Thinking Out Loud

May 12, 2014

Yawning at Tigers: Holiness for a new Generation

Filed under: books, God — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:48 am

Simply knowing about God can never take the place of experiencing him. You could gather facts about God for the rest of your life and he could still be a virtual stranger to you. You can observe the flame, but never be warmed by the fire. ~p. 140

…a paradoxical truth about God’s holiness. It overwhelms, but it also draws. It terrifies and it captivates. It bows our heads even as it lifts our hearts. Ultimately, it results in joyful and reverent worship. ~p. 49

Yawning at TigersIf I started out the review by saying that Yawning at Tigers is a book about God’s holiness, I’d probably lose some of you. Surely every scripture verse on the holiness of God has been dissected and exegeted to death, right? I might have agreed before I read Drew Dyck’s book, but now into my second reading I am finding myself amazed again both by the ‘otherness’ of God and by how the larger Church constantly needs new authors to bring such truth home to us in fresh ways. Think Jerry Bridges meets Donald Miller. Or something like that.

Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God So Stop Trying has just the right mix of teaching, analogy and relevant stories from the author’s personal life. For a first time with a major publisher — okay, there was Generation Ex-Christian for Moody Press in 2010 — it hits all the right notes, but that’s to be expected from the Managing Editor of Leadership Journal, a periodical in the Christianity Today family of publications. Drew has also written widely in other media, which included interviewing yours truly years ago for the Canadian magazine, Faith Today. (No, I wasn’t the feature…)

What would happen if we were to find ourselves, as we will some day, standing before a holy God? A mix of terror and surprise, the latter because basically our God is too small. Like Job, we speak of things which we do not understand. Perhaps we should borrow some reverence from the people who spell God, G-d; and spell Lord, L-rd; as a reminder of utmost sacredness of even His name.  But, through all this he loves us.

Yawning at Tigers will get you thinking along these lines. The 224-page paperback (and also e-book) releases this week from Thomas Nelson, and I hope some of you will take the time to discover a new author. For more info, including an opportunity to read the first chapter free, go to YawningAtTigers.com.

Related:

 

April 25, 2014

Separated at Birth?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 am

Maybe it was the pictures on the book jackets… It was a customer browsing at the bookstore that thought there was more than a passing similarity between Jud Wilhite and Judah Smith…

Jud Wilhite and Judah Smith

 

Jud Wilhite serves as Senior Pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas.

Judah Smith serves at The City Church in Seattle as co-lead pastor.

Judah is the one on the… Jud is the one on the…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2014

Of Fancy Homes in Hidden Places

front_gate

Lately, a lot of attention has been turned to the housing that certain pastors and church leaders enjoy and are building. In an internet world, with Google Earth and Google Street View tracking every square inch on earth, there are very few secrets.

If you believe that Christians inhabit a world where there is neither “male nor female; this ethnic group nor that ethnic group; or rich nor poor;” get ready to have that ideal shattered. The divisions between rich and poor exist, and some of your favorite writers or televangelists live in places that, were you able to get past the gate somehow, the security force would be tailing you within seconds.

And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do
So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you

Several years ago we did a story — and ran the same pictures and the song lyrics — when a Saddleback campus was planted in the middle of a gated community in Laguna Hills. On one level, just another unreached people group, I suppose. On another level, rather awkward.

And the sign said anybody caught trespassing would be shot on sight
So I jumped on the fence and yelled at the house, Hey! what gives you the right
To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in
If God was here, he’d tell you to your face, man you’re some kinda sinner

To be fair, (a) this was a community of 18,000; an unreached people group you might say, and (b) southern California invented the whole gated community thing; they exist there on every block the way Waffle House or Cracker Barrel exists in the southeast. Still, there was something unsettling about this, if only because (a) if it’s been done before, it’s certainly been low key and (b) it’s hard for anything connected with Saddleback to be low key.

When we tried to track this particular campus this week, we couldn’t locate it. But we’re well aware of the people that make up the Evangelical star system who live in similar neighborhoods.

