Facts & Trends - Winter 2018 - Thriving in a post-Christendom culture

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Thriving in a


G r o w . S h a r e . M u l t i p l y.



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Contents 32 20

Read more about post-Christendom in our cover section.







12 T hriving in a post-Christendom culture

32 Opioid crisis hits home

4 Inside F&T

Churches find strength in ministry from the margins. By Carol Pipes

16 A heart for the nations Reaching the world in and from Northwest Arkansas. By Carol Pipes

20 Rooted How a New York City church loves its community with the whole gospel. By Aaron Earls

23 Gospel antifreeze Reaching the secular skeptics and those cold toward church. By Jeff Vanderstelt

Rampant addiction sparks new ministries and church engagement. By Bob Smietana

37 A culture of discipleship Q&A with pastor and author Robby Gallaty on making disciples. By Aaron Earls

40 Spiritual paramedics How churches can bring hope and healing following a disaster. By Bob Smietana

44 Why the scarlet letter remains How the church can fight adultery and strengthen marriages. By Helen Gibson

26 Small town, big mission How one rural church is reaching its community. By Bob Smietana

29 Hope on the horizon Three ways a secular culture means a stronger church. By Joy Allmond

A new map for a new era. By Carol Pipes

5 From My Perspective Hope for dying churches. By Thom S. Rainer

6 Insights Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting the church and our world.

36 Technology High-tech devices provide opportunity to engage older members. By Aaron Earls

48 On Our Radar Relevant and practical resources for you and your church.

JOIN US ONLINE FactsAndTrends.net Visit FactsAndTrends.net for exclusive online content. Read additional pieces from our writers and editors, as well as contributions from other Christian leaders.

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Facts & Trends • 3


A new map for a new era


everal years ago, my husband, Keith, and I traveled to Germany to tour the Bavarian countryside. We decided to rent a car and travel the back roads of southern Germany and northern Austria. My father advised us to get a good map once we arrived. We didn’t heed his advice. Instead, we found a guidebook in a secondhand bookstore. How much could have changed in a few years? we reasoned. We navigated the Romantische Strasse without any issues, winding our way through the forests and mountains of Bavaria. We oohed and aahed over every castle and church dotting the landscape. Our luck ran out in Salzburg, where we narrowly escaped catastrophe thanks to my husband’s quick reflexes. What was once a road (according to our old map) was now a pedestrian walkway. Fortunately, we didn’t hit anyone. We smiled and waved and tried to ignore the glares from the locals out for a stroll as we quickly pulled onto the nearest street. It was apparent our map no longer reflected the town’s terrain. Dad was right; we needed a good map. In many ways, I feel the same about the cultural and spiritual landscape in North America. The world has changed since I was a kid. I remember a time when all my neighbors went to church. Now, not so much. I no longer assume the people I meet grew up attending church. I’ve had to update the internal maps I use to navigate this world and the relationships I develop. Churches are experiencing this dramatic shift as well. Fewer Americans identify as Christian, and the frequency of church attendance has slowed. The average American knows more about the Star Wars universe than the story of Scripture. We now live in a post-Christendom age where the church is no longer central to American life. Ministry in the 21st century often feels like uncharted territory for many church leaders. For this issue, we decided to take a deeper dive into the post-Christendom era we’ve entered. We talked to several church leaders to find out how churches can thrive in this new world. We also reached out to churches in different parts of the United States to find out how they’re reaching their communities and spreading the gospel around the world. More than two decades ago, pastor, author, and missional thinker Alan J. Roxburgh wrote, “Pastors must lead congregations as witnesses to the gospel in lands where old maps no longer work.” The church faces new opportunities and challenges in 2018 and the years ahead. She needs pioneering leaders who can help God’s people navigate our changing mission field while keeping Jesus Christ and His Word as our true North.

Carol Pipes, Editor in Chief @CarolPipes | Carol.Pipes@LifeWay.com 4 • Facts & Trends

Volume 64 • Number 1 • Winter 2018 Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors and other Christian leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by providing information, insights, and resources for effective ministry.

PRODUCTION TEAM Editor in Chief | Carol Pipes Senior Editor | Lisa Cannon Green Managing Editor | Joy Allmond Senior Writer | Bob Smietana Online Editor | Aaron Earls Associate Editor | Aaron Wilson Graphic Designer | Katie Shull LIFEWAY LEADERSHIP President and Publisher | Thom S. Rainer Executive Vice President | Brad Waggoner CONTRIBUTORS Helen Gibson and Jeff Vanderstelt ADVERTISING Send advertising questions/comments to: F acts & Trends Advertising One LifeWay Plaza Nashville, TN 37234 Email: Carol.Pipes@LifeWay.com Media kits: FactsAndTrends.net/Advertise This magazine includes paid advertisements for some products and services not affiliated with LifeWay. The inclusion of the paid advertisements does not constitute an endorsement by LifeWay Christian Resources of the products or services.

Subscriptions For a free print subscription to Facts & Trends, send your name, address, and phone number to FactsAndTrends@ LifeWay.com.

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Contact Us: Email - FactsAndTrends@LifeWay.com Mail - F acts & Trends, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234 Facts & Trends is published quarterly by LifeWay Christian Resources. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, copyright 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. WINTER 2018


Hope for dying churches


hurches in the United States have entered a new season of ministry. Gone are the days when church attendance was a societal norm. For most of our American history, cultural and technological change was gradual, sufficiently paced for churches to lag only five to 10 years. Now churches are lagging 20 and 30 years as the speed of change increases dramatically. To many people, the church seems irrelevant. I am particularly concerned about the declining health of many churches. Between 6,000 and 10,000 churches in the U.S. are dying each year. That means around 100-200 churches will close this week. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes. It’s tempting to blame secular culture, national politics, or church leaders for the declining evangelical influence in today’s culture. If outside forces and culture were the reasons behind declining and non-influential churches, we would likely have no churches today. The greatest periods of church growth, particularly in the first century, took place in adversarial cultures. We are not hindered by external forces; we are hindered by our own lack of commitment, selflessness, and evangelistic urgency. Hear me well, church leaders. For many of your churches the choice is simple: change or die. Certainly from a biblical perspective, I understand the bride of Christ will be victorious. I understand the gates of hell will not prevail against her (Matthew 16:18). But that does not mean individual congregations won’t die. Revitalization is needed in nearly two-thirds of American churches. For some, that

might mean an evangelistic boost. Others need a complete turnaround. So, what can churches do to bring about much-needed revitalization? We must remember our purpose. Many of the people in our churches have lost the biblical understanding of what it means to be part of the body of Christ. Church members need to be reminded that God placed us in churches to pray for and love one another, to proclaim and teach God’s Word, and to take the gospel to our neighbors and the nations. We must become houses of prayer. Stated simply, we are doing too much in our own power. Our churches are often busy, but we are not doing the business of God. Revitalized churches have a desperate and prayerful dependence on God. We must cease seeing the church as a place of comfort and stability in the midst of rapid change. Certainly, God’s truth is unchanging. We do find comfort and stability in that reality. But your church may need to change methods and approaches to better meet the needs of those you are trying to reach. Church programs and human traditions often become places of misdirected comfort. “We’ve never done it that way before” is a death declaration. We must learn to be uncomfortable in the world if we are to make a difference. We must emphasize evangelism and discipleship. We have been given the Great Commission to make disciples and build God’s kingdom. To fulfill God’s mission, Christians must go out into the community, love their neighbors, and reach the lost with the gospel.


We must focus externally rather than internally. Churches that need revitalization are usually spiritual navel gazers. They are more concerned with programs for members than reaching the lost in their community. Thriving churches are focused on providing ministry to those outside the church and creating bridges for sharing the gospel. Consider taking a community survey that includes demographic research as well as a survey of spiritual and physical needs. Then look for ways your church can become a more effective ministry force in your community. Too many churches are dying, but I am optimistic about the churches in our nation. I am optimistic about this time we are living in. I’ve seen God deliver a number of churches from the throes of death to become thriving churches. Make no mistake; there is no silver bullet solution. Revitalization will look different for each individual church. However, dying churches have a real possibility of turning things around. Our hope lies in Jesus Christ and being the church He has called us to be—joining in His mission of reconciling the world to Him. When a church moves from poor health to good health, it changes the community. It changes lives. It changes the world. THOM S. RAINER (@ThomRainer) is President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Read more at ThomRainer.com.

For more on church revitalization, subscribe to the Revitalize & Replant podcast with Thom Rainer, Jonathan Howe, and Mark Clifton.

Facts & Trends • 5

INSIGHTS Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world

Pastors’ spouses experience mixed blessings


2017 study from LifeWay Research of 720 pastors’ spouses found their lives are complicated, filled with both blessings and stresses, says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. Churches often have unrealistic expectations for a pastor’s spouse, says Kathy Litton, a national consultant for pastors’ spouses at the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board. “They feel like their family needs to be perfect,” says Litton. “When congregations paint that picture for you, that’s a lot of pressure.” The LifeWay Research study provided clues for how pastors’ spouses can thrive in their roles. Those who feel a strong sense of call to ministry tend to be more satisfied, and those who have strong marriages and deep friendships are more likely to thrive. “The ones who struggle are the ones who don’t feel a sense of call,” says Litton. “There’s no safe place for them to talk about that.” Pastors and their spouses can also thrive by putting their own family first, says Mark Dance, executive director of LifeWay Pastors. His wife, Janet, who leads retreats for pastors’ wives, says planning is key. “If you don’t plan ahead, it’s not going to happen,” she says. “We have to give pastors’ spouses permission to put their families on their calendar.” Despite its complicated nature, ministry remains rewarding for many pastors’ spouses. “They feel a sense of joy and satisfaction in their work,” says McConnell. “And they see that as a blessing.” Source: LifeWayResearch.com

6 • Facts & Trends



Fewer Americans will have room for God in their lives. In 2007, about 15 percent of Americans identified as “nones” (atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular), according to Greg Smith, associate director of research at Pew Research Center. By 2017, that number had jumped to 26 percent.


God might inspire church members to do something new. A LifeWay Research study of small churches found ministry outside of church can help a congregation become more effective at evangelism. “God will call someone to go out from your church sharing the gospel in a new place or in a new way,” says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “How will you prepare, support, and replace them?” The church will become more diverse. Roughly 8 in 10 Americans (81 percent) identified as white and Christian in 1976, says Robert Jones, president of the Public Religion Research Institute. Today, that number is 43 percent. Regular church attendance means once or twice a month. This means it’s harder for church members to build relationships with one another. “It’s doubtful anyone at church today, even highly involved volunteer leaders, could receive a perfect attendance pin for the year,” says Warren Bird, director of research for Leadership Network.

1-2x a month

Congregations may look older than they really are. Older members are the most likely to show up in church, says Scott Thumma, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, while younger members, especially families with kids, will attend less often.


iving to charities was up 2.7 percent in 2016, according to Giving USA 2017, an annual report on philanthropy. Giving by individuals was up by nearly 4 percent. A third of all giving went to religious causes, which received an estimated $122.94 billion in contributions, according to Giving USA. “This report tells us that Americans remained generous in 2016, despite it being a year punctuated by economic and political uncertainty,” says Aggie Sweeney, chair of Giving USA Foundation, in a statement. “We saw growth in every major sector, indicating the resilience of philanthropy and diverse motivations of donors.”



acts & Trends asked five religion researchers the cultural challenges that could affect pastors and congregations in 2018.

Charitable giving— including religious causes— hits $390 billion

Source: GivingUSA.org

Neighbors come from all over


he number of first-generation immigrants to America has changed dramatically over the last 150 years. In the 1890s, close to 15 percent of U.S. residents had been born in another country. That dropped to just over 5 percent in the 1960s before rebounding to more than 13 percent by 2015.

And immigrants come from different places today than in the past. In 1960, 84 percent of the foreign-born population in the United States came from Europe or Canada. By 2015, only 14 percent of the foreign-born population hailed from those regions. By contrast, in 1960 few foreign-born Americans were from Mexico (6 percent), the rest of Latin America (4 percent), or South/East Asia (4 percent). By 2015, most foreign-born residents were born in Mexico (27 percent), the rest of Latin America (24 percent), or South/East Asia (27 percent).


