Category Archives: National

I forgive because He forgave me

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By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

Over the past 13 years of my walk with Christ, I have heard several sermons pertaining to forgiveness. As a young Christian, I had to learn about true forgiveness. I was never in situations where I had to forgive someone for a terrible act against me – until I reached my late 20s. The act included a close family member, and it had harmful ramifications to several members of my family. I was puzzled by something – the people in my family who professed believers are the ones who are holding to the past wrong at this very moment.

It puzzles me. Do they not understand what Christ said in Matthew 6: 14-16, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (NIV). Just imagine what life would be like if Christ never forgave us for our wrongdoings? No person is perfect; we all make mistakes. There is no need to question why someone hurts you. As a Christian, it is our duty to pray to God to bring solace and to pray for the person who hurt you. The Lord told Moses in Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD” (NIV).

To make matters worse, some of them question why I talk positively about this individual. I explain to them it is not about taking sides, the issue is letting go of the past and moving on. I am joyful for life and blessed, while there is a part of their souls that protrudes disdain. I can tell in the way they talk and the way they treat others that there is blockage. These are hurt people. But, luckily for them, I pray for their soul to heal like mine did. Holding on to past transgressions is not good for mental, physical, and spiritual health. Our God is more than willing to take those burdens off us. Why hold on to negative energy? As T.D. Jakes said, “Let it go.” These lukewarm feelings toward a family member should not become a generational curse.

The most powerful testimonies of forgiveness I have witnessed are those of the family members of a murdered loved one. On Feb. 27 in Chardon, Ohio, 17-year-old T.J. Lane opened fire on a group of students sitting at a cafeteria table at Chardon High School. He killed Demetrius Hewlin, Russell King Jr., and Daniel Parmentor and wounded two others.

In an ABC News interview, Hewlin’s mother, Phyllis Ferguson, said she forgave Lane. “I would tell him I forgive him because, a lot of times, they don’t know what they’re doing. That’s all I’d say. … You have to forgive everything. God’s grace is new each and every day,” she said.

I am sure it was difficult, but the family can rest assured Christ has taken care of the situation. As commanded, I don’t forget what happened because it is a part of my history but I surely forgive.

Tonya Whitaker of Plano, Texas, is a former newspaper journalist and copy editor. She is managing editor of Inside The Pew. Follow Tonya on Twitter @twhitaker1974 and @pewtalk.

Churches can extend their reach through mobile apps

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By Jeremy Reynalds
ASSIST News Service

When mobile apps first became a “must have,” only the largest churches and nonprofits could afford the hefty price tag required to hire a firm to build a custom mobile app.

Because the majority of nonprofits can’t afford that kind of money, ROAR is now releasing its own app-building CMS to help nonprofits and churches afford their own iPhone and Android apps for a fraction of the cost.

Launched in January 2010, ROAR has become a major app development firm for churches, schools, and ministries.

“Our goal is to enable each nonprofit and church we work with to reach into the community and into the pocket of every person to encourage, connect, and retain them as a customer and participant,” said Matt McKee, president of ROAR, speaking in a news release.

McKee added, “With our new software, building a custom-looking mobile app for any organization is an affordable reality.”

ROAR’s CMS is built on WordPress. McKee said, “We customized the Admin, Plugins, and WordPress sections to meet our needs, so now, every customer we work with gets their own custom WordPress build that powers their own app.”

McKee added, “A nonprofit mobile app can help organizations of all kinds communicate with their volunteers and increase donations. A church mobile app can connect members to their churches through sermon podcasts, event updates, and social media all in one place – their phones.”

McKee said, “We encourage churches and nonprofits to give away their apps for free as a way to establish loyalty and goodwill.”

The news release said as organizations update content, graphics, and audio files in their custom ROAR CMS, the app is automatically updated in real time. This ensures the app always contains the most relevant information and media.

Visit for more information.


‘Jesus. Family. Baseball:’ Friends honor Gary Carter

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By Will Patrick
Special to ASSIST News Service

PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL – In a humorous scene from “A League of Their Own,” the film about women’s professional baseball, the manager (played by Tom Hanks) is exasperated after one of his players breaks down in tears after he chews her out for a bad play. “There’s no crying in baseball,” he exclaims.

But there was crying – and laughter – Feb. 24 at Christ Fellowship church in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where family and friends paid

Gary Carter, left, Darryl Strawberry, and Keith Hernandez at Mets spring training in 1985.

tribute to baseball Hall of Fame catcher Gary “The Kid” Carter during a memorial service. Carter, who primarily played for the

Montreal Expos and New York Mets, died of brain cancer at 57.

