Thinking Out Loud

April 9, 2014

Wednesday Link List

New Pews

I am a linkoholicSo, if I go to see one of the many faith-focused movies currently running, can I skip church that weekend? While you ponder that, here’s this week’s link-o-rama:  Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, the link list’s benefactor.

Paul Wilkinson’s writing the rest of the week is made possible by readers at Thinking Out Loud and at C201, and by viewers like you.

Between Services - Sacred Sandwich

Above: After a forever away from posting something new, Sacred Sandwich awoke as from a giant sleep.

Below: This is from the Abandoned Pics Twitter feed: @AbandonedPics and is a wooden church somewhere in Russia. 

Click the respective images to link. (Or the irreverent ones.)

Abandoned Wooden Church in Russia

April 8, 2014

The Equivalent to Hiring Someone Who Is Gay

Hiring Policy

In the last 17 years, we’ve hired over 40 people to work with us in a ministry setting in four different locations and three different cities. To the best of my knowledge we’ve never had an employee who is gay. But we have dealt with the equivalent.

In conservative Christian circles, especially going back a few years, the equivalent was hiring someone who was divorced. The religious stigma was huge. We did this. More than once. As an adjunct ministry of local churches.

In one case, I know that the family were outsiders, so the story was not apparent. But in another case — life in a small town being what it is — I know some former customers voted with their feet. Nobody ever said to me, “How could you hire her?” but we always had the sense that certain people were part of a silent boycott.

Thinking about those two in particular, I can look back and say with the benefit of hindsight: They were among the best employees we ever had. They knew life. They knew pain. They knew joy. They knew Jesus. Therefore, they were able to connect with certain customers in ways I could not then and cannot now, and I’m thankful for their part in our story.

Back on Message

Filed under: Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:14 am

A year ago at this time, I got a lot of heat from a lot of readers over something I — for the most part — did not write. It was a reprint of a comment a reader left concerning a prominent American megachurch pastor who ditched the usual Easter Sunday message in favor of commencing a sermon series on personal finances. ‘Rather odd,’ I thought, but a newsy blog post anyway — since most pastors see Resurrection Sunday as a high point in the church year — so I posted it not realizing how passionate and loyal his followers were. “Touch not the Lord’s anointed,” I was told, though not in those words. If you really want to, you can read that story and the comments here

…I just skimmed over and relived all those comments all over again. I think it’s great to be loyal and supportive to your pastor. I also think it’s great to be able to step back from that subjectivity and weigh big-picture issues against the counterweight of data from other churches and ministries. The problem that took place in the comments section was that nobody was truly hearing what those on the other side of the discussion were saying…

…In any event, I decided to see what’s planned for the same church this year. I can only hope the following represents truth in advertising…

Easter 2014 at Harvest

 

April 7, 2014

Top Canadian Christian Blogs

Filed under: blogging, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:07 am
In 1964, this was one of three finalists to become the new flag of Canada

In 1964, this was one of three finalists to become the new flag of Canada

With a nearly 75% U.S. readership, I tend to cloak my Canadian origins, but I thought today we’d celebrate a few people who also experience spell-check issues every time they use words like honour and colour. (After a year of fighting it, I converted this blog over to U.S. spellings.)  Ahead of time, apologies for anyone I left out:..

Top Ten

Ann Voskamp – A Holy Experience — From the moment you click through and the music starts playing on your speakers, you know you’re in a different place. Probably the greater appeal is to women, as is Ann’s bestselling book, One Thousand Gifts (Zondervan).

Tim Challies — The blog’s tag line is, “Informing the Reforming;” so you get the idea as to the target audience. I would tend to think at this point, Tim has become a prisoner of the blog’s success; it has got to have become a full time job. Still, the success is deserved and has spun off a book publishing company.

David Hayward – Naked Pastor — To say this blog is ‘edgy’ would be an understatement. David writes from Canada’s “east end” and is also a cartoonist who sells prints of his daily panels as well as larger pieces. Tag line: “Graffiti artist on the walls of religion.”

Jamie Arpin-Ricci – Missional — Urban church planter, IVP author (Cost of Community) and co-director of YWAM Winnipeg, Jamie is a few months shy of seven years of blogging. Tag line: “Conversations about Christ and Community.”