Five things to watch for in 2018

Source: PewResearch.org FACTSANDTRENDS.NET

Facts & Trends • 7

INSIGHTS Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world

Parents can influence their kids’ spiritual health


Researchers asked parents about 40 factors that could affect a child’s moral and spiritual development, including whether the parents are divorced, whether the family prayed or ate meals together, and what kind of school the child attended. LifeWay Research then asked parents to describe their adult children’s spiritual health, using eight observable factors. Parents gave observations for a total of 3,472 adult children. Each child received one point if he or she: • Identifies as a Christian. • Shares his or her faith with unbelievers. • Is involved in church. • Reads the Bible regularly. • Serves in a church. • Teaches others at church. • Serves in the community. • Supports local or foreign missions. Eighty-five percent identify as Christians, according to their parents, but only 3 percent had a score of 8, the highest possible. Two-thirds had a score of 2 or less. Half had a score of 0 or 1, meaning they either don’t identify as Christians (11 percent) or they identify as Christians but engage in none of the other spiritual practices (39 percent). Parents’ behavior is also related to their adult children’s spiritual health, LifeWay Research found. Young adults had higher spiritual health scores if they grew up with parents who spent time reading the Bible several times Source: Nothing Less: Engaging Kids in a Lifetime of Faith by Jana Magruder and LifeWayResearch.com a week or practicing certain Note: LifeWay Research asked Protestant churchgoing parents t o describe the upbringing and current spiritual health of their young adult children. These 15 other spiritual disciplines.

ost churchgoing Protestant parents of young adults say their kids grew up to be Christians—but half of them don’t actually practice the Christian faith. And the biggest factor predicting their spiritual health as young adults is whether they read the Bible regularly as kids, according to LifeWay Research. Researchers surveyed 2,000 Protestant

and nondenominational churchgoers. All attend services at least once a month and have children ages 18 to 30. “Churchgoing parents want to pass on their faith to their kids—and to see their children make that faith their own,” says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “But they don’t always know how best to make that happen.”

Best predictors of spiritual health among young adults

factors were most predictive of spiritual health in young adulthood. These factors have a cumulative effect.

8 • Facts & Trends


Evangelicals across America

Beliefs and identity In a recent survey, LifeWay used a set of four questions about the Bible, Jesus, salvation, and evangelism. Those questions were developed in partnership with the National Association of Evangelicals. Those who strongly agree with all four are considered to be evangelicals by belief. Source: LifeWayResearch.com

Suicide often a taboo subject at churches


study of Protestant churchgoers from LifeWay Research found most say suicide is a problem that needs to be addressed. About a third (32 percent) say a close acquaintance or family member has died by suicide. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 44,000 Americans took their own lives in 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans ages 15 to 34 and the fourth leading cause of death for those 35 to 44. Churchgoers are aware that friends and family of a person who dies by suicide can be isolated from the help they need because of the stigma of suicide. More than half (55 percent) of churchgoers say people in their community are more likely to gossip about a suicide than to help a victim’s family. And few churchgoers say their church takes specific steps to address suicide or has resources to assist those experiencing a mental health crisis. Most Protestant pastors believe their church is taking a proactive role in preventing suicide and ministering to those affected by mental illness, according to LifeWay Research.


Source: LifeWayResearch.com FACTSANDTRENDS.NET

Facts & Trends • 9

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12 • Facts & Trends



Thriving in a post-Christendom culture Churches find strength in ministry from the margins



’m kind of atheist when it comes to Jesus,” Alex admitted, “but I’m willing to talk about him.” Mike McDaniel had known Alex for only a couple of years when he opened up about his spiritual life. They’d met at CrossFit. Over time and a few thousand pushups, their conversations had moved from exercise and the weather to talking about their personal lives.

Alex had grown up Catholic. But he hadn’t been in church since the age of 12. He’d cruised through life experimenting with all kinds of highs and had no intention of slowing down. Mike and Alex began working out together regularly and then heading to a local hangout for after-workout chicken wings. Their conversations have spanned many topics, including Alex’s spiritual beliefs. Mike pastors Grace Point Church of Northwest Arkansas. He and his wife, Lori, planted the church 16 years ago with the specific purpose of reaching the Alexes of the world. Grace Point is a church “for those who have given up on church, but haven’t given up on God,” says Mike, “but we also want to be there for people like Alex who have given up on church and God.” Alex isn’t alone in his nonbelief. In fact, his tribe seems to be growing by the minute. The “nones”—those who self-identify as atheists or agnostics or say their religion is nothing in particular—now make up roughly 26 percent of the U.S. adult population, according to Pew Research. That’s up from 16 percent a decade ago. The share of Americans who identify as atheists or agnostics has risen from 4 to 7 percent in the past several years.


Facts & Trends • 13

At the same time, the portion of Americans who describe themselves as Christian has declined from 78.4 percent in 2007 to 70.6 percent in 2014. While the share of evangelicals has stayed relatively steady since the 1970s, nominal Christians have left their churches in a steady stream. While the church is far from dying, most agree the Christian faith has lost its influence in the public square. “Gone are the days when a church could swing open its doors and people would come,” says Mike. “Today churches open their doors and people not only won’t come, they often laugh or simply ignore the church completely. The faith described in Scripture no longer dictates the cultural or political directions in our nation.” The church has in essence been shoved

out of the public square, says Mike. “Seismic shifts have moved the church from the center to the fringes, and we’re now on the outside of culture looking in.” Still, Mike is hopeful for the church in North America. Last year he released The Resurgent Church: 7 Critical Ways to Thrive in the New Post-Christendom World. Based on a five-year study of churches that have reinvented themselves to reach the unchurched in their communities, the book offers several principles to help leaders of fading churches. He says many use the term post-Christian to describe the current spiritual climate in North America when they mean post-Christendom. “A post-Christian world would be one where Christ and His church have no

Advice for pastors leading ministry in the 21st century By Mike McDaniel 1. Reread the Bible with a missional hermeneutic. When we open our Bibles, we should read it as a call from God to live out his mission to see His kingdom come and His will to be done. When you read Scripture through that lens, it changes how you preach, how you do Bible studies, how you do local ministry, and it allows you to know when you have a win as a church. Also, if the nations aren’t a part of your spiritual formation, then you need to re-examine the Great Commission. 2. Get out of the office and go learn to be with and to love the lost people in your community. They are there. Go find them and love them. 3. Compile a community profile. Research the demographics around your church’s footprint. What’s the median age? Income? Racial profile? Where do people work? Where do people spend their discretionary income? What are the primary stressors? Pretend you know nothing and begin discovering the community around your church. 3. Reconsider your church’s strategy. Don’t let the programs of your church define your strategy. Don’t be afraid to let some things go in order to start new things in light of your current mission field. 4. Mobilize people to the community. A resurgent church measures success not by how many it gathers but how many it sends out. When we start loving our community, warts and all, then start engaging our community, and we move out of the church building and into the community, that’s when things get exciting. 14 • Facts & Trends

future. Christianity would be dead,” he writes in the book. “Once we begin to speak of such a thing, we’ve given up hope.” Mike acknowledges many Americans have adopted post-Christian values and perspectives, “but that doesn’t mean Christianity has died,” he says. “Rather, Christendom has died. The institutional church has lost its influence.” Most church historians agree Christendom began in 313 A.D. when the Roman emperor Constantine endorsed Christianity. From that moment, Western culture was influenced and shaped by a biblical worldview. Today, however, Christianity can no longer claim any dominance within the population. We live in a time of religious plurality and competing worldviews. “The Constantines of today no longer find Christianity to be a necessary tool for them in reaching their goals,” says Mike. “Suddenly, we are the ones being marginalized, and it’s not a comfortable feeling.” Mike believes post-Christendom has emerged, but he doesn’t see that as a threat to the church. “We have the opportunity to be the church much like the believers in pre-Christendom. I think the church in Acts is more relevant today than it was in the 1950s.” Resurgent churches Churches can’t keep doing things the way they’ve always done them. But that doesn’t mean hiring a hip, young pastor or compromising the gospel, says Mike. It’s a shift in the way we do church and how we live out our faith in our culture and context. In his book, Mike describes how some churches today are noticing the currents of this new post-Christendom era and are re-equipping themselves to reach the communities they serve. He refers to them as “resurgent churches.” “These churches are hard at work,” he writes. “They’re refitting, reworking, and reimagining what the body of Christ is supposed to be. They are WINTER 2018


innovative yet doctrinally scrupulous.” The same needs of the human heart since the fall of man—meaning, purpose, hope, and reconciliation—still exist in the hearts of people today, he says. “And the church has the number one message of reconciliation,” says Mike. “We just have to reset ourselves and re-engineer our approaches like never before.” And that’s going to look different from one region or community to another. “The goal is to be the expression of Jesus in your context,” says Mike. Resurgent churches understand their times, their communities, and their mission, he says. They’ve also learned how to unpack for a new generation what is eternal and unchanging in the biblical church—and what is unhelpful baggage to leave behind. Resurgent church leaders are equipping and sending out their members to live everyday life on mission in their communities. “We have to go into the lost community if we’re going to know them, understand their needs, and build relationships in order to present the gospel and let God’s light shine to a desperate world.” Thriving in post-Christendom Remember Alex? It took time and a listening ear from Mike, but eventually, he began to read the Bible and occasionally visited the church. Today he’s active at Grace Point and attends a weekly Bible study. He continues to be a gospel influence at the gym and recently joined Grace Point for one of the church’s global adventures to West Africa. Millions of Alexes have walked out the doors of the church; others have never stepped foot inside. To get them to come, churches will need to go to them and find ways to build bridges to share the gospel. It may mean learning a new language or understanding a different worldview. For Mike it meant joining CrossFit. For others it might mean coaching a city-league sports team or joining the PTA. Mike says he looks beyond the trends of declining church attendance and increasing secularism and is encouraged.

Seismic shifts have moved the church from the center to the fringes, and we’re now on the outside of culture looking in.” — Mike McDaniel, pastor at Grace Point Church of Northwest Arkansas “Churches are reinventing themselves and finding new ways to survive, flourish, and break through to Alex and those like him in these complex times.” So what can churches do in response to this new era? Mike believes Christians need to become comfortable on the edge of society and find ways to minister from the margins the way the first-century church did. Acts 2 is a great picture of how the church can work from the margins of society. “Like Jesus they focused on people and relationships,” says Mike. “They lived out their faith in public, and most of all they leaned on the power of the Holy Spirit.” Living on mission then and now means building true relationships with people that lead to gospel conversations and long-term discipleship. “I’m a firm believer in Matthew 16 that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church,” says Mike. “If we can separate out the institutional church from the idea of the church as a movement—pioneering, re-envisioning, and re-establishing itself in culture—we can still be alive and thrive.” CAROL PIPES (@CarolPipes) is editor in chief of Facts & Trends.

DIG DEEPER •T he Resurgent Church, by Mike McDaniel •T he Shaping of Things to Come, by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch Available at LifeWay Stores and LifeWay.com


Facts & Trends • 15

A HEART FOR THE NATIONS Reaching the world in and from Northwest Arkansas By carol pipes


16 • Facts & Trends




Step inside Grace Point Church of Northwest Arkansas and you’ll see right away the congregation’s heartbeat for the nations. Guests are greeted in the Beyond Borders Café, where flags from different nations unfurl from the ceiling and world maps cover each table. On the walls of the Story Gallery hang photos from the church’s global adventures (what Grace Point calls mission trips) with the story of each photo.