Carter wasn’t always a favorite of opponents – and some teammates – during his playing career. His perpetual smile, enthusiasm for the game, and willingness to mix with reporters and fans earned him another less heart-warming nickname, “Camera.”

He took a pass on booze, drugs and the many women available to pro athletes, preferring to head home to his wife Sandy (his high school sweetheart) and their kids.

“I think a lot of people tried to look at him as being a phony because he smiled,” former teammate Darryl Strawberry told a New York TV station. “He was smiling because he was free.”

Yet once his playing days were over, even some former antagonists seemed to rethink their perspective. With the camera lights no longer focused on him, Carter didn’t change. He kept smiling. He raised thousands of dollars for charities, especially leukemia, the disease that claimed his mom’s life. And autism, which affects one of his grandchildren. His priorities didn’t change: Jesus. Family. Baseball.

Strawberry’s career, once seemingly headed for the Hall of Fame as well, derailed because of drugs. With baseball in the rear-view mirror, Carter pointed Strawberry to someone who could help him.

“Carter’s personality was he never tried to force his faith on anybody, but he would always encourage you that God loves you,” Strawberry told a reporter.

“Gary has helped so many people. He’s had a tremendous impact on my life and why my life has changed so much. He was one of the first ones to sit with my wife and tell her how proud he was of me, that I found my faith and I changed my life.”

Carter would probably be the first to say he himself fell short in many areas. But the scorecard of a life is best filled out by one’s family. Carter’s daughter Kimmy, who coaches softball at the same college where her dad was the baseball coach, gave a touching and transparent report in the Caring Bridge online journal devoted to her dad’s last days.

Filled with mundane activities, medical ups and downs, prayer requests, and many helpings of Scripture, she shows the picture of a man who truly valued faith and family, who obviously helped to shape his children’s lives even with those frequent absences due to his chosen profession.

At the service, his children shared memories of him, joking about his penchant for neatness. Some of baseball’s greats also paid tribute at Christ Fellowship, focusing as much on the man as the ballplayer.

Johnny Bench, another Hall of Fame catcher who was Carter’s hero, also spoke at the service.

“He idolized me,” Bench joked, then turned serious. “But as we sit here tonight, I feel inadequate with the things he accomplished – the family, the pastors, the friends, the respect – to think about that smile, to think about the person he was.”

Bert Blyleven, another Hall of Famer, seemed to sum up the sentiment in the room. “The way he lived his life,” Blyleven told a reporter, “is the way that everybody wants to live their life.”


Review: ‘Stories and Songs’ tour rocks Central Ark.

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By Karen Jordan
Inside The Pew

BENTON, Ark. – Fifteen hundred Christian music fans gathered in Central Arkansas on Feb. 3, at Benton’s First Baptist Church to welcome Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Stories and Songs” tour with special guests, Andrew Peterson, and Josh Wilson.

Show HOPE, “a non-profit organization that mobilizes individuals and communities to meet the most pressing needs of orphans in distress,” sponsors the “Stories and Songs” tour. Show HOPE also provides “homes for waiting children through adoption aid grants and life-saving medical care for orphans with special needs.”

“The stories of God’s faithfulness to the Chapman family were so encouraging,” said Clay Cunningham, minister to students at FBC

Photo credit: Karen Jordan

Photo by Karen Jordan. Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Stories and Songs” Tour with special guests Andrew Peterson, and Josh Wilson in Central Arkansas.

Benton. “It was also refreshing to see their response of obedience to the ministry of adoption that God has set their family on!”

Soundstage. Chapman’s pre-concert event offered a close-up view of the artist, as he responded to questions in a relaxed setting. He noted that many of his songs were written during the dark times in his life, “I never knew how hard the journey would be … the valleys are deeper and mountains steeper than I ever imagined.”

Steven Curtis Chapman. During the concert, Chapman shared some new songs and revised versions of a few of his greatest hits included in his newest album, “re:creation.” He brought his audience to tears with “Cinderella” and “Heaven is the Face,” memorializing the tragic loss of his youngest daughter, Maria. He also shared a tender song that he wrote for their first grandchild, Eiley Eliza.

Andrew Peterson captured our hearts as he offered stories and songs about his faith and his family, including “Dancing in the Mindfields” and “The Reckoning.” One young man from Little Rock stated that he was moved by the message in Peterson’s “Many Roads,” adding that he had never considered that all of the events of his life may have led him to this moment in time—to hear the message of hope in his stories and songs.