Bene D. & Rick Hiebert – Bene Diction Blogs On — Canada’s foremost investigative blog serves as watchdog, keeping an eye on Christian ministry organizations. I know somebody who knows who Bene is, but he’s definitely not talking.

Sarah Bessey — Representing Canada’s “west end;” through her connections with people like Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rachel Held-Evans and Jamie Wright, Sarah is rapidly gaining readers, not to mention her book Jesus Feminist (Howard Books).

Paul Wilkinson – Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201 — Well thank you, don’t mind if I do…  Splitting up my daily writing into two very different platforms was both risky and a lot of hard work, but I’m honored (with no “u”) to be here.

Darryl Dash – DashHouse — The Toronto church planter writes articles of interest to other pastors and church leaders and is a featured writer at Christian Week, a Canadian Christian magazine. He wouldn’t mind me saying that his demographics skew Reformed.

Carey Nieuwhof – Carey is the lead pastor of Connexus, a dual-site church in the North Point Ministries family, basied in Barrie, Ontario which is about 45 minutes north of Toronto. His articles, mostly written to pastors and leaders often appear on other websites as well.

Kevin Rogers – Orphan Age — Kevin is a chaplain, musician, and pastor of a Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada church in Sarnia, Ontario; which is on the other side of the border from Port Huron, Michigan, north of Detroit. He writes devotionals, mostly and his blog was recently featured in the PAOC magazine, Pentecostal Testimony.

Worth Noting

Some writers don’t pull the same numbers but are worthy of being on this list and do have a national (and international) following.  

John Stackhouse – He’s best described on his Twitter feed: “Theologian, historian, ethicist, public scholar, preacher, musician and crime fighter.” A professor at Regent College in Vancouver, BC, John is well-known to academics, but appeals to a much wider readership.

Rick Apperson – Just a Thought — Rick and his wife live in Smithers, British Columbia, in the central part of the province east of Prince Rupert. A pastor and YWAM-er, he has been blogging faithful for years and manages to score some great interviews with top authors for his “Five Questions With” series.

Diane Lindstrom – Overflow — I mentioned Diane already here in our blog review on March 30th. She writes from a small town northeast of the Greater Toronto Area, is a great storyteller, embeds some great music videos, and hopes to have a book published soon.

Emily Wierenga — Emily writes from Alberta in western Canada, has two books on eating disorders and a third book coming this summer. She writes about marriage and family issues as well as adoption.

Bruxy Cavey – Bruxy — I don’t know of another pastor who is more active on social media and more accessible to his flock, which in this case involves nearly twenty sites in The Meeting House church family. Alas, his blog is more a hub connecting you to various videos and podcasts, but as I write this, he did write something resembling a blog post. 

Jeff Loach – Passionately His — Somehow Jeff got bumped from my radar lately, he should have been on our list of writers with substance a few weeks ago. (See link below.) A Presbyterian pastor in a town about 30 minutes northwest of Toronto, Jeff has been blogging since 2008, and has taught at Tyndale Seminary. 

Chris Vacher – Chris from Canada — Chris writes about all things related to worship leadership. You’ll have to forgive him if there’s been less activity on the blog lately, as his family recently relocated east of Toronto where he’s now directing music at C4 Church (Carruther’s Creek) in Ajax.

Sheila Wray Gregoire – To Love, Honor and Vacuum — With a syndicated newspaper column and books published with Kregel and Zondervan, Sheila is a popular speaker on the Girls Night Our events which tour across Canada. She lives in Eastern Ontario, and I have no idea why her blog doesn’t make the top traffic lists, as I suspect she does have many readers.

Writer Collective

Canadian Writers Who Are Christians — Online since 2007, this blog features new content almost every day, by people who are members of The Word Guild, a collective for Canadian Christian writers. 

Did I miss anyone? Feel free to leave a comment, or if you live in the land of the chosen frozen, mention your own blog.

Updated 9:25 AM, 11:25 AM, 5:00 PM

Related reading: Substance Consistently (Mar. 30/14) — A list of blogs I try to check more frequently out of the more than 600 I keep bookmarks for.

 

 

 

April 6, 2014

Liberty University & Benny Hinn: Too Late for April Fool’s

Filed under: education, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:26 am

Benny Hinn - Liberty UniversityReleased on April 1st, this story would have made more sense. Thanks to the blog Pajama Pages for alerting us to a story that through a series of subsidiary spinoffs, Benny Hinn is offering Liberty University Biblical studies certificates; hence the picture at left. Yikes. 

If you want to read Liberty’s distancing themselves from this oddity, click here. If you want to read and listen to Benny’s pitch for the diploma, click here. If you already hold one of the certificates, and feel this renders it just a little closer to worthless, click here. P-pages promises a further story in a few days. 

Is it me, or does Benny look a little weary of all this?

April 5, 2014

Happy Birthday to Mrs. Thinking Out Loud

Filed under: family — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:55 pm

Happy Birthday - Another YearHappy Birthday! You know who you are. And I’ve saved you the hundreds of congratulatory notes you would have received had I put this up earlier in the day, by posting it near the very end of the day. You can thank me later. Hope your day was relaxing and you’re looking forward to a day a few weeks from now when, like the Queen, you have the ‘official’ birthday.

To the Mission Field and Beyond!

Filed under: missions, Uncategorized — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:31 am
Random person at Mission Fest enjoys a special bonding moment with a goat

Random person at Mission Fest enjoys a special bonding moment with a goat

Heading to Mission Fest 2014 in Toronto yesterday, I told everyone that we were going to walk up to the very first booth inside the door and volunteer to go to whatever country they were working in for one year.

In we went.

The first booth inside the door was selling snacks.

From there, we tended to get distracted…

April 4, 2014

Communion Service: Just Me and God

Church Established AD 33

Church Established 33 AD

A variation on this story appeared yesterday at Christianity 201.

So last weekend our friend Brenda — the one who wrote the short poem that’s been in the sidebar of this blog for the past three weeks — took us church hopping.  It was a storefront church in the central business area of a smallish town.

There, we participated in a most unusual communion service. The elements — the bread and juice — were placed on a table in a self-serve style. Nothing unusual so far, right? But to get to them you walked behind a curtain, single file, one at a time. Suddenly, you were in there, all alone, just you and God.

Others were waiting and they joked ahead of time that they’d ‘tie a rope to your feet and pull you out if you stay too long,’ but you had these brief seconds to enter into the ‘Holy of Holies’ and express to God in a whispered prayer whatever you would say to Him, or listen to whatever He would say to you. But you did have those few seconds, and I found it rather awe-inspiring.

It’s a communion or Eucharist that I will never forget.

It brought home the idea that although we worship corporately at weekend services, ultimately, our relationship with God is individual. We’re not saved, or counted among God’s people because of what our church does collectively, but because of our personal response to God.  Consider the difference between these two phrases:

  • ‘We had communion at church this Sunday’   or
  • ‘While in the service today, I communed with God’

That got me thinking about the broader aspects of making our experience(s) with God more individual.

I think that sometimes people are critical of the phrases “accepted Christ” and “personal Savior,” when the problem can be solved with a rearrangement of one or two words. Consider the difference between:

  • ‘I accepted Christ as my personal Savior’   and
  • ‘I personally acknowledged Christ as Savior’

But then, the personal has to go beyond the initial conversion experience. It’s got to stay personal. Consider phrases like:

  • ‘We’re now part of local congregation’
  • ‘I’ve joined a weekly small group Bible study’

Each implies the idea of assimilating into the larger body, and that’s right and good, but total assimilation would mean the loss of personal identity. (We once visited a church that had someone listed among the staff as ‘Minister of Assimilation’ or maybe it was ‘Pastor of Assimilation. Seriously.)

Your relationship to Christ cannot be expressed in terms of a relationship to a Church or study group; neither can it be defined in terms of your place in a biological family.

Rather than concentrating on the body you are part of, these more personal statements on for size; say them out loud if necessary; and see if they fit you:

  • ‘I am growing in my understanding of the ways of God’
  • ‘I am more fully aware of God’s presence in my life’
  • ‘I am increasingly making decisions subject to God’s desires’
  • ‘My appreciation for what Jesus did is a daily factor in my life’
  • ‘I am so thankful for God’s grace’

These I/My statements — and others like them you can add in the comments — should be at the core of our spiritual identity, not statements like:

  • ‘I’m really enjoying the church I’m attending’ or
  • ‘My pastor is absolutely amazing’   or
  • ‘Our lives changed when we joined this church’

Maybe your pastor is amazing, but he will have to give his own account to God, and you will have to give yours. Maybe all your life you’ve wanted to be part of something larger, but again, your spiritual life can’t be defined in terms of membership in a group.

Or maybe you need your own personal ‘Holy of Holies’ experience to remind you that it’s God that’s amazing.

II Cor. 5:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (ESV)

For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. (NLT)

Romans 14:12

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. (NIV)

Bad Ad Placement

Filed under: education, ethics, media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:00 am

So last night I was relaxing watching The Big Bang Theory on CBS, and the local station ran a teaser for a story about a 49-year old teacher charged with kissing a 13-year old student. WIVB-TV reported:

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Casey Middle School art teacher is resigning after admitting she kissed a 13-year-old boy on the mouth.

Donna Sleap pleaded guilty in court on Thursday to endangering the welfare of a child. Staff members alerted administrators about her behavior in October, and the art teacher was placed on leave in December. The incident was reportedly caught on video…

[...continue reading here...]

Then, Big Bang Theory returned, but CBS begins each segment by plastering animated advertising over the bottom one-third of the screen. This one was for a new comedy series beginning April 24th titled — wait for it — Bad Teacher.

[series] Centers on a sexy, foul-mouthed divorcée who becomes a teacher to find her next husband.

[first episode] Former Trophy Wife Meredith Davis seeks a return to a life of leisure and luxury by posing as a teacher at an upscale Elementary school to meet the students’ rich, single fathers and land one to marry.

[...continue reading at IMDb...]

I guess I’m supposed to be outraged by the former, and then tune in to be entertained by the latter.

Still, the timing was strange. The local station had no idea what the network was going to do, and of course the network could care less what the affiliates are running.

…speaking of which; if there’s an ad currently running on this article, it’s not from us!

 

 

 

April 3, 2014

Gaining Platform; Rites of Passage

Platform

I frequently look at Christian leadership blogs which seem obsessed about helping pastors and authors build their platform on social media. If that in itself is a stated goal, then I think the type of advice offered may serve some practical good.

But I also keep wondering if true respect is not also built in what might be called ‘the crucible of affliction;’ that is to say, that various people in various types of ministry endeavors have earned the right to be heard because they faced a great test, or championed a great cause.

The challenge is that not everybody gets to climb Mount Everest, nor does everyone want to. The type of platform that some people want to see built is gained only through some newsworthy accomplishment.

The other side of the challenge is that those who want to enjoy a healthy following and a strong platform are concerned only with what can be measured statistically, and stats alone seem to be a rather hollow way of measuring the worth of an individual.

I think platform is good only if leads you to another objective beyond selling your book or gaining social media followers. Utimately, however, it’s who you are that counts. That’s not something you can engineer. It’s not something you can quantize statistically, either.

Mission Trips

It’s true that short-term mission tourism has become an industry onto itself, and there have been various articles posted online, including some here, that have engaged the sport of mission trip bashing.

But lately I’ve been wondering if it isn’t really some necessary rite of passage; the third point of a three pronged initiation into Christian service: Salvation, baptism, short term mission. Or, “When did you become a Christian?” and “When you were baptized?” followed by “Where did you go for your mission trip?”

It almost seems that to lack this quintessential experience — as I freely admit I do — is to have a personal story that is somehow more shallow. When people ask me to document my ministry experience I find myself sometimes apologetically saying, “Everything you can imagine except third-world missions exposure.”

That doesn’t mean I don’t believe I’ve had some rich experiences; maybe it’s reflective of a greater spiritual inferiority complex. I’m just thinking that maybe we’ve been too harsh when it comes to mission trip bashing, provided the trip has been designed to be more than a tourist visit.

Although I’ve never done it, my ideal for you, your son, or your daughter would be to connect with the six month Discipleship Training School at Youth With A Mission bases around the world; each one of which has both a training and a field experience component.

Read more:
Short Term Mission Trips: Yea or Nay?, November 2008
Short Term Mission Trippers as Seen by Full-Time Missionaries, April 2012
Another Critique of the Short Term Missions Movement, June 2012

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