The preschool and kids’ ministry areas are called Wee World and KidNation respectively because the church wants even the youngest of disciples to picture the nations and their place in God’s mission. “We don’t see missions as a department of our church,” says Mike McDaniel, pastor of Grace Point. “It’s woven into everything we do.” Reaching the nations has been part of Grace Point’s DNA from the beginning, when Mike and Lori McDaniel planted it in 2001. “When we started looking at the area, we noticed an influx of people moving here from all over the country and from around the world,” says Mike. “We saw the tremendous potential of Northwest Arkansas to mobilize people to the nations.” In its first five years, the church sent out mission teams on 12 global adventures. “We didn’t have a strategy when we first started sending people overseas,” says Lori. “We just wanted to expose

people to the world and expand their worldview. We recognized that when church members returned from a trip overseas, they began to look at their own culture in a completely different way.” A few years in, they realized the church needed a strategic focus for international missions. Grace Point began a partnership with church planting missionaries in West Africa. A decade later, the church is still sending teams to West Africa. More than 200 members have traveled to West Africa for terms as brief as two weeks and as long as two years. Grace Point has found that nothing grows fully formed disciples like mobilizing them for missions among the nations. Lessons from the mission field Mike and Lori understand the significance of supporting missionaries on the field through long-term partnerships. They spent four years as missionaries in Zambia, raising their young family among the Tonga people. The couple shared their lives with the people and learned to see the world through the lens of the Tongan culture. They struggled to find churches in the United States to come and work alongside them. Those years gave them a vision for planting a church back in the States that would have a heart for the nations. They also learned valuable lessons in exegeting (or interpreting) culture and putting the gospel into context for the people they were trying to reach. “We went to Zambia thinking we had all the answers,” says Mike with a laugh. Slowly they began to realize not every culture worships in a square building, sitting in straight rows and singing songs out of a hymnbook. “It took us two years to figure out the people in Zambia worship best under trees, meet best in circles, and don’t worship from a book,” recalls Mike. “They worship from their hearts and they dance when they worship.”


Facts & Trends • 17

Grace Point Church has sent more than 200 members to serve in West Africa on short- and long-term trips. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GRACE POINT CHURCH

The mission of God is to make His glory and His name known to all nations, and Grace Point Church is part of that mission.” —Lori McDaniel, church planter

DIG DEEPER •T radecraft: For the Church on Mission, by Larry E. McCrary, Caleb Crider, Wade Stephens and Rodney Calfee •L ife on Mission: A Simple Way to Share the Gospel, by Aaron Coe and Dustin Willis •R adical Small-Group Study, by David Platt • EvangelismRenewal.com

Available at LifeWay Stores and LifeWay.com 18 • Facts & Trends

Mike and Lori admit the experience turned their preconceptions upside down. “We were forced to re-examine what church looks like in a different context and extract methodology from theology,” Mike says. “We had to strip away a lot of the cultural baggage that had become enmeshed in our theology.” When the McDaniels came back to the States, they put the lessons they learned and tools they’d acquired on the mission field into practice at Grace Point. “Whether you’re in West Africa or Northwest Arkansas, it’s essential to know who you’re trying to reach and then shape your ministry to reach that context,” says Mike. “When we moved to Arkansas we began to ask the same missionary questions we had asked overseas,” says Lori. “What do the people believe? What’s their story? How does their history and culture shape their behaviors? Where do people congregate? “When you understand worldview and culture, you can contextualize the gospel in a way that helps that particular people group understand,” she continues. “It doesn’t mean you’re watering down the gospel; it means presenting the gospel in such a way that they hear, understand, and have an opportunity to accept it.” Bringing missions home For Grace Point Church, reaching the nations begins at home. Three Fortune 500 companies—Walmart, Tyson Foods, and J.B. Hunt—have headquarters in the region. The growing retail, tech, and medical industries in the area have drawn a number of international business professionals and their families, many from unreached locations. “Our missional mindset involves the nations here and the nations there,” says Mike. A benefit of sending church members to serve overseas is they return with a renewed passion for reaching people in their own community. WINTER 2018


A few years ago, a woman in their church went to South Asia to serve women exploited by human trafficking. When she came home, God opened her eyes to the large South Asian population in Northwest Arkansas. She now has a regular ministry teaching South Asian women how to drive, swim, play tennis, and shop in an American grocery store. “She’s now one of our many ambassadors to South Asian women here, but that never would have happened had she not taken one of our global adventures,” says Mike. “We want our people to be expressions of the gospel in the community,” he says. “We’re constantly challenging our members to take their resources and invest them in the community and the nations in whatever they do and wherever they go.” Staying nimble The culture in Northwest Arkansas has shifted since the McDaniels planted Grace Point 16 years ago—which means they have to shift how they minister to the population and put the gospel in context for the culture, says Lori. They continually research their community to have a greater understanding of the people who live in the area. Grace Point recently studied the people living within a seven-mile radius of the church using a tool called the Joshua Survey. It provides a comprehensive survey of the age, income, interests, lifestyles, and backgrounds of the people. The church did a similar study of the congregation to see where they align with who they’re trying reach and discover any gaps. “We’ve been able to identify growing segments of our community that we’re not reaching,” says Mike. “This will allow us to develop new ministries and initiatives to reach those segments.” A few years ago, noticing a growing arts community in Northwest Arkansas, the church developed an arts ministry that includes an arts camp and gallery. The FACTSANDTRENDS.NET/POSTCHRISTENDOM

Story Gallery hosts rotating exhibits by outside artists as well as artists from the congregation. Staying nimble has allowed Grace Point to keep a finger on the pulse of the culture and change its methods of reaching people accordingly. The church places a high priority on equipping its members to reach their neighbors, friends and coworkers with the gospel. “The mission of God is to make His glory and His name known to all nations,” says Lori, “and Grace Point Church is a part of that mission. We recognize that every believer has a part to play in God’s mission.” CAROL PIPES (@CarolPipes) is editor in chief of Facts & Trends.

An exhibit at Grace Point’s Story Gallery depicts the symbolism and impact of the color red in Judeo-Christian Scripture and beyond. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GRACE POINT CHURCH

Facts & Trends • 19


How a New York City church loves its community with the whole gospel


By AAron Earls

In the 1980s and ’90s, Washington Heights was considered the “crack cocaine capital” of New York City. Much has changed for this community over the past 20 years, but last fall, someone was murdered down the street from Christ Crucified Fellowship, bringing to mind the high murder rates from decades earlier.

Rich Perez, pastor of Christ Crucified Fellowship in New York City.

“It was a pretty deep hit to the community,” says pastor Rich Perez. “But I could’ve never felt that and been able to minister well if I weren’t here.” And “the Heights” is home for him. As a kid, Perez shuffled down the sidewalks in Washington Heights past the bodegas and the cars blaring merengue music. Now, he and his wife watch their son do the same. Much like the church he pastors, he is firmly planted in this New York City neighborhood. For Perez and Christ Crucified Fellowship, that’s the only way they can reach the community and show their neighbors the love of Christ. “You have to have a level of rootedness if you are going to have any impact on your community,” he says. With a highly transient community like Washington Heights, the sense of stability offered by Perez and Christ Crucified can transform residents and the neighborhood. And as culture moves past institutions and other symbols of permanence, churches that stay and plant themselves deep in a community can bear significant, long-lasting fruit.


20 • Facts & Trends



In word and deed One of the most natural ways Perez invests himself into his community is with words. Words flow out of him with care, befitting his current role as pastor, and confidence, evoking his past as a hip-hop artist. He weighs and measures his words before delivering them with rhythm and precision. Words matter to him because the people hearing them matter, whether it’s over a traditional Dominican breakfast at one of his favorite local spots or delivering God’s word each Sunday to those gathered at Christ Crucified Fellowship. And words matter because the people speaking them matter. Listening to their ambitions and dreams, fears and history is often the first step to making an impact. “To have influence with your city, you first have to know your city,” says Perez. “You have to commit to know the whole story of your context, be it rural, suburban, or urban.” Christians too often want to influence their community but skip the step of knowing and caring for the people who live there. “Compassion and relationship always precede influence,” he says. “In fact, I would say influence is the byproduct of compassion and relationship.” That’s what drew Breehan Pfeiffer to move from Tennessee to be a part of Christ Crucified Fellowship, and it’s why she calls Washington Heights home now. “Relationship is the most vital part of sharing the love of Christ,” she says. “So many churches are focused on planning activities, but people want to feel safe and loved. They want to know they’re important. When they know those things, they’re more receptive to hearing where our love comes from.”

Words matter, but they are not enough. Relationships need more than love spoken. They need love lived out, because in a post-Christendom context, people don’t often decide to follow Jesus in one day, says Perez. “It’s usually a path of steps they take with Christians walking with them.” That was the case for Steven Cruz. He didn’t know Christ, but he started hanging out with Perez because they shared a love for basketball. “I was saved because Rich poured into me like a brother.” Today Cruz is a deacon at Christ Crucified Fellowship. As the church looks to build relationships with the community, Perez echoes God’s command in Jeremiah 29:7 to the Israelites in Babylonian captivity. “It’s important to seek the good of those around us,” he says. And that extends beyond the spiritual. Perez says too many have reduced the church’s responsibilities in a community to only spiritual things. “We should absolutely be concerned with the destiny of a person’s soul, but we shouldn’t reduce our concern to only that,” he says. “Jesus and the gospel He preached are concerned with the soul and the system, the individual and the institution.” Christ Crucified Fellowship works with Love Kitchen, a food ministry that provides more than 200 meals a day, partners with a basketball program for local kids, conducts a prison outreach at Rikers Island, mentors schoolchildren, teaches English to Spanish speakers in the heavily Hispanic neighborhood, and helps tenants secure fair treatment with their housing. Helping people in their daily lives often grants them better understanding of their eternal value, says Perez. “We are offering people the chance to recognize the dignity they already have,”


Facts & Trends • 21

Worship team leads congregation at Christ Crucified Fellowship in New York City. PHOTO BY AARON EARLS

he says. “People may think they’ve lost their dignity because they’ve lost their apartment. I want them to recognize their dignity in Christ and then work to affirm their dignity in helping them have a place to live and work.” Being concerned with the physical and spiritual is a reflection of Jesus, says Perez. “The incarnation affirms that being preoccupied with the human experience matters, but the resurrection affirms that only being preoccupied with the human experience is not faithful.” This dual approach allows Christ Crucified Fellowship to shine in Washington Heights. “We are to step into the broken world, understanding our own brokenness, and create pockets of God’s kingdom,” Perez says. Rooted in the Heights Churches can develop a sense of intimacy from listening to the people in the community and serving them, but there is an investment that flows out of living in the neighborhood. That is the case for Christ Crucified Fellowship. “In a six-block radius, we have 11 families from our church that live here,” says Perez. “We want to saturate this place with our people, with God’s people.” Investment requires risk, and loving its community is sometimes risky for a church. “We are part of the community,” says

Cruz. “We have planted ourselves here to love our next-door neighbors.” Dave Fuentes, an elder at Christ Crucified Fellowship, says to serve in the church, you need to live in the community. “It’s what we started as—a neighborhood church that wants to love our neighbors,” he says. “We see the people when we go to the bodega or the shopping market. They know we are part of Christ Crucified Fellowship.” Fuentes was drawn to the church through social media. He saw a picture on Twitter of a small group and thought the faces were inviting and it “looked like a good family” that was meeting in his neighborhood. The familial ties and love of community have bonded the church through some trying circumstances. In its brief history, Christ Crucified Fellowship has met in a living room, a boxing ring, a Jewish synagogue, a church basement, a shared space with eight other churches, and now its current location, a gym at a local Christian school. Reaching out and multiplying Even with the unsettled past and no permanent location, Fuentes says he and Perez are discussing ways to expand the borders of the church to additional neighborhoods in New York City. They don’t want to leave Washington Heights. “We want to take what we’ve done here

22 • Facts & Trends

and see that happen in other places in the city,” says Fuentes. Despite the church’s relatively small size, it has already planted a church in Harlem, sending a third of the congregation there. Fuentes says about 25 percent of the congregation currently lives in the Bronx, so that may be the next location. The shift is a testimony to the maturity of the congregation. “We used to be a bunch of singles getting together,” says Cruz. “Now we’re families with kids running all over the place. Our mission has changed. We used to be focused on knowing Jesus more ourselves, but now we want to go out and show Him to others. It’s about proclamation and living it out.” Pfeiffer hopes Christ Crucified Fellowship can be a spark for the city of New York and beyond. “I would love for the way we do community to not be abnormal but be the normal way for the church,” she says. For Perez, planting deep roots is the only way to do ministry. “When we give of ourselves and our resources to invest in the community, we will have a future return.” AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of FactsAndTrends.net.



