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Why collapsing cities and towns need something more than a better economy or a bigger government.

Nowadays, as each new presidential election approaches, commentators are in the habit of forecasting the most pivotal contest of our lifetime, if not all of American history. But despite such overheated claims, some elections may actually mark unusually important turning points. In retrospect, 2016 seems a likely candidate, and there is no shortage of analyses or theories to help us make sense of it.

In Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive and Others Collapse, Washington Examiner writer Timothy Carney uses the 2016 election as an opportunity to consider the overall health of our body politic and the “American Dream.” Like the best guides, Carney goes beyond shedding light on “horse race” factors like polling data, campaign strategies, and county-by-county deep dives. James Madison may have exaggerated a bit in Federalist 51 when he asked, rhetorically, whether government was the greatest of all reflections on human nature, but the intensity of our political moment does open a revealing window into more than election returns.

Why are some communities doing so well? Why are others languishing? Why are some places characterized by healthy signs of civic life and human flourishing, like strong marriages, vibrant schools, job growth, and safe neighborhoods with book clubs and bowling leagues? Why are others afflicted with rising rates of suicide, opioid addiction, separated families, and economic stagnation? And why were people living in the latter places most likely to provide Donald Trump with his strongest support in the primaries, even before the motivation of voting against Hillary Clinton could factor in? Alienated America tackles these questions.

A Sense of Despair

Carney’s work falls in ...

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Another university objects to the ministry’s sexuality policy.

Duke University’s student government has denied the Christian organization Young Life official status as a student group on campus, citing its policy on sexuality.

The decision by the Duke Student Government Senate on Wednesday comes amid ongoing clashes nationwide between religious student groups and colleges and universities that have added more robust nondiscrimination policies.

Young Life, like many evangelical groups, regards same-sex relations as sinful. Its policy forbids non-celibate LGBTQ staff and volunteers from holding positions in the organization.

The student newspaper the Duke Chronicle reported Thursday that the student government senate unanimously turned down official recognition for the Young Life chapter, because it appeared to violate a guideline that every Duke student group include a nondiscrimination statement in its constitution.

Young Life, which is based in Colorado Springs, is a 78-year-old organization with a mission to introduce adolescents to Christianity and help them grow in their faith. It has chapters in middle schools, high schools, and colleges in all 50 states and more than 90 countries around the world.

But the student government objected to a clause in Young Life’s sexuality policy. After the student government was told the organization would not change its sexuality policy, it rejected the group.

The Young Life policy states: “We do not in any way wish to exclude persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients of ministry of God’s grace and mercy as expressed in Jesus Christ. We do, however, believe that such persons are not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life.”

Over the past ...

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What if tragedy is only the beginning of God's victorious story?

Few are likely comfortable with that fine, old passage from Ecclesiastes 3:

There is a time for everything,and a season for every activity under the heavens:a time to be born and a time to die,a time to plant and a time to uproot,a time to kill and a time to heal,a time to tear down and a time to build,a time to weep and a time to laugh,a time to mourn and a time to dance,a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,a time to search and a time to give up,a time to keep and a time to throw away,a time to tear and a time to mend,a time to be silent and a time to speak,a time to love and a time to hate,a time for war and a time for peace.

Who, after all, wants the worse of each couplet? Death, being uprooted, killing, tearing down, weeping, mourning, scattering, refraining from love, giving up, throwing away, silence, hate, war. No thanks.

Any of us who have lived one moment of honest life and who have experienced one significant moment of pain knows the after-effects of these negative actions. When tragedy strikes, when disappointment emerges, when depression seeks to pull us under, as followers of Christ, our first (and correct) instinct is, “Maranatha!”

Come, Lord Jesus. Enter the prison of our souls, the longings of our hearts, the brokenness of our world…and make it right.

Not too infrequently, when we go through difficult times, we may even begin to question who this God is who has promised to love and care for us. St. John of the Cross wrote on this in his “The Dark Night,” otherwise come to be known as the “the dark night of the soul.” Moments when our cries lead to confusion and to questioning—a longing to more ...

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Pastor’s challenge asks members to honor God in their relationship—that means marry or move out.

Earlier this month, 24 couples from Concord Church in Dallas got married. On the same day. At the same time. And on the same altar.

September 8 marked the fourth “Grand Wedding” at the Texas megachurch, the conclusion of Pastor Bryan Carter’s Cohabitation Challenge. For the past decade, Carter has stressed God-honoring relationships among his 9,000-member congregation and sought to resist the cultural forces making living together an acceptable substitute for walking down the aisle.

When couples join the 90-day program, Concord offers them 11 weeks of intensive marriage counseling, a married couple to mentor them for the next year, and an all-expenses-paid wedding ceremony at the end of the journey—thanks to artists, musicians, hair stylists, and financial benefactors within the congregation.

The church has married 81 couples through the challenge, and also offers to cover rent for cohabitating members who opt to live apart rather than making it official. Seven people came to faith as a result of the most recent 90-day program.

“It helps us to model the gospel, because the gospel is redemptive,” Carter said. “It’s not just about us calling out a struggle that people may have, but let’s talk about how I can move from where I was to the place where God is honored.”

