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I toured the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, yesterday.
The Museum is truly amazing. Its 430,000-square-foot building is located just three blocks from the US Capitol and has been rated one of the ten best museums in Washington.
It is an immersive experience in the history and stories of God’s word. Walking through its galleries took me back to the first century and demonstrated the impact of Scripture on humanity.
I cannot imagine a more powerful or persuasive witness at the heart of our nation’s capital.
As I toured the Museum of the Bible, I was struck by the difference one person can make. The Museum is the vision of Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby and son of the founder, David Green. The Green family has largely funded the $500 million project.
Every person who visits will be impacted by their faith and faithfulness to our Father.
“People are increasingly hopeless”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced yesterday that suicides and drug overdoses have driven life expectancy down in the United States. Overall, there were 2.8 million US deaths last year, nearly 70,000 more than the previous year and the most deaths in a single year since the government began counting more than a century ago.
What is driving this epidemic of drug overdoses and suicide?
Dr. William Dietz, a disease prevention expert at George Washington University: “I really do believe that people are increasingly hopeless, and that that leads to drug use, it leads potentially to suicide.”
It’s tempting to become hopeless about the hopelessness of our culture. But that’s exactly the wrong response.
From lockup to opera
Consider Ryan Speedo Green (no relation to Steve Green), a former juvenile delinquent who was incarcerated as a twelve-year-old after he pulled a knife on his mother and brother.
A teacher named Elizabeth Hughes contacted him at the lockup. “Don’t let this moment define you,” she told him. “You can be better. You can do better.”
A caseworker and a psychiatrist provided by the state of Virginia began working with him. When he left juvenile detention, he entered a new school in another town. A class trip to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City changed his life.
Ryan is now a member of the Vienna State Opera, singing bass-baritone roles in a variety of languages for audiences from around the world.
Saving a dying church
Larry Duggins left a successful career in investment banking a decade ago to become a seminary student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. There he met an evangelism professor named Elaine Heath. Together, they brainstormed ways to help dying churches thrive.
As Jonathan Merritt notes in The Atlantic, this is a massive problem in America. Six thousand to ten thousand churches die each year in the US, a number that will likely grow as denominations age and religiously unaffiliated Americans increase.
Duggins and Heath wanted to help churches “think creatively about how to help people encounter others and God in their everyday lives.” They partnered with White Rock United Methodist Church in Dallas to try their ideas. The church was once a massive and thriving congregation, but the neighborhood’s demographics shifted and membership waned.
The Missional Wisdom Foundation, the nonprofit Duggins and Heath formed, moved into the building. It converted the fellowship hall into a co-working space and transformed Sunday school rooms into workshops for local artisans. It created an economic empowerment center, where African refugees are taught language and business skills. And it started a yoga studio and community dance studio.
Today, the church building is bustling and the congregation has new life.
“You can be everything God wants you to be”
What do these stories have in common? They demonstrate the power of an individual to change the culture.
Consider Hezekiah. His father was one of the most ungodly kings in Jewish history, but Hezekiah knew that our past cannot imprison us without our permission. His nation was under divine judgment because of its idolatry and immorality (2 Chronicles 28:19), but Hezekiah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 29:2).
The spiritual reforms he initiated returned his people to God and saved their nation.
Without the valor and integrity of George Washington, would we still be a British colony? Without the courage of Abraham Lincoln, would we be two nations? Without the ingenuity of Henry Ford, could I drive to work? Without the creativity of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, would I be able to communicate these words to you?
You might say, “If they hadn’t done what they did, someone else would.” That’s my point–“someone” would.
Max Lucado: “You can be everything God wants you to be.” As he notes, “DaVinci painted one Mona Lisa. Beethoven composed one Fifth Symphony. And God made one version of YOU. He custom designed you for a one-of-a-kind assignment.”
What is yours?