“Tree Church” is exactly what it sounds like, and it looks incredible. Barry Cox has two great passions in life: trees and churches. For years, he traveled the world, studying the designs of church buildings and the architectural style behind them. He also loves trees so much that he runs a business that transports large trees to new locations so they don’t have to be chopped down. The New Zealander told Stuff.co.nz,

I walked out my back door one day and thought, 'That space needs a church' – and so it began. I cleared the area in April 2011 and made the iron frame, drawing on all the research I had done over the years of studying churches. I wanted the roof and the walls to be distinctly different, to highlight the proportions, just like masonry churches.

It took Cox four years to finish the structure, which has walls and a ceiling made from living trees, but he’s recently opened Tree Church for weddings and visitors. He told the site, “Visitors have said that they find the Tree Church relaxing and that their worries disappear. I find that sort of feedback immensely rewarding." You can see a brief video tour of the structure here. Discuss

More than a half of all Americans think that their country is close with the Creator. A new survey, conducted by Lifeway Research, has found that 53 percent of Americans believe that “God and the nation have a special relationship.” And, despite political bickering in the media, the recent economic downturn and overseas conflicts, just four in 10 Americans actually think that “America’s best days are behind us.”

The concepts of American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny are nothing new. As Lifeway’s executive director Ed Stetzer points out in the research, the ideas have long been part of American thinking.

God Bless America is more than a song or a prayer for many Americans. It is a belief that God has blessed America beyond what is typical for nations throughout history. I am sure that would spawn many theological conversations, but it’s important to note most Americans think God has a special relationship with their country.

Out of all of the demographics mentioned in the research, evangelicals had the highest numbers of individuals to believe God is in a “special relationship” with the United States, with 67 percent agreeing with the idea. Discuss

Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham and author of several books, has stepped down as the senior pastor of the 2,000-member Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, confessing to having an affair. Tchividjian had served as the church’s senior pastor since 2009. In a statement to The Washington Post, Tchividjian said he recently discovered that his wife was having an ongoing affair, which eventually led them to separate. He wrote, “Sadly and embarrassingly, I subsequently sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself. Last week, I was approached by our church leaders and they asked me about my own affair. I admitted to it and it was decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign.”

Tchividjian said “my wife and I are heartbroken over our actions,” and asked for prayer. The church's executive pastor, Rob Pacienza, told the paper they will be “working with and assisting Pastor Tullian and his family to help them through this difficult time” ... Discuss

Elisabeth Elliott, influential writer and wife of Christian martyr Jim Elliot, died this morning, according to several sources. She was 88 years old.

Elliot’s first husband, Jim—subject of the 2005 docudrama, End of the Spear—was killed by members of an unreached tribe in eastern Ecuador—the very tribe he was trying to reach with the Gospel of Christ. Elisabeth Elliot authored two best-selling books about Jim's life, Through Gates of Splendor and Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testimony of Jim Elliot. And she eventually returned to the same tribe that killed her first husband to continue the work he began.

She wrote around 20 books—including classics such as Passion and Purity—and hosted of the radio show, Gateway to Joy, which ran through 2001 ... Discuss

Pope Francis is continuing his personal outreach to the homeless around Vatican City. The pontiff ordered a new, 30-bed homeless shelter to be built in the Vatican. As The Washington Post notes, it’s just the first in a series of actions to care for the homeless he’s undertaken since becoming pope: He’s installed free showers in Vatican City; paid for homeless individuals to visit the Shroud of Turin; arranged private museum tours; and even provided free shaves and haircuts ... Discuss

According to new research led by San Diego State University's Jean Twenge, millennials may be the least religious generation in the history of America. For the study, the team looked at how more than 11 million teens responded to questions about faith, religious organizations, spirituality, prayer and meditation, dating back to the mid 1960s. They found that the group who are now millennials are the least religious ever recorded. She told EurekAlert:

Unlike previous studies, ours is able to show that millennials' lower religious involvement is due to cultural change, not to millennials being young and unsettled. Millennial adolescents are less religious than Boomers and GenX'ers were at the same age. We also looked at younger ages than the previous studies. More of today's adolescents are abandoning religion before they reach adulthood, with an increasing number not raised with religion at all.

They found that compared to four decades ago, the number of high school seniors and college students who don’t go to church or religious services has doubled. The cause for the dramatic shifts? Twenge said that a culture that values individualism could be responsible: "Individualism puts the self first, which doesn't always fit well with the commitment to the institution and other people that religion often requires. As Americans become more individualistic, it makes sense that fewer would commit to religion” ... Discuss