Gospel antifreeze Reaching the secular skeptics and those cold toward church


By Jeff Vanderstelt

Recently I stood beside a football field here in the Seattle area, watching my son Caleb’s practice. Next to me stood another father. As we struck up a conversation, he asked me what I did for work. I had to think about it for a minute. I could tell him I’m an author or a consultant or a community developer. Technically, all are true. However, the Spirit wouldn’t let me. “I’m a pastor.” “I’m sorry for you,” he said. “We hate you out here in the Northwest.” His comment didn’t surprise me. Seattle is a place where people don’t like to go to church. Pacific Northwesterners are mostly nonreligious. A 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found 35 percent of Washington residents are religiously unaffiliated—compared to 24 percent of Americans as a whole. According to Pew Research, Washington state has the fifth lowest percentage of highly religious adults in the country. The same report says fewer than half of Washington residents (46 percent) pray daily, and slightly more than half (55 percent) “believe in God with absolute certainty.” And according to the 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study, only about a third had ties to a congregation. It’s not a place where people trust pastors or churches. Still, over the past 26 years, it’s been my home—a place where I love to minister. Be with and become In 1991, I moved from Michigan to Seattle for a youth pastor role. The church that hired me was welcoming and hospitable, but the city was not known for warmth. In fact, many call what I experienced in my new city the Seattle Freeze.


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Transplants are often deeply discouraged when seeking to connect with radically introspective, emotionally disengaged Pacific Northwesterners. It’s not that residents lack emotion. Take in a Seahawks or Sounders game and you’ll find we’re full of passion. However, the passion is hidden behind skepticism and disguised angst. Add in the fact that I’m a pastor and Seattle wasn’t a warm and friendly place. I’ve watched many church planters and pastors move here from other parts of the country seeking to maintain what they had back home, only to find themselves heading back to warmer climates and warmer people.

We need to cultivate an ability to be truly present with people and really listen.” —Jeff Vanderstelt, pastor at Doxa Church in Bellevue, Washington

I’m convinced you won’t effectively make disciples here unless you’re willing to stay long enough to become one of us. This is likely true everywhere, but it’s especially the case out here with the freeze. The first thing I had to do is the thing every pastor must learn to do: be with and become. In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases John 1:14 this way: “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” Jesus fully related to everything we experience by fully becoming human and dwelling in our space. British missionary Hudson Taylor was known for embracing the culture of the Chinese for the sake of the gospel. He dressed Chinese, ate Chinese, lived in Chinese housing, observed the local customs and etiquette, and even refrained from receiving protection from British consular authorities. He was said 24 • Facts & Trends

to have gone to China a British man and returned to Britain a Chinese man. I’ve been in Washington long enough now that when I return home to visit my family in Michigan, it’s clear I don’t belong there anymore. I am now a Pacific Northwesterner. However, this didn’t happen overnight. I have immersed myself into this place for a long time. I drink the coffee (yes, we’re all coffee snobs). I have the rain gear (sans umbrella—a sure way to tell who’s not from Seattle). I’m into natural medicine. I care about recycling and the preservation of all God’s creation. I could go on, but I think you get it. Be visible and vulnerable Some of the so-called Seattle freeze is due to the kinds of people the region attracts. The greater Puget Sound is drawing tens of thousands of employees to work in the tech industry. More than 1,000 people a week move to the area due to Amazon’s growth, artificial intelligence research and development, and ongoing expansion in the gaming industry. Many of them are introverts. And many are newcomers. Our region is now full of relationally disconnected people. They just haven’t had time to build deep relationships. And it’s harder these days, especially in tech-savvy Seattle, for people to build those relationships. These days, it’s common for people to hide behind the polished version they present on social media platforms. And it’s hard to become friends with someone’s façade on Instagram. Real-world relationships require getting beyond that façade. They require emotional honesty and physical presence. The Seattle freeze needs real, present, vulnerable, in-need-of-grace people. Recently I led a training event where participants shared personal stories with seven other people at their table. WINTER 2018


A woman in her 60s admitted she was incredibly outgoing on social media but completely panic-stricken about sharing her story in person. As the one leading the class, I started by vulnerably sharing how God’s story had changed my story. Several people told me this had a profound effect on them. They had never observed a pastor openly share his own brokenness as I did while also communicating how God was actively changing me. It’s not uncommon for me to share my personal struggles and sin while I’m preaching—so that it’s clear I need the message I’m preaching. I’m in a community of people who see my life and watch my interactions with my wife and children. They know my sin and can attest that I need grace as much as anyone. I can’t call people to go to a place I’m not willing to go. And I can’t expect them to go there if they don’t also see what it looks like. See work as mission Since most people attending our church spend the majority of their days at work, my job as pastor is to equip them for ministry in the workplace. I remind them church isn’t an event on Sunday; church is the people of God sent on the mission of God everywhere and every day. The primary mission field here in the Pacific Northwest is the workplace. People need to know work is good. Work is from God. And work is a great place to show what God is like and what He has done for us. I regularly remind God’s people to work heartily as unto the Lord and not unto man (Colossians 3:17, 22-24). I remind them going to work is more than receiving a paycheck, praise, platform, or promotions. I encourage them to see their work as an opportunity both to display what God is like and to extend God’s love and grace to other employees. They are

blessed with skills, abilities, and a job in order to bless their colleagues, their company, and the world. Be present and listen Sometimes, the most important thing we can do is to simply be there and listen. Take my football sideline friend. I asked him why he thought people in our community hated me. He told me most people out here are secular skeptics or burned out on religion. That was true for him as well. He’d once lived in Texas, where he pretended to be a Christian “because everyone is a Christian there.” “I had to pretend in order to get and keep business,” he said. I could tell he’d become jaded about Christianity. For the rest of the practice, I asked him about his life, his marriage, and work. At one point I asked him why, if he hated pastors so much, he kept talking to me. “Well, you seem different from most,” he replied. Unfortunately, most people’s experience of Christians or pastors has a repellent effect. We can be overly talkative, pushy, judgmental, and lousy at being present and truly listening. Christian apologist and author Francis Schaeffer said, “If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first 55 minutes asking them questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then in the last five minutes I will share something of the truth.” We need to cultivate an ability to be truly present with people and really listen. Through regular time in solitude and silence before God I’ve learned to quiet my heart and mind enough to be fully present with another human and truly listen—not only to their words but also to their hearts. I listen for the longings, the pains, the disappointments, and the hopes. The more I do, the more doors open for me to show the good news of Jesus in


tangible forms of serving, as well as to share the good news through words. I find the visible must precede the verbal here in the Northwest. People will not trust what you say unless they’re convinced you’re genuine. People can sense whether you really care or if they are a project. And, once convinced, they’ll gradually open up their lives no matter how cold their exterior might be. I love the Pacific Northwest. It’s not as cold (or wet) as people think. If you stay long enough, become one of us, work to bring warmth, and listen to hearts, you’ll see we’re all longing for the same love and mercy found only in Jesus. We just need His grace to break the ice and melt the freeze. I expect the people near you are not very different. JEFF VANDERSTELT (@JeffVanderstelt) is a pastor, speaker, author, and founder and visionary leader of Saturate and the Soma Family of Churches. He serves as a teaching pastor and director of Missional Communities at Doxa Church in Bellevue, Washington. His LifeWay Bible study, Making Space: Doing What Matters Most, will be released Feb. 1.

DIG DEEPER •G ospel Fluency, by Jeff Vanderstelt

Available at LifeWay Stores and LifeWay.com

Facts & Trends • 25

Volunteeers serve more than 200 free home-cooked meals every week at Crossroads’ Lord’s Café. PHOTO PROVIDED BY CROSSROADS COMMUNITY BAPTIST CHURCH

Small town, big mission How one rural church is reaching its community


By Bob Smietana

Every year for almost a decade, Grant Hasty has invited a few friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. They carve turkey, mash some potatoes, and enjoy freshbaked rolls from the family’s recipe.

But at this meal, more than 1,300 neighbors showed up last year—in a town of around 1,200 people. The tradition started seven years ago when Crossroads Community Baptist of Whitley City, Kentucky, rented its first building—a shuttered restaurant complete with a

26 • Facts & Trends

commercial kitchen. It was just another sign, says Hasty, that God is up to something in McCreary County, Kentucky, one of the poorest places in America. And it’s a sign that small churches still matter—especially in a county where churches are few and far between. As America becomes more secular, even the Bible belt is changing. Most people here in McCreary County—which has 17,000 residents—believe in God, says Hasty. But they are rarely part of a church. The 26 local congregations WINTER 2018


draw fewer than 4,000 people, according to the 2010 U.S. Congregational Membership study. That leaves about three-quarters of the population in this Bible belt county unchurched. And many of the congregations are small. A church of 150 would be a megachurch in McCreary County. Crossroads is nowhere near that size. “On a good Sunday, we’ll go as high as 60 people,” says Hasty. “On a low Sunday, we will have as few as six people show up.” Still, the church is committed to reaching its neighbors. Along with the annual Thanksgiving dinner, Crossroads’ Lord’s Café serves more than 200 free home-cooked meals every week during the school year and 900 a week during the summer. The café is also home to weekly clothing and grocery giveaways, with a beauty salon and gardens out back. The learning center—where the church worships on Sundays—also has hosted a tutoring program, held backpack giveaways, and housed volunteers each summer who repair homes in the community. Volunteers have even run a Bible study at a laundromat where they wash people’s clothes for free. Their next project: The Light Community, where people recovering from addictions and other troubles can live while they get back on their feet. “We are just meeting people where they are,” says Hasty. Not long ago, none of this seemed possible. Trouble in the coal mine Hasty and his wife, Gina, moved to McCreary County in 2008 so he could pastor a small church. Once the thriving home of the famed Blue Heron coal mine, the county had fallen on hard times. Median household income was $30,000 less than the national average.

In recent years, the death rate for middle-aged white women in McCreary County has gone up by 75 percent. It’s a place where people die alone in the prime of life and, as The Washington Post recently put it, so called “deaths of despair” are commonplace. Life inside the church walls had problems as well. Not long after Hasty started as pastor, his church fell into turmoil when the youth pastor admitted to an inappropriate relationship with a church member and quit. And as a new pastor, Hasty pushed too hard on his dreams of doing outreach in the community. He wanted to bring in volunteers to fix up homes in the community, tutor kids, and start a food pantry. Hasty had a vision to bring in those who stayed away from church by demonstrating the love of God to them through the congregation. The church wasn’t ready for many of those steps, however, and before long, he and the congregation split. With that, the Hastys thought they were done with small-town life in McCreary County. “We wanted to get back to civilization,” he says. But they couldn’t find anywhere to go. Hasty never heard back from any of the places he sent résumés. And the more he and Gina prayed, the more they felt God wanted them to stay and plant a new church. They began worshiping with a few friends in their living room. Eight years later, that new congregation—known as Crossroads Community Baptist Church—is still going strong. And most of the folks at Crossroads have a story to tell. Stories at the Crossroads Karen Hatfield helps out in the kitchen at the Lord’s Café every week. She came to the church six years ago, after volunteers repaired her daughter’s


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fire-damaged house. Hatfield had been going through a rough stretch. Three of her grown children struggled with drug addiction. Her young daughter died of an illness, and Hatfield had been in a car wreck, which cost her her job. After her daughter’s house was damaged, Hatfield went to visit Hasty. The family could pay for the materials needed for the repair, but not the labor. They’d heard Crossroads often had volunteers who could help. It turned out a group from Maine was in town to volunteer. The group showed up and fixed the house. Hatfield told Hasty she wanted to give back. “I said, ‘We don’t want something for nothing,’” she says. “What can I do to help?” Since then, her daughter, Tonya Tapley, and husband, Lonnie, have become regulars at the café and the church. Tapley was baptized in the fall of 2016. Hatfield and her husband were baptized the following spring. For Tapley, the church has been a lifesaver. She’s struggled for years with addiction and has had a few run-ins with the law. She also lost a 6-monthold daughter to illness. Tapley first met Gina Hasty at the county jail. She and her sister had been arrested on an outstanding warrant, while on the way to make funeral arrangements for the sister’s husband, who had taken his own life. 28 • Facts & Trends

The church and her parents helped pull her through. “They’ve never given up on me,” Tapley says. “This church is the best thing that could have happened to this community.” Dean Coffey, the dishwasher, rides his electric bike back and forth from his trailer to help whenever the café is open. A widower, he used to walk five miles each way to get meals for his wife, when she was dying of cancer. Now, the café is his refuge. Henry Tapley, who greets people at the door, was once a drug dealer. Today he leads prayers at the weekly grocery giveaway and is a regular volunteer at the café, despite physical challenges. At 67, some days he can barely walk, his feet swollen from diabetes. He, too, came to church after a volunteer from out of town worked on his house. He wanted to give back—and he’d been looking for a church where he could belong. The church made him feel at home, despite his past. And it has given him work to do that makes a difference. For that, he’s grateful. Volunteering at the café gives him a reason to get up each day. “I don’t want to miss it because I love doing it,” he says. Hasty is grateful for the chance to serve as well. Running the café, Hasty says, is a chance to show people the love of God. Each meal is served by a volunteer who offers to pray with every guest. And if the guests want company, volunteers will often sit with them and talk. Hasty will visit too—if he can get a break from helping in the kitchen. “It’s just a whole other world of meeting people where they are versus them coming into the church to see me,” he says. “God’s really provided.” BOB SMIETANA (@BobSmietana) is senior writer for Facts & Trends. WINTER 2018


Hope on the horizon

Three ways a secular culture means a stronger church By Joy Allmond


It’s a Sunday morning in Düsseldorf, Germany. Historic houses of worship stand out on most street corners. Their architecture often evokes a sense of wonder. Inside, however, many are empty, supported solely by a tax to preserve the landmarks’ external beauty.