As cohabitation continues to rise and more research details the instability of the arrangement for families, churches that champion marriage inevitably have to grapple with the issue. In a 2011 survey, more than half of Protestant pastors said they would marry couples who had been living together. Leaders at churches like Concord want to make that process as easy as possible while also ensuring couples take ...

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Sometimes "Come, Lord Jesus" is all we can say—and that's okay.

Years ago, I remember a Chris Rice song that resonated with my soul. It was called “Hallelujahs.” It described scenarios of life, like experiencing a purple sky to close the day, wading in the surf to see dolphins play, and tasting the salt while watching the dancing waves. At the end of the refrain, these words would echo throughout the song, “And my soul wells up with hallelujahs.”

Yes, there are certainly times throughout life where my soul wells up with hallelujahs—with “Praise the Lord!” However, I have also experienced my fair share of instances where my soul wells up with Maranathas!

Have you ever found yourself crying out, “Maranatha?” Maranatha is an Aramaic word used in 1 Corinthians 16:22 that can mean, “Our Lord, Come!” or “Come, Lord Jesus!” Interestingly, as Trevin Wax notes, this second interpretation wasn’t widely used until the last couple of centuries. In fact, as he notes, throughout the ages, Maranatha has been mainly used as a declaration, “Our Lord has come.”

Both are appropriate, but one version finds itself on the minds and lips of people when faced with life’s pains and sufferings. This week has been one of those weeks where “Maranatha” has been uttered from the lips of many, including myself.

I found myself crying out “Maranatha!” as I scrolled through the feeds that marked the 18th anniversary of 9/11—the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The devastation caused by those acts of terrorism almost 20 years ago will be forever stitched in our minds: planes flying into towers, people jumping from buildings, dust filling the city air, lifeless bodies under piled rubble, ...

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A new memoir underscores the power of witness.

“If you see something, say something” is a familiar motto that encourages vocal community engagement in combatting evils ranging from terrorism to human trafficking. But there’s a dangerous and false corollary to this belief: that if nothing was said, nothing probably happened.

In her new book, What Is a Girl Worth? (Tyndale, 2019), Rachael Denhollander traces the story of her sexual assault at the hands of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor, and the grueling process required to bring him to trial. Denhollander makes it clear that the apparently simple act of saying something is in fact incredibly difficult in the case of sexual abuse. “Incredibly” is the right word to use, for it speaks to the difficulty of finding things believable or credible.

In recounting her story, Denhollander explains the two-fold challenge: First, it’s incredibly difficult for sexual abuse survivors to speak up and be believed. Second, it’s incredibly difficult for listeners to really hear and believe.

The Scriptures have much to say about bearing witness to evil and injustice, and What Is a Girl Worth? offers a sobering reminder of the importance of qualitative listening. As believers, we are called to be not just hearers but listeners (Mark 4:12) and doers (James 1:22). We are to listen and respond to God’s word, and we are to listen out for and respond to injustice, just as God our Father does. But both the act of speaking and the act of listening are fraught with complications.

Nassar first assaulted Denhollander in 2000 when she was 15 years old, but it was only in August 2016—sixteen years later—that she filed a complaint with the Michigan State University police department ...

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Jesus' command to "Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’" has major implications for a family unit.

Can parenting be missional? In the current environment of secularity within North America, where all belief systems compete for adoption (including secularism), the Christian faith has distinct advantages.

Much like the day of Elijah calling down fire as visible proof of the superiority of his God, the climate of secularity demands a new apologetic—one that moves from the theoretical to the actual.

Few today seem to be asking the questions of modernity, that is, “What is truth?”

Today’s apologetic in many respects is far more practical: “What works?” “What will help keep my family whole?” And, “Where can I see truth?”

And it is in the real-world answering of these questions that Jesus-followers corner the market.

And none more than Christ-following parents.

What we are really talking about is revealing the Kingdom of God as a family. My simple definition of the Kingdom of God is: What things look like when Jesus gets his way.

For a family, the Kingdom of God is often revealed through the faithful way that parents shepherd their children. It looks much different than the world’s shifting ideas that change from generation to generation. The kingdom effect is both universal and eternal. And, this difference is far greater than a weekly polishing up and shuttling of children to church.

It is a difference of kingdom allegiance.

This year, I am preaching through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) in order to help our church family understand the counter-cultural way that kingdom citizens live. In Matthew 5:37, Jesus states in bold red letters, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” ...

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Tom Camacho offers a fresh perspective on how to draw out the best in ourselves and in those around us.

1. “A loving, fruitful, and multiplying leader is a work of art, a masterpiece fashioned by the hands of God Himself” (Page 3).

2. “Mining for gold is a leadership paradigm that incorporates the best principles of Christ-centered coaching into our everyday practice of developing others. Mining for Gold/Coaching Leadership is a fresh way to look at leadership development. It is a Spirit-led process” (Page 6).

3. “Thriving kingdom leaders are not a coincidence. They are the product of God’s intentional loving care and development” (Page 7).

4. “In order to see the gold God has placed in a person, we need to see them with the eyes of the Spirit. To draw out someone’s true potential, we need to cooperate with the Spirit of God” (Page 15).

