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Editor's picks: Our 15 best articles of 2020

Sam Hailes revisits the best of Premier Christianity over the past 12 months 

Every reader's survey confirms that you read Premier Christianity magazine not just to be informed on the latest news emanating from the UK Church, but because you want to learn from Christians outside of your own denomination. 

In a world of angry tweets and deepening polarisation, this feedback gives me hope. As I remind myself, and our small team on a regular basis: we don't publish this magazine for the trolls, or for those who think anyone who disagrees with them is a heretic. We publish it for you. The thoughtful reader. The Christian who is both committed to their local church, and open to hearing alternative perspectives. Rumour has it, some of us actually enjoy reading points of view different to our own every now and then. Imagine!

The number of media outlets who are willing to tackle the big issues from a variety of Christian perspectives is diminishing. Of course, I know which websites to read if I want a conservative Christian perspective, or a liberal Christian perspective, or a charismatic one, or a Reformed one, or a post-evangelical one, or an Anglican one. But few publications are willing to host all of these perspectives in one place. We are. Of course, Premier Christianity's evangelical roots are no secret, and we're proud of them. But our intention is to be broad. If I only published articles I personally agreed with, we'd have to re-brand it Premier Sam Hailes magazine. And that would be a remarkably boring magazine. We'd probably only have a readership of two (thanks Mum). 

So in surveying the best of 2020, I've resisted the temptation to just choose the articles I agree with. I've selected the articles which have challenged me, provoked me and made me think too. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as our team has enjoyed writing and publishing them. 

1. Simon Guillebaud: Meet the missionary who faced death threats in what was once the world's most dangerous nation

"When you live expecting to die, it’s a great way to live." Megan Cornwell's interview with this inspiring missionary was eye-opening!

2. What has Christianity ever done for us?

The historian Tom Holland is doing a remarkable job of helping our nation understand and appreciate its Christian roots. Unfortunately the atheist philosopher AC Grayling wasn't so impressed. He challenged Holland, in a debate on Unbelievable?, to name “one thing, just one thing, that Christianity has introduced that doesn’t have some source, some parallel with previous and with other civilisations”. Holland's response? "So might a geographer have been challenged to prove that the earth is not flat. So might an ornithologist have been challenged to prove that birds have feathers. The difficulty is not to muster evidence. The difficulty is rather the opposite: that the evidence is everywhere."

3. Conversations with the country's most hated men

Ever wondered what it's like to be a Christian working inside a maximum security prison? Now is your chance to find out...And make sure you read to the end.

4. A Christian charity pressured me to sign a non-disclosure agreement

I was shocked to discover NDAs are being used in Christian charities and churches. This is a brave article. 

5. American evangelicals must stop spreading lies about Covid-19

A searing indictment on Christians who are spreading false news and dis-information online. We all make mistakes, but surely it is more important than ever that each of us check, and check again, before we press 'share'.

6. Stop stealing from Africa

A thought-provoking opinion article on an issue I'd never (to my shame) considered before. It may be short, but its power is perhaps demonstrated by the fact I changed my mind in minutes!  

7. Why there are more disabled leaders in the Bible than you think

Another short article which completely changed the way I think about an important topic. 

8. From death to life: How God delivered me from coronavirus

Our deputy editor had a very scary run in with coronavirus early on in the pandemic. This - her testimony - is without doubt one of the best things we've published all year. 

9. Online church is a necessity. But I don't have to like it

Early on in the pandemic, there was a lot of excitement about online church. Leading the charge was Premier's head of digital theology Dr Pete Philips, who has blogged extensively on the many up-sides of doing things digitally. This article, however, was a dissenting view, courtesy of Tim Gough and published in late March. It attracted plenty of criticism at the time, but I've a feeling that 9 months on, more might be inclined to agree with him...

10. 'I became a Christian during lockdown'

While we haven't seen the large swathes of people turning to Christ, that some were predicting (and praying for), this is an encouraging story from the first lockdown. 

11. Confessions of a minor Christian celebrity

Rend Collective's Chris Llewellyn has written some brilliant columns for the mag this year. Here is one of my favourites.

12. Why it's time to correct our teaching of church history

The ongoing conversation around race has been one of the biggest news stories of the year. Our editorial on Black Lives Matter went viral, and our front cover received a huge amount of online interest. While most of the feedback was positive, other comments revealed we've still a long way to go as a Church and society. This piece from Dr Peter Harris is a welcome challenge to "re-tell our theological histories inclusively."

13. How Number 10 opened its door to evangelicals

When the freelance journalist Tim Wyatt first pitched this idea to me, I was sceptical. Was there really such an openness toward Christian leaders inside Number 10? Had attitudes changed for the better under the coalition and Conservative governments? Ultimately, in writing this excellent article, Tim convinced me. See if you agree... 

14. Kim Phuc Phan Thi: How the bombs led me to Christ

Known as ‘Napalm Girl’, Kim Phuc is recognised globally as the 9-year-old running from a napalm attack during the Vietnam War. The image was recently voted the most iconic photo of all time. In this interview, Kim shares her amazing testimony.

15. Who are the Hebrew Israelites and why do they believe that Jesus is black?

This is our deep-dive into the somewhat murky and mysterious world of the Hebrew Israelite sect...It might be tempting for orthodox Christians to write them off, but that would be misguided. For a start, an opinion article we published back in 2017 entitled 'Jesus is black. Get over it' continues to attract hundreds of thousands of hits every year, through Google search traffic alone. In other words: the ethnicity of Jesus really matters to people, and for some, bad teaching on the subject can be a stumbling block to faith. I was especially challenged by Megan's conclusion: "The Church needs to do some soul searching if we’re to create the authentic picture of the kingdom of God here on earth that the Bible talks about in Revelation, where 'every race, tribe, nation and language' will be present. Failing to do so means being part of a system of injustice that mirrors the godless society in which we live and which could be fuelling quasi-religious movements such as the Black Hebrew Israelites." 

There's plenty more where that came from! Subscribe to Premier Christianity now, for only £4.95/month

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