But during the week leading up to that Sunday, around 60 locals, some singer/songwriters, and a barista serving up good coffee convene in a pastor’s home for a house show. Most of the guests are not churchgoers, let alone Christians.

Düsseldorf, Germany IMB PHOTO


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Percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans 26%




Source: Pew Research

Percent of Americans considered post-Christian

48% Post-Christian

Source: Barna Research

These guests are being engaged in gospel-centered community—without darkening the doors of a church building. Gathering in homes or otherwise engaging society outside the walls of a church building is what it takes throughout most of Europe—and increasingly in North America, says missionary and church planter Josh Baylor, the pastor hosting the house shows in Düsseldorf. He and other faith and culture experts believe we live in a post-Christendom age: a time when Christianity is no longer a cultural pivot point and when the church is on the margins of society. And that, Baylor says, is a very good thing. He even believes this post-Christendom age is a necessary thing for the church to grow and thrive. “In our current age, a church can have a bunch of programs to fill up the week,” says Baylor, who serves with the International Mission Board. “But those events don’t connect with the current generation. It looks like a busy church, but no one is a part of it. “A church on the margins has to strip all that away. We need to examine what it looks like to be in real gospel community in everyday life—not just showing up to a building.” According to Pew Research, the Christian population declined from 2010 to 2015 in Europe, the only continent where that was the case. And the United States appears to be trending the same way. The percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans jumped from 16 percent in 2007 to 26 percent in 2017, Pew found. Using several religious belief and action questions, a 2016 Barna Research report contends nearly half (48 percent) of Americans are considered post-Christian. “This will force us to reform and refashion how to be the church,” Baylor says. But what does that look like?

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A more unified church Increased solidarity is one way the church can benefit in a post-Christendom age, says Walter Strickland, who teaches theology and serves as associate vice president for kingdom diversity initiatives at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “We need to ask ourselves how we can have a credible witness in a society where we no longer have the ‘home field advantage,’” says Strickland. “We should start looking more like the church in Acts and the rest of the epistles.” Ironically, he notes, the church is stronger when on the fringes of society and not in power. “A lot of solidarity happens among those who are in Christ across denominations, cultures, ages, linguistics, out of necessity for us to be unified,” he says. Strickland recalls being on a mission trip in Amsterdam, a place where half of the adult population identifies as atheist and only 15 percent claim to be Protestant, according to a 2016 report from Statistics Netherlands. While evangelizing, he and his group were thrilled to cross paths with a man from a different Christian denomination. “My affinity for this Presbyterian brother was through the roof,” Strickland says. “There are not many Christians in Amsterdam, particularly evangelical Christians. “As I was flying home, I thought about what changed the way I see that person on foreign soil versus when I interact with someone from a different denomination on home soil. I realized we were so outnumbered in a place like Amsterdam that our mutual affinity for Christ was supreme instead of denominational distinctions.” Baylor has made similar observations in Germany. “Among the people I know who are believers, there’s a sincerity of relationship that goes deeper,” he says. “Germans, in general, have less friends in number, but have deeper relationWINTER 2018


ships. This carries into the church as well. They tend to take better care of one another and truly know and meet each other’s needs.” More diverse gatherings Strickland believes racial and ethnic distinctions will matter less as our society grows increasingly secular. Diversity efforts now, he says, can prepare the church for later. “I think that as culture shifts, believers will find more solidarity across racial, cultural, and economic differences than before because of our mutual affinity for Christ,” he says. “Jesus is not a cultural deity; He is for all people.” And because Jesus is for all people, Strickland says, the church in the post-Christendom age is less likely to impose cultural norms on people of other nationalities and races, pressuring them to ignore their own culture to become Christians. “This will lead to a better understanding of what the gospel actually is, because we won’t make people become like us to become a Christian,” he says.

“We’ll create space for the gospel to make that person new within the context of their own culture.” This allows new Christians to better convey the gospel to others in their own cultural contexts. Greater gospel clarity Living in a post-Christendom age will also force the church to be more clear on what the gospel actually is, Strickland says. “When we live in community with those who are different from us, we show the world around us that we are a precursor of the kingdom to come, as John describes in Revelation 7,” says Strickland. “Being sanctified in a diverse group helps to clarify the gospel. “When we are in a homogeneous church context, we have the tendency to see—and convey—the gospel as Christ plus something else, like cultural trappings. But as we interact, serve, and worship with people from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds who love Jesus, this should prompt us to cross-examine the cultural trappings we

impose on the gospel.” Thoughtfully and actively examining these cultural impositions within the church will lead to a more clear expression of the gospel outside the church, says Strickland. “This helps us clarify what the gospel is, and allows the culture around us to see a better demonstration of the gospel in a diverse community,” he says. “It also allows us to have a more articulate and sharp understanding so we can communicate without cultural spin or bias.” For Baylor, it’s a good thing for the church to be on the margins because the assumptions are gone. “Each person in the church is forced to think, make decisions, and take actions for the sake of the gospel that feel new and different,” says Baylor. “There are fresh implications in the post-Christendom age for the old and trustworthy Word of God.” And this, he says, is good news for the church—and the world. JOY ALLMOND (@JoyAllmond) is managing editor of Facts & Trends.

In Amsterdam, the adult population identifies as...

Amsterdam IMB PHOTO


50% ATHEIST 15% PROTESTANT Source: Statistics Netherlands Facts & Trends • 31


Rampant addiction sparks new ministries and church engagement By Bob Smietana


32 • Facts & Trends



He spent 30 years lost in a haze of booze, heroin, and prescription painkillers. Along the way he left a couple of ruined marriages and a string of broken family relationships. By 43, Morelock was ready to die. His wife had left with the kids, and life was falling apart again. “Give me three days and we won’t none of us have to worry any more,” he told his mom when she checked in on him. “I think not,” she replied. With the help of his family, Morelock chose life over death. He went to a rehab program in Knoxville, Tennessee, in November 2006 and began the long road to recovery. “I came out of that place a new person, and I’ve not looked back,” says Morelock, who now runs a faithbased recovery group at First Baptist Church in Weber City, Virginia, about 10 minutes from his home in Kingsport, Tennessee. Morelock is one of a growing number of church leaders who are helping address the nation’s opioid epidemic. He’s one of the leaders of a faith-based recovery network in his home state of Tennessee, where drug overdoses (1,631) killed more people than car wrecks (1,097) in 2016. He’s also helping to organize a similar network in Virginia, where overdoses (1,420) are now the number one cause of accidental death. More than 59,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016, according to an analysis by The New York Times, up nearly 20 percent from the previous year. Drug overdoses killed more than half a million Americans from 2000 to 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). From 1999 to 2015, according to


Johnny Morelock isn’t sure when he first started drinking. He might have been 12 or 13.

Johnny Morelock runs a faith-based recovery group at First Baptist Church in Weber City, Virginia.

the CDC, overdoses from drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone have more than quadrupled. Drug overdoses have become such a threat to public health that President Donald Trump recently declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. The hope factor Churches play an important role in helping people who suffer from addiction, says Monty Burks, director of faith-based initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. They can start by offering community and support to those in recovery. Those who are addicted are often isolated from family and friends. And their addictions are often seen as shameful, says Burks. “When people suffer from cancer, we bake them a casserole,” he says. “When people suffer from addiction, we ostracize them.” Burks works with about 300 congregations in a faith-based recovery network and is constantly on the lookout for more congregations and faith leaders who are willing to become involved in


recovery ministry. Those struggling with addictions need both medical treatment and spiritual community, says Burks. And they need people who will stick with them when times get hard or when they fail. That’s something churches specialize in, he says. “When people fall, they need someone who can help them get back up,” says Burks. Hosting a recovery ministry is just one way a church can help those dealing with addictions. They can also offer fellowship, provide meals or financial assistance, or help families whose loved ones are dealing with addiction. Sometimes people who have been struggling with addiction need a job, and churches may be able to help them find connections with work. The opioid crisis and other addictions leave a lot of chaos in their wake, and churches can help pick up the pieces, says Burks. His program offers training, networking, and online resources for churches wanting to be more involved with recovery ministry. Burks also offers a word of wisdom: Facts & Trends • 33

Recovering from addictions takes a long time. That’s something he knows firsthand. He’s been clean for more than 17 years— and it’s been a long road. He stumbled a few times along the way. His church played a big role in his recovery, which started after a friend invited him to a faith-based recovery program. Not everyone is so lucky, he says. “People are afraid to come and tell their story,” he says. “They’re afraid of being judged. And sometimes the people in our pews are afraid to help.” That’s why churches like First Baptist Weber City and leaders like Morelock are so important, says Burks. They make it easier for people to find help when they need it.

Chad’s Hope recovery ministry run by Teen Challenge in Manchester, Tennessee, offers hope to people struggling with addiction. PHOTO BY BOB SMIETANA

When people fall, they need someone who can help them get back up.” — Monty Burks, director of faith-based initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse

34 • Facts & Trends

An open door At First Baptist Weber City, recovery ministry takes several forms. A faith-based recovery meeting, called Joy in Recovery, meets Tuesday and Thursday nights at the church. Morelock, whose brother, Lester, is the church’s pastor, also leads a recovery Sunday school class called Serenity. Most weeks about 16 people show up for Joy in Recovery—some from First Baptist, some from other local churches. Some of the newcomers have been as young as 17. They meet over coffee and study lessons from the Life Recovery Bible. Then they go around the room and share their stories—how their weeks went, what their struggles are, and what’s going well. The meeting is supposed to end by 8 p.m. but never does. There’s too much to talk about. And there’s almost always someone new. “Churches are sending people all the time who need help,” says Johnny Morelock. Sometimes newcomers show up on their own. Other times a friend from church brings them. And Morelock believes there are many more who don’t show up, in part out of fear. In this part of Appalachia, where opioids are epidemic, being an addict makes you suspect, he says. WINTER 2018

