Thinking Out Loud

October 31, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Welcome to another Wednesday Link List. We have no plans to mention the October 31st thing here.

  • The blog Sue’s Considered Trifles is a fun place for people who love words and love language. Most posts contain related phrases and sayings, usually ending with a short scriptural or faith-based thought. You can refer friends to individual posts, or copy and paste and send as emails.
  • “Because it’s only once in awhile that we get to hear Jesus talk about brutal self-mutilation as a sign of discipleship.” So begins a sermon on Mark 9: 42-48 by Nadia Bolz-Weber you can listen to or read at her blog.
  • A consultant for the U.S. State Department brings a rather sobering article on the long term prospects for Christians in the middle east.
  • Our Creative Writing Award for October — if we had one — would surely go to Hannah Anderson, for this piece about being a mother of three at church offering time.
  • Does liturgy work with the poor and uneducated. Consider: “The liturgy has been, at least initially, a barrier to our illiterate population. After one or two months, however, they have it memorized.” Learn more at this interview.
  • Pete Wilson cites Adam Stadtmiller who suggests that our present model of what we call “singles ministry” is quite unsustainable.
  • We frequently hear stories of the desires of the people who hold the movie rights to the Left Behind books to re-make the existing films. This version gives the starring role to Nicholas Cage.
  • For my Canadian readers: If you remember the story from a few years back about the Ponzi scheme that impacted people at 100 Huntley Street and Crossroads Christian Communications, here is an update.
  • If you don’t feel there are enough Bible translations currently available, then you’ll be happy to know the International Standard Version is getting closer to being available in print.
  • And speaking of Bible versions, if your 66-book collection of choice is the King James, and the King James Bible only, then you probably want to date court someone who feels the same. For that you need to put your profile on King James Bible Singles. (You don’t need to join to read all the profiles — in great detail — already posted.)
  • Rachel Held Evans answers all your questions about the book that is causing so much controversy.
  • On a similar theme, Bruxy Cavey equates the Old Testament’s Levitical purity laws as akin to Spiritual Cooties. This 2-minute clip may not be safe for work, or any other environment.
  • Meanwhile, Kathy Keller, wife of author and pastor Timothy Keller offers some criticisms of Rachel’s book in the form of an open letter. If you click, don’t miss the comments.
  • But then you wouldn’t want to miss this review, which suggests there are Rachel Held Evanses in every church.
  • In other book news, Kyle Idleman, author of the chart-topping Not a Fan is releasing a new book, Gods at War in January.

October 30, 2012

Andy Stanley Reveals What’s In The Secret Sauce

As someone who has been around The Church for a long time, I’m really not in North Point Community Church’s target demographic. But at 2:00 PM on a Sunday, you’ll find me watching a streaming broadcast of their morning service. Two reasons. First, I think there’s something exciting going on in that Atlanta suburb and because the technology allows it, I want to be watching to cheer them on. Second, there’s stuff about what it means to trust God that I still don’t think I’ve got right and I need to be told again and in new ways.

Andy significant landed on my radar eight years ago. I was doing a church plant and wanted to access video teaching content from another church that the other church wasn’t ready to give out. “Have you heard of North Point?” I was asked. “North who?”

Just about any survey of megachurches in the past decade places North Point in the top five. In addition to their own satellites in the greater Atlanta area, North Point Ministries has strategic partner churches across the U.S., in Canada, and beyond.

Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love To Attend (Zondervan) is Andy’s message to pastors who want a behind-the-scenes look at the church and know how (and why) they do what they do.

The book comes at a time that many are concerned that the megachurches are setting the agenda for the church as a whole in the Western world. But the North Point staff have spent enough time doing seminars to know that their methodology is of interest to medium-sized and even small-sized church leadership.

The church is mission driven. The book explains how that mission drives their vision; how it drives everything that they do. The vision, in turn, drives their model. Their model drives their programming. And their programming is radically different from other churches you have been part of.

