Thinking Out Loud

January 31, 2010

The Christian Vs. The Athiest: A Debate

Last night our town’s largest Baptist church, in association with the local Humanist Association presented a debate in which Joe Boot, a pastor and Christian apologist and former staff member with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries debated Dr. Clare Rowson, a lecturer, psychiatrist and medical columnist.      The event was well attended, the moderator kept things orderly and the mixed crowd — I’d guess something like 65% Christian and 35% atheist — was polite toward both guests.

I’m not sure if an event like this can be discussed in terms of winners and losers.    People arrive with their feet firmly planted in one camp or the other, and while I’m not saying it’s impossible, I doubt there are many people converting to the opposite opinion before nights like this are over.    There are two remarkably different perspectives, and not a lot of common ground, although quotations from writers with the opposing view flew back and forth over the evening, just to make things more interesting.

I think the winners are the audience members who get some exposure to people and viewpoints they may be somewhat isolated from.    I know many Christians who simply don’t get into philosophical or religious discussions with anyone other than members of their own tribe.   I think it’s a good thing for them to hear from an intelligent, articulate and logical atheist, and then to see a representative of their own team respond appropriately.

I am also sure that some atheists might find themselves similarly isolated, although given the topic — Does God Exist? — they didn’t exactly hear what Christians would call “The Gospel,” but rather a sort of pre-evangelistic discussion that only a handful of times mentioned the name of Jesus.   (In a Church service the next day, Joe Boot addressed this as he lectured on the topic, “Is Jesus the Only Way?”)

Boot indicated at one point that he was using a “reverse apologetic,” in other words, trying to show the futility of atheism.    Rowson indicated early on that since you can’t prove a negative hypothesis — “God Does Not Exist” — this placed the burden of proof on the Christian side.   As stated,  Boot, for whatever tactical reason, was not setting out to do this, so I am sure there were people in both camps who walked away disappointed.

The event also suffered from the use of the standard debate format.   The initial presentation from each debater was 20 minutes, followed by a four minute rebuttal and two minute rebuttal response.   The rebuttals seemed very short by comparison.

The second half was two-minute responses to questions that had been preselected from e-mails received during the week.   That was also unfortunate, since there were things said in the first half that begged clarification, and also, it meant that the two hour evening had no interactive component.    It would have been ideal to find a somewhat neutral journalist who could engage audience questions in a less formal “talk show” kind of situation.   (Yes, I’m available in future, but I’m not exactly neutral.)

Should your town or city consider an event like this?   I’m not sure.  The church that helped promote this event is very “program and event driven,” so it fit their church culture well.    But there was also a lot of energy that went into this for very little initial evidence of what the Christian side would call fruit.

It did however bring the word “apologetics” into discussion.   As Boot said this morning,  “Some people think you need an IQ of 120 or more to do apologetics and everybody with an IQ under 120 should do evangelism.  That’s not true.  Everybody should be ready and able to give a defense of their faith.”

For more information about Joe Boot’s new Church plant in Toronto, Canada, Westminster Chapel, click here.   For information on another of his projects, the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity, click here.    You can also check the sidebar of this blog periodically for links beginning with the keyword, Apologetics.

Today’s Quotation:  Does This Mean Spurgeon Wasn’t Arminian?
“It always seems inexplicable to me that those who claim free will so very boldly for man should not also allow some free will to God. Why should not Jesus Christ have the right to choose his own bride?”–Spurgeon

January 30, 2010

Who Exactly Is Teaching The Women in Your Church?

Other bloggers can talk all they want about John Piper, Scot McKnight, Tim Keller, Francis Chan,  etc., but I work in a Christian bookstore and in that environment, only one name mattered this week: Beth Moore.    Her So Long Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend To Us (Tyndale, 2010) is out in hardcover at $24.99 US this month and has captured the top spot on a couple of the Spring Arbor overnight Top 100 charts this week.

Before going further, I have to ask:  What’s with the United States and all their hardcover releases?   I thought y’all were in the middle of an economic downturn?

