Rocky Mountain Reunion touts unity — in English and Spanish


Part of The Christian Chronicle’s “One Nación Under God” special project.

Rocky Mountain Reunion touts unity — in English and Spanish (reporting from Westminster, Colo.): A bilingual worship assembly brings together Christians in northern Colorado, regardless of language. 

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — “Amen! Amen! Amen!” said a chorus of voices that echoed through the Northwest Church of Christ auditorium as visiting minister Steven Curo preached from 1 Corinthians 1:18.

Seconds later, Curo repeated the same verse about the message of the cross being foolishness to those who are perishing but the power of God to those who are being saved.

Again, a hearty round of “Amén! Amén! Amén!” followed the Scripture reading — only this time with distinct Spanish accents.

Curo alternated between English and Spanish as he delivered a bilingual sermon at the recent Rocky Mountain Reunion — an event designed to improve unity among Christians in northern Colorado.

“It was amazing,” church member Jesús de Hijar said of the opening assembly, where the faithful sang hymns such as “Love Lifted Me” simultaneously in both languages. “It was really something that to me, personally, filled me up.”

Colorado is one of seven states with a Hispanic population of at least 20 percent.

This story appears in the September 2014 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Laying your church’s debt burden down


Laying your church’s debt burden down: The benefits — and drawbacks — of debt-reduction campaigns.

On a Sunday morning, two days before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Edmond Church of Christ—my home congregation in a growing, affluent suburb north of Oklahoma City—made a long-awaited pilgrimage.

A thousand fellow Christians and I marched from our old building, hidden behind trees in a quiet residential neighborhood, to a new, $6.5 million worship center at a high-profile intersection.

Immediately, our red-brick building with a simple, distinctive steeple became a new community landmark, standing right across the street from a busy city park known for its youth baseball fields, walking trails, and picturesque duck pond.

“As we move into our new location, we believe God’s light will shine even more and that he will do amazing, incredible things through us,” our senior minister, the late Don Vinzant, said that Sunday.

Just two nights later, that belief proved true—for the first of many times—as we opened our sanctuary to a community prayer service to seek God’s comfort and guidance in the wake of our national tragedy.

But for all our spiritual hopes and dreams, we also carried something else with us to our sparkling new digs: millions of dollars in debt.

This article appears on the July 2014 cover of Church Finance Today, a publication of Christianity Today.

Click here to read a full pdf version of the report. Copyright 2014, Church Finance Today.

Don’t just sit in those pews


Don’t just sit in those pews (reporting from Arlington, Texas): In the heart of Dallas-Fort Worth, a once-shrinking congregation finds revival as it serves its community. 

ARLINGTON, Texas — It’s a Tuesday after school, and basketballs are flying at the North Davis Church of Christ family life center.

Welcome to “The Rec,” as the banner outside declares.

Two afternoons per week, the 600-member church opens its doors for up to 120 students from nearby Lamar High School to hang out, shoot hoops and enjoy free snacks and beverages.

“It’s a good thing,” said Christian Retana, 15. “It gets kids out of trouble.”

“This is a good environment,” agreed Deshaun Lowry, 17. “Nobody’s ever fighting, especially in a church. Everybody gets along here.”

A few years ago, dozens of Lamar High teens congregating in a Walgreens store parking lot after school drew complaints of violence, thefts and illegal drug activity.

That’s when the North Davis church decided to partner with Arlington police and school officials to offer an alternative.

“We said, ‘Let’s give them something better,’” said Darrell Lanford, youth family minister.

This story appears in the August 2014 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Two people fell in love and shared a legacy of faith

wedding four

Two people fell in love and shared a legacy of faith: Seeds of hard work, faith and commitment were planted long before Bob Ross and Judy Nanney married 50 years ago.

There ain’t nothin’ not affected

When two hearts get connected

All that is, will be or ever was

Every single choice we make

Every breath we get to take

Is all because two people fell in love

— “Two People Fell in Love,” song by Brad Paisley

This is a love story.

Just three days after she turned 17, the beautiful bride wore a simple white wedding gown that her mother made. She was so nervous that she gashed her leg while shaving that morning.

The groom, barely 19, borrowed a white sports coat from his younger brother. His black tie matched his perfect flattop.

On July 2, 1964 — the same day President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law — Bob Ross and Judy Nanney exchanged wedding vows in their hometown of Portageville, Mo.

Long before the simple, living-room ceremony 50 years ago, seeds of hard work, Christian faith and commitment to the institution of marriage were planted in both my parents’ hearts.

This column appears in the online edition of The Christian Chronicle.

July 2014: GetReligion


New York Times revisits abortion buffer zone ruling. Published July 1.

ESPN features pastor who loves umpires, hates baseball. Published July 2.

Big news report card: Hobby Lobby and contraceptives. Published July 3.

Al Jazeera America: a solid piece of religion journalism? Published July 7.

Babies and holy ghosts in Texas surrogate pregnancies story. Published July 8.

Surprise! Same-sex couples produce happier kids, media say. Published July 10.

Pod people: Grading the grades on Supreme Court coverage. Published July 12.

Hero or troubled soul: Dallas pastor takes his life. Published July 14.

A chilling account of Boko Haram targeting Christians. Published July 15.

On Hobby Lobby, explain that ‘deeply held religious belief.’ Published July 17.

A little more context on that charismatic pastor, please. Published July 18.

Big news report card: Oklahoma same-sex marriage ruling. Published July 21.

‘Sin’ gets scare quote treatment in Portland, Ore. Published July 22.

Big news report card: Grading abortion buffer zone coverage

Big news report card: Grading abortion buffer zone coverage

GETRELIGION.ORG — As my GetReligion colleague Jim Davis highlighted this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a Massachusetts abortion buffer zone law.

News junkie that I am, I enjoyed perusing today’s front pages and searching Google News to see how various news organizations handled the story.

Using my media critic’s prerogative, I decided to grade some of the coverage.

My major criteria: First, how fully did a particular story cover the important details — including the court’s majority and minority opinions, the reactions by the parties involved in the case and the responses by activists on both sides of the abortion debate? Second, how fairly did the story treat all sides?

This analysis of media coverage appears online at

Family mission trips on the rise


Family mission trips on the rise (reporting from Logan, Utah): An Oklahoma group’s 1,200-mile journey to Utah exemplifies a growing trend of Christian parents introducing children to mission work.

LOGAN, Utah — Asked what excited her about going on a mission trip to Utah, 5-year-old Lainey Foster smiled.

“I might go swimming today or every day that I’m here,” the blond-haired cutie replied. “So that’s really good.”

But as Lainey grows up, her parents pray she’ll recall more than taking nightly dips in a hotel pool, roasting s’mores at a campfire devotional or even running into rattlesnakes on a hiking excursion.

For Josh and Jen Foster and their four young children, this summer’s 1,200-mile journey was no ordinary road trip.

Rather than enjoy a traditional vacation, the Fosters and other families from the Edmond Church of Christ in Oklahoma decided to go on a mission trip.

Their destination: the Logan Church of Christ, a small-but-growing congregation in this predominantly Mormon community 85 miles north of Salt Lake City.

“We are going to help out a bit and just have fun while we’re doing it,” said 9-year-old Ty Foster.

Like the Fosters, a growing number of Christian parents take advantage of opportunities to expose their children to mission work, said Steven Bonner, who directs the youth and family ministry program at Lubbock Christian University in Texas.

This story appears in the August 2014 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.