Thinking Out Loud

December 20, 2014

An Appropriate Illustration

Filed under: grace — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:27 am

Preaching has changed over the last two decades and there is a certain style of sermons that is disappearing and may even seem quaint to younger readers. The way illustrations are weaved into messages is one example, but we need to remember that Jesus ministry consisted of using parables to make his point. There is no record of him having four points that start with the letter “P” (or Aramaic equivalent).

pardonStephen Weber shared the story of picking up some coal for his wood stove from two identical twin brothers.

…I also enjoy visiting with Richard and Robert, bachelors who never married and continue to live in the same home they grew up in. I observed some evidence of Christian faith on the wall of the small office but last week Richard (or it might have been Robert) began to tell me a story and I realized he was witnessing to me!

He told me about George Wilson who was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging for robbing the US mail on a route between Philadelphia and Reading Pennsylvania in 1829. But just before the time set for his execution President Andrew Jackson pardoned him. However Wilson refused the pardon and the Supreme Court ruled that a pardon was not in effect until accepted. Wilson was executed even though he had been pardoned, since he refused to accept it.

He went on to relate this to God’s offered pardon and the necessity that we accept it. The Bible says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). An old hymn ends with this inviting line, “Will you this moment His grace receive?”

Because God is just, He must punish our sins. But because God is merciful, He Himself suffered the awful penalty when Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby with the mission to redeem and offer pardon. He suffered the wrath of God when He died on the cross of Calvary. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Isaiah has a powerful, timeless call to the human race, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (55:7).

Just consider the wonderful words. “He will abundantly pardon.” You can easily memorize them,  And He will! Don’t be like George Wilson. Accept God’s freely offered pardon. “Will you this moment His grace receive?”

 

 

December 19, 2014

Defining Your Terms

When you say you’re a Bible & Science ministry, does that mean

  • you believe in a literal six-day creation and a young earth?
  • you believe in an old earth; that Genesis is allegorical, that evolution is probable
  • you focus on intelligent design and try to skip the subjects above ?

When you say you have a prophetic gift, does that mean

  • you speak forth with a prophetic voice concerning issues facing the church and/or the world in general
  • your ministry almost exclusively revolves around end-time predictions
  • you counsel people and help them find where they are to live, what should be their vocation, who they should marry, etc. ?

When you say your church is charismatic, do you mean

  • the music is loud and lively, and people clap and rejoice during worship
  • your church emphasizes belief in the limitless power of God and has an active desire for a manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit ?

When you say you’re a ministry to Christians struggling with homosexuality, does that mean

  • you try to assist gay Christians out of that lifestyle through prayer and/or reparative therapy
  • you try to support gays who are struggling with faith issues and/or acceptance by the church ?

When you say you’re an apostolic ministry does that mean

  • you work with church-planters and missional communities to encourage people who have the gift of apostle
  • you are frequently addressed as “Apostle _______” as you see yourself as part of a line of apostolic succession and/or feel there is a special anointing on your ministry ?

When you say you have a ministry to worship leaders, does that mean

  • you assist worship leaders in the personal spiritual development and in building the tools they need to build their teams
  • you help worship leaders navigate areas such as song selection, instrumentation, arrangements, sound systems, etc.
  • you exist to advance an agenda of a specific sub-genre of worship: hymns, modern hymns, ‘soaking’ music, prophetic worship, etc. ?

When you say you’re a ministry to the Jewish community do you mean

  • you stand in the Messianic tradition and want to keep as much of the Jewish ethnic and cultural flavor, while recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah
  • you stand in the Hebrew Christian tradition which involves assimilating Jewish believers into western evangelical culture
  • your ministry is more concerned with both the political and prophetic ramifications of the state of Israel ?

When you say you are a ‘progressive’ Christian do you mean

  • you prefer contemporary churches which don’t make a major issue out of some of the traditions and taboos which defined Christianity in the mid-20th-century
  • you have a more liberal position on Christian doctrine and theology and Biblical inerrancy ?

When the bottom of your church sign reads, “Everyone welcome,” do you mean

  • you regularly interact with people from the wider community and while it may be a foreign environment in some respects, they would feel relaxed attending services and sense you’re genuinely glad they came
  • people are welcome as long as they dress like you, believe the same doctrines, read the same Bible translation, vote for the same party, and conform to the church’s position on social issues ?