“There are people who are sitting in church right now who would love to come to our recovery class,” he says. “But there is that stigma—‘Well, he may be clean today but you’d better watch out because he’ll rob you tomorrow.’” The help at First Baptist Weber City isn’t just for folks in their congregation or local community. Morelock and other church members volunteer monthly at a recovery center for women in Evarts, Kentucky, holding services and bringing supplies like clothes and toiletries to patients there. Every month, the volunteers pass around a T-shirt to patients at rehab. The women can sign it and write a prayer request, if they’re comfortable. That T-shirt is then shared with the congregation at First Baptist, so people can take turns praying. It’s also put on display in the church’s entryway, so people coming to services are reminded to pray. A long struggle In Manchester, Kentucky, dealing with opioids, meth, and other drugs has landed Ken Bolin, pastor of Manchester Baptist Church, in court. He serves on the local drug court, where he sees the chaos drugs cause in the lives of locals. The drug epidemic has also touched his congregation. Bolin first became aware of the problems caused by addiction in December 2003. He got a call in the middle of the night from a 12-year-old girl who had been attending the church. Her mom was a prostitute and drug user. “Brother Ken, can you come over?” he remembers her saying. “My mom— they just found her.” When Bolin arrived at the girl’s house, he learned that her mom had collapsed on the way home from a local drug house and died of exposure, leaving behind three children. The church tried to help care for the kids but they wound up in the custody

of the grandparents, both of whom were drug users. The daughter grew up to become addicted as well and is now in jail. But one of her brothers is still part of the church. That incident helped spark the church to action. The church started a ministry called God’s Closet, which provides clothes, diapers, formula, and baby wipes to young moms in the community. Many of them are addicted—or have a family member who is addicted—and are resource-thin, says Bolin. The ministry runs a 12-step program called Lifeline every week to help those in recovery. It also runs a homeless shelter during the winter and serves meals to 60 or 70 people every Monday. Along with serving on the drug court, Bolin is a regular volunteer at Chad’s Hope, a recovery ministry run by Teen Challenge in Manchester. It’s named after a local businessman’s son who died of an opioid overdose. Chad’s father had hoped to build a home for his son on some property he owned in the area. After Chad died, his dad donated the property for a drug rehab ministry. At first, Bolin and other ministers tried to run the center—built with a grant from the Commonwealth of Kentucky—on their own. After a few years, they partnered with Teen Challenge. Among the program’s graduates: Bolin’s son-in-law, Carl, who is now on staff at the church. “I remember the day he came in—a scrawny, drug-sick kid,” says Bolin, who was preaching at a service that day. The two hit it off, and after Carl graduated from the program, Bolin took him under his wing, taking Carl on pastoral visits to the hospital and letting him volunteer at the church. One day, during Vacation Bible School, a volunteer called in sick. Bolin asked his daughter, then home on furlough from serving as a missionary in Brazil, to teach a class with Carl.


The two became close—and are now married with two kids. Seeing the change in his brother, Johnny, gives Lester Morelock, pastor of First Baptist Weber City, a similar personal motivation for being involved in recovery ministry. Along with running recovery groups, the church has hosted meetings for mental professionals at the church and a training event for medical professionals on how to give doses of NARCAN, a medication for treating opioid overdoses. Pastor Morelock says he supports this work because it can help the community—and because he knows the difference recovery can make. “I am in full support—because I got my brother back,” he says. BOB SMIETANA (@BobSmietana) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.

DIG DEEPER •T he Recovery-Minded Church, by Jonathan Benz • The Life Recovery Bible •S teps: Gospel-Centered Recovery, by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer • Celebrate Recovery, by John Baker

Available at LifeWay Christian Stores and LifeWay.com.

Facts & Trends • 35

TECHNOLOGY Practical resources for you and your church

Social media seniors

Technology provides opportunity to engage older members


By AAron Earls

Don’t worry. New research says your entire congregation—seniors included—may embrace the new technology, though some may need help along the way. Social media and other new information technologies are not exclusively the domain of teenagers and young adults. More than half of all social network users (53 percent) are at least 35 years old, according to research from eMarketer. Even senior citizens are becoming increasingly tech-savvy. While those 65 and older adopt technology at lower rates than younger people, they are catching up, Pew Research shows. Today, 67 percent of seniors use the internet, up from 12 percent in 2000. Half (51 percent) have home broadband internet. More than 4 in 10 (42 percent) have a smartphone. A third (34 percent) use social media. A similar number have a tablet (32 percent). More than three-quarters of Americans 65 to 74 use the internet. Around two-thirds have broadband. More than half own a smartphone, and more than 4 in 10 use social media. Still, many churches and ministries subscribe to what media consultant Phil Cooke calls “The Senior Myth.” “That’s the idea that seniors aren’t tech-savvy, don’t like contemporary music or design, and generally aren’t interested in current culture,” he wrote recently. “Don’t let nervous members of your leadership team fight against


Thinking about incorporating more technology into your worship service but concerned some older members might not be on board?

more contemporary design and new technology because they think the older audience will pack up and leave.” Despite their growing embrace of technology, many senior citizens lack confidence when using it. Only 26 percent say they feel very confident using a computer, smartphone or other electronics to do the things they need to do online, Pew Research shows. By contrast, 74 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds feel very confident. When they get a new electronic device, 73 percent of Americans 65 and older say they need someone to help them set it up or show them how to use it, according to Pew Research. This insecurity creates an opportunity for churches to help their older members and to give tech-savvy members a chance to serve. • Talk with people inside and outside your church to learn technological questions they may have. • Talk to those who have tech knowl-

36 • Facts & Trends

edge to develop ideas for service. • Schedule a “Help Desk Night” or “Tech Saturday” where people can bring in a computer or phone and receive training from a church member. • Set up a Skype or video training, so grandparents can better keep in touch with their children and grandchildren who live elsewhere. These events can ease some of the intimidation seniors or other tech-challenged people feel. Opening the events to those outside the church can be a great outreach tool and an investment in the community. Training people on computers also opens more employment opportunities for them. Having technological training on church property is a great way to provide a frequently needed resource for church members and be a good neighbor to the community. AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of FactsAndTrends.net.




Before Robby Gallaty began writing books on discipleship, before he pastored a church committed to discipling members—before any of that—he was a new convert sitting at a table in a Chinese restaurant learning what it means to be a follower of Jesus from a seminary student named David Platt. Both Platt, president of the International Mission Board, and Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, went on to become influential church leaders, but first they were just two guys discussing Jesus while they ate General Tso’s chicken. Unfortunately, Gallaty’s experience of having a more mature believer walk with him after his conversion is all too rare in many modern American churches. To find out why and to see what we can do to change that, Facts & Trends spoke with Gallaty. How did we end up at a place where discipleship and Christian growth seem almost abnormal for a new believer at some churches? Rather than discuss every issue, I’ll focus on one I think can impact churches immediately: a lack of discipled leaders in the church. People lead others the same way they were led, meaning we usually emulate


Facts & Trends • 37

Churches are missing a model for making disciples that is clear and simple for every believer.” Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee

what was modeled for us. If pastors or church leaders were never discipled, they typically aren’t focused on making disciples. We have spent a lot of time teaching people to share their faith, which is vital, but we haven’t done a great job at teaching them how to share their lives. Surprisingly, Jesus spent most of His ministry discipling 12 men. I believe pastors and church leaders should evaluate their own lives as disciples and determine how best to invest in others the way Jesus did. I don’t think leaders are making a conscious decision to ignore discipleship. I believe it’s simply an oversight since no one ever intentionally invested in them. If you had to boil it down to one thing, what are churches missing when it comes to discipleship? Churches are missing a model for making disciples that is clear and simple for every believer. The focus of church leaders must shift from being executors of ministry ourselves to being equippers of the saints, who will in turn partner with us to carry out the ministry. By doing so, people fulfill their God-given calling to participate in the good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). 38 • Facts & Trends

How can churches evaluate discipleship in their congregation? Often we celebrate things like conversions and baptisms, which should be celebrated. However, they shouldn’t be the only things celebrated in church. Baptism wasn’t the finish line for the first-century disciples; it was the starting line. The real work of making disciples began after people crossed the threshold of faith. In a church where disciple-making focuses solely upon the decisions, the process of walking with new converts is often minimized or set at such a low priority people simply don’t understand the importance. To better evaluate the spiritual condition of our people, we need a new metric to gauge growth. One way to do this is to answer five key questions: 1. How missional are the people we lead? 2. How accountable are they? 3. Are they reproducing the life of Christ in others? 4. Are they living in biblical community? 5. Are they getting in the Word of God until the Word gets into them? We should ask these questions of ourselves first, then of those we are leading in ministry. I believe this will help us have a better grasp of whether our people are being disciples who make disciples. Ultimately, if we say “every soul matters to God,” are we being honest if we don’t disciple those who have responded to the gospel message? What practical steps can churches take to begin to change their discipleship culture for the better? It all starts with the leadership. If the pastor and church leaders aren’t making WINTER 2018

disciples, it’s very likely the people won’t either. The first step is to look at how we, as leaders, are living out the Great Commission. We can’t expect others to be passionate about the Word and prayer if we neglect those disciplines. We can’t expect members to share the gospel with lost people if we aren’t doing the same. Next, we can use that experience as the backdrop for getting others involved in the process. We must determine how those who attend our churches are being equipped to make disciples. Intentional steps toward disciple-making will build as leaders share their experiences and model disciple-making for the congregation. Also, when we highlight discipling relationships in our congregation, our people will begin gauging effectiveness by that metric. Remember, our people replicate what we celebrate. Sadly, many leaders don’t have a simple, systematic process for developing people into faithful followers of Christ. While there are many models of disciple-making, there is one shared mandate for all those who are disciples of Jesus, and that is to make disciples. What will it look like when a church is effectively discipling people? Believers who are discipled begin to grow exponentially. The pipeline for service and volunteerism in our church is disciple-making groups. The byproduct of spiritual maturity is numeric growth. When I began focusing on the depth of my people, God began growing the breadth of the ministry. Normally, pastors tend to focus on the opposite. We are taught to grow the breadth of our ministries and let people worry about their own depth. But Jesus never left disciple-making

to chance. He was intentional with His 12 disciples from the outset of their calling. Evangelism and discipleship are two oars in the same boat. We must not only invite people to Jesus but also invest in those we have invited. Discipleship relationships offer two practices the church typically lacks: accountability and reproducibility. When we are effectively making disciples we will see both of these things increase, and the church will benefit as a whole. AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of FactsAndTrends.net.

Evangelism and discipleship are two oars in the same boat. We must not only invite people to Jesus but also invest in those we have invited.” Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee

DIG DEEPER •B earing Fruit: What Happens When God’s People Grow, by Robby Gallaty • Disciples Path: The Journey •G rowing Up: How to be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples, by Robby Gallaty • Replicate.org


Available at LifeWay Christian Stores and LifeWay.com. Facts & Trends • 39

SPIRITUAL PARAMEDICS How churches can bring hope and healing following a disaster by bob smietana


When the water got within a foot of their house, Troy and Kristen Dickerson knew it was time to go.

Above: Neighbors stacked debris along the street after Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas. PHOTO PROVIDED BY JAMIE ATEN

Troy grabbed their four kids and waded through the floodwaters threatening their home in Richmond, Texas. As he took the kids to his truck, he told Kristin to grab “whatever is important.” She took their wedding album and then turned to go. “You realize how unimportant everything else is,” she said from her parents’ house, where the family camped out after Hurricane Harvey flooded their home. It’s been an exhausting experience, say the Dickersons. But they’ve gotten through with more than a little help

40 • Facts & Trends

from Sugarland Baptist Church, where the Dickersons are longtime members. Folks from church showed up with meals, cleaning supplies, and volunteer labor once floodwaters receded. They also provided an emotional pickup, says Troy. “To have all these guys show up on my doorstep was a relief,” he says. The Dickersons are not alone. Like many disaster victims, they needed food, shelter, and a dose of kindness to help them get by, says Southern Baptist chaplain Endell Lee. Lee, a Naval Reserve chaplain and self-described “spiritual paramedic,” spent six years as national coordinator for disaster spiritual care with the North American Mission Board. His job: Train volunteers to “infuse faith, hope, love, grace, and comfort into the situation, so people can begin WINTER 2018

picking up the pieces and putting their lives back together.” That grace and comfort can be found in a bottle of water or hot meal—or a listening ear. It’s especially important as people take stock of their lives after a disaster and figure out what to do next. Spiritual first aid As a disaster relief chaplain, Lee would often go alongside other volunteers as they cleared debris or cleaned out damaged homes. “The chaplain is there to listen to that family tell their story—to let them vent their grief and pain—and to validate their current reality,” says Lee. By doing so, chaplains can help victims process their experience and find a way to begin rebuilding their lives. Pastors or other church members can provide similar spiritual first aid, says Jamie Aten, executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College. Aten, who trained church volunteers in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, says the spiritual and emotional consequences of disasters are often overlooked. It’s easy to see the physical side—a lost home or injuries. But disasters also can cause an existential crisis. They remind victims—and the rest of us—of how fragile life can be. “You face the reality there is a lot of life you can’t control,” says Aten. “That is really difficult for us as human beings.” For years, Aten has surveyed disaster survivors. People who can find meaning in what happened to them will do better after a disaster, he says. Disasters are “extreme threats” that disrupt life, according to Aten and his research colleagues. They “jeopardize human safety, displace families, disrupt normal social interactions, violate expectancies about the predicted order of the world, and evoke a wide variety of negative psychological responses, such as

Jamie Aten and counseling team listen to survivors of Hurricane Harvey. PHOTO PROVIDED BY JAMIE ATEN

fear, anxiety, and depression,” according to a 2016 article in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Spiritual resources can help mitigate that harm, according to a study of 485 Hurricane Katrina survivors who were adult students at the University of Southern Mississippi. Those who found meaning in their experience had better psychological health and well-being than those who didn’t. Another study of Katrina survivors Jamie Aten, executive director of Humanitarian found those who felt distant from God Disaster Institute at Wheaton College were less hopeful after suffering loss in a disaster than those who felt close to God. A third study also showed that those who found comfort in their faith fared better than those who did not. A 2015 study of people affected by floods in South Carolina found positive spiritual support can lead to more resilience.

