A New Journal
In 1980, under the leadership of Michael R. Weed, the Faculty Bulletin of the Institute for Christian Studies was published with contributions by Allan McNicol, James Thompson, Michael Weed, Paul Watson, Tony Ash, and Don Crittenden. According to Weed, the purpose of the collection of articles was to encourage “reflection on the implications of Christian faith for life.”
Over the following decades, that same noble purpose guided the publications of Weed, McNicol, Mark Shipp, Jeff Peterson, Daniel Napier, and many other contributors. In 1989, the journal became known as Christian Studies, and it continued as such until its final issue in 2019. During the last five years of the journal, I had the honor of serving as editor alongside the managing editor, Todd Hall.
The discontinuation of that publication created a void, and there was a groundswell of support for a new journal that would be a venue for thought-provoking writing that instructs and encourages the church at large. As some readers have described it to me, church leaders and thoughtful Christians need a publication that is more accessible than the purely academic journals but more rigorous than the popular-level magazines.
To help fill the void, we present to readers a new journal. The Journal of Christian Studies is the flagship publication of the Center for Christian Studies, a new nonprofit ministry dedicated to making quality biblical and theological resources more accessible to churches and Christian leaders.
In keeping with CCS’s mission, each issue of the journal unpacks a topic or theme that is important to the church’s faith and practice in our current culture. Articles address these themes through biblical, theological, historical, and sociological perspectives, communicating rigorous scholarship in an accessible way.
The journal’s purpose is to make the best of theological scholarship available to the church, with articles that are written by scholars who are both experts in their respective fields and active leaders in their churches. In other words, the editorial team has adopted the goal articulated by Weed: biblical and theological reflection made accessible and even practical. This journal is intended to benefit all thoughtful Christians and church leaders, scholars and non-specialists alike.
The Journal of Christian Studies will be issued three times a year. In order to receive subsequent copies, make sure you have subscribed at the website: www.christian-studies.org/jcs.
A New Challenge
When 2020 rolled around, some ministers and Christian leaders took advantage of the calendar and cast a “20/20 vision” for their churches. We are trained to anticipate better things in a new year, and the beginning of 2020 seemed especially hopeful, or at least no more challenging than recent years. Little did we know that, two years later, congregations would lose 15, 30, even 50 percent or more of church members to a disease—though indirectly so.
The last two years of “pandemic life” have seen unprecedented change in society at large, and churches have been among the institutions most severely affected. Some of the changes affecting churches are perhaps good, but most seem bad. It has been difficult to assess the long-term ramifications in the midst of the storm. Although not yet 20/20, we now have the benefit of some hindsight. What have we learned in general, and what have we learned as a church about the church—about ourselves?
The doctrine of the church and sacraments has habitually been marginalized among evangelicals, a sort of theological afterthought. Arguably, COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020 and their ongoing effects have further revealed the widespread weaknesses in ecclesiology across a spectrum of Christian churches and denominations.
For this inaugural issue of the Journal of Christian Studies, I asked contributors to consider topics at the intersection of ecclesiology or Christian ministry and the pandemic. Here are some of the questions I asked them to address: How have the lockdowns negatively affected the church? Are there any positive effects? How have Christians in the past dealt with plague and pandemic? What is missing in self-administered, isolated participation in Eucharist? What are the effects of the “screenification” of the assembly and liturgy? What are the repercussions of the government pronouncing religious assembly to be illegal and of the church submitting? How has ministry changed, or how should it adapt? What good things have we discovered? How can churches now move forward? How can Christians and churches be better prepared for any future pandemic and lockdowns?
The contributions here interact with these and similar questions theologically and in conversation with biblical, historical, and sociological material. The ministers who answered my interview questions have also thought deeply about these questions as they have worked on the frontlines in churches. The writers and interviewees do not all share exactly the same approaches; there are differing perspectives in the following pages.
It is fitting to begin the Journal of Christian Studies in this way—addressing an issue of pressing relevance to the church in a way that is theologically and biblically responsible. Our hope is that these contributions will spark reflection and discussion among readers and that church leaders will be better equipped to shepherd God’s people through future trials and challenges.
Please consider subscribing to the Journal of Christian Studies, asking your academic library and church leaders to subscribe, and spreading the word to potential readers!