, Christmas is a time for joyful celebration. But it’s especially a time to remember God’s Incarnation. So get your family together and celebrate the Advent of Christ and His kingdom come to earth.

BreakPoint: The Enduring Power of “A Christmas Carol” Hope, Redemption, Story



“Ebeneeeeezer!” Today on BreakPoint, I’m going to talk about Charles Dickens’ great classic work“A Christmas Carol.”

One hundred and seventy-four years ago, a British writer was horrified at the conditions under which children were made to labor in tin mines. He decided to write a pamphlet exposing these conditions. His intended title: “An Appeal to the People of England on Behalf of the Poor Man’s Child.”

Thank heavens the writer changed his mind. Instead of a pamphlet, he decided to write a novel making the same points. It’s filled with colorful characters—including an old man who goes about snarling “Bah, Humbug!”

Those two little words instantly reveal what book I’m talking about: “A Christmas Carol,” by the immortal Charles Dickens. The book has never been out of print—and it illustrates why telling a good story is often the best way to communicate our beliefs.

Why does “A Christmas Carol” still resonate today? For the answer, I went to my friend Gina Dalfonzo, editor of Dickensblog. She told me “A Christmas Carol “is a book that “has everything: great sorrow and great joy, corruption and redemption, poverty and pain, hope and love.” And “it expresses the deep belief that even the worst person can change for the better.”

“A Christmas Carol” is not merely a magnificent story, and its message is not confined to a “social gospel” teaching: Dickens points directly to Christ throughout. For example, Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, suggests that perhaps nothing about Christmas can be “apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin.”

And Tiny Tim expresses the hope that when people saw his lameness, “It might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.” This is, Gina points out, “a wonderful example of the biblical idea of God’s strength being made perfect in our weakness.”

Dickens’ classic shoots down the idea—prevalent in some Christian circles—that reading novels is a waste of time. They seem to forget that Jesus Himself was a master storyteller. For instance, He didn’t just say, “Come to the aid of those who need help.” Instead, He told a vivid story about a Samaritan who rescues a wounded man.

Chuck Colson once said that when it came to learning moral lessons, he was “much more impressed by profound works of fiction than by abstract theological discourses.” Scenes from some of the greatest stories ever told, he said, “have etched moral truths deeply into my soul. Their characters and lessons are so vivid I can’t forget them.”

And that is likely why so many of us will never forget the moral truths told through Ebenezer Scrooge, Fezziwig, Tiny Tim, and all the other memorable characters that populate Dickens’ great Victorian tale. It’s why we reject pamphlets that say, “Be nice to the needy” in favor of a good strong character bellowing, “Are there no prisons? [Are there no] workhouses?” Or the ghost of Scrooge’s partner, Jacob Marley, howling, “Mankind was my business!”

Dickens’ Christmas classic is more popular than ever. There’s a new film about how he came to write “A Christmas Carol,” called “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” And a writer named Samantha Silva has just published a novel titled “Mr. Dickens and His Carol.”

I do hope you’ll take time out to read, or re-read, the original, or read it aloud to your family. Who knows what great good may come of it?

And so I end this piece by saying—and you probably knew it was coming—“God bless us, everyone.”


The Enduring Power of “A Christmas Carol”: Hope, Redemption, Story

As Eric mentions, a good story has the power to bring moral truths alive for daily life, and Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a great example of that. Get the book for yourself or for a friend–it’s available at the online bookstore. And check out Gina Dalfonzo’s Dickensblog for more on the timeless works of this famous British author.


O Holy Night


This is Christmas week, and so I thought we might reflect on the hymn, “O Holy Night” by John Dwight.

“O holy night! The stars are brightly shining. It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

Jesus came into the world to save us and so we feel valuable and our soul feels its worth. Perhaps the most quoted verse in the Bible is John 3:16. It tells us that Jesus came because “God so loved the world.” He came so that our souls would feel their worth to God.

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O Little Town of Bethlehem and Calvary go together



This is Christmas week, and I thought it might be worthwhile to spend a moment to reflect on the words to the hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem. It was written in 1867 by Phillips Brooks (an Episcopal pastor from Philadelphia). He had been in Israel two years earlier and had celebrated Christmas in Bethlehem. He wrote this song to reflect on what the night of the birth of Jesus might have been like.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

While the streets of our cities are quiet on Christmas day, most likely that day was just like any other day for the people in Bethlehem. But as evening came, the town grew quiet and something remarkable took place.

In the second verse the hymn says, “While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.” This is just like today. Our world goes about its business, usually oblivious to the spiritual realities around it.