???

Any other positions out there that bring confusion?

Photo Phriendly Phriday

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:39 am

People of a certain age will get this one:

Larry the Cucumber

And while we’re on an album cover theme, we used the full version of this Orange Curriculum poster just a few weeks ago, but when I saw it in a preview window squared off, it looked a bit like an LP or CD cover:

O Lepers Where Are Thou

For readers of Jamie Wright, this is not Knives, but it does seem like something Knives would do:

Feline Nativity

This appeared at Book Shop Talk many years ago, it’s from Norm Fuenti’s comic Retail

Retail 12-23

Speaking of retail frustrations, this is from Not Always Right, a website where people in retail share their stories. Click the image to link.

Not Always Right

Clark Bunch does an image gallery like what we’re doing here every Monday at The Master’s Table. Click the item below to link to this week’s:

Effective Church

Finally, I can’t think of a better ending here than a couple of entries from the Englewood Review of Books’ Worst Christian Book Covers of 2014, along with the captions; clicking the first one links you to all 15 ‘winners':

Lancast Amish Fires of AutumnWhen hipster chicks turn Amish

A Change of Heart

Uh, yeah… I might have a change of heart too,

if my girl was pooping red balloons!
AND while she’s trying to kiss me!!!!

On the other hand, at least somewhere between their semi-finals in September and the final list in December, they managed to lose this one:

Dream Symbols

…which is just as well, because that list also included this last one, so scary you’ll have to click here to view. (May cause seizures.)

December 18, 2014

Exodus: Don’t Wait for the Video

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Movie-Poster-Wallpaper-960x540

Because I have worked in and around the Christian retail industry for too long, I know that the surge of Christian-themed movies at the box office these past few months always has a ripple effect in the Christian bookstores. Current top sellers in such stores — and their online equivalents — include God’s Not Dead and Mom’s Night Out, both of which had theatrical runs first.

I don’t think you’re going to see the same happen with Exodus: Gods and Kings. For the most part, Christian retailers act as gatekeepers for what their constituency reads or listens to or watches, and the Christian media have not entirely received this movie well, though as you’ll see at the bottom of this piece, there are exceptions.

At The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter writes:

Moses is a central figure in three of the most populous world religions. He’s mentioned more times in the Qur’an than anyone else, and more times in the New Testament than any other Old Testament character. In Judaism he’s not only the central figure, he quite literally wrote the book on the religion. He has, in other words, a lot of name recognition.

…So why does [director Ridley] Scott go out of his way to ruin the story of Moses? The reason can’t be chalked up to “artistic license,” because that would imply some sort of artistry behind the decision. The changes Scott makes, though, are not only art-less, they’re nonsensical and spoil anything of value in his film.

At viewer-rating site, Faith Based Films, one viewer writes:

There is no cloud by day, or pillar of fire by night, or any indication of manna, or the gold, silver and other riches that the Bible teaches were freely given to them by the Egyptians on their departure from Egypt.  It leaves those who know the biblical account wondering how the Israelites will ultimately build God’s tabernacle.  The film’s depiction of a rag-tag herd of refugees—totally absent the riches they took from Egypt, leaving them with nothing to fulfill their destiny of building the tabernacle and all its instruments of worship.

Significantly, the burning bush scene when Moses first encounters God as a child is set in the context of Moses’ journey up the mountain in a rain storm, which triggers a landslide that sweeps Moses downward and results in his being hit on the head by rocks.  He is left submerged in mud except for his face—suggesting that perhaps Moses’ ongoing conversations with God are injury-induced hallucinations or the fantastical imaginings of a schizophrenic. And when Moses is on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, it is Moses and not the “finger of God” writing them—without any hint of the blinding glory of God’s presence. In fact God’s portrayal is never that of a sovereign God of magnificent and overwhelming glory.  To the contrary, he is depicted as a somewhat dirty young boy who chats with Moses while serving tea.

Speaking of that website, Christian Newswire notes:

Scott’s portrayal of God makes him almost unnecessary in the film to the point that Exodus wouldn’t have suffered much if He had not been in it. Ultimately, the movie misses the central point of the story,” said Chris Stone, Certified Brand Strategist and Founder of Faith Driven Consumer.