There’s no men’s or women’s ministry. Most of their giving to local needs goes to secular agencies. Events or services are termed “environments.”Their children’s curriculum targets key narratives and doesn’t try to cover the whole compendium of scripture. Women help take up the offering (and do lots of other things, too.) Non-Christians serve in various limited capacities. You have to — without exceptions — record a 3-4 minute testimony video to be baptized. They avoid the phrase, “The Bible says…” Officially, the music selections on Sunday are termed “singing,” not “worship.”

Some of you are feeling your blood pressure rise.

Andy admits there are no chapters and verses for these policies. But before you get up in arms, or say, “See, I told you so…” you should know that much careful thought and prayer have gone into creating the North Point distinctives.

This is a seeker-targeted church. In its present form, North Point is more ‘Willow Creek’ than Willow Creek. Too many people think that means ‘dumbed down.’ Not at all. What Andy calls “putting the cookies on the lower shelf” does not preclude solid, often exegetical Bible teaching. I would contend that in status quo churches across the western world, most people would find the level of personal challenge at North Point to be much greater than they are presently accustomed to. Jesus didn’t ‘dumb down’ anything. He challenged people in terms of spiritual disciplines and in their understanding how the Old Testament puzzle pieces fit together to reveal Him. Trust me, some of you — some of us — wouldn’t be able to keep up to the pace at North Point.

This is a hardcover book for pastors, church leadership, and church planters that is going to resonate with anyone drive by The Great Commission. It’s not for everyone. But it’s a book that every pastor, church leader and church planter needs to read. There’s also much in personal stories including a section at the beginning that defines the relationship between Andy and his father, Charles Stanley.

Highly recommended.


Here’s a quotation from the book published today at C201

October 29, 2012

A Snapshot of Monastic Living 2012 Style

While we connected at concerts and music festivals, I never did get around to seeing Jesus People USA‘s operation in inner city Chicago. Long after Cornerstone — both the festival and the magazine — had faded from memory, my interest was piqued again listening to Shane Claiborne talk about The Simple Way in Philadelphia.

But nothing demonstrates the essence of living in Christian community like a read through Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s latest book, The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith (Zondervan, paperback).  Wilson-Hartgrove’s name be familiar to those of you who invested in Common Prayer, a sort of devotional on steroids which offers a complete liturgy for each day of the year.  He’s an associate minister at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, NC, but is probably best known as a leading spokesperson for a movement usually referred to as The New Monasticism, and his blog The Everyday Awakening.

The Awakening of Hope should not surprise anyone by being a type of apologetic for Christian community. Chapter subjects include:

1. Why We Eat Together
2. Why We Make Promises
3. Why It Matters Where We Live
4. Why We Live Together
5. Why We Would Rather Die Than Kill
6. Why We Share Good News

which are also covered in a 6-part DVD. (The print version also includes a chapter on fasting.)

But there’s something here that has a much, much broader application to all of us. You don’t need to have lived in community, toured one, or even known anyone who chose to spend any amount of time in one in order to appreciate the implications of what he writes on those of us who call the suburbs (with 2.4 children and 2.0 vehicles) home.

This book will make you rethink your current expression of faith.

But as I read this book, I could not help notice an uncanny similarity to another Zondervan writer, Philip Yancey. As I wrote for a book trade review these similarities include:

  • written from experiences made possible by extensive world travel in that present-tense voice used by travel writers
  • honest and personal and engaging
  • rich text — any one paragraph could stand on its own for study and further consideration
  • relevant to the situation we find ourselves in, which probably isn’t a monastic community
  • healthy doses of scripture verses that are somewhat cross-indexed or juxtaposed

So we have (a) challenging subject matter that is foreign to the Christian experience of many of us, (b) a writer who knows this subject with great intimacy, (c) a writer who delivers a quality product.

In other words, this is a powerful book.

I’d especially recommend Awakening to anyone who read Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution, the aging rockers who well remember Chicago’s JPUSA, anyone who lived in community at YWAM or some similar training mission, anyone who spent the summer on staff at a Christian camp, anyone who spent time in a mission station overseas, and anyone who has ever wondered what it might mean to sell the house and the SUV and live out their Christian life in a new way.