Okay, the question is rhetorical.   When it comes to Beth Moore, money is no object.   Almost all her book titles have released in hardcover, a situation she shares with her slightly more charismatic friend, Joyce Meyer.   Neither one of these women have any problem sucking money out of the pockets of their fans.

In fairness though, while Meyer may not be able to control everything her publisher does with her hardcovers, she apparently does give away many of her teaching DVDs and CDs to ministry organization.

With Moore, the commercialism is more overt.   When Moore isn’t writing general book titles for publishers such as Tyndale, she’s producing another small group Bible study for Lifeway.    I gotta be honest here, I have a hard time even typing Lifeway into a sentence, and I just about retch saying it out loud.

Lifeway is the most ingenious money sucking device ever invented by Baptists, and trust me, they’ve invented several.    My anger knows no bounds in this, but fortunately it’s righteous anger, so I can rationalize it in large amounts.

Here’s how the scam works:   Lifeway, a producer of dated Sunday School curriculum decided long ago that there was far more money in delineating its non-dated adult small group material as curriculum also, and sells it to distributors at what is called a short-discount.    Your favorite Christian bookstore or online vendor is simply not making a lot of money on it.   So who is?

Often, such as in the case of church choral and orchestral product, or certain esoteric Bible translation materials, the discount is shortened to keep the price affordable.    But with many of Moore’s DVD teaching sets retailing at $250 US, that simply isn’t the case here.

Years ago, Serendipity House held back products from distribution — selling them only through their own system — to cover development costs.   That’s not the case here, either.   The retail prices of the study guides — almost always $19 US and coyly termed “member books” — usually cost participants twice the price of any other DVD-related participant guides and more than cover any possible development costs.

But the price is minor when you factor in the volume.   Moore and Lifeway together are selling thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of these things.   The Lifeway anchor store we visited in Nashville had a staff member assigned solely to this one aisle of product, and when he went to lunch someone else covered for him.   The appetite of Christian women’s groups for Beth Moore knows no bounds;  not denominationally and not geographically.    James MacDonald, who won’t let the wives of any of his staff members do anything other than be stay at home housewives, included her on his Downpour tour.    She’s ubiquitous; able to boldly go where no woman has gone before and command fees that no one has ever charged before.

And what qualifies this person who is teaching our mothers, daughters, wives, sisters and girlfriends?

She has a degree in political science.

Okay, let’s be fair,  she also has an honorary doctorate in humanities from Howard Payne University (no I haven’t heard of it, either) a Baptist (surprise) university located in Brownwood, Texas (surprise) whose basketball team won a national championship in 1957.   According to Wikipedia she went to a Biblical doctrine class (whoo hoo) and then started a women’s Bible study that grew to over 2,000.    But when it comes to earned education, their report stops with this:

She has a degree in political science.

Joyce Meyer?   She claims an earned degree from the non-accredited Life Christian University, and also has an honorary degree from ORU.   She doesn’t have $250 DVD teaching series, nor do her various publishers and DVD creators stiff Christian bookstores with a short discount.   And I’m willing to give her points for growing up in adversity and having attended the school of hard knocks.

But the private jet always comes up in conversation.   You gotta be careful here, however, since the counter argument is always to look at the places she travels in a year and then compare the cost (and time) involved in commercial flights.     I’m willing to let her have the thing.

I’m not so willing to concede on the luxury homes or the lifestyle that goes with them, regardless of how much money she gives away.   There are casinos which payout 94% of all they take in.   That’s nice.   It’s the 6% that bothers me.  Check out this estate plan:

Here’s the extended photo caption for this picture by Robert Cohen of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Joyce Meyer Ministries bought these 5 homes for Meyer and her family. The Ministry pays all expenses, including landscaping and lawn care, property taxes and rehab work. Meyer, her husband and each of their four married children live in the homes, free of charge.”

