S. Michael Craven

Christian Post Guest Columnist

Spending This Christmas or Spending It Well: Resisting Consumerism

The Christmas season is once again upon us and with it overwhelming encouragement from Madison Avenue to spend what we have not earned to buy what we cannot afford. The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday (indicating the point at which retailers are in the black – or at least hope to be), signaled the start of the "holiday shopping season." That very phrase reveals the commercialized emphasis that has come to define Christmas for many Americans. If that wasn't enough, we now have "Small Business Saturday" and "Cyber Monday," the latest allurements to the altar of consumerism.

Would You 'Give Up Everything' for the Kingdom?

Our new life in Christ should sever reliance on the temporal things of this world and replace it with dependence upon the Father who controls all things and provides abundantly for his children. This is the proper ordering of life that Christ came to restore. It is this "proper ordering" that we should seek after.

Christians in America: Out of Touch and Out of Reach

According to a report produced in 2013, "Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020: Society, Religion, and Mission," researchers at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, offer a timely overview of the changing demographics of Christianity and Christians' activities over the past forty years.

Moral Insanity: California's Transgender-Student Bill

Paul's point is not that there are some exceptionally wicked people out there (for all have sinned and fallen short – see Romans 3:23). Rather Paul is expressing the fact that such clear distortions of the creator's male-plus-female intention occur in the world indicates that the human race as a whole is guilty of character-twisting idolatry.

The Russian Demographic Crisis: Resisting the Influence of a Sexualized Culture

Many pundits, determined to avoid the moral realities, will point to economic decline as the primary cause of low birth rates, and this no doubt has played a role, but the greater factor has been the abandonment of traditional marriage as the principal means for regulating sexual behavior. As Russian society abandoned traditional marriage, birth rates dropped, out-of-wedlock births rose, contraception and abortion increased, and the traditional family began to disappear.

Why Is Christianity Losing in America? (Part 2)

When I write "Christianity is losing in America," of course I don't mean that God or, by extension, his kingdom is failing. The kingdom of God comes in force unlike anything else in creation. It is the present form of Christianity—uniquely influenced by American culture—that is failing precisely because it has been enculturated with ideas foreign to the kingdom of God and the good news of the kingdom.

Why Is Christianity Losing in America?

This is the question with which all serious Christians must wrestle. To think that Christianity is thriving in America simply ignores the obvious and overwhelming facts of our times. Much like the century preceding the Protestant Reformation and subsequently the Catholic Counter-Reformation, the church was in a dark and desperate period.

Practical Unity: Living Out the Words of Jesus to 'Be One'

It's easy to talk about "unity within the church" as long as we're talking in the abstract. However, what do you do when a Christian brother or sister offends you or sins against you? Do you "write them off" and go your separate ways? I submit this is often the easier choice, but Jesus and the standards of his kingdom rule do not permit us to do so.

God as Father

In Scripture there are many different names used to describe God. While all the names of God are important for a variety of reasons, the name "Abba Father" is one of the most significant names in terms of understanding how he relates to his people.

How Institutionalism Breeds Division

No longer is there such a thing as "mere Christianity" to borrow C. S. Lewis's phrase, but Catholic-Christianity, Protestant-Christianity, Orthodox-Christianity—not to mention the countless Protestant denominations and nondenominational representations of Christianity. Universal fellowship centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ is exchanged for tribal commitments to traditions and various nonessential views.

How Institutionalism Inhibits Our Expectation of the Supernatural

This, I think, is why "making disciples" is often exchanged for proselytism—because conversions are more easily measured than spiritual growth. The result can be evangelistic efforts and campaigns that are aimed at obtaining professions of faith, which as we now know are often nothing more than assent to a set of ideological propositions.

What Is Institutionalism and How Does It Affect the Church?

Prior to Constantine, the church, although organized, was less institutional and more communal or organic. In other words, the outside world didn't think of "the church" as that building on the corner. Instead they thought of a community of people who were distinct in both their conduct and character, the overarching characteristics being their love for others, compassion toward the needy, and joy-filled lives.

$pending This Christmas or Spending It Well?

The Christmas season is once again upon us and with it overwhelming encouragement from Madison Avenue to spend what we have not earned to buy what we cannot afford. The thrust of the consumerist message is that the holiday is best enjoyed or most fully realized through the acquisition of "things."

The Latest Pew Survey: Christianity Losing, Secularism Winning

This is clearly the implication of the media reports following the latest Pew Research, "Nones on the Rise." Trying to spin this in such a way that the Christian faith appears culturally vital in the U.S. is a little like putting lipstick on a pig; but concluding that Christianity is losing and secularism is winning isn't quite accurate either.

The Church in Post-Christendom (Part 3): Recovering the Mission of the Church

We have a myriad of personal preferences that we impose on the church about worship styles, music, and the like. We grade the pastor on whether or not he has met our needs through his sermon. We argue and divide over inconsequential issues. We simply do not fulfill this essential part of God’s mission because we fail to demonstrate the reign of God within this authenticating community.

Being the Church in a Post-Christian Culture

In the age of Christendom, the church occupied a central and influential place in society and the Western world considered itself both formally and officially Christian. So when we speak of post-Christendom, we are making the point that the church no longer occupies this central place