You face the reality there is a lot of life you can’t control. That is really difficult for us as human beings.”

Talk less, listen more But finding meaning takes time. Aten cautions pastors and well-meaning volunteers to avoid “bumper-sticker theology”—things that sound good but have little substance.


Facts & Trends • 41

You can’t convince people you are concerned unless you are willing to get your hands dirty. If people don’t know you care, you are not going to do any good anyway.” Kim David McCroskey, pastor of Roaring Fork Baptist Church in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The best way to help is to provide for the physical needs of victims—and then pay attention as they tell their stories. Serving meals, handing out water, or cleaning out someone’s house provides for the physical needs, says Aten. It also provides space for folks to tell their stories. He’s often seen people come to a center that’s serving meals and tell their story to everyone they see as they walk through the line. “They tell the same story over and over—that’s how they process what they’ve been through,” he says. “In that situation, listen more and talk less.” The importance of showing up When a disaster hits, showing up really matters. Aten calls it a “ministry of presence.” He recently took a group of counselors he was training to northern Illinois, where there had been some flooding. He told them they’d be providing spiritual care—and then handed out shovels. His point was this: You can’t provide spiritual care in an office or behind a desk. You’ve got to get out and show people you care before they will trust you, says Aten. Pastor Kim David McCroskey agrees. McCroskey is pastor of Roaring Fork 42 • Facts & Trends

Baptist Church in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where 14 church members lost homes during wildfires in November 2016. The church’s buildings also burned to the ground. Over the past year, he’s spent a lot of time praying with people and helping them pick up the pieces of their lives. “You can’t convince people you are concerned unless you are willing to get your hands dirty,” he says. “If people don’t know you care, you are not going to do any good anyway.” At first, McCroskey had to help people through the shock that followed the wildfires. For some, he says, watching their church burn down was worse than losing their homes. Some church members haven’t been back, even though Roaring Fork began meeting in a temporary location. The church is being rebuilt, and McCroskey hopes they’ll return. From a faith perspective, McCroskey says he knows trials will happen in life—and that they will pass. But it takes a while for people to accept that reality. He also had to remind them that even in the midst of a disaster, the church has a role to play. “We still have ministry to do,” he says. “The church is still here.” WINTER 2018

Charred remains of a house after the 2016 Gatlinburg, Tennessee, fires. PHOTO BY ISTOCKPHOTO

Research about disasters shows “willful surrender” also can help people recover. When he studied Katrina survivors, Aten found those who were able to surrender their new circumstances to God did better. At first, Aten thought these survivors had just given up. “I did not like the outcomes of that study,” he says. “It reminded me of a bad country song. I thought it would lead to passive acceptance of whatever happened.” Instead, he found surrender was actually empowering. By surrendering what they could not control to God, people were able to accept their new circumstances and make the best of things. That’s not a simple process. A disaster can change the entire trajectory of someone’s life, says Ted Law, pastor of Access Covenant Church in Houston. About a dozen families at the church were forced to evacuate their homes during Hurricane Harvey. Some lost all their possessions. The storm touched almost everyone in the congregation in some way, says Law. And it left emotional scars. One minute, life was normal. The next, the floodwaters washed everything away. People needed immediate assis-

tance with food and shelter, he says. They also needed time to come to grips with the aftermath of the storm. “It’s hard to process things quickly when you have lost so much,” says Law. Access Covenant hosted a spiritual first aid training session with Aten in September to prepare the congregation to minister to neighbors over the long haul. The church has already been helping congregation members respond to the disaster. It’s brought people together, he says. After the storm, 20 volunteers arrived to help clean up a church member’s house. “That will be something people remember for a long time,” he says. The next step in recovery: helping people begin to deal with the long-term consequences. Finances have become a major worry for folks who suffered losses in the storm. They don’t know if they’ll have enough money to rebuild or recover. Students may have to put off going to college, because their families no longer have the resources to pay tuition, for example. Or people who’d been helping their aging parents now find themselves living with those parents. A lot of dreams may have to be put on hold or abandoned. “It makes a huge spiritual impact,” says Law.

from Iraq and was living in New Orleans when Katrina hit. He’d already done disaster relief in New York after 9/11—but after Katrina, it became his full-time ministry for six years. He says victims will need an abundance of care and hope to get through and move on with their lives. And churches can help them along the way. “We talk a lot about faith, hope, and love,” he says. “That’s what churches can bring to disaster relief.” For the Dickersons, being flooded out of their home taught them a lesson about faith—and about asking for help. They’d served on mission projects in the past and prided themselves as being the kind of people who help others. Asking for help was humbling, says Kristin. “We are really grateful,” she says. “But it’s a little embarrassing to need help.” Receiving help after the flood was easier when church members just showed up at their home and started working. It reminded the Dickersons that they were part of a community of faith. Kristin says she was reminded that many of the things she took for granted could be quickly washed away. And still, she and her family would be able to make it through with God’s help. “All this security you think you have—it’s a false sense of security. It could all be gone at any minute,” she says. “God was still good to us. He didn’t forsake us.”

Everyone can serve Every church—no matter what size— can find a way to help victims of disaster. Some can help out with recovery efforts, says Lee. Others can give funds to help victims of disaster. And everyone can pray. Recovering from a disaster is a longterm process. And it can change the lives of both victims and volunteers—something Lee knows firsthand. A longtime naval chaplain, Lee had just returned

BOB SMIETANA (@bobsmietana) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.


DIG DEEPER •D isaster Ministry Handbook, by Jamie Aten and David M. Boan Available at LifeWay Christian Stores

Facts & Trends • 43

Why the scarlet letter remains and how the church can help mend broken marriages

By Helen Gibson

44 • Facts & Trends



Moral values in America are changing fast. Since the turn of the century, society has become increasingly supportive of a host of issues that once were considered taboo. Many Christians have felt the tension of living in a society dominated by post-Christian morals.

But it seems there’s one moral issue almost everyone, Christian or otherwise, still agrees is unacceptable: adultery. “Do not commit adultery,” the commandment Protestant and Orthodox Christians recognize as the seventh of the Ten Commandments, is an idea most Americans agree with, according to recent polling. In May 2017, Gallup found only 9 percent of Americans believe extramarital affairs are morally acceptable. The vast majority of Americans, 88 percent, said they believe extramarital affairs are generally unacceptable—but the reasons might be more complicated than you expect. Changing views of sex and marriage Gallup first started asking Americans what they thought about controversial moral issues, such as extramarital affairs, divorce, and abortion, in 2001 with its annual Values and Beliefs poll. Since then, the research organization has reported significant changes on a number of these matters. For example, in 2001, 40 percent of respondents said they thought gay and lesbian relations were morally

acceptable. In 2017, support was at 63 percent—a growth of 23 percentage points. In the same period, the number of Americans who say sex between an unmarried man and woman is morally acceptable rose 16 percentage points, while the number of Americans who say divorce is morally acceptable grew by 14 percentage points. These and five other moral issues— the use of birth control, having a baby outside of marriage, doctor-assisted suicide, pornography, and polygamy—reached record levels of support in 2017. Support for extramarital affairs, however, has remained small. From 2001 to 2017, that category has gained only 2 percentage points. Experts have different ideas about why this is. Patrick Schoettmer, a Seattle University political science professor who studies the intersection of religion and politics, thinks this is due largely to the values of millennials—values that are not necessarily shaped by a Christian worldview. “They’re open to anything that people are accepting [of] and consent to, but they’re also very concerned about people being responsible for the actions that they take,” Schoettmer says. W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociology professor and the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, says these changes have come along with a shift in the way Americans view the institution of marriage. Americans still think marriage is important, Wilcox says, but they’ve started to view it as a capstone, a way to express their love for another person and cement their position in the upper middle class, instead of as a foundation stone.


In other words, people now tend to focus more on the romance and emotional connection shared by a couple—and less on the way marriage helps two people build a life together, remain connected to their children, find financial stability, establish intergenerational ties, and create a sense of kinship. He says this, along with disapproval of extramarital affairs among many religions, makes adultery seem unacceptable today. “Because we’re more focused on the couple [at the center] of the relationship today than we used to be, I think infidelity is actually a bigger deal in some ways,” Wilcox says. He relates this idea to the story of a family friend he knew years ago. The man was a husband and father, and it was no secret that he had extramarital affairs. “But this older couple would have never considered getting divorced because they were of a certain generation, and they looked at marriage and family as a package,” Wilcox says. “It was much more than just about the couple’s relationship quality, whereas today, that same kind of behavior would have quickly led to divorce court because people have a much more intense understanding of the value and importance of the communion between two people.” The deepest rejection Josh Straub, marriage and family strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources, believes public acceptance of extramarital affairs remains low because of the deep rejection that an affair represents. “Marriage is an intimate relationship where you literally see each other naked,” Straub says. “You see each other physically naked, but you see each other emotionally naked as well. Facts & Trends • 45

To be loved but not known is comforting but superfical. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.” Tim Keller, from his book The Meaning of Marriage

DIG DEEPER •T he Anatomy of an Affair, by Dave Carder •C lose Calls: What Adulterers Want You to Know About Protecting Your Marriage, by Dave Carder Available at LifeWay Christian Stores and LifeWay.com.

This is the one person who sees you as vulnerable as you can be as an individual.” When most people read down the issues on Gallup’s morality poll—everything from gambling to divorce to having a baby outside of marriage to gay and lesbian relationships—they’re thinking about others, he says. Rather than thinking of rejection, they’re thinking about how accepting they can be of people with lifestyles different from their own. When it comes to the question about extramarital affairs, people think much differently. “We’re thinking about the affair happening to us,” he says. Fear of rejection allows many to see the harm involved in adultery, according to Straub. In The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller writes: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.” Adultery, Straub says, taps into “our greatest fear”—being known and not loved. In a marriage relationship, this is the fear of committing to a spouse and then being rejected through that spouse’s infidelity. “A spouse fully knows who you are, your emotional nakedness,” Straub says. “They see your vulnerability. And when they have an affair, it is a rejection against who you are. That’s

46 • Facts & Trends

why it’s not acceptable in our culture.” A place of common ground for the church In the midst of that deep sense of rejection, however, there may be a unique way for the church to step in. “We can all agree that being rejected is one of the worst feelings in the world, yet we serve a God who knows everything about us—everything, absolutely everything—and continues to love us, over and over and over again,” Straub says. He says this message should be shared with hurting people—inside and outside our congregations—as a reminder that there is a God who fully knows and fully loves each of us, even when humans fail to do so. Such a message, he said, can bring healing. This is something R.G. and Karen Yallaly have witnessed firsthand. For 25 years, they’ve worked in marriage ministry in some capacity, and they helped start the marriage ministry at their church, Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri. They invite couples in crisis to participate in a confidential, 12-week mentoring program. “A husband meets with a husband and a wife meets with a wife, one-onone, and we keep pulling them back to the question, ‘What does God want to do in your life?’” Karen says. “Not ‘What does God want to do in your spouse’s life?’ but ‘What does God want to do in your life?’” In the beginning there were only four volunteer counselors, working primarily with people who attended their church, but since then the program has seen tremendous growth. “Word got out in the community and surrounding communities and God started growing our ministry team,” R.G. says. “We learned and grew and God sent more and more couples in WINTER 2018

4 ways your church can fight adultery and build strong marriages

HELEN GIBSON, a senior at Western Kentucky University, served as an intern on the Facts & Trends team during summer 2017.