  • (1) Principal Residence of David and Joyce Meyer
    Bought: April 27th, 1999
    Purchase Price: About $795,000
    Square Footage: 10,000
    Cost of Improvements: $1.1 Million
    Features: 6 Bedrooms, 5 Bathrooms, Gold Putting Green, Swimming pool, 8 Car Heated and Cooled Garage, Guest House with 2 more bedrooms, Gazebo.
  • (2) Residence of: Daughter, Sandra McCollom and her husband Steve
    Bought: February 12, 2002
    Purchase Price: $400,000
    Square Footage: About 5,000
    Cost of Improvements: About $250,000
    Features: 4 Bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half Bathrooms, All-Seasons room, Prayer Room, Media Center and a Home Office.
  • (3)Residence of: Son, David Meyer and his wife Joy Meyer.
    Bought: June 18, 2001Purchase Price: $725,000
    Square Footage: 4,000
    Cost of Improvements: Unknown
    Features: 2 Story Colonial, 4 Bedrooms, 2 1/2 Bathrooms, 2 Garages and a Utility Shed
  • (4) Residence of: Daughter, Laura Holtzmann and her husband Doug
    Bought: March 7, 2001
    Purchase Price: $350,000
    Square Footage: 2,358
    Cost of Improvements: $3,000
    Features: 3 Bedrooms, 2 Bathrooms with a Fireplace.
  • (5) Residence of: Son, Dan Meyer and his wife Charity
    Bought: Mar 13, 2000
    Purchase Price: About 200,000
    Square Footage: About 2,000
    Cost of Improvements: $33,000
    Features: Brick Ranch With Full Finished Basement
  • [Read more here] (Last updated 1.11.09)

    Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.   Here’s some alternatives for you to consider:  Donna Partow, Luci Swindoll, Elizabeth George, Thelma Wells, Lysa TerKeurst, Liz Curtis Higgs, Shaunti Feldhahn, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Stasi Eldredge, Lisa Bevere, Stormie Omartian, Jill Briscoe, and the list goes on and on.  (DVD and/or workbooks are available for study material for the majority of these authors; all at lower cost than the aforementioned Ms. Moore.)

    In conclusion, Moore and Meyer are teachers that lead and inspire the women in many, many churches; and many women either dream or consciously want to emulate Meyer or Moore.   In Moore’s case, a denomination holding solidly to the premise that women should not pastor (see link below) has no problem ceding the responsibility for much teaching to a woman whose only earned degree is in political science.   In Meyer’s case, it’s often both men and women who enjoy her teaching, while she herself enjoys a personal life of excess.

    Related article in this blog:  Lifeway Reveals Its Total Hypocrisy – 09/28/08

    UPDATE: April 4, 2011 — After more than a year of taking a lot of heat for this particular blog post, I’ve decided to close comments.  I appreciate the replies to this article, which is the closest thing I’ve ever done to anything investigative, but I really don’t have a vendetta here, and I carry both Joyce’s and Beth’s products in the two bookstores I do buying for.

    I’ve defended my reasons for running this and leaving it up in various responses to the comments. Please read them. I’ve tried to make it clear my goal was not to wound or hurt anyone.  Still, some writers have made it their goal to judge me for posting this. I’m sorry we don’t know each other better.

    I think the replies, 37 as of now, show the variety of opinions people have on this issue. Also, I need to suggest that for some, the “wrongness” or “excess” of any preacher’s housing, if any, will diminish as the U.S. climbs out of recession.

    I’d also invite you to read a follow up piece that appeared here several months later.

    Finally, I would want to remind you that a great many people found this because they were indeed searching for pictures of Joyce’s house.  I really don’t know why. And I also want to reiterate that the main issue concerning Beth had to do with the politics by which her products are sold.

    For the record, I am in favor of women as elders, women in ministry and women as pastors. But I would like to think there was a solid theological education underpinning that role. However again, I would also like to say that education isn’t everything, and that the main criteria noted with the disciples in Acts was that they were seen to have “spent time with Jesus.”


    January 29, 2010

    Leaving Room in Your Schedule versus Just Saying No

    The title of this post really highlights the difference in approach between two very popular books of the last decade, Margin by Richard Swenson and Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.    The former’s premise was that you needed to leave some ‘headroom’ or margin in your life, you can’t over commit or over schedule or overtax your energies.    The latter took the more bottom line “just say ‘no'” approach.