The issue is the casting at this article at CNN:

We’ve known since the moment the full cast was announced: nearly every major role in the movie is played by a white actor.

What makes it worse for many observers is that, on the flip side, virtually every black actor in the movie is playing a part called “Egyptian thief” or “assassin” or “royal servant” or “Egyptian lower class civilian.”

…The deeper problem is one of conflating whiteness with heroism and power. Is it so hard to imagine our biblical heroes as being nonwhite? Is it beyond belief that one of the greatest empires in world history had authentically dark skin, rather than being white folks just wearing a ton of makeup?

Finally, in the spirit of the biblical ‘Love Chapter,’ Christianity Today finds some good things to say about it:

The costumes, jewelry, makeup, architecture, embellishments and textures in every shot of Exodus feel as authentic as something you’d see under glass in the British Museum. There are few filmmakers who do world-building better than Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator, Prometheus), and on this score Exodus may be his crowning achievement.

Plot deviations and minutiae aside, key themes of the Exodus story are there. Moses is rightly portrayed as a reluctant and rough-around-the-edges leader, though ultimately faithful to his calling. God’s favor upon and covenant faithfulness to the Hebrews is evident, especially in contrast to the ineffectual polytheism of the Egyptians. The presence of God with his people is clear (“God is with us!” shouts Moses on the banks of the Red Sea), even as the “wrestle” between Yahweh and the often-unfaithful Israelites also comes through. “Israel,” after all, literally means “struggle with God.”

Will LifeWay, Family Christian, Parable and Mardel stock the movie when the time comes? That remains to be seen. The film is PG-13 for violence, so some stores may think twice on that basis. But concerns about the film’s accuracy will probably rule the day. 

For a complete look at the differences between the Bible and the screenplay for Exodus, check out this article.  Note: Contains many spoilers; be sure to read all four pages.

 

December 17, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Alien Mormons

The two Mormon missionaries in artist Brook Robertson’s piece “Zion / Rocky Mountain Alliance” look determined. The figures are both wearing crisp white shirts and ties, resolutely staring forward as their vehicle heads towards it destination. Such a statue normally wouldn’t be out of place in Salt Lake City — the worldwide headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Except for the fact that the vessel is a spaceship. And one of the missionaries has the bright blue skin of a sharply-dressed alien. CLICK the image to read the full story at Huffington Post.

 

Time to catch up what’s been happening in Linkland. First, the Friday PARSE column from last week:

  • Not Home for the Holidays – A woman in ministry writes her mom, “You didn’t sign up for this strange and wonderful life your daughter has chosen. You have not made any vows to the church. We young clergy women know that it isn’t always fair how our pastoral vocations impact our loved ones, from missing holidays with our extended families to spending too many evenings away from our kids to seldom being able to go away for the weekend with our spouses… Broadway stars have to work Friday and Saturday nights, tax preparers have to work long hours in March and April, pyrotechnicians have to work on Independence Day, and pastors have to work on Christmas and Easter.”
  • Churches Losing Career Women – We frequently encounter articles about the church losing the male demographic, or losing youth, but this one offers an entirely fresh perspective. Why are working women disconnecting? The article is a mix of stats, theory and practical concerns. “‘The existing programs for women don’t align with my work schedule or my needs.’ – We often hear professional women in the church say they would rather go to the men’s 6:30 a.m. group events because of scheduling and content, but can you imagine if they went strolling into one? …[T]he women’s events are scheduled during the workday or at other times that a busy working woman who is putting in 40+ hours at work plus running a home plus often mothering children and getting them to school, arts and athletics, etc. just can’t make it.” This makes a good discussion starter for church leaders.
  • Twenty for 2015  – Tony Morgan’s ideas and opinions do you make you think: “#6 Once a church gets beyond a few hundred people, it’s really dysfunctional for boards and committees to be involved in day-to-day decision-making around purchases, facility maintenance and staffing issues… #9 Every church should be actively planning to add a service, add a campus or plant a church…  #12 Shared leadership doesn’t work. When all the leaders are equal, no one is leading…#18 Every church should do a marriage series, a money series and a series on life purpose every year…” In total, twenty, some of which he admits are politically incorrect.
  • The Recognition and Function of Spiritual Gifts – A look at common misconceptions and questions raised by the topic of unique, individual talents: “A few believers have not fully appreciated, or embraced, their gifts because they were ones that did not appear to require some mysterious spin to its explanation. So they did not think very highly of those as spiritual gifts. So then, we tend to see how a vibrant biblical teacher could have a spiritual gift but not a skilled church administrator… So, what happens when we are outside of the walls of the church? … One who is blessed with wise counsel or sympathy does not automatically become unsympathetic or full of foolish advice when they are, say, with a colleague at workplace instead of at church.”  Responding to a variety of questions people will ask.
  • Crossing Theological Categories – Samuel James has been blogging on the Evangelical channel of Patheos for just a few days past one year. He’s been flooded with readers on a recent piece on Rob Bell, who he notes is a product of the Emergent movement but now espouses a teaching that is perhaps more in line with Pentecostalism, “which, of course, ends up making sense, since that’s exactly the kind of preaching that Oprah Winfrey seems partial to.” He observes, “Bell has now become the very thing he once decried;” and suggests something important regarding the people of Mars Hill Grand Rapids, Bell’s former church, “I feel a measure of sadness for those people; they have to feel a bit betrayed right now.” With all the attention given this, don’t miss James’ analysis in defending Dr. Russell Moore.
  • When the Translators Finish, Everyone Gets a Book, Right? – Growing up in a missions saturated church, I always thought that a printed Bible was the end product of every translation project. But orality, not literacy, is the norm in nearly half of the world. The problem is that traditionally, tech solutions involved moving parts that rusted quickly in many parts of the world, and batteries which wore out. Today, the face of Bible distribution involves unsung organizations such as Galcom and Megavoice using microchip content and solar powered devices to relay Bible content in dialects most of us have never heard of.  This video isn’t new, but gives the backstory.
  • Should Religious Scholars Be Tackling Climate Change? - Last week the New York Times reported that the American Academy of Religion (AAR) would be taking a sabbatical from its annual meeting every seventh year in the interest of saving the planet. One writer disagrees with this emphasis: “The real problem is that [AAR President] Zoloth has been drawn in by the challenge of her scientist colleagues at Northwestern, who apparently asked what the study of religion was doing about climate change… Must every discipline have some significant contribution to make to every social problem we face? Maybe, as an academic discipline we ought to show a little more humility. As much as we find it irresistible to pontificate, maybe there are times when a particular academic discipline needs to get out of the way and let those better placed get on with the work.”
  • Not Everyone Shares The Spirit of the Season – “As the spirit of generosity increases in the weeks leading up to Christmas, so do break-ins and thefts. Churches are not immune from the threat. In fact they may be easy targets during the holidays… ‘The major problem with a lot of churches is not that they do not recognize the need for security,’ [security expert Jerry] Turpen said. ‘They either procrastinate or they develop the attitude of ‘this won’t happen at our church.’ Churches must decide if it’s worth the risk not to take the threat seriously.'”
  • Bonus Link: Although the original story is two years old, making the rounds again is the marginal notes — complaints is a better word — that monks wrote in the margins of manuscripts they were copying.

Next, we have what’s appearing on PARSE today:

  • Having Church with Buffalo Wings - First it was movie theaters, now it’s restaurant chains. “When Riverchase United Methodist Church announced they would hold church services in a local Buffalo Wild Wings, they probably hoped to make a splash in the city of Hoover. I doubt they knew the move would inspire a top ten list on David Letterman…Christians need to abandon the idea of holy buildings and holy sites. Our church buildings are not the New Testament fulfillment of the Old Testament temple. Jesus is… We meet with God not in a physical building, but through Jesus who gave his life for us.”  A concise look at a breaking story.
  • Your Church’s Story, and the Surrounding Community Story – “From mega churches to house churches to traditional churches to community churches, the diversity in expression for the people of God in cities is vast. Yet amidst all the diversity, there is one commonality among North American urban churches: they all exist within a changing religious culture. Whether a church chooses to adapt, engage, withdraw or reject such change, they can’t deny that the church’s role in culture is in fact changing.” A short look at two churches in Vancouver, Canada that find the larger community around them undergoing dramatic shifts.
  • Redeeming ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ - Evangelicals generally disdain the popular carol for having no basis in scripture, however: “Worshipers of Jesus (like the magi) compel their neighbors (like the drummer boy) to consider Jesus — to come and see him, as it were. And when the neighbors do, if they would believe, a moment happens when they realize their bankruptcy is exposed. They see Jesus and comprehend his glory, and then they look at themselves: But I am broken. I am empty and poor. I’ve got nothing to bring this King that even comes close to representing the honor that is due him.” This Desiring God commentary helps us see the carol in a new light.  Which brings us to…
  • Why So Many Seasonal Songs are Written by Jewish Musicians – “In their music and lyrics, Jews captured Christmas not only as a wonderful, wintry time for family gatherings, but also as an American holiday. What they drew on, said Rabbi Kenneth Kanter, an expert on Jews and popular culture at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, was their background as the children of European-born Jews, or as immigrants themselves, in the case of Russian-born Berlin and others.” Why not Hanukkah songs? “Although celebrating the birth of Christ was not something these Jewish songwriters would want to do, they could feel comfortable composing more secular Christmas singles.”
  • Christianity without Christmas – “Some ‘conservative Quakers,’ said Chris Pifer, a spokesman for the Friends General Conference, one of several national Quaker groups, refuse to observe Christmas at all, under the “every day is a holy day” rubric. But not all of the nation’s 33,000 Quakers share that stance…Perhaps the most conspicuous of Christmas-shunners are Jehovah’s Witnesses, millennialists whose ranks include 1.9 million members in the United States. Although the group initially observed Dec. 25 as a holiday, church spokesman J.R. Brown said from the church’s Brooklyn, New York, headquarters, further study by one official in 1928 led them to drop the observance.” All this and more from a Mormon news website.
  • Why Teenagers aren’t Sharing their Faith – “[W]e have an almost irrepressible appetite for doing outreach events instead of mobilizing our teenagers to be the outreach event… Of course, outreach events are fine and good and needed from time to time. But if they are replacing, rather than enhancing, our teenagers’ personal evangelism efforts then they are limiting our true outreach effectiveness.” Seven points in total, but all of these could apply just as easily to adults. Which leads us to…
  • Christ Centered Youth Ministry - This article could also apply to Children’s ministry or various adult departments of your church. So imagine you’re a youth pastor, only a few weeks on the job, when a parent corners you in the office with this: “As a father, I take the role of instilling Christ into the lives of my children very seriously. Because of that responsibility I want to make sure that my kids are involved in a youth program that is Jesus-focused. So tell me, why I should trust you and the program you run?”
  • Slain in the Spirit - When I first saw this video I was sure it was faked. Think of Benny Hinn throwing his suit jacket at people, only ramped up exponentially. The pastor, Chris Oyakhilome, has his own page on Wikipedia which states that he is, “a Nigerian minister who is the founding president of Believers’ LoveWorld Incorporated also known as “Christ Embassy”, a Bible-based Christian ministry headquartered in Lagos… Pastor Chris’ ministry has expanded rapidly beyond coasts of Nigeria and South Africa, and he now holds large meetings in the United states and has Healing school sessions in Canada, and United Kingdom.” The one-minute video is entitled, “Watch as Pastor Uses Invisible Power to Knock Down Church Members.” (Hopefully, this isn’t the only Christianity people in that country see.)

During the week, I save links just for this part of the list. So don’t think of these as the cutting room floor from the PARSE links…

Christmas Mass at Saturday Night Live

If church is just an annual thing for you or your family, you might relate to this SNL skit. Click to watch at Relevant.

 

 

 

 

December 16, 2014

A Good Question

This published a month ago at Just a Thought, the blog of author and church planter Rick Apperson in British Columbia, Canada. I thought readers here might appreciate this; click the title below to read at source.

A Good Question

“What does that teach you about God, Daddy?”

This is the question my son has been asking lately. He likes to sing praise and worship songs. He also likes to make up new songs about God. Invariably he will end the song and ask what that song has taught me about God. It is a good question and will often cause me to think, what is the meaning of the song and what does it teach me about God? It is a great exercise.

I also realized, it is something I never used to ask. I love to sing and will belt out a song anywhere and at any time. Yes, I am that guy walking down the street singing to himself. I will sing at work, in the car and yes, in the shower. Until my son started asking his question, I never put much thought into what the song was teaching me about God. Now I can’t stop.