Josh Wilson amazed the crowd with his acoustic version of “Amazing Grace,” using a loop pedal. And people of all ages joined in as he sang his popular “I Refuse.” Wilson also related the stories behind his songs, including a touching song that he wrote for a friend, “Fall Apart,” and a love song, “Always Only You,” dedicated to his wife, Becca.

Concert. Student Pastor Cunningham said that the “Stories and Songs” team “was an absolute blast to work with … (they are) great guys with a heart for ministry and excellence.” He concluded, “I thought it was an incredible night of worship and testimony.

Karen Jordanauthor, speaker, and writing instructor, writes creative nonfiction about her faith, family, and writing. She also encourages others to “tell the stories that matter most” in her writing workshops, her blog, BLESSED Legacy Stories (, and her website ( A native Texan, Karen now resides in Hot Springs Village, Ark., with her husband, Dan, near their two children and seven grandchildren.


Community Christian School students rally to help family

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Special to Inside The Pew

Community Christian School’s Student Leadership Institute’s director, Judy Klein, saw a need in a former student of hers and CCS graduate, Ryan McLeod.

Ryan McLeod, now a Beaumont firefighter, has a 4-year-old son, Racer, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  Because of the

Ryan McLeod, left, and his family are blessed with donation for son, Racer, from Community Christian School in Orange.

severity of his illness, Racer is in need of a diabetic alert dog.

The students at Community Christian School recently went through Rachel’s Challenge and through the testimony of Rachel Scott, learned that “if one person can go out of their way to show compassion then it will start a chain reaction of the same.”

Based on Rachel’s Challenge, the students of CCS have started a Chain Reaction club and are implementing the challenge in their chapel and Student Leadership Institute program.  This week the entire school is having a “Chain Reaction” week where each day they are focusing on a different act of kindness.

Klein, as part of the Chain Reaction, wanted to show an act of kindness toward the McLeod family.  She presented the need of the McLeod family to the student body during their chapel and they rallied together to raise money throughout one week to help with the purchase of the diabetic alert dog.  The students were impacted by the need of the 4-year boy and raised $1, 500. Together with the money raised by Community Christian School in Orange and the money raised by the community and surrounding areas at the benefit at Precision Autobody in Nederland on Feb. 11, the McLeod family now has the money to receive a diabetic alert dog for Racer.

The CCS family is so blessed to be a small part of helping Racer McLeod.

Whitney Houston’s faith centered on Jesus

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By Mark Ellis
ASSIST News Service

One of the outstanding female vocalists of all time had roots in the church and continued to profess her faith in Jesus Christ until her tragic death at age 48.

“Our hearts are broken,” Pastor Joe A. Carter said Sunday, before a packed service at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., where Houston’s inspired gift was first recognized. “How saddened we are at the death of one of the greatest voices of the modern age.”

Houston began to sing with the church’s junior gospel choir at age 11. Years later, her mother, Cissy Houston, is still a devoted

Whitney Houston sings "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV in 1991.

member of the church.

“I’ll never forget her right here standing at the New Hope Church, hearing her sing, ‘He Would Not Come Down,’” Pastor Carter said, “hearing her sing the praises of Jesus Christ.”

In a rare appearance on “Primetime” Dec. 4, 2002 with Diane Sawyer, Houston revealed her struggle to overcome drug addiction, which involved a spiritual battle for her heart. Houston admitted she had used alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and pills in the past, but said the biggest “devil” was not the drugs, but herself.

“It’s my heart. It’s what I desire, what I want and what I don’t want. Nobody makes me do anything. I’m my best friend and my worst enemy,” she confessed.

In the interview, she admitted that drug use brought her close to death’s door. “I got as close as it gets, but I know people who have come closer,” she said.

Sawyer pressed the pop diva to say her “bad days” were behind her. “I know I’m on the right path because I’m back home where I started,” Houston said. “I can’t tell you it’s all going to be perfect.”

“I can tell you I’m not self-destructive,” she continued. “I’m not a person who wants to die. I’m a person who has life and wants to live.”

Then Houston opened a small window to her faith. “I pray every day,” she said. “I’m not the strongest every day but I’m not the weakest either,”Houston said.

“Pray for me as a person,” she implored, “pray for my soul, that I’m stronger. I know I’m a child of God and I know He loves me.

“Jesus loves me, this I know.”

Singer Whitney Houston, 48, dies in Beverly Hills

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By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Singer Whitney Houston was found dead Feb. 11, in the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Calif., after emergency medical personnel were called sometime Saturday, said the sources, who asked to remain anonymous because the investigation is ongoing.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Houston, 48, was in the Los Angeles area for a musical tribute to music executive Clive Davis and had performed and spoken to reporters earlier in the week.