    Boundaries totally outstripped Margin in sales, but this month, Richard Swenson is back with In Search of Balance:  Keys to a Stable Life (Navpress).    Since Nav doesn’t exactly do the book review thing with bloggers, here’s what their own marketing states about the title:

    Most of us live lives of “quiet desperation,” as Henry David Thoreau put it, except we’re no longer so quiet about it. When exactly did “all stress, all the time” replace the “green pastures and still waters”? And what can we do about it? We try to manage all the details thrown our way, but we lack a sense of calm and steadiness at the center. Richard A. Swenson, MD, author of the best-selling book Margin, helps us understand the dangers of living in a post-balance world and gives us hope for recovering a foundational sense of equilibrium.

    Dr. Swenson offers not only important organizing principles for making sense of our priorities but also scores of practical tips for finding rest and contentment in a world that emphasizes materialism and busyness. His advice is grounded in the daily realities we all experience, but his wisdom has been honed by the big-picture perspective of an exhaustive study of the stresses of modern life.

    January 28, 2010

    What to Say to a Christian Celebrity

    Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:52 pm

    I was in the restroom washing my hands at MissionFest Toronto last year when Shane Claiborne walked by.   Actually he wasn’t directly in my line of vision, but there was no mistaking the hair.

    “You must be Shane Claiborne;” I said, stating the obvious.   I mentioned that we’d heard him in another city a few months previously, but he was quite intent on the purpose that had led him to that restroom and I wasn’t about to literally stand in the way of progress.    This is probably the reason your church doesn’t suggest that particular facility as the place to meet and greet.

    Had he just spoken to a group on a topic that engage my thought processes, there would be something he said to respond to eloquently; but he was arriving early for a later seminar and we were leaving, and having been at various seminars where he has spoken, I’m sure our paths might cross again, and this time I’ll be ready to discuss homelessness in Philadelphia or New Jersey or wherever it is that Simple Way operates.

    But what do you when you really have absolutely nothing to say, but yet you really want speak to that Christian author, pastor or musician?   You haven’t heard him or her speak somewhere else, haven’t bought the book or CD, and haven’t been to their church or mission?

    Fortunately for you, I have the answer:

    Hi!  My name is ___________ and we’ve never met or talked before, but I’m basically a rather shallow person whose self-worth is enhanced by being able to say I spoke to someone like you, so if you’ll just say something polite back to me for about seven seconds, then I’ll leave and you can go on to the next person.

    Yeah.  That should do it.  Or maybe we should all go back to collecting autographs in Bibles:

    Meanwhile… In Today’s News
    Acting on a complaint from a parent, a California school district banned the Miriam Webster Dictionary from classrooms, but then, almost as quickly, reversed the ban.

    Dressing Your Daughter Responsibly

    Filed under: parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:54 pm

    This piece originally ran on this blog on January 9th, 2009.

    abercrombie-girlCheck out this statement:

    The clothes that our children wear do not merely cover the nakedness of their flesh; they shape and reflect the contours of our children’s souls.What I encourage my child to wear is a statement not merely of fashion but of theology and axiology—and this link between our theology and our wardrobes is not a recent phenomenon.

    Intrigued? Want to read more? If you’ve ever wondered if there is a “theology of clothing,” check out Dr. Timothy Paul Jones Continue reading here. Maybe your choice of shirt or pants today wasn’t entirely spiritually ‘neutral.’

    About 50 pictures were rejected before choosing this one. Then there were dozens of others that were never seriously in the running.    Part of the reason for repeating this particular topic is that Christian schools, youth groups and even Sunday services don’t escape the influence of today’s so-called “hot” fashion.