And the sign said everybody’s welcome to come in, kneel down and pray
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn’t have a penny to pay,
So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
I said thank you Lord for thinking about me, I’m alive and doing fine

Do major Christian leaders need a “retreat” from their parishioners, the press, and the public at large? Certainly Jesus tried to break away from the crowds at time, seeking some rest and renewal, but the texts also tell us the crowds followed him. And far from a gated community, we’re told he was completely itinerant, “having no place to lay his head;” and sometimes camping out on the fold-out couch in the homes of his followers.

veggie-gated-communityThe Gated Community
Is where we’ll always be
Our smiles are white
Cause we’re inside
In comfy custody
And when you come to visit
You can stand outside and see..
What a smiling bunch we are
In our gated unity!

The question is, “How much money is too much?” “When does a house become excessive?” It’s sad when it reaches the point where someone has started a Twitter account from the viewpoint of a pastor’s grand estate.

Oh! The Gated Community

Is where we like to be

Our clothes are never dirty

And the lawns are always green

And when you come to visit

You can stand outside and see

What a tidy bunch we are

In our gated unity!

I guess my biggest concern is that everything we do should be without a hint of suspicion.  I often think about Proverbs 16:2, which says (he paraphrased) that everything we do can be rationalized one way or another, but God is busy checking out our motivation. (And also reminded that no one is to judge the servant of another.)

The Gated Community
Is where we’ll always be
Our smiles are white
Cause we’re inside
In comfy custody
And when you come to visit
You can stand outside and see..
What a smiling bunch we are
In our gated unity!

So what are your thoughts? If you have an issue with this, what’s the problem? If you’re at peace with this, why do you think it’s got so many others steaming?

Lyrics from “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band (lyrics from the band’s home page) and from “The Gated Community” from Veggie Tales’ Sherluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler (from Veggie Tales lyrics site.) See sites for full lyrics with choruses not printed here. Pictured gated community in Atlanta, GA

April 19, 2014

The Pastor in the Movie “Heaven is for Real”

Heaven is for Real books

Throughout all the success of the Heaven is for Real book, and with attention now being refocused because of the movie, I am sure that Todd Burpo’s phone, if he dares to still have one, is ringing off the wall. (A dated reference to wall phones, in case you’re wondering.)

The appearances and interviews that the family has done prior to film release have been very tightly controlled and for anyone else, access is a total impossibility. Even the Christianity Today review of this past week contains the phrase, “Burpo responded to questions sent through the film’s publicist…” which may be a polite way of saying the publicist selected phrases from a prepared list and arranged them into sentences.

A few years ago, I tried to get past what others were writing about, and dig a little deeper and get to know Todd Burpo the Pastor. Throughout this whole process he remains first and foremost a local church minister. How do you do that with reporters knocking at the door? This was the largely unsuccessful result of that quest…

Our Non-Interview with Author Todd Burpo

Feb 9, 2012

53 weeks atop the New York Times’ Non-Fiction Paperback chart and counting. That’s a great accomplishment for any writer, but even more so for a title which began its life with copies shipped to Christian retailers.

But we figured that a full year should have caused some of the excitement to die down, and thought this might be a good time to ask Todd Burpo about that side of his life that never comes up in media interviews: His role as a local church pastor. Furthermore, we thought he would find the change in interview direction somewhat refreshing.

We were wrong.

Apparently the miscalculation was the part about the excitement dying down. Despite several different approaches over the past month, the best we could come up with was some rather terse responses from Belinda, Pastor Todd’s director of correspondence. She begins, “What little free time Todd does have, he tries to spend with his family.”

However, we’re not going to let this deter us from running the piece anyway. After all, if the tabloids can come up with speculative articles based on nothing, we ought to come up with something here based on Belinda’s 190-word response. Besides, we’re just going to stick to the facts.

Crossroads Wesleyan Church

Todd Burpo is the pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, Nebraska; population just under 4,000 and the county seat for Chase County. The Sunday services are broadcast on the local radio station. This kind of church setting is actually the reality that the greatest number of people experience on Sunday mornings in the United States, but for some reading here, the image is probably a throwback to a gentler time and place. A 21st century Andy Griffith would worship here, and so would Aunt Bea. In an interview* with Pete Wilson, Todd Burpo quotes the country music lyric, “Everybody dies famous in a small town.”