( Read the rest of this commentary, here. ) 

What’s in a (Transgender) Pronoun? Speaking Truth in Love




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If a transgender person asks you to use a pronoun or name in line with his or her preferred gender, what do you do? It’s no longer a hypothetical question.

In “Romeo and Juliet,” we remember Shakespeare asking, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” A rose is still a rose no matter what we call it. But what’s in a pronoun? Specifically, if a neighbor who identifies as transgender asks us to use ze rather than he or she, does it really matter? What should we do to honor the relationship and the gospel?

It’s a sticky issue for Christians, and it’s becoming stickier by the day. That’s why I’m glad to tell you about a very helpful perspective, an article by Andrew Walker entitled, “He, She, Ze, Zir? Navigating pronouns while loving your transgender neighbor.” Walker, who wrote the great book “God and the Transgender Debate,” is Director of Policy Studies at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In the article, Walker exhibits the truth and grace so necessary for believers to navigate these choppy waters in our homes, at work, and in church. Regarding the truth, he forthrightly points out, “Pronouns are not an insignificant issue. … The question we as Christians have to consider is whether the reality we are being asked to affirm is objective and corresponds to biblical truth, or whether the reality we are being asked to acknowledge is subjective and false. Nothing less than the truth and authority of God’s revelation over created reality is up for grabs in something as seemingly innocent as pronoun usage.”

Andrew adds, “Because, at root, the transgender debate is a metaphysical debate about whose version of reality we live in, and only one account—Jesus Christ’s—can lead us into truth about reality and human flourishing.”

The Bible reminds us, as well, to speak the truth in love—that is, with grace. While God’s Word unequivocally says that we’re created male and female, it also makes clear that each of us has been made in God’s image and therefore deserves to be treated with dignity and compassion. So while Andrew never backs down from our mandate to obey God’s Word as we see it and follow our consciences, he counsels godly wisdom in how we respond to people, depending on things like the social context and the depth of the relationship.

Surprisingly, Andrew first counsels avoiding the pronoun dilemma whenever possible. Rarely do we have to use the third person when speaking to someone. Second, generally, we can use the person’s preferred first name, since names are gendered culturally. Third, don’t lie! “Those with writing or speaking platforms,” Andrew writes, “have an obligation to speak and write truthfully and not kowtow to political correctness or excuse falsehood. … I will call Bruce Jenner ‘he,’ or if I do say ‘Caitlyn,’ I will still say, ‘him.’”

Then Andrew covers what he calls some “tricky situations.” When it comes to a close family member who is transgender, Andrew says he would not honor the pronoun or first name request. “I know this person intimately,” Andrew explains, “and in all likelihood I possess the relational capital to understand this person’s story and speak truthfully.”

He acknowledges this decision may be deemed offensive even when done kindly, but sometimes this is unavoidable.

Same thing with the workplace. If you know the other person well, you should tell him or her the truth. Andrew acknowledges this might mean you will run afoul of company HR policies. “None of this is easy,” he acknowledges, “but Jesus never promised that following him would be without great personal cost.” Indeed not.

I’d tell you what he says about church encounters, but it’s nuanced, and we’re almost out of time. Just come to and we’ll link you to the article. Because, while it may not matter what you call a rose, it matters very much what you call a fellow human being.


What’s in a (Transgender) Pronoun? Speaking Truth in Love

For more on this very controversial topic, read Andrew Walker’s book, “God and the Transgender Debate.” It’s available at the online bookstore.


God and the Transgender Debate

  • Andrew T. Walker | The Good Book Company | August 2017

The Point: Leave the Little Sisters Alone




Leave those poor nuns alone. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

It was a big win for religious liberty when the Trump administration rolled back the infamous HHS mandate, which would have required religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide insurance covering contraceptives and abortifacients.

No doubt the Little Sisters rejoiced and felt they could start concentrating on their ministry instead of lawsuits. But that would only be in a sane world. The attorneys general of California and Pennsylvania are suing to strip the Little Sisters of that exemption. The hearing is, in fact, today.

The Becket Fund, which represents the Little Sisters, calls the move “political grandstanding.” I’d call it anti-Christian ideological tyranny.

Mother Lorraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters had this to say: “We just want to be able to continue our religious mission of caring for the elderly poor as we have for 175 years. We pray these state governments would leave us alone and let us do our work in peace.”

Let’s all pray the same thing for them today.



Little Sisters of the Poor Are Returning to Court

  • Rachel del Guidice | The Daily Signal | November 21, 2017