I Was a Violent Klansman Who Deserved to Die

Yet at the height of my segregationist fervor, God showed me mercy.

I came of age in the early 1960s, when America was entering a period of political, social, and cultural upheaval. Mobile, Alabama, where I was raised, had been segregated since its founding in 1702. In 1963, reacting to the federally mandated desegregation of Alabama’s public schools, Gov. George Wallace uttered his infamous pledge of “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Many white Alabamians, including me, were fearful and angry. White society was in turmoil from top to bottom, and the sense of grievance was strong, adding fuel to a racist, populist wave across the South.

My high school was among the first to be desegregated. Like most people around me, I identified with Gov. Wallace’s courage in standing up to those who were threatening our way of life. On a more personal level, I was angry with my father, alienated from him, and somewhat emotionally troubled. All these factors made me a good candidate for radicalization.

I read some white supremacist, anti-Semitic, anti-Communist literature that was circulating within my high school. Then I met the people who were advocating these ideas. They contended that black people were inferior to whites and that desegregation, by enabling intermarriage, would weaken the white race. The civil rights movement, they said, was part of a Communist plot, and the US government had been infiltrated by Communist agents. Christianity and the Constitution were being undermined, and a secret Jewish conspiracy was behind it all.

All these warnings made me anxious about America’s survival, and my fears soon turned into anger—and eventually hatred—toward those I perceived as America’s enemies. Their successes made me want to ...

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20 Truths from ‘Mining for Gold’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Netflix Is Making It Harder to Be a Missionary

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

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

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

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

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

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A Reproducible Lifestyle and the De-emphasis of Clergy Can Lead to Movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel Ministry

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

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

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

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

First, our words and ...

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The Falls Church Anglican Lost Its Historic Building, But Its New Sanctuary Still Feels Like Coming Home

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

Knock. Knock. Knock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is American Christianity on Its Last Legs? The Data Say Otherwise.

Two new books push back on Chicken-Little narratives of evangelical decline.

When Christians write about the status and reputation of Christianity in American society, they usually focus on two questions: What is happening? What should be done?

Two recent books have taken up these questions in a markedly optimistic spirit: Glenn Stanton’s The Myth of the Dying Church: How Christianity is Actually Thriving in America and the World and Rick Richardson’s You Found Me: New Research on How Unchurched Nones, Millennials, and Irreligious are Surprisingly Open to Christian Faith.

The books share many similarities. Both make extensive use of survey findings and other types of data. Both are written by leaders at prominent evangelical organizations (Focus on the Family and The Billy Graham Center respectively). Both take a myth-busting approach to misconceptions about American Christianity. And both even use the story of Chicken Little to describe how Christians react to bad news about the faith.

Nonetheless, they are different books. With some exceptions, they address different aspects of Christianity in society. They also make different recommendations for how best to further its prospects.

Portrait of Resilience

In describing what is happening with the faith in America, Stanton focuses on the size and vitality of evangelical Christianity, especially as compared to mainline Protestantism.

Stanton marshals an impressive array of evidence. He emphasizes Christian affiliation rates, giving special attention to what’s happening with young people. He also examines a wide range of other topics, including charitable giving, church construction, missionary efforts, youth ministries, Christian colleges, and Christian publishing.

The story that emerges from Stanton’s overview is that evangelical Christianity ...

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Evangelicals Who Distrust Muslims Likely Don’t Know Muslims

A 2019 survey shows how relationships curb Islamophobia and improve understanding between the two faiths.

Earlier this week, a Baptist church in Michigan canceled an event titled, “9/11 Forgotten? Is Michigan Surrendering to Islam?” due to pushback from fellow Christians and politicians.

The pastor of Bloomfield Hills Baptist Church identifies as an Islamophobe and organized the gathering because he sees Islam as a growing threat in the US, The Washington Post reported.

While some fellow white evangelicals share his suspicions, research has shown that those who know Muslims in their communities tend to hold more positive views and are more likely to see commonalities between their two faiths.

“The personal relationships with Muslims, that’s a game changer,” Todd Green, Luther College professor and former Islamophobia adviser to the US State Department, told ThePost. “It tends to make you less Islamophobic.”

Yet surveys from various sources have noted the friendship gap between evangelicals and their Muslim neighbors. More than a third (35%) of white evangelicals knew a Muslim personally in a 2017 Pew Research Center release, fewer than any other religious group, and evangelicals surveyed rated Muslims more negatively than other faiths.

The Southern Baptist-affiliated LifeWay Research found in 2017 that 17 percent of those with evangelical beliefs reported having a Muslim friend, while the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) reported this year that only 22 percent of evangelicals say they interact frequently with Muslims. FFEU, led by a rabbi seeking to improve Muslim-Jewish relations, also noted that 1 in 3 evangelicals with frequent interaction with Muslims viewed Islam as similar to their own faith compared to 1 in 4 evangelicals overall.

The latest research from the Institute for ...

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Four Ways New Hispanic Churches Are Challenging Church Planting in America

We are witnessing the de-Europeanization of American Christianity.

I live in Aurora, IL, located 40 miles west of Chicago, where the population hovers around 200,000 people. SmartAsset recently named it 2019’s Best City for Living the American Dream, where rankings are based on home-buying and the economic mobility of residents.[i]

So then it should come as no shock that Aurora has a high concentration of immigrants, where 42 percent of residents are Hispanic or Latino. In Aurora and other cities all across North America, the “Americanization” of immigrant communities, particularly Hispanic, has created tremendous opportunity not just for personal economic advancement, but also for greater kingdom advancement.

