Author: Mildred Rhodes

Outsider candidates flood Arizona's primary election, seeking to rattle the system

This year there are 310 candidates, or roughly a quarter more than a typical year, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office.




Do All Plants Go to Heaven?

Where there may be room for GMOs and other modern agriculture in the New Jerusalem.

Ross Smith grew up knowing he would farm. Born to a fifth-generation farmer in northern Indiana, Smith in his younger years worked alongside his dad and grandfather. He studied agricultural economics at Purdue University and learned about the technological advancements in agriculture that defined the 20th century and boosted crop efficiency.

But Smith and his wife also began a small vegetable and hog farm in Hendricks County, Indiana, that sold directly to consumers through on-farm purchases and farmers’ markets. Schooled in modern agriculture, Smith felt the tension of operating an old-fashioned (if currently in vogue) business, “caught between a love of a capitalistic economic system that awards efficiency and an intense love of God’s created world that I believe to be often damaged by ‘efficiency,’ ” he says.

Smith has navigated two competing visions of how we are to subdue the earth and its every seed-bearing plant in the 21st century. One approach maximizes production and crop yields through the power of human innovation, arguing that genetic seed modification and GPS-guided harvesters are God’s provision to feed a growing population in a complex world. The other approach sees organic production and the local food movement as guardians of true flourishing, warning us not to overindulge human creativity at the expense of God’s original creation: our bodies and the land.

Unsurprisingly, disagreements between proponents of each view—whether farmers or home cooks—have often become polarized. Watchdog documentarians infiltrate the shocking “factory farm” that nourishes a paycheck-stretching Walmart shopper, while a farm-share member packs $7 cartons of …

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Rural Matters: A Conference for Those Serving in Rural Settings

On September 18-19, the Billy Graham Center will be hosting our second annual Rural Matters conference at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.

Last year, our team here at the Billy Graham Center launched our Rural Matters Institute. Sensing a need to equip rural church planters with tools and resources to best serve their communities, the Institute’s goal is to convene, network, and resource those are doing gospel work in the rural context.

There are 60 million people in rural America. But rural America is often overlooked when it comes to ministry resources. In September last year, we hosted our first Rural Matters Conference in Sasche, Texas. The conference was largely successful and we got great feedback from attendees, who expressed a desire for more networking opportunities.

As a result, we have created an online community through our various networks and launched the Rural Matters website. You have also probably noticed that we have featured more articles on rural ministry here on The Exchange. This increased visibility for rural ministry is all part of our concerted efforts to help foster a community among rural pastors and leaders.

On September 18-19, the Billy Graham Center will be hosting our second annual Rural Matters conference at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. The conference will both resource and equip rural church pastors and leaders with some tools for effective rural ministry.

The conference provides a unique networking opportunity for rural pastors who often labor alone in their gospel work. Our gathering is designed to build community around the importance of rural ministry and offer pastors an opportunity to recharge.

Over the course of the conference, attendees will:

  • Rural Matters Conference attendees get a free course from Ed Stetzer’s Mission Group. More information coming at the conference.
  • Have an opportunity to network with other rural pastors at our networking luncheon.

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Scottsdale mall turning department store into shared office space

A co-working space is moving in to the former Barneys location at Scottsdale Fashion Square, occupying two stories and 33,000 square feet of space.




Parents sue Scottsdale in death of child crushed by fire-house door

16-month-old Joey Reiss died when he was crushed by a bay door during a tour of a Scottsdale fire station.




Europe’s Big Mission Field: Nominals

How do you persuade someone who already thinks they’re a Christian to become one?

The largest mission field in Western Europe isn’t self-identifying atheists or Muslim immigrants; it’s people who call themselves Christians but exhibit few, if any, signs of faith.

Non-practicing Christians, which a Pew Research Center report defines as those who identify with Christianity but rarely or never attend church services, make up the biggest segment of the region’s population.

According to the report, 46 percent of Western Europeans are non-practicing Christians, 18 percent are regular church attendees, 24 percent are religiously unaffiliated, and 5 percent follow other faiths.