5. “We need to see the value of the things (especially the people) that are right in front of us” (Page 23).

6. “Coaching principles can take our leadership to a whole new level. We could learn to free people, not just fill positions” (Page 26).

7. “Coaching leadership feels more like a shepherd leading sheep than a CEO building a corporation. It is much more relational, intimate and patient. The pace is slower and more relaxed” (Page 27).

8. “When we empower on a daily basis we are freeing up time for ourselves to think more strategically, to consider the long-term implications, and to hear the Holy Spirit” (Page 29).

9. “Coaching leadership helps us find clarity. Clarity leads to momentum and a true experience of thriving” (Page 44).

10. “Pain can save our lives. Pain without clarity is like being sick and not knowing what’s wrong. You feel awful but you don’t know ...

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No matter if it’s streaming sports, TV shows, or family updates—it’s hard to do ministry if you’re still tied to your old life.

For as long as I can remember, the word missionary conjured up a specific, anxiety-inducing image in my mind. A young person felt a burning call to some “dangerous” or “poverty-stricken” nation, said goodbye to the comforts of home and family, and assimilated into a new culture. They suffered, trusted God, bore fruit, raised money. Repeat.

It was this notion that popped into my head when a furloughed missionary asked me on a date, a situation that led me to confront my unease of a prospective life on the mission field. The furloughed missionary was preparing for a five-year commitment to the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) base in Taipei, Taiwan, and even though I was interested in him, I didn’t think I was built for the anticipated sacrifices. But after visiting him for a few weeks in the summer, I was surprised to find that his life looked nothing like my childhood impression. He studied Mandarin in cafes by day and went to the base’s coffee bar a few nights a week to teach English and the Bible to locals. He lived in a modern apartment with air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and satellite TV and most of his furnishings came from the IKEA a few Taipei Metro stops away. Even though he lived thousands of miles from home in North Dakota, he could still watch Vikings football games online and call his family anytime he wanted to.

These modern conveniences would end up making it easier for me (and many others) to say yes to Taiwan. What I didn’t realize was how difficult saying yes would become later on—in the small but crucial moments of transition and incarnation.

High-speed internet, airplanes, and cellphones have given those of us who have left our lives and loved ones behind an unprecedented ...

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Two things leaders can do to keep Jesus the center of a missional movement.

In the years leading up to prohibition in America, opinions on alcohol changed dramatically.

Within years, people went from enjoying alcohol to arguing that it should be completely banned. Small, anti-alcohol groups grew in popularity and shared their ideas with others.

As anti-alcohol groups reached more people, opinions changed among the people, and prohibition was eventually passed by the government.

American change their mind slowly at first— and then it accelerates quickly. Take a look at this article (and the chart) “This is How Fast America Changes Its Mind.” Really— take a look. I’ll wait.

This is what happens with cultural movements: It starts with something small and ends with a tipping point that leads to change. As this change starts to occur, smaller groups of people begin to attract others, and more people respond to the movement.

Gospel Ministry

In some ways, this can be true of gospel ministry.

We often see people choose to follow Jesus the more they are surrounded by Christians who impact them in new ways. But there is one huge difference between cultural movements and gospel movements: Gospel movements are not about the leader. They are about Jesus.

Think about it. In Scripture, there is an emphasis on the failures of Jesus’ disciples and church leaders. It is not a coincidence that we learn so much about Peter’s stupidity and David’s foolishness. In fact, our exposure to the mistakes of leaders emphasizes the fact that Jesus is truly at the center of the gospel movement.

So, if leaders are not at the center of these movements, what is our role in a gospel movement? I think two things are key— reproducible disciples and de-emphasized clergy.

First, our words and ...

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Seeing my family’s church consecrate a space of its own—years after a denominational split and legal fight—reminded me of God’s providence in where he places us.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

I held back tears as the bishop knocked on the doors of the new sanctuary of the Falls Church Anglican (TCFA) for the first time last Sunday.

“Lift up your heads, O you gates, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in,” said The Rt. Rev. John Guernsey, quoting Psalm 24 (ESV). The congregation replied, “Who is the King of glory? It is the Lord, strong and mighty, even the Lord, mighty in battle. The Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory.”

The prominent Northern Virginia church, now part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), had lost its 250-year-old historic church property after a long, high-profile legal dispute with the Episcopal Church that spanned 2006–2012.

Guernsey, bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, stepped through those doors into the church’s new building, a stripped, white, Gothic-style church, with light pouring through ceiling-high windows on either side.

By the time the service began—the first of two consecration services that would draw 2,000 people total—the sanctuary was packed to standing room only. Even folding chairs placed in the aisles had been filled.

Guernsey and recently installed rector Samuel Ferguson invited the congregation to participate in the blessing of the new space, with special prayers for the musical instruments, communion table, baptismal font, pulpit, and even the sound system. With every step, the congregation prayed responsively and sang in praise to God for bringing them home.

My family started attending TFCA in 2006, when I was in college, and my mom has worked for the church since 2011. I am now a member of a sister Anglican parish in the area, Church of the Ascension, ...

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