On July 23, 2019, the results from the Hispanic Church Planting Research were released at the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship. The project was commissioned by the Send Institute through a partnership of multiple denominations—with LifeWay Research fielding the survey—to better understand the state of new churches started by or started for Hispanic Americans.

The vast majority of those who participated in the survey (offered in both Spanish and English) were Hispanic immigrant pastors and church planters.

Christianity Today covered the preliminary findings in their article, Latino Immigrants Are Evangelizing America. However, the title of LifeWay Research’s press release captures succinctly the primary finding: New Hispanic Churches Often Do More With Less. The major reveal was this:

Hispanic immigrant church plants, compared to the national average, receive less outside financial support yet experience similar church growth.

Scott McConnell, Executive Director of LifeWay Research, says it this way, “Though new Hispanic church works start out ...

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Why This Asian Presbyterian Can’t Quit the White Pentecostal Church

How I became convinced Christianity is more than ethnicity.

As modern society careens to alarming levels of racial polarization, one has to wonder if the ethnic designations on many of our church signs bear any complicity.

Korean Presbyterian. German Lutheran. Chinese Baptist. The monikers exist to identify the minority—to make distinctions where there is a difference. And immigrant churches are certainly different.

But just as cultures blend, our ecclesiastical identities can as well. I know this because I’ve lived it.

When my family left Malaysia for Canada, we probably didn’t know much more about our new home other than that the cold was going to be extremely challenging since we only knew the equator. But thankfully, being an immigrant family from Kuala Lumpur in the Great White North is not as dramatic of a culture shock as it may be for those from other nations.

As members of the Commonwealth, Malaysians completely understand, and appreciate, Canada’s British-ness. I was only six when we first arrived, so much of my rapid assimilation into North American speech styles and patterns of behavior was heavily indebted to popular culture—including drinking deeply and delightedly from the torrent of available television channels compared to the three or four we had in Malaysia.

So it came as a surprise when I met Canadians who deliberately chose not to own TV sets at all, out of their Christian convictions.

Presbyterianism, to which my Chinese-Malaysian mother as well as my Korean father belonged, was readily found in our new home of London—a city between Lake Erie and Lake Huron, a few hours east of Detroit—so it was natural for our first church experiences to be tethered to a familiar tradition. We attended a neighborhood Presbyterian church, ...

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A Pastor Dies By Suicide: Three Things We All Need to Know

As many of us learned of Jarrid Wilson’s suicide, I’m reminded that pastors (and Christians) are not immune, and being honest about that is good for all of us.

A pastor died by suicide.

That’s a sentence that might cause us to look twice.

We don’t expect pastors to take their own lives. They help people with their lives.

They talk about new life. They don’t end their own.

And yet another tragedy happened. Yet another well-known pastor—Jarrid Wilson—died by suicide.

Every suicide shocks us, but when a well-known pastor (or any Christian public figure) takes his or her own life, it causes questions to arise.

Perhaps it should. Perhaps in some ways it brings us back to the reality of who pastors are and what they do. Perhaps the tragedy is compounded even more by the fact that so many of us are hearing about it on World Suicide Prevention Day.

World Suicide Prevention Day

When I woke up this morning, I hadn't actually planned to write an article on suicide. I debated it, but decided simply to tweet later in the day about this important day.

But then I read about my friend Jarrid, a pastor and mental health advocate. So instead, I want to share some thoughts that, I hope, might be of some encouragement to pastors and church leaders.

Let me first say that many people have written many helpful things about suicide today, and they're worthy of our reading and our attention. Some of them are by Christian leaders, and I often look to Rick and Kay Warren for what they might share. (See their comments here.)

I’ve written about the church and suicide before as well.

But there are countless resources out there written from outside the Christian community as well.

Regrettably, one of the realities of the evangelical community is our hesitancy to look outside of our community for help. But truth be told—and I can attest from this very reality in my own extended ...

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Pastor and Mental Health Advocate Jarrid Wilson Dies by Suicide

Before his death, he tweeted, “Loving Jesus doesn’t always cure suicidal thoughts.”

Jarrid Wilson, a California church leader, author, and mental health advocate, died by suicide Monday evening at age 30.

Wilson, known as a passionate preacher, most recently was an associate pastor at megachurch Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. A co-founder of the mental health nonprofit Anthem of Hope, Wilson was open about his own depression, often posting on his social media accounts about his battles with the mental illness.

“At a time like this, there are just no words,” said Harvest senior pastor Greg Laurie.

“Sometimes people may think that as pastors or spiritual leaders we are somehow above the pain and struggles of everyday people. We are the ones who are supposed to have all the answers. But we do not,” Laurie said.

“At the end of the day, pastors are just people who need to reach out to God for his help and strength, each and every day,” he added.

His wife, Julianne Wilson, posted a photo tribute of her husband on Instagram. The photo slideshow shows him fishing “in his happy place.” She described her husband as “loving, giving, kind-hearted, encouraging, handsome, hilarious.”

“No more pain, my jerry, no more struggle. You are made complete and you are finally free,” she wrote in the caption.

“Suicide doesn’t get the last word. I won’t let it. You always said “Hope Gets the last word. Jesus does,” she added.

News of Wilson’s passing followed a series of tweets the young pastor posted throughout the day Monday that dealt with suicide, including a post encouraging followers to remember that even though loving Jesus doesn’t cure illnesses such as depression, PTSD or anxiety, Jesus does ...

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