Josh Straub, marriage and family strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources, offers several practical strategies, both proactive and reactive, for churches to fight adultery and build strong marriages.


Build an emergency response team that can provide support to couples affected by an extramarital affair. Straub says it’s important to have a response planned before an extramarital affair happens. He suggests starting a ministry that can respond to marriage crises quickly and effectively through counseling for everyone involved. This kind of support tends to be most effective coming from couples who have been successful at redeeming their own marriages, Straub says.


need to us.” Today the church has a team of 27 mentors, who commit to spending 12 weeks walking couples through the program. Some of these mentors have gone through the program themselves. “It seems like God brings the people to us who have a passion for marriage, and then He brings the people to us that need desperate help,” R.G. says. Their work of pointing people to Christ and trying to reconcile broken marriages, many of which have been hurt by adultery, seems to be making a difference. “We lead a lot of people to Jesus,” R.G. says. “A lot of people come into the program simply wanting to save their marriage, but they get both. They get their soul saved and they get their marriage saved.” For both R.G. and Karen, the greatest reward comes in seeing marriages restored and families coming to Jesus. “When we see the husband of that family baptizing his own children after we know the struggles and how close to divorce they came, that really warms your heart,” R.G. says. “You know had God not reconciled that marriage, those children would probably not even know Jesus as their Savior.” Seeing couples that previously were on the verge of divorce serving together in the church reminds the Yallalys of the importance of their work and of marriage. “When God reconciles their marriage, it changes their countenance,” R.G. says. “It changes their attitude. It changes everything.”


Preach on marriage. Stressing the importance of marriage through sermons can be beneficial for any church, Straub says. When he was an executive pastor, his church had regular sermons addressing marriage. “Every month there was a sermon message on marriage in some capacity to build the marriages in the church—because it’s the foundation of the family,” Straub says. “And usually, as goes the marriage, so goes the spiritual direction of the home.” Start a marriage mentorship program, as well as premarital counseling. Straub recommends “championing” young couples in the church both before and after they recite their marriage vows. He says it’s important that engaged couples go through premarital counseling, but it shouldn’t stop there. After couples tie the knot, Straub says, it can be helpful for them to participate in a marriage mentorship program in a church, where an older couple comes alongside them. Host date nights for couples with young kids. “People want healthy marriages,” Straub says. “But the place marital satisfaction really tends to dip is with young couples who just have kids.” To address this, Straub encourages regularly held, church-supported date nights. The church provides child care so couples can drop off their children and spend time together. If a church is too small for date nights, Straub recommends that couples take turns watching one another’s children, so the couples can go on dates.


Facts & Trends • 47


These and other resources are available at LifeWay Christian Stores and LifeWay.com.

Practical resources for you and your church

Books & Bible Studies



harles Spurgeon has been called the “Prince of Preachers.” He preached to more than 10 million people in his lifetime, and his written sermons have impacted millions more. The CSB Spurgeon Study Bible features thousands of excerpts from Spurgeon’s sermons, chosen and edited by Alistair Begg to bring the richness of Spurgeon’s insights into the daily study of God’s Word. This Bible also features an introductory biography of Charles Spurgeon, study notes from his sermons, extracted sermon illustrations placed on the same page as the associated biblical text, notes and outlines in Spurgeon’s handwriting, quotes from the “Prince of Preachers” throughout, biblical book overviews in Spurgeon’s own words, and more. The CSB Spurgeon Study Bible features the Christian Standard Bible text, which aims to stay as literal as possible to the Bible’s original meaning without sacrificing modern clarity.

Sending Well: A Field Guide to Great Church Planter Coaching

Younique: Designing the Life God Dreamed for You




ending Well gives practical steps for creating a system that delivers effective coaching to church planters. Whether coaching planters or attempting to develop coaches for multiple planters, this book will help. Sending Well helps coaches and leaders enhance their coaching efforts in three parts: Build a coaching framework— Coaching is a vehicle to help church planters pursue their unique kingdom assignment. Develop great coaches—Great coaches are made, not born. Deliver great coaching— “Coach” is a verb, and supporting church planters is the desired outcome.

48 • Facts & Trends


od created every person with unique potential and a specific purpose. But in the busyness of life and the activity of church, some Christians may have never identified their specific calling in a way that brings clarity. Younique exists to help people discover, even in the midst of the chaos, their divine design. God’s design for people’s lives is more knowable than many realize. You are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he has prepared in advance, that you should walk in them. Readers can discover their life vision and align their vocation. Every person can and should know his or her God-given identity and God-inspired dreams. Then, each person can discern and design the practical steps to get there.



2018 LIFEWAY EVENTS With Beth Moore Worship with Travis Cottrell * Seattle, WA | February 9-10 * Ft. Lauderdale, FL | February 23-24 * Boone, NC | March 9-10 * Green Bay, WI | April 13-14 * San Diego, CA | April 27-28 * Calgary, Alberta, Canada | June 22-23 * Columbia, MO | July 13-14 * Hot Springs, AR | August 17-18 * Huntsville, AL | September 15 * Albany, NY | October 26-27 LifeWay.com/LivingProof

INSPIRING EVERY WOMAN’S PASSION & PURPOSE Thursdays & Fridays Before Select Living Proof Live Events YOU LEAD ONE DAY Fridays Before Select Priscilla Shirer Live & ABUNDANCE Events LifeWay.com/YouLead BRING BETH TO YOUR CHURCH! SEPTEMBER 15, 2018 LifeWay.com/LPSimulcast

LIVING PROOF LIVE ALASKAN CRUISE WITH BETH MOORE Worship with Travis Cottrell * July 27-August 3, 2018 LifeWay.com/LPCruise * Tampa, FL | April 28 * Charleston, SC | July 20-21 * Ft. Wayne, IN | August 24-25 * Phoenix, AZ | October 13 LifeWay.com/PriscillaShirerLive


Featuring Angela Thomas-Pharr, Jada Edwards, Lisa Harper, Kelly Minter, Jen Wilkin, Nicki Koziarz, Lauren Chandler, Jennie Allen, Raechel Myers & Amanda Bible Williams from She Reads Truth, Jackie Hill Perry, Jamie Ivey & More * Biloxi/Gulf, MS | March 17 * Colorado Springs, CO | April 21 * Albuquerque, NM | August 25 * Richmond, VA | September 29 * Dallas/Garland, TX | October 20 * Portland, OR | November 3 LifeWay.com/ Abundance

TEACHING WITH LYSA TERKEURST Worship with Ellie Holcomb * Oklahoma City, OK | March 23-24 * Washington, D.C. | April 7 * Athens, GA | October 12-13 LifeWay.com/WordAlive

2018 Featuring Jen Wilkin, Lauren Chandler, Dr. Jeff Iorg, Jackie Hill Perry, Jennifer Rothschild * Hendersonville (Nashville), TN | November 8-10



Event subject to change without notice. Sales tax applied to event cost, if applicable. Speakers vary per event.

ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church

Books & Bible Studies

Kingdom Disciples BY TONY EVANS (LIFEWAY)


here is a missing force in Christianity today—discipleship. Its absence has led to weak believers, disintegrating families, ineffective churches, and a decaying culture. Without discipleship we lack what we need to fully live as heaven’s representatives on earth. The power, authority, abundance, victory, and impact God has promised will come about only when we understand and align ourselves with His definition of discipleship. This new study from Tony Evans calls believers and churches back to our primary, divinely ordained responsibility to be disciples and to make disciples. Only when we take this assignment seriously will the world see heaven at work on earth. Kingdom Disciples features videos from Evans and personal-study opportunities for ongoing spiritual growth. Participants will discover a simple, actionable definition of discipleship that will help the church fulfill the calling Jesus gave to it.

Making Space: Doing What Matters Most

The Quest: Daring to Know the Heart of God (for teen girls)



o you know what’s most important in life? Do you feel too busy to make time for those things? This Bible study helps you identify the things that matter to God and to you as a follower of Christ and apply godly wisdom to incorporate these activities into your busy life. Each week the study addresses a topic that is important but often overlooked or wrongly engaged. This study gleans wisdom from the Book of Proverbs and from the examples of Jesus to help you turn from empty and unfulfilling busyness and devote yourself to doing what matters most. Making Space will help participants identify experiences that capture attention but are truly inferior to what God deems worthy of time and energy. As they embrace godly priorities as defined by the Book of Proverbs, and as exemplified by the life of Jesus, group members will become better at hearing God through solitude and silence.

uriosity is hardwired in humanity. We have this innate need to question and seek after what we don’t know or understand. This has been true for all of time. Throughout history, Christians have asked questions about who God is, who they are, and how they relate to Him. This study is an invitation to embrace the unknown and think through the deeper matters of faith. In this six-session Bible study, author and speaker Beth Moore takes girls on a journey through Scripture to explore how God created humans to seek after Him—a God who desires to be found and known. In this lifelong quest of faith, girls will learn to develop intimacy with Him and embrace the adventure that comes with living a life for God.


50 • Facts & Trends



These and other resources are available at LifeWay Christian Stores and LifeWay.com.

A Look Inside Equipping parents to raise Christ-centered kids in a complex culture by aaron Wilson

What need did you sense in the church that led to the creation of this curriculum? The number one issue we’re hearing at the ERLC is parents who say they have a hard time understanding complex cultural issues and an even harder time talking about these topics with their kids. We wanted to provide a resource to serve parents who don’t feel equipped to navigate the culture within the context of their families. You use the word “complex” to describe today’s culture. Why? Many parents grew up in a more homogeneous environment when it came to society’s views on cultural issues. Today, there’s more complexity with the divergent perspectives people have on cultural subjects. There’s also complexity in the issues themselves—for example, a classmate who comes to school one year as a girl

In today’s Google-search society where people want quick answers to questions, what value do you see in someone devoting six weeks to a study on countercultural parenting? Many parents don’t feel they have a clear picture of what the Bible says about certain topics or how a biblical worldview on that subject differs from the culture’s. When parents go beyond Google searches to develop a foundational understanding on these issues, they grow in confidence. This curriculum also helps parents know they and the church are in this together. We’re all navigating choppy waters the best we can. When you combine better understanding with stronger confidence, it gives parents the tools they need to shepherd their children through complex cultural issues.




arents can feel overwhelmed raising children in a seemingly chaotic world. Church leaders worry they can’t answer questions from parents and kids about issues swirling in culture, from sex and marriage to depression and technology. Christ-Centered Parenting: Gospel Conversations on Complex Cutural Issues, a new curriculum co-authored by Phillip Bethancourt and Russell Moore, aims to help both groups. Facts & Trends spoke with Bethancourt, executive vice president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), about countercultural parenting as an and returns the next as a boy. Children essential focus of the church. Read an exare being exposed to weighty issues at an panded interview at FactsAndTrends.net. earlier stage than ever before.

What are some ways pastors and ministry leaders can partner with parents and equip them to shepherd kids through cultural issues? The parents in your church are looking for answers, and they’ll either look to the church or the culture. Our calling as pastors and ministry leaders is to shepherd our people. We do that by helping them make connections between the Bible and their real-life situations. This curriculum is intended to come alongside ministry leaders. What should the church be excited about as kids grow up in today’s complex world? We have the opportunity to raise children who are distinctly countercultural. When the culture is heading in one direction, our children can shine like stars in the darkness around them as Paul describes in Philippians 2:15. That gives me a lot of hope for what’s next. AARON WILSON (@AaronBWilson26) is associate editor of Facts & Trends.

Facts & Trends • 51

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