Thinking Out Loud

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 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 11, 2014

Thursday Link List

Filed under: links, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:26 am
Mary's Press Conference

Mary’s Press Conference

Sometimes I find myself collecting links for Wednesday and then I reach a point where I just can’t stop, like those perpetual motion machines, or those guys in Asia who kept fighting a war long after it had ended.

Christmas in the NavPress lobby

Christmas in the NavPress lobby: Most (but not all) of the ‘tree’ is various editions of The Message Bible

December 5, 2014

Proof That Your Local Mainline Church Isn’t Dying


Thinking Out Loud’s
Positive Research Service
For Mainline Churches

Tired of being told your denomination is declining?
Depressed by statistics the spell the end of your local congregation?

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December 1, 2014

While You’re Cleaning Up From Thanksgiving

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:01 am

Kids are back at school today, relatives are back at work, but the house is a disaster, right? Actually, it’s all in how you look at it. Credit for this goes to Chelsea Lee Smith; click the image below to explore her blog.

It's All In How You Look at It

November 30, 2014

Some High Church Music

I thought the Christian internet could use a little balance today. Our regular playlist of Bethel Worship, Hillsong United, Rend Collective and All Sons and Daughters will resume momentarily. You can thank me later for this:

November 28, 2014

The Audience Ambush

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:49 am

Of all the times I’m counting on the fact that my blog readership lies outside the local area, this is one time really counting on that…

So tomorrow night my wife and I are going out to a dessert night at the church which also includes a worship music component from a musician and band which are known regionally if not known by some nationally. Based on a sponsorship line that appears in the advertising, there is probably going to be an opportunity at some point in the evening to partner with a fairly high profile parachurch ministry organization.

fundraisingI have no problem with that. First of all, I have given to this organization in the past, and we have at least one family member who gives generously to them. They do good work. It’s not one of those cases where I see the ministry’s logo and roll my eyes. But the second reason I have no problem is that I can plainly see the fundraising appeal coming. I’ve been around enough Christian events. I know the drill.

Others may be surprised, especially when there’s already an admission charge.

In times like these I’m always reminded of the time when myself and girl named Carol were invited to the home of a guy named Steve for what we thought was going to be a social evening. Instead, the whole thing was about Amway. Carol was livid. “When I see him next, I’m going to wring his neck;” is I think how she put it. People don’t like being ambushed. People don’t like to go to “A” only to find it’s about “B.”

Thursday night my wife and I discussed this, and I noted that eventually, people will simply be ambushed too many times and they will simply stop turning up for similar events.

A few months ago we attended another event where we were fully expecting the high-pressure fundraising to kick in near the end. Instead, it was all rather low-key. The event was advertised as an information session, and as it concluded, they affirmed that this fulfilled their expectations. Yes, if you wanted to give there were forms and envelopes and a basket into which to place the envelopes, but for the most part this aspect of the night was fairly easy-going, even though they made it clear that the field worker in question did rely on 100% on donor support.

Maybe it was the cranberry punch, but I felt they handled this superbly. Some people gave. Some did not.

But when you go to see your favorite CCM or Modern Worship artist in concert, and you pay $30 or more for good seats, you don’t expect that 20 minutes of your time will be spent watching a slide show of starving or diseased children.

Yes, we need to be aware of these situations, and we all could do more and we all need to do more. But we need to find ways to accomplish this goal that avoid the entrapment situation that essentially says, ‘Now that we have you all as a captive audience, we’d like to make those of you who don’t sponsor a child feel really guilty.’

We need to change the paradigm, or people will either simply stop coming, or will find themselves urgently needing to use the restrooms en masse as soon as the fundraising appeal begins.


November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to Our ‘Murican Friends

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:01 am

The First Thanksgiving

Click the image to order the IVP book.


Thanksgiving Cartoon


The above and the one which follows were pilfered from Happy Monday at The Master’s Table blog.


…Which is a great lead-in to fall hunting season. I don’t hunt, but these words from Nashville pastor Pete Wilson resonated; maybe it’s why they resonated:

Hunting with Pete Wilson

Finally, a classic worship song with the lyrics in flowchart form; one of the many graphic innovations of InterVarsity’s 2100 Productions.

Give Thanks from 2100 Productions

November 21, 2014

The Hardest Days

Filed under: Christmas, Church, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:59 am

Doug and Gary were always the last to leave the office.  Doug always turned off the lights as Gary set the alarm, and on Fridays, Gary always asked Doug if he wanted to join him for church that weekend.

“Actually, I’m going to church with my wife on Sunday,” Doug replied.

“Oh right. I forgot you’re a CEO,” Gary said smiling.

“A CEO?”

“Christmas and Easter only.” They both laughed, and Gary continued, “You know it’s good that you’re going, but you always pick the two hardest days.”

image 211114“I know,” returned Doug, “The parking at that church is miserable at Christmas.”

“No, that’s not what I mean; you always choose incarnation and atonement. They’re the toughest ones to grasp.”

“Wait a minute, I thought you wanted me to attend church.”

“I do, but think about it; if you show up for The Good Samaritan, the message is ‘love your neighbor,’ that’s easy!  And if you show up for ‘husbands love your wives,’ well two minutes in and you’ve got that one. But incarnation –“

“Do you mean the flower or the canned milk?”

“No it’s the idea of God becoming man, God becoming one of us. See, God is like those triplicate materials requisition forms we send to head office. The kind where what you write on the top part goes through to all three. But then God Himself rips out one of the pages — let’s call it the middle one — and then the letter to the Philippians tells us that that part of God took on the role of a servant and entered into the human condition even to the point of experiencing human death, and a rather excruciating one at that.”

“So you’re talking about Jesus. You’re saying he was 50 percent man and 50 percent God. Like a centaur?”

“No it’s not 50/50, more like 100/100.”

“So that’s gotta hurt. Why would he do that?”

“Well that’s the Easter part, the atonement part. In another letter, to a young disciple named Timothy, the same writer wrote that ‘Christ came into the world to save sinners, of which I’m the worst.'”

“The guy who wrote part of the Bible said he was the worst?”

“Jesus himself said he ‘came into the world to look for and save people who were lost.’ In another part he said that he came into the world to give his life as a ransom payment for many; and in yet another written account of his life we read that he didn’t come to condemn — which is what a lot of people think church is all about lately — but that through him everybody could have eternal life.”

“So you’re talking about going to heaven when you die?”

“Well, actually, eternal life starts now.”

“How come I never heard that at a Christmas service before?”

“You did, but you probably weren’t tuned in to it. You heard the carols, but missed the connection between incarnation and atonement, and you can’t have the one without the other. Ultimately, Jesus — the baby in the manger — came to die for the world, for me, for you.”

“Wow;” Doug said, “I never heard it like that.”




Phil 2, I Tim 1:15, Luke 19:10, Matthew 20:28, John 3:17

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