For a very brief excerpt from the book, click here.

 

October 28, 2012

Potential Sermon Illustration: You Name the Text

Filed under: writing — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:21 am

Italian artist Giuseppe Penone removes the growth rings on trees to reveal what they looked like in their youth. I keep seeing this as a potential cover for a psychology textbook about the early influences that shaped us, or how memories of youth remain a part of us.  But I’ll settle for a sermon illustration. Any ideas?

October 27, 2012

Calvinism Defined and Other Quotes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:57 pm

Much of what goes by the name of “Calvinist,” is really just a small handful of doctrinal commitments read through an assumed American ideology.

~Kyle Strobel, August 21, 2011


The best response to an atheist is to cook them dinner and give them a hug..

~Either Phil Vischer or Skye Jethani on a recent Phil Vischer podcast., I think it’s the one I linked


I make everybody know the book is not happy if it’s in the cabinet or in the drawer.. It should be sent out and read; it should go to the hands of the readers

~Hernando Guanlao, age 60, who turned his Manilla home into a public library as quoted in a Toronto Star article on September 26th … also at Huffington


Compromising the music wars by having two services can further divide a congregation. Your contemporary service should include one hymn; your traditional service should include one modern worship composition. This gesture keeps both groups united.

~Outspoken Christian blogger Paul Wilkinson who came up with this while thinking out loud one day last month.

October 26, 2012

Harvest Bible Chapel Debt Crisis: The Real Elephant In The Room?

I’ve had three people send me the link to a website that purports to show that James MacDonald, Harvest Bible Chapel and Walk in The Word are deeply in debt in a situation similar to that which brought down the Crystal Cathedral; a site titled, The Elephant’s Debt after MacDonald’s two Elephant Room video conferences. However, a quick scan of Alltop blogs and search engine blog searches would seem to indicate not all bloggers are taking the bait on this one.

Perhaps people don’t find MacDonald all that interesting. I found that out with the Crystal Cathedral story; search engines sent everybody here because the dominant generation of Christian bloggers didn’t have Robert Schuller on their radar. Perhaps MacDonald’s influence is even more regional.

Furthermore, I often wonder what motivates people to put up this type of exposé websites. The documentation is thorough; they definitely did their homework. And they do address the question. And I’m all for encouraging churches and ministry organizations to operate frugally and within their means; not like some giant corporation. To be sure, financial stewardship matters to God; it’s a virtue He regards highly. And when any church goes down, it tends to take a lot of innocent people down with it; trusting people; people of weaker faith.

Although I grew up in Toronto’s Peoples Church when it was Canada’s only megachurch — before the term existed — the first U.S. megachurch I connected with was Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel in Santa Ana, California. Spending time there on five different occasions and getting to know some of their people, it was apparent that Chuck Smith was all for spending money when the money was already there. There is no greater joy than for a new facility or expansion to open completely paid for.

What a sex scandal cannot do to destroy a church, a financial crisis can. (No accident this subject comes a day after a book review dealing with the spiritual warfare we fight against unseen forces.)

Today’s pastors are in a rush to build bigger and better. To go multi-site. To add new media. To host conferences. We’ve been corrupted by the way the world does things and how success is measured; and I didn’t use the word “we’ve” there by accident. Certainly, if this road is full of pitfalls, it is important to put up a giant “danger sign” and warn others traveling the same road.

But I wish that authors Scott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney had ended The Elephant’s Debt website with a call to prayer, because that’s what needed here more than anything.

Here again is the link to The Elephant’s Debt. Each page ends with a link to successive pages. You be the judge on this one.

And here is what one reader sent as a possible response that was recently posted by the elders board of Harvest Bible Chapel.


Isaiah 30 (NLT) verse 21 is the theme verse for Walk in the Word.

