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Today's News 

As more women top the charts, their Christian counterparts struggle to break through.

It’s hard for fully dressed female rappers to find an audience—particularly those who claim to follow Jesus. A small sorority in an already niche music market, these Christian performers are up against the economic pressures of the industry as well as the cultural expectations often heaped upon women of faith.

Take Houston native HillaryJane for example. Earlier this year, the 20-year-old, once-homeless singer, who began leading preteens in church choirs when she was only a few grades ahead of them, was elated after promoters wanted to add her to a multi-city Christian hip-hop tour. But the offer was rescinded because one of the record labels involved didn’t feel comfortable having her travel with their all-male roster.

The underlying concern: Late nights and close quarters with a mix of attractive, unattached young people might open the door to temptations for inappropriate romantic behavior from anyone involved. Or it could at least look like that was a possibility. (The same thought is probably why you’re unlikely to find a Christian college with co-ed dorms.)

While HillaryJane appreciated the protective concern being shown by her brothers in Christ, she admits the news was disappointing. After her debut EP reached the number 3 spot on the iTunes R&B/Soul sales chart in July, the tour could have been a career boon by introducing her to new, but already endearing, audiences of faith-based music fans. The extended time on the road would also offer a wealth of opportunities to network with other artists and provide a public co-sign from them. Such subtle endorsements from established performers are vital to up-and-coming hip-hop acts.

“I don’t know how V. Rose does it,” ...

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(UPDATED) While megachurch's rules 'greatly restrict our authority, we believe we must act like elders none-the-less,' write 9 of 65 pastors.

Nine of Mars Hill Church's 65 pastors, including the lead pastor of one of its 15 campuses, have called for Mark Driscoll to step down not for six weeks but for a full year, and for church elders to play a more prominent role in restoring the health of the Seattle megachurch.

“It is time to take responsibility for our church, regardless of how much our current bylaws prevent us from exercising that authority," they wrote in a 4,000-word letter (full text at bottom). "It grieves us that the only voice that has never been heard in all of this is the voice of the current elders."

The letter was circulated within Mars Hill last Friday, before Driscoll's big Sunday announcement of eight next steps while the church investigates charges against him by 21 former pastors. The letter was first obtained by Patheos blogger Warren Throckmorton, and published as part of a Religion News Service report today.

Despite a current Mars Hill governance structure which places disciplinary authority in the hands of a hybrid internal/external Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA), the letter argues that Mars Hill’s elders “are called to lead our people and the church from a position of truth and love,” and consequently the pastors "do not believe that looking for answers, asking questions, and trying to discern the truth is a divisive or sinful thing.”

“To ask us not to do so would only be to further exasperate the ‘culture of fear’ that we so desperately want to move away from,” they continued.

The nine pastors—who include Drew Hensley, lead pastor of Mars Hill's U-District campus, and four pastors from the Bellevue campus where Driscoll ...

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Self-assessment can be difficult, but self-awareness is too important to ignore.

In the flurry of the demands of ministry that cry out for attention, any resource that brings us back to the important, orienting, foundational questions is a welcome friend. I have found the TCAT to be just such a friend. I am grateful for the sharpness of focus it is providing for me and my team. This assessment calls attention to critical areas of health (or needed health) in our ministry in comparison with other churches in which elevated levels of quantifiable transformation are taking place. That's a gift.

Micah Fries joined a group of pastors to introduce the TCAT to us. His overview alone, describing the three categories and seven elements of transformational churches, was a tremendous consult. I was unnerved a little by the discovery LifeWay has made that senior pastors tend to be overly optimistic and underly realistic about the actual transformation happening in their church. It was also surprising to hear that most of us assume not only that sermons are the most transformative agent in people’s lives, but particularly our own sermons. (When I shared this with my wife, however, Lisa said, “Well in your case its true.” I love my wife.) Therefore embracing our actual reality, something that is at the top of a leader’s calling, makes this resource incredibly valuable.

In some cases the instrument strengthened our commitment to what we were already doing. In other cases, it gave us reason for a fresh look at neglected areas. Honestly, just answering the questions of the instrument was instructive by itself. I felt a little like being at a doctor’s appointment, armed with the list of what I’d done to improve my health, and have my doctor ask an entirely different set of questions ...

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