Among her many hits were: “How Will I Know,” “Saving All My Love for You” and “I Will Always Love You.” She won multiple Grammys including album and record of the year.

“The performer had drug and alcohol problems for years, and in May her spokeswoman said she was going back to rehab,” said the LA Times story.

Singer Whitney Houston died Saturday in a Beverly Hills hotel. She was 48.

“Publicist Kristen Foster told the Associated Press on Saturday that Houston had died but did not provide further details.”

Fox News reported that the Beverly Hills Police Department responded to an emergency call at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Saturday, Lt. Mark Rosen, of the Beverly Hills Police Department said.

She began singing in the church

Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she sang backup for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and others, in addition to modeling. It was around that time when music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.

“The time that I first saw her singing in her mother’s act in a club … it was such a stunning impact,” Davis told “Good Morning America.”

“To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine,” he added.

Before long, the rest of the country would feel it, too. Houston made her album debut in 1985 with “Whitney Houston,” which sold millions and spawned hit after hit. “Saving All My Love for You” brought Houstob her first Grammy, for best female pop vocal. “How Will I Know,” “You Give Good Love” and “The Greatest Love of All” also became hit singles.

Another multiplatinum album, “Whitney,” came out in 1987 and included hits like “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

The New York Times wrote that Houston “possesses one of her generation’s most powerful gospel-trained voices, but she eschews many of the churchier mannerisms of her forerunners. She uses ornamental gospel phrasing only sparingly, and instead of projecting an earthy, tearful vulnerability, communicates cool self-assurance and strength, building pop ballads to majestic, sustained peaks of intensity.”

Her decision not to follow the more soulful inflections of singers like Franklin drew criticism by some who saw her as playing down her black roots to go pop and reach white audiences. The criticism would become a constant refrain through much of her career. She was even booed during the “Soul Train Awards” in 1989.

“At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world’s best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen,” said Fox News.

“Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like ‘The Bodyguard’ and ‘Waiting to Exhale.’

“She had the perfect voice, and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.”

Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy said in a statement, “Six-time GRAMMY winner Whitney Houston was one of the world’s greatest pop singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the past three decades.


“Her powerful voice graced many memorable and award-winning songs. A light has been dimmed in our music community today, and we extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends, fans and all who have been touched by her beautiful voice,” he said.

She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.

“But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use,” added Fox News. “Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.”

Fox News added, “Some saw her 1992 marriage to former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown as an attempt to refute those critics. It seemed to be an odd union; she was seen as pop’s pure princess while he had a bad-boy image, and already had children of his own. The couple had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993. Over the years, he would be arrested several times, on charges ranging from DUI to failure to pay child support.

“But Houston said their true personalities were not as far apart as people may have believed.”

Now Whitney Houston has left us with memories of the great days when at her peak in the 1980s and ’90s, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry and one of the world’s best-selling artists.

Once again it appears that substance abuse may have taken the life of another great performer.

‘God healed my wife of breast cancer’

Published by:

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

Vasiliy Voytovich, one of the pastors at the Full Gospel Church in Dunedin, Fla., agreed to share with the ASSIST News Service how “God healed my wife of breast cancer.”

Voytovich, who is also the President of God Heals Broken Hearts Ministries (, movingly told the story of how his wife, Lyubov, who was 32 at that time, first discovered she had a lump in her breast.

“It was back 1955, when we were living in the small town Stebnic in the west of Ukraine, that she first she had pain in her left breast and noticed lump

Vasiliy Voytovich and wife, Lyubov

there,” he said. “She went to have it checked out and the doctors, who had not yet discussed surgery, started her treatment with chemotherapy. It was then that I felt prompted of the Lord to pray for her complete healing.

“So I gathered my children together — older son Nikolay 14, daughter Nina 12, and youngest son Vitaliy 10 — and we began to pray for a miracle.”

“At that time, she felt a pressure in her throat and chest and she was so scared that she was dying and yet here we were all praying for her healing. She felt so bad and, at that time was not even praying, just crying.

“However, our prayers were so powerful that, after asking for her healing, we started to thank God for His answer. Then my wife said that in the background she heard a voice that said, ‘BELIEVE.’ She then asked what she had to believe, as she wasn’t even praying or asking about anything.

“She heard us thanking God for her healing, and so she asked God: ‘Do I have to believe that I am healed’ and she heard the reply, ‘Yes!’ After our prayer we knew that she had been healed and were so happy about the miracle.

I asked my wife to check to see if the lump disappeared, but she was not ready at that time. We waited for few days and then went to see the lady doctor who had initially diagnosed her. I was able to observe the change on the doctor’s face when she couldn’t find anything.