    January 27, 2010

    The Links Lynx is Back

    The Wednesday Link List.    A Thinking Out Loud tradition for at least a few months now…

    • Say what you will about Rob Bell — and I know many of you would jump at the chance — but you’ve never experienced a better transition of a pastor from one church to another than when the people of Trinity Mennonite “gift” Shane Hipps to the people at Mars Hill Grand Rapids.   This link is valid for about ten more weeks, click on the sermon for 01.17.10 and listen to the first ten minutes.
    • Gary Molander also has an excellent post on the above item at the blog It’s Complicated, under the title Pastor Poaching.
    • I was going to include this last week, but hesitated.   First, it’s a six page article and secondly the first page is extremely graphic.   But I think this should be on your must-read list.   It compares a medical condition gynecologists call meno-metrorrhagia, with the condition of the hemorrhaging woman in Mark 5: 25-34, bringing modern science and historical background together to help us understand the passage more fully and also to focus on current conditions in Africa.   Check out “Jesus and the Unclean Woman” by L. Lewis Wall at Christianity Today.
    • This was actually posted to YouTube back in August, but it’s a great moment at the LoveSong reunion when pastor Chuck Smith introduces the song which, in many respects, marked the absolute beginning of today’s Contemporary Christian music.   If you’re into Christian music, this nine minute video shows you how it all began.
    • Jeff McQuilkin considers what it was like putting together a ‘worship show’ each week, from the perspective of someone who is no longer doing so.   Check out “The Show Must Go On” at The Communitas Collective.  (Read Jeff regularly at Losing My Religion.)
    • Jon Acuff is in classic form giving you a chance to rate the bumper sticker(s) on your vehicle(s), not to mention seven great new ones (and one cheesy one) of his own.   Check out Stuff Christians Like #694.  (It took 694 posts to get to bumper stickers?)
    • “If your kids are awake, they’re online.”   Albert Mohler discusses The Online Life of Kids.    Mohler writes well, but it’s not a true blog if you can’t leave comments.
    • The best books of 2009 you’ve never read:  It’s the Christianity Today Book Awards.   The more esoteric and eclectic, the better, right?   How about, as George Costanza might say, ‘book awards for the rest of us?’
    • Check out the various free image files available to your church — see sample at right — from CreativeMYK.com
    • Congratulations to blogger Carlos Whittaker (Ragamuffin Soul) on a deal with Integrity Music.   Check out a few of the songs here.
    • Don’t feel you learn enough reading blogs?   This week’s lynx is actually an Iberian lynx.   Wikipedia says, “It is the most endangered cat species in the world.  According to the conservation group SOS Lynx, if this species died out, it would be the first feline extinction since the Smilodon 10,000 years ago.”   Use that in a conversation in the next 24 hours.
    • I guess it had to happen. Is there anything we do in church life that doesn’t have its own seminar? An upcoming conference offers three workshops for people who staff the church coffee bar.   At least they’ll be well-trained.
    • Here’s a repeat link from six months ago: New Direction in Canada has put together a 4-week DVD curriculum,  Bridging the Gap: Conversations on Befriending Our Gay Neighbors. It includes 3-hours of video content and a 40-page leader guide with reproducible worksheets.   Material on this subject is badly needed.  Guests include Brian McLaren, Bruxy Cavey, Tony Campolo and eight more.   Read more about it, here.
    • He’s a 19 year old college student.   He seems like a good Christian kid.  He wants a tattoo.   Wants to put “Bought With A Price” on it.   Parents say no.   Time for Russell D. Moore at the blog Moore to the Point to sort it out.
    • If you’ve recently joined us, and you’re a woman who has a husband, father, son, brother or boyfriend who is hooked on pornography, check out a resource I wrote a couple of years ago, The Pornography Effect.  It’s a modified blog page where the chapters appear in order; clicking “previous posts” actually yields the next chapters, 7-15.  Takes about 50 minutes to read.
    • Today’s cartoon is from JAW Toons by Jay Allen:

    HT for CreativeMYK = Kent Shaffer

    No animals were harmed in the making of this week’s link list.  The idea of LoveSong as the true root of contemporary Christian music is open to debate if you consider the Catholic folk masses of the late 1960s, or the influence of Larry Norman.