19 O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem,
you will weep no more.
He will be gracious if you ask for help.
He will surely respond to the sound of your cries.
20 Though the Lord gave you adversity for food
and suffering for drink,
he will still be with you to teach you.
You will see your teacher with your own eyes.
21 Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left.
22 Then you will destroy all your silver idols
and your precious gold images.
You will throw them out like filthy rags,
saying to them, “Good riddance!”


UPDATE: Be sure to read the comments section for more…

October 25, 2012

4th James Rubart Novel Boldly Goes Where Few Have Gone

I may never pray the same way again. Seriously. And all this from reading a work of fiction. As in, a made-up story.

Soul’s Gate is the fourth novel from James Rubart, author of Rooms, The Book of Days and The Chair; and he continues to excel with each new release.

For this book, he digs deep into the unseen realm(s) of the battles ordinary people wage each day against invisible spiritual forces. ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood,’ right? In so doing, Rubart has brought to market a story that rivals the original in this genre, Frank Peretti’s landmark title, This Present Darkness from the late 1980’s. (C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters notwithstanding.)

But this is not fantasy. The book revolves around four people whose lives are not that different from yours or mine. Yes, there are things that take place that I believe Rubart would say exceed possibility — such as inferred from the title — but his take on praying with great, expectant faith is also down-to-earth and practical. Life application fiction, if you will, though I suspect the phrase is already copyrighted. It definitely can change your prayer life.

Reviewers often mention the page count of a book — 372, if you need to know — but this is a book that adds value with every single page. During the first few chapters I was already given ideas to process, and am considering restarting at chapter one once my wife is finished.

There is also a very strong Christian presence in each situation and character and the narration places a high value on scripture. This is the book you hand to someone who wants to know what a work of Christian fiction looks like; what makes it distinct.

My only concern is that after accepting a review copy I discovered this is the first in a series of Well Spring novels. A series. Something I swore I would never do, especially as someone for whom non-fiction, doctrinal books are dominant on my shelves. ‘I will read this first one,’ I told myself, ‘and then move on to other writers.’ By the half-way mark, I decided such was not the case.

I’m hooked.

Soul’s Gate will resonate well with Christian readers, but I wouldn’t stop there, as the book may work well with people who enjoyed that other popular Christian fiction title from last few years which also featured a cabin on the cover. If you know what I mean.


A copy of Soul’s Gate was provided to Thinking Out Loud by Thomas Nelson and is available in paperback wherever good books are sold.

For some other reflections I had after reading this book, click over to this article at Christianity 201.

October 24, 2012

Wednesday Link List

Insert your own introduction here.

  • Another Christian leader is brought down by a sex scandal. Not to be flippant, but we could probably do a weekly link list just on stories like this one.
  • Or this one.
  • Rob Bell is doing a January conference in LA for 50 pastors to spend two 12-hour days learning to improve their writing craft. (With a break for surfing.) (No, not internet surfing.) If that’s you, find out more about CraftLab.
  • I like this piece about making a faith-identification with people in the broader community, and then deciding if you and they want to get into a faith discussion.
  • In England they count as deaths, and more than a quarter of all deaths there are due to abortions.
  • In another link to The Christian post, a megachurch pastor questions the hype when his fellow megachurch pastors describe every Sunday as “super” or “biggest” or “best.”  Actually the one he used was “megamonster.” He thinks the hype is unsustainable.
  • The New Zealand Herald thinks Christianity is losing its world dominance, but one blogger doesn’t think we should accept that conclusion.
  • A reporter for the LA Times — who is looking to gauge success solely from the Billboard charts —  seems to think that Christian rock music is making a comeback.
  • An American currently living in Canada finds her present location gives here a fresh perspective on U.S. election issues.
  • So author Janette Oke wrote eight “Love Comes Softly” books, but when they got made into DVDs they added two prequels. 8 + 2 = 10, right? So when you buy the 10-disc box set why is there an 11th empty slot in the packaging? Answer: It’s for this one.
  • Here’s a new church video clip on the subject of insecurity. (Reminder, you have to buy these; they aren’t expensive; don’t stream them live during your service.)
  • Earlier in the summer,  James MacDonald & Co. boarded a bus for the 40-city Vertical Church tour. Here’s a video recap.
  • Memorized any Bible verses lately? A Canadian author once put this list together of 50 verses you should know by heart.
  • Drew Marshall had Bob Smietana as a guest this week. The Tennessee writer is an expert on snake-handling churches, but because newspapers are now denying access to their files, we can’t read his landmark article. Here’s a summary. as well as a version written originally for USAToday.
  • You’re trying to participate in an outdoor mass in Poland, but it’s so crowded the only place to stand is at the door of a sex shop.  Personally, I hate when that happens.
  • And while we’re on that subject, a hotel in Europe has replaced the Gideon Bibles with copies of 50 Shades of Gray. Author Shannon Ethridge takes a look at sexual fantasies in The Fantasy Fallacy. reviewed here.