Despite their increasing secularism, Europeans still tend to identify with religious labels—if not their more orthodox beliefs.

The region’s non-practicing Christians outnumber church-attending believers in every Western European country except Italy, Pew reports. They rarely or never attend worship services, generally don’t believe in God as described in the Bible (67%), and don’t hold to historic positions on social issues: 85% favor legal abortion (compared to 52% of church-attending Christians) and 80% favor same-sex marriage (compared to 58% of church attendees).

Over the course of a single generation, the number of Western Europeans without a Christian background has skyrocketed, said Evert Van de Poll, professor of religious studies and missiology at the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Leuven, Belgium. In his home country of the Netherlands, the number of unaffiliated Dutch (48%) has tripled since he was a boy. At the same time, the “Christian” label has increasingly become more a cultural signifier than a statement of faith and practice.

With the Christian landscape evolving (or, …

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How to Convince People to Get Involved in Small Groups

Three tips on how to build a culture of small-group involvement.

People today are often extremely busy, including me. We have countless things going on at work, at home, even at church. With so many demands on our lives and limited time available to satisfy them all, small groups can easily get lost in the shuffle. We must be intentional in how we lead our congregations in order to shape a culture of small-group involvement.

Here are three tips on how to build that culture.

First, teach it biblically

Hang on, Ed, aren’t small groups not in the Bible? Sort of. It’s true there is no verse in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt make your church have small groups.” But, every church in the Bible was what we would consider a small group. There were no buildings; they were functionally house churches. The closest thing to the New Testament expression of the church today is our small groups.

Sometimes, people look to the Bible and say, “We should do house churches.” I am for house churches, but most people are not going to do that. Usually, people are much more likely to join a small group than they are to switch to an entire new model of church.

In addition, there are a number of commands in the New Testament that cannot be fulfilled in a large group setting. For example, one command is to bear one another’s burdens. A big group is not conducive to this. How can you bear one another’s burdens when there are 200 people sitting, all facing forwards, lined up like rows on shelves at Walmart? How do you do that?

You bear one another’s burdens by moving from sitting in rows to sitting in circles.

Teach the value of small groups. Involve the leadership structure in your church when you teach it to emphasize the importance of small groups. Say things such …

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Navajo Elementary classes will resume at Oak Academy after fire damages campus

Navajo Elementary students in Scottsdale will be back in class Thursday at an alternative site after a fire in a storage room.




Scottsdale and Phoenix have nation's largest city parks, Glendale No. 1 in … volleyball

Compared with the 100 largest cities in the U.S., Phoenix actually doesn’t have as many public pools and splash pads as you might think.




God’s Mayor in Guatemala

Fighting cartels, disease, and poverty, Mayor Jeaneth Ordoñez presides over a safe haven in an otherwise violent region.

In the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America, the countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala form a violent triad. The murder rate is higher in this region than in most active war zones. Gangs, cartels, and vigilantes impose their will, taking over or co-opting legitimate police forces and routinely terrorizing average citizens. A recent study identified 54 separate criminal groups in Guatemala alone. For many citizens of this region, fleeing north through Mexico to the US border is a less risky proposition than dealing with daily life in their hometown.

In the middle of this violence sits the town of San Cristóbal Acasaguastlán, a picturesque oasis of calm with a population of about 6,000 people. What sets this place apart are the efforts of Jeaneth Ordoñez, the Christian mayor who has united the townspeople in their quest to keep the municipality free of the violence and upheaval that surrounds them.

“This is a very special place,” says Eduardo Gallo, a Cuban-born medical doctor whom Ordoñez brought to town to help with health care. “We have the opportunity to improve people’s lives and to do it with love. The mayor has created a remarkable environment.”

Ordoñez’s motivation to protect and provide for her people comes directly from her faith. “God has put me in this place and given me a love and desire to serve my people and make their lives better,” she says. “I have faith in God and I love the people.”

About two hours outside of Guatemala City, the municipality encompasses a small town and a large rural area where high unemployment means poverty is all too common, as it is throughout the country. But Ordoñez …

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