    When Non-Churched People Get It

    Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:10 pm

    I Cor 14 is a passage that deals with spiritual gifts that may be interpreted differently by people depending on their take on the reality of those gifts in the 21st century.   So I don’t want to focus specifically on the idea prophecy or prophesying as much as I want to focus on the latter part of verse 25:

    24 But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. 25 As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you.” (NLT)

    What a great comment to hear!  Imagine someone coming into one of our meetings who is not a believer, but they observe “God is truly here among you.”

    I like how The Message handles this:

    But if some unbelieving outsiders walk in on a service where people are speaking out God’s truth, the plain words will bring them up against the truth and probe their hearts. Before you know it, they’re going to be on their faces before God, recognizing that God is among you.  (vs 24-25, Message)

    We had a pastor once whose nearly ten year ministry of us truly came to a dramatic climax with his final sermon.    His last sentence of that message went something like this, “I don’t want people to leave here saying, ‘They have a great church;’ but rather, they should say, ‘They have a great God.'”

    What a great thing to hear.

    January 26, 2010

    French Panel Recommends Banning Muslim Face Veils

    First, as we reported here on November 30th, it was the Swiss banning minarets from Muslim mosques.   Today, it’s the French government pushing for limitations on the niqab, which covers everything but the eyes.

    Here’s the first part of the report from the religion page of USAToday online:

    PARIS (AP) — A parliamentary panel that wants Muslim women to stop veiling their faces recommended Tuesday that France ban such garb in public facilities, including hospitals and mass transit, and a leading panel member said he foresees such an interdiction by the end of 2010.

    The nearly 200-page report contains a panoply of measures intended to dissuade women from wearing all-enveloping veils in France. It also recommends refusing residence cards and citizenship to anyone with visible signs of a “radical religious practice.”

    However, there is no call to outlaw such garments — worn by a tiny minority of Muslims — in private areas and in the street. A full ban was the major issue that divided the 32-member, multiparty panel which ultimately heeded warnings that a full ban risked being deemed unconstitutional and could even cause trouble in a country where Islam is the second-largest religion.

    Emphasis added.   Continue reading here.

    [Note: for a clarification of the difference between Hijab, Burqua and Niqab, check out this page at ApologeticsIndex.org.]

    For Christians, any issue of religious freedom has to be seen in terms of the larger context.   You may have personal feelings about this issue, but you can’t allow those feelings to cloud objectivity.

    What if Christian businessmen weren’t allow to have fish symbols on their suit lapels, or women couldn’t wear “Jesus is the reason for the season” pins at Christmas, or your teenage kids couldn’t wear all those T-shirts they got at the last Creation Festival?     While these may seem minor accouterments compared to the Niqab, there will be some parallel issues for Christians to consider if a precedent is set.

    There’s also the issue when this story is weighed together with the story from Switzerland of what happens if a strong anti-Muslim sentiment starts building.    My personal belief is that this would have eventually become an issue with or without what happened on September 11th, 2001.

    Another dimension of a story like this surfaces when we consider how little we know about the “denominations” of Islam.    Many of us in Western society — and I’m saying ‘us’ to be honest — are very fearful of radical Islam, yet when my wife and visited two different mosques last year, we encountered very pleasant, very ‘normal’ people that I would have no problem having as neighbors.  (Perhaps even more so than the neighbors I now have.)   Later, the story goes on to say,

    The veil is widely viewed in France as a gateway to extremism, an insult to gender equality and an offense to France’s secular foundation. A 2004 French law bans Muslim headscarves from primary and secondary school classrooms.

    The language in the report was carefully chosen in an effort to avoid offending France’s estimated 5 million Muslims — the largest such population in western Europe — and accusations of discrimination. Muslim leaders have already complained that the debate over the full veil coupled with an ongoing debate on French national identity has left some Muslims feeling their religion is becoming a government target.

    This is an ongoing story, and no doubt other countries in the EU are yet to weigh in on the debate.   What is interesting is that the Swiss confronted architecture, while the French are confronting fashion.

    Denominations chart: Gospel for Muslims (click image for site).  Niqab: Toronto Life Magazine.