October 23, 2012

Ministry You’d Want to Be a Part Of

Friday night we attended a fundraising banquet for our local Youth for Christ worker and his ministry. In our little corner of the world, YFC has four staff workers, an administrator and three field workers serving a county so large that, even under the old system used by the phone company, it included three different area codes.

We’ve known Jeff for twenty years now. He was a youth pastor in a local church who was being laid off, and found a way to continue to serve students in the same town. Switching from a church-based ministry model to a parachurch model was a challenge during the first year, but the end result was that he fused together the best of both ministry paradigms.

His ministry extends far beyond anything in the Youth for Christ staff handbook, I’m sure. Hosting a 3-hour radio show on two stations. Working with the town ministerial association on special events. Doing pulpit supply for a variety of local churches. Writing faith-centered articles for the local newspaper.  Volunteering at the local high school and middle school. Studying for an MDiv degree nearly completed.  That’s in addition to YFC events such as a drop-in center, special events and lots and lots of one-on-one counseling.

All those activities, and other things that I don’t know about. I would never accuse Jeff of playing his cards close to his chest, though he doesn’t seek recognition. Rather, I think his left hand truly doesn’t know what his right hand is doing. Bottom line: We think his supporters truly get a lot of bang for their donation buck, and while we originally said we were going to skip the banquet this year, we turned out to show our support.

At the end of the night Jeff — ever frugal — passed out copies of his quarterly newsletter that would normally be mailed. He told us ahead of time that he’d broken the rules of newsletters by including ten stories of kids he’s worked with — present, recent past, and distant past — sharing their personal testimony of what Jeff and the ministry of YFC in general has meant to them and what God is doing in their lives.

Wow! I just finished reading the stories. A vibrant student ministry in our small town is changing lives that are ultimately changing the world. This ministry is bearing fruit. People are finding Jesus.

And as I folded the newsletter back into the envelope so my wife could read it when she got home, I thought, “How can anyone read this and not want to reach for their checkbook or credit card?”  That, and “How can anyone not want to pray, to volunteer or otherwise ‘come alongside’ what the Holy Spirit is doing through dedicated, vocational leadership like this?”

I’m so glad we didn’t opt to skip the banquet this year. It would pain me to get the newsletter by mail a week later, read the stories, and feel that I missed an opportunity to be a very tiny part of all this.

Right now, where you live, there are people making a difference who can’t do it without your active support. Pray about your involvement through serving, giving, praying or all three!


For contact information on Northumberland Youth For Christ, click here.

October 22, 2012

Cross Point Crosses 10-Year Milestone

Filed under: Church — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:39 am

Congratulations to Pete Wilson, the leadership team and the congregation(s) of Cross Point Church in Nashville on the occasion of their 10th anniversary. Yesterday the church celebrated with an all-campus, two-hour long service which was also streamed online from the Municipal Auditorium with guests Natalie Grant and Carlos Whittaker. While many churches trace their roots back to starting small, this church had very humble beginnings, but has grown by leaps and bounds… and the best is yet to come!

Older Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.