I Grew Up a Fervent Evangelist for Islam. Now I’m Living Out the Book of Acts.

How an encounter with Christian missionaries made me into a missionary myself.

I grew up in a Muslim family on the coast of Kenya. My father served as an Imam, and I was one of the muezzins (Muslims who call others to pray five times a day) at a local mosque.

The only school I ever attended existed to educate young men in the ways of Islam and to help them grow as Muslims. I was being trained to defend the Muslim faith and to share it with others. As a young man, I became one of the best and most well-known evangelists for Islam in my region.

Early in life, my father had taught me to hate Christians and even to beat them if necessary. I was trained to believe that Christians were on the same level as animals. We were not allowed to associate with them in any way.

A Miraculous Transformation

In 2009, my life was forever changed. The day started out just like any other: I woke up and went to the local mosque to start calling people to pray. I was set to recite the adhan (Muslim call to prayer) into the microphone so that my call could be heard throughout the city. But when I tried to speak, nothing came out. Leaving the mosque, I saw my friend Ali in the street and I tried to explain what had happened, but he wouldn’t believe me.

We went back to the mosque, where I stepped up to the microphone and attempted to call the adhan once more, but again my voice would not come out. Ali was as surprised as I was. We both were nervous, but he took over my duties so that I could go home for the day.

When I got home, I tried to relax and calm my mind. My heart was heavy, and I felt troubled. I went to my kitchen, grabbed a thermos, and started to make hot tea. I poured the tea into a mug and was about to start drinking when I saw that the tea had turned red, a dark red that looked like blood. I left the tea on the …

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Should Pastors Speak Up About the COVID-19 Vaccine?

With Christians split on the issue, some urge vaccination as a form of neighborly love, while other leave it up to conscience.

About half of US Protestant adults don’t plan to receive the new COVID-19 vaccine, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

While confidence in the vaccine has actually risen since September—three companies announced viable vaccines last month—50 percent of white evangelicals and 59 percent of black Protestants say they won’t get the vaccine, while the majority of the US population overall (60%) says they will.

For centuries, religion and medicine have collaborated for the prevention of disease, though the relationship at times has been complex. In more recent years, public health professionals have relied on church leaders’ support—particularly in communities of color—to gain trust in promoting health initiatives. The coronavirus pandemic has become another example of the complex relationship between faith and science.

Given the split among Christians, how should pastors engage with their congregants about the COVID-19 vaccine? Should they encourage church attenders to receive the vaccine?

CT heard from five pastors about how factors like race, theology, and congregational makeup affect their approach to the issue.

Jeff Schultz, pastor of preaching and community at Faith Church in Indianapolis

Our church been praying for vaccine research and development, but taking a vaccine is not something we would direct people on.

Our congregation has a number of doctors, nurses, medical researchers, and people in pharmaceutical development. We believe that God works through miraculous intervention, but more commonly through our work, gifts, and wisdom applied in service to others. We’ve encouraged people to wear masks and practice social distancing. We have members who won’t return …

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Around America’s ‘Christmas City,’ Rural Churches Left Heartbroken by COVID-19

Congregations in Noel and Neosho, Missouri—one diverse and one mostly white—grapple with the strain of the pandemic.

Thirty miles of rural Missouri separate the two churches, and so much else. One is mostly white; the other hosts services in five languages for a flock that spans the world.

Still, every Tuesday the pastors meet midway between their houses of worship, seeking each other’s counsel, sharing their joys—and, more often, their burdens. Because in these pandemic-wracked days, they are sometimes overwhelmed by the crucible of ministering.

“Whether it be the death of a member, whether it be somebody upset, whether it be losing funding, whether it be just all sorts of different things, or maybe just our own depression, just dealing with being locked up at home,” said pastor Mike Leake at Calvary of Neosho, a Southern Baptist church.

One church was staggered by COVID-19 early on. The other has not had as many infections but has seen congregational life turned upside down.

The ministers struggle. Pastor Joshua Manning of the Community Baptist Church in Noel was sickened himself.

And still, they persevere. While they both want to keep parishioners safe, they are determined to carry on with in-person services as long as members of their congregations are eager to attend.

“Our mission to profess the gospel doesn’t end because the coronavirus is here,” Manning said. “And so, we have to still function. We still have to preach. We still have to meet together.”

Praying for a Revival in ‘Christmas City’

At the end of a recent Sunday, 11 people were immersed in a turquoise baptismal pool behind the altar of Community Baptist, thousands of miles from the islands in the Pacific Ocean where they were born.

This was the last of five services for five international congregations—in all, …

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Christ as Hero, Santa as Helper: How to Keep Christ the Center of Christmas

How do we teach our kids the true meaning of Christmas without getting distracted by Santa?

Both the traditional view of Santa, delivering presents to “good” little girls and boys—which is a works-based reward system; and this more modern view of Santa, delivering presents to “all” little girls and boys because no one is bad—which is an entitlement reward system—are both contradictory to what Scripture teaches.

The Scripture teaches there is no one good, not even one (Ps 14:3; Rom 3:12). Scripture also teaches that man is born inherently sinful (Rom 5:12,18,19). Based upon Scripture everyone is not good—our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Thus, humanity deserves God’s punishment and wrath.

Such contradictions make it difficult for Christian parents to celebrate the contemporary beliefs about Santa. Many Christian parents struggle to find the balance between Santa, Elf-on-the-shelf, and Christ.

In the Laxton house, Santa is part of our Christmas rhythm. In fact, this year we added “Rex,” who is our Elf-on-the-shelf guest for the Christmas season. I know some Christians won’t approve and will see the practice of Santa and Rex as shallow and unchristian. Nevertheless, I believe that Christian families can walk and chew gum at the same time—they can keep Christ as the center of the season while at the same time including Santa in their holiday cheer.

Let me share three ways to keep Jesus as the center (as well as the Bible’s teachings) while including Santa in your Christmas festivities.

1) Teach your children that Jesus is the hero of Christmas, and Santa is the helper.

I think what happens many times is parents go overboard with Santa. Santa becomes the central focus of the Christmas season because of what he does—brings …

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