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This is a coming out, of sorts. As a conservative Evangelical and a minister in a denomination known for traditional values, I have felt a bit closeted as a supporter of Bernie Sanders for President.

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It isn’t that anyone directly said, “You’ll go to hell if you vote for that pro-choice, gay-loving, socialist.”

They didn’t have to. That message is communicated by our Evangelical tribe every day through countless social media posts on the evils of socialism, sotto voce comments about gays and “baby killers,” and the unquestioned assumption that we are, every one of us, dyed-in-the-wool Republicans.

Most of my friends are. Nearly all of my family members are too. Most of the people I know seem to think Barack Obama is a Muslim, Bill Clinton is the Antichrist, and Rockefeller Republican is another term for communist.

So believe me when I say that I’ve thought long and hard about declaring my support for Bernie Sanders. Yet there are times when the cost of keeping quiet is greater than the burden of being misunderstood or derided. This, for me, is one of this times.

Our society faces a moment that will define its character, perhaps for generations. This is no time for preachers of the gospel to be silent.

Though I have never publicly endorsed a political candidate before, I choose to do so now because silence is a form of consent, and I do not consent to the moral direction of our culture. I speak also because I believe my voice can make a difference. We have an opportunity to effect real change for the common good, and I’d like to contribute to that. And I speak because it isn’t enough for religious leaders to say what we’re against, something Evangelicals are well known for. At some point we must say what we are for.

I’m for Bernie Sanders, and I think you should be too.

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In July 1967, when I was seven years old, I woke up on a bright summer’s day to find that the city of Detroit, just an hour’s drive from my home, was on fire. Police had raided an after-hours club where a group of African American men were celebrating the return of two GIs from Vietnam. An altercation broke out. The situation escalated. A full-scale riot ensued.

FERGUSON, MO/USA-  AUGUST 15, 2014: Group prays at the site of d

As a child I knew nothing of the causes and barely understood the events, but I saw pictures in my parents’ newspaper and on evening news. It was like watching a nightmare, black-and-white images of Black and White people killing each other. After five days there were 43 dead and some 2,000 buildings burned.

And then, thank God, it was over and life returned to normal. Or so I believed.

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A short-term mission trip is an intense experience in many ways. And that’s a good thing. Leaving home, being immersed in another culture, and learning to work as a team creates a perfect storm of stress that can be a prime setting for spiritual discovery, if you’re open to it.

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Although there is much debate about the effectiveness of short-term efforts, I see a great value. In fact, I think every pastor should lead a trip at least once. You learn things on a mission trip that you just won’t get any other way.

One of those learnings has do do with the big question not just for short-termers, but for all missional work: “What are we doing here anyway?”

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As a seventh grader, I was the greatest football player in the world, and I knew it. There was no organized team, but I played in my backyard every day, by myself.

Football and passion

I would hike the ball to myself, throw long, arching passes to myself, make impossible, diving catches by myself, then run for a touchdown, high-fiving myself in the end zone.

I was unbeatable. Not even I could stop me.

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Once in awhile we find a chance to do something of unquestionable importance. These opportunities lift our lives out of the ordinary routines of everyday life and allow us to experience meaning and purpose in a direct way.

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That’s why I’m going to Haiti in September 2014, and I’m inviting you to come with me.

World Vision has reversed its decision to allow the employment of gay Christians in committed relationships and reaffirmed its prior policy that it will employ only celibate single people or those who practice fidelity in a heterosexual marriage. (Comments on their previous position are here.)

This saddens me, not because I endorse homosexual behavior in any context—I affirm that God created sex as the unifying, creative act between a man and woman, even though most people don’t use it that way.

I am saddened by what this episode reveals about the state of the church. There is deep division and great anger over the question of homosexuality, and confusion even among some of our brightest leaders on how to respond to the cultural challenge.

It is unfortunate, too, that Christians will likely be perceived as angry bigots by our own neighbors, and that gay people have been told once again that they are not welcome in the church.

Team, we can do better.

On the positive side, Jesus is alive, it’s a beautiful day, and we’ve all got good work to do.

Every leader is a story-teller, and every church is living a story—whether they realize it or not.

The story you tell about yourself rises from your vision for the world, and it largely determines the way people respond to you. You are enacting your perception of a larger conflict, a story of either victory or defeat.

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The good news is that you can choose your own story. Here’s how.

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