    As the niqab increasingly becomes part of our vocabulary, you now have another Scrabble word that doesn’t need a “u” after “q.”  (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    January 25, 2010

    Connecting With Our Worship Roots

    By and by when the morning comes
    When the saints of God are gathered home
    We will tell the story of how we’ve overcome
    And we’ll understand it better by and by

    Last night we caught a concert by the Toronto Mass Choir that was also a fundraiser for Haiti.   It’s the second time we’ve seen them, but only the third time in our lives we’ve been exposed to the volume, the energy and the passion that goes into any kind of mass choir (read: black gospel choir) concert.    This is the music of the redeemed.

    Director Karen Burke — who is, no kidding, a Professor of Music at Toronto’s York University with a job description that includes gospel — mentioned an event she’s putting together in Toronto in February titled “The Evolution of Gospel Music.”  This was featured nationally on CBC-Radio many months back, and presented as a one night stage show.   This time they’re doing it for two nights; introducing the birth of the spirituals and artists such as Tommy Dorsey and Mahalia Jackson.

    Then she said something profound, to the effect that many people involved in the creation of Christian music today, “don’t know about anything that happened before 1990.”

    That’s too bad.   I think it’s incumbent upon anyone who is leading worship today to know something about their roots.     (Here’s my mini-history if you want to catch up in a hurry.)    Frankly, I don’t see how anyone can pretend to do this without knowing where it’s all coming from, anymore than a pastor can lead a church without some minimal knowledge of church history.

    I don’t know how much money was raised last night — they never said — but I know that this music is the tonic for tough times.    Haiti was mentioned several times, but the message was clear that God saw the earthquake and its aftermath and He is still sovereign.

    This is the kind of music that will lift your spirits on days that minimalistic two-minor-chord worship songs aren’t cutting it.

    January 24, 2010

    Blog Posting To Save Lives

    Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:41 pm
    It happened again this morning.   It was a great baptismal service, with an excellent lesson in persevering in prayer.   But when it came time for the actual baptism, we sat there cringing hoping nobody would touch the hard-wired microphone places so close to the baptistry.   I’ve e-mailed them about this before.   After the service, a man came up to us and — on a totally different topic — said, “I’ve made suggestions to this church before and they don’t listen to me.”   Sigh!     Although I’ve run this blog post before, I thought I would repeat it here for the benefit of new readers.   Doing so just might save some lives.   Forward the link to whoever is responsible for the technical arrangements for immersion baptism where you worship.   Hopefully they already know.

    kyle-lake1On October 30th, 2005, Kyle Lake, pastor of University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas was electrocuted as he reached out to adjust a microphone while performing a baptism. He left behind his wife Jennifer, and three young children. (UBC was the church founded in 1995 by Christian music artists Chris Seay and David Crowder.) You can read more about Kyle, the accident, and the church here and here and here.

    Months later, the family launched a lawsuit against the company that did work on the water heater in the baptismal tank. You can read more on that here. I want to focus on the microphone/baptism issue which will be more common to more churches. (These links are simple “first page” links from a Google search; see the comments re. the resolution was of that lawsuit.)

    When I read of Kyle’s death, his widow and young children; I immediately pumped out an e-mail broadcast to as many leaders as I knew in churches where baptism by immersion is practiced. I targeted pastors, heads of worship teams, sound crew, and anyone else I knew who might be in a position to rig up a microphone anywhere near a large body of water.

    As horrified as I was by the story, I was determined that we all learn from it.

    This morning, I attended a baptism service at one of the churches that was on my e-mail list and — you guessed it — they had a live, hard-wired microphone on a stand far too close to the baptismal tank for me to comfortably enjoy what took place. I sat there cringing — and a bit of praying, but mostly cringing — the whole time.

    A cordless microphone would have put me much more at ease, and would have put the two pastors and the four people baptized much more deeply inside the safety zone.

    So here’s what you do. Immediately, send an e-mail to anyone in your sphere of influence telling them to link to this item at this blog. (Here’s the permalink.) I know this particular exercise is neither current news nor packed with profound insight; but this is what I felt I needed to write today.

    I never, never, never, never want to have to say, “I told you so.” Not on this one.

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