I have also begun applying the question to my reading as well. When I dig into God’s Word, I have asked myself, “What does this passage of Scripture teach me about God?”   According to God’s Word, the Scriptures are a light for my path (Psalm 119:105) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training. (2 Timothy 3:16)

It is all that and so much more. As I read the Old Testament, I see a God who is long-suffering and filled with patience and loving kindness. Moving into the New Testament, we see a God who loved us enough to send His Son to earth, to die on a cross for you and me!

God’s love, mercy and grace are all things that I have been taught through the reading of His Word.

My son has challenged me to go deeper in worship and in reading the Bible. Hopefully you will be asking yourself this same question he asked me. “What does that teach you about God?”

Enlighten, Strengthen, Mend, Bind, Heal, Revive

Filed under: graphics, prayer — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:38 am

Enlighten Strengthen Mend Bind Heal

I’d like to give credit to whoever wrote this…leave a comment

December 15, 2014

Communications Breakdown

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:08 am

I love this story. This is from Paul Pastor who has been my editor at PARSE for 18 months now and will be moving into some new areas of ministry in the new year. I didn’t actually ask his permission to run this, but you know the saying, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” Thanks, Paul, for a great working relationship the past year-and-a-half.

Ever been part of a communications breakdown? We had a similar situation occur with our kids involving, coincidentally, Prince Edward Island, but unfortunately it’s not fit to print here! So we’ll use Paul’s story instead…

We ate that night at a white-tablecloth restaurant in a re-purposed funeral chapel. Candles flickered beneath a vaulted ceiling, and couples savored red wine. Under an antique stained glass window (Christ conquering Death), my wife and I drank post-feast coffee and chipped into brittle crème brulee.

Steamed MusselsWe’d had a hard time with the menu. There were so many good choices. A coastal couple, we love seafood, so this stood out: “Prince Edward Island Black Mussels—steamed with white wine and garlic shallot butter.” Mmmmm.

Foolishly, we chose against them.

As our meal was ending, a waiter carried a platter of the shellfish to the table across the room. They steamed and crackled in their buttery abundance, hissing to be savored, to be devoured.

“Oh, the mussels! Just look at those mussels!” I sighed with loud desire.

I don’t know who all heard it, but the two that mattered were my wife and the bodybuilder in training (stuffed into a dress shirt and slacks) who was walking in front of me on his way out. Mussels. Muscles. Just look at them!

Hearing my adoration, he walked taller, flexing his way out of the restaurant into the spring night. My wife only stared. At me, at him, at me.

:: :: :: ::

Sometimes people hear things that we aren’t saying. Sometimes we say things that people aren’t hearing. Sometimes language gets in its own way, context gets twisted, and your date hears your comment on seafood as the appreciation of some guy’s physique. Sometimes we preach and sing and discuss Jesus without realizing that nothing we’re saying is connecting with those around us. Something’s in the way.

My grandpa used to say “the first mistake in communication is the assumption that you’ve communicated.” Mussels. Muscles. Just look at them.

May what you say and what people hear always be one and the same. May the findings below prompt thought in that direction. And may I just order the mussels next time.

 

 

December 14, 2014

Happy Birthday, Brother

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:05 pm

Brothers in Christ

Several years ago, a man several decades my senior bought me a birthday card. The card he looked for and then chose was one of those relative birthday cards that said, “Happy Birthday, Brother.” In case it needed saying, the idea was that I was his brother in Christ. He was putting us on equal terms.

In heaven, or whatever you choose to call the next chapter of eternal life, Moses, the Apostle Peter, John Wesley and I will be the same age. Brothers.

In You and Me Forever, Francis Chan tries to put across the idea of seeing your spouse in terms of eternity. To see him or her as a spiritual being whose existence transcends this life; goes beyond this world.

With an expenditure of only a couple of dollars, the birthday card helped me see an eternal truth that I knew to be true, but I had never internalized.

When the Apostle Paul writes, “Brothers and sisters,” at various points in his letters, he’s writing to people he knew, and he’s writing to me and you.

The eternal life we entered into when we decided to follow Christ transcends chronology as we know it.


To order the card shown at Pinterest, click the image.

 

December 13, 2014

Facebook Pulling Back Feeds of Status Updates for Businesses, Churches

Sample of Church Facebook Page

From home-based hobby sales, to cottage industries, to small business, to corporations having 500,000 likes, Facebook is scaling back the practice of putting posts into the feeds of readers, and the policy change has impact for non-profits and churches as well.

facebook-logo-289-75Many small businesses currently operate as a ‘page’ adjunct to an individual’s personal Facebook profile. Just as you ‘friend’ the person, you ‘like’ the business. Years ago, Facebook started restricting what you see from individuals and business alike.  The logic went, ‘if you have 300 friends and they post twice a day, you’d have 600 updates to read daily.’

But small businesses noticed that much of what they posted wasn’t getting to anyone, with averages of 16% being normal. If someone took the effort to visit the page, they could see everything, but most people who ‘check Facebook’ read only what the algorithm assigns to their feed.

Instead they were being told to ‘boost’ each post with a payment ranging — for small business — between $5 and $33. Many times the posts weren’t even selling anything, but updating readers on local events in an effort to build community.

Then last month, the Wall Street Journal reported things would change more severely:

The change will make it more difficult for entrepreneurs… to reach fans of their Facebook pages with marketing posts that aren’t paid advertising.

Businesses that post free marketing pitches or reuse content from existing ads will suffer “a significant decrease in distribution,” Facebook warned in a post earlier this month announcing the coming change…

…More than 80% of small companies using social media to promote their businesses list Facebook as their top marketing tool, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter, according to a recent survey of 2,292 small businesses by Webs, a digital services division of Vistaprint. The top three reasons owners cited for creating a Facebook page were customer acquisition, building a network of followers and increasing brand awareness, according to the survey.

Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president of small business, says that Facebook’s paid-advertising options have become more effective recently and that companies should view Facebook as a tool to “help them grow their businesses, not a niche social solution to getting more reach or to make a post go viral.”

He says he has “a lot of empathy” for business owners who “are feeling this evolution” in the reduction of what he describes as organic reach. But, he says, organic reach is only one of several reasons companies benefit from having a presence on Facebook. Last month, there were more than one billion visits to Facebook pages directly. “Having a presence where you can be discovered still has a ton of value,” he says…

This is a small part of the entire article, click here to read at WSJ.

But it gets worse, as churches and non-profits will also be affected.  One writer suggests the strategy over the next few months should be to get those Facebook friends to respond to something that provides their email address (and in countries where applicable, express consent for placing them on on a list.)

Over the past 18 months, one of the biggest challenges with Facebook marketing is not knowing exactly what changes are on the horizon and how it will impact organic reach. We believe that eventually organic reach on larger nonprofit Facebook pages will reach close to 0%, so marketing on Facebook will significantly change.

Read more at NonBoardBoard

One website, while overtly trying to sell a print report, offers some clues:

The ability to build communities of fans, and then maintain contact and encourage engagement using content published to fans’ News Feeds was a critical aspect of Facebook’s early appeal to marketers. The opportunity of achieving engagement at scale motivated many brands and corporates to invest millions in developing communities and providing for care and feeding via always-on content…

This isn’t an academic exercise. Facebook Zero is a reality now facing every brand and business with a presence on the platform. Action is required, and specific decisions will need to be made with regard to content planning, paid support for social media activities, audience targeting and much more.

Read more at Ogilvy.com

But social media of one kind or another is so essential. In a recent 48-minute podcast at the aptly-named Church Marketing Sucks, the director of Social Media for Saddleback Church offered a number suggestions as well as stressing the importance of social media for churches.

Listen to the podcast here.

The same website also offered suggestions for using social media at Christmas. While most of these arrive too late for this year, you could file them away for 2015, but with Facebook Zero coming soon, the information may seem antiquated a year from now, or even sooner.

Want to switch your emphasis over to Instagram. I wouldn’t. Remember, in 2012, Facebook paid $1 Billion to acquire the photo site. What’s happening on FB will certainly follow on Instagram.

Twitter, anyone?

This page is a reminder that what Facebook decides here has worldwide impact on Churches and Christian charities.

This Facebook page image serves as a reminder that what Facebook decides here has worldwide impact on Churches and Christian charities. That’s 2,868 people the organization is engaging with in the UK that it now has to find other means to reach.

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