“I told the physician not to be surprised, as we had prayed for a miracle and I added, ‘She is healed now. That is why you cannot find anything.’ She replied: ‘You are blessed that you can believe.’

“An X-ray was performed and it confirmed that she was now free from cancer,” he said. “Three years later, when we moved to USA, a biopsy was performed because of my wife’s history of cancer and the chemotherapy treatment, and it was confirmed again that she was cancer free and this has continued with yearly mammograms.”

He went on to say, “It is very much strengthened our faith (me, my wife, and our children) and it showed us how powerful is our God even today. He has His plans for us. He loves us very much and now we share that good news with others who needs that encouragement.”

Besides his pastoral work at the Full Gospel Church in Dunedin, Florida, he also works at the local Health Department and his wife is an RN at Largo Medical Center.

“In our church we have 150 members (Russians and mainly Ukrainians, with some Polish, Hispanic and English people,” he said.

This pastor and his family have truly learned from this healing that indeed, “God Heals Broken Hearts.”

Note: Vasiliy Voytovich, is also the founder of the Happy Family ( Christian online magazine. He can be contacted by e-mail at:


Fort Worth Christian women to help MISSION 3:16

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By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

Attendees of the Fort Worth Christian Women’s Connection luncheon will be treated to a feisty guest speaker, a good meal, and an opportunity to donate to a worthy cause.

During the organization’s February luncheon, women are invited to bring new teddy bears or other types of stuffed animals to the event for MISSION 3:16, a chaplaincy at Kimbo Juvenile Justice Center.

The luncheon will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Mira Vista Country Club, 6600 Mira Vista Blvd in Fort Worth. The cost is $17.

The mission donates a stuffed animal – or Prayer Bear – to a patient at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth every time one of the Kimbo kids earns a certificate for being on Level 1 behavior for seven consecutive days.

The stuffed animals must have the store tags still attached.

Since November 2002, Kimbo Juvenile Justice Center has donated “Prayer Bears” to Cook Children’s Medical Center on behalf of detainees maintaining the highest level of behavior.

The scheduled guest speaker for the February luncheon is Qujette Cone, a fun-loving grandmother, who will take attendees on a journey of her heart’s travels in “Music From the Heart.” Jimmie Porterfield will accompany Cone on her musical journey.

In addition, Ryan Loehndorf will showcase the variety of pampering at Moda’s Aveda Salon on Seventh Street.

Childcare is provided. All reservations, and cancellations, including childcare, must be made by Feb. 10. Email Patsy at for reservations.

Study explores gap between God and jobs

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Center for Faith & Work

Special to Inside The Pew

DALLAS — Do faith and work mix? And if so, as America’s workforce increasingly wants meaning beyond a paycheck, do pastors help? From a recent national study commissioned by Dallas-based LeTourneau University’s Center for Faith & Work, answers are, “Yes,” and “Not enough.”

“Ninety-three percent of pastors say they want to help members of their congregations integrate faith and work but fully two-thirds of them admit their efforts fall short,” Bill Peel, Center for Faith & Work executive director, said. “People work more, and better, when their labor carries a sense of calling. But most employers can’t give it, and most pastors don’t.”

The church-work gap emerges in data from two surveys commissioned by the Center and conducted by the Barna Group.


• Nearly all (93 percent) pastors said helping people integrate faith into daily work is “very important”
• A third (32 percent) of those pastors claim an “excellent understanding” of workplace issues
• Half (49 percent) of churchgoing, employed Christians “strongly agree” that their church gives information, guidance, and support to live out faith at work
• 26 percent of pastors say their sermons address faith at work
• 8 percent of pastors provide prayer support for workplace issues
• 3 percent of pastors report they visit their members at work

The LeTourneau Center for Faith & Work, founded in 2011, reflects a burgeoning “faith at work” movement to help the employed — and unemployed — find God beyond church doors.

The Center’s web site assembles resources, tools, and curriculum for churches, students, and the global Christian community to equip and connect them to live out their faith in the workplace. Foundational to the Center is the notion that God values good work well done.

“From Genesis to Revelation, work is essential to human flourishing,” Peel said. “Pastors and pew populations too often default to esteeming ‘church work’ over traditional business. But God doesn’t draw that line.”

In 1946 R.G. LeTourneau, industrialist and inventor, founded LeTourneau University; and his refusal to separate faith and business formed “the DNA of the university.” Bill Peel, founding executive of the university’s Center for Faith & Work, is an award-winning author of seven books, including Workplace Grace, What God Does When Men Lead, and Discover Your Destiny.