So we’re talking small, mid-west town, and relatively sized church. But the publication of Heaven is for Real has resulted in a few tourists — our word — though Belinda prefers the term visitors, and leaves us somewhat in the dark if this implies the occasional unfamiliar face or if the place has become a shrine that requires tour bus parking. Either way, it would be a unique dynamic for a local church pastor to deal with. It’s one thing when a megachurch pastor is the author of Christian books for a major publisher. It would be quite different in a small town.

On this we’re told, “Todd works diligently to try to keep balance in all of his responsibilities.” Good answer. Now I know how Belinda got the job. Moving forward, I see her as definite White House material.

But we wanted to get further inside Todd Burpo, the pastor; and nothing spells out a pastor’s vision like the current sermon series he’s preaching. We’re told, “In September, he started preaching the first of a group of series of sermons that examines what Crossroads Wesleyan should look like if it is Christ’s church. The series included: A Culture of Honor, A Culture of Faith, A Culture of Giving, A Culture of Growing and A Culture of Grace.”

That was the best answer we got to our questions, and from the church website, it appears those messages aren’t posted online.

Still, a lot of pastors — even in small towns — often feel they “have a book in them.” So we wanted to know if that was the case with Todd; if there was a book that he might have considered if Heaven is for Real hadn’t happened. But the answer is one that we had heard previously, “Todd has often said, he is not an author and never wanted to write a book.”

But pressing the same question from a different angle, I asked if the publisher, Thomas Nelson, had been talking about any future projects. On this, I was somewhat perplexed by the referral to the HIFR Ministries website, but after checking the site from top to bottom, I couldn’t find reference to anything other than the DVD curriculum and the kids’ edition of the book, both of which have now released. I guess I was thinking in terms of the publisher riding on the popularity of the book but with something a little different. Publishers do tend to do that sort of thing when they have a success on their hands; though the ‘brand’ here is somewhat limited.

So, sadly this is not the interview — even a short five question interview — with Todd Burpo we had hoped for; though The National Star might be interested anyway. In the meantime, we’ll leave the last word to Belinda, correspondence director extraordinaire:

It is the Burpos’ prayer that Heaven is For Real will point people to Jesus and we pray that Colton’s testimony will help people find hope and peace. Todd puts it this way—“In John 16:33 Jesus taught his disciples, in this world you will have trouble, and to that we all say, ‘Amen,’ because this world has plenty of it. But may the hope of heaven and the peace that only Jesus can give, be poured into your lives. But praise God, heaven is real, and don’t ever lose sight of that!”

If there’s a Christian author or pastor you’d like to see non-interviewed here, just drop us a line and we’ll do our best.


Images: Pete Wilson’s interview* with Todd; see below for link.

*For those of you hoping for more of a genuine interview with Todd, you can’t do any better than the 20 minutes that Pete Wilson spent with Todd and Colton in late spring 2011. Maybe it was worth coming here just to link to that. The entire interview played on a Sunday morning at Cross Point as part of a series on heaven.

April 11, 2014

An Outsider Looks at Together for the Gospel

I’ve been aware of the Together for the Gospel conference for a long time, but this week, through the miracle of live streaming and a schedule that coincided, I was able to catch a portion of many of the sessions, including a few sermons from beginning to end.

In many ways it reminded me of an experience a long time ago where I suddenly found myself immersed in a denomination that had always been completely foreign, attending an annual Easter Conference that consisted of speaker after speaker I had never heard of addressing content I was not fully grasping.

I came to this particular event a little better informed as to the subject matter and a great deal more familiar with the speakers, in some cases by reputation in other cases having read their blogs or books for quite some time.

Still, I am very much an outsider, and had I attempted to enter the event physically instead of virtually, I am sure that all manner of alarms would have been tripped. Better to view from a distance, I suppose.

I have a few takeaways from what I was able to catch over the three days that I believe are worth sharing. If you’ve never heard of T4G, this will be an introduction. On the other hand, if this is your tribe, you’ll see at least one person’s perception of the event and surrounding culture.

Together for the Gospel - Constituencies

The Players

T4G is very much a product of what is sometimes called The New Calvinism, or the Young, Restless and Reformed movement. I saw evidence of four streams blending into the T4G pond; consisting of (from smallest to largest):

Presbyterian: I suspect this was the smallest constituency numerically, but Presbys are Reformed in doctrine. So maybe these are the cousins, what Holiness Movement denoms are to hardcore Pentecostals, perhaps. This is also probably considered the liberal wing of the Reformed set, but in balance, if you like your theology capital “L” liberal you probably don’t frequent conferences such as these that skew a little more small “e” evangelical.

Classical Reformed: By this I mean your standard purebred CRC (Christian Reformed Church) or RCA (Reformed Church of America) members, or historically Reformed variants on those two denoms. Dutch ancestry is optional, but it helps.

Southern Baptist: This is where I thought it gets interesting. There is some agreement that to some degree, 5-point Calvinism is becoming the doctrine de rigeur of the SBC, though not all welcome this. (Free Will Baptists are definitely a minority and Free Willy Baptists don’t even show in the stats.) So you see many prominent SBC-ers (more on that in a minute) showing up on panels and as speakers and lots of commercials for LifeWay (a Baptist cash cow) showing up on the giant screen.

New Calvinists: This is the primary target audience for the conference, these are also the people both great and small who dominate the Christian blogosphere and Christian publishing for that matter. (More on that later as well.) They appear to be one of the fastest growing sectors of Christianity right now, but again some of that has to with online perception; the internet was made for this movement, and this movement was made for the internet. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Doctrinally, we’re talking a more hardline 5-point Calvinism than many Classical Reformers. This also takes in sub-sectors such as the Acts 29 Network and the Sovereign Grace churches; and also close friends such as the Harvest Bible Fellowship churches.

The Conference Itself

The three day event in Louisville, KY as evidenced in the main, arena venue consisted of worship times, panel discussions and main speakers. Admittance was by wristband, which apparently one didn’t want to misplace. Grace is a key component of T4G teaching, but apparently it’s not universally applied. In general, I have no complaints with the conference structure…but that doesn’t make for interesting reading, so we’ll move on.

The Music

All of the music that I saw was led by Bob Kauflin, who I got to meet in the very early days of Glad, a “Jesus Music” band dating back to the late ’70s. Bob led from a grand piano facing the stage, so the live streaming consisted entirely of a medium closeup of Bob with a few audience members in the background. No band. No backup vocalists. I wondered if this is normative with the various types of churches represented in the audience.

The music was dominantly hymns with the addition of some Sovereign Grace music and modern-hymns of the Stuart Townend/Keith & Kristyn Getty variety. With almost each piece, Bob would stop playing so that phrases or entire stanzas could be sung a capella. This creates a rather amazing worship atmosphere — especially in a large arena — if not overdone. In my opinion, this was overdone.

At this point, I recognize I run the risk of irate comments, so let me say this is in no way personal. Kauflin is a respected leader in the field of worship music, though we disagree on some issues, such as making minor lyrical changes or the composition of extra verses by local church musicians. His track record in this field is laudable.

But as a musician and worship leader who has been in a similar situation — not once, but twice — I believe it’s time to think about a succession plan; to look toward passing the torch. Working in that direction begins by sharing the stage, by letting younger worship leaders try their wings. I am sure there are, within their movement, some younger musicians deserving of this honor.

The Books

No, I’m not talking about T4G’s finances. One of the things that really stood out to me was the constant reference to the conference bookstore. In addition to some books that delegates received gratis, there were books promoted by the chairperson for each session, and discussion panelists who mentioned a book were often informed seconds later that the particular title was indeed, available at the store.

As someone who loves books, obviously I feel this is commendable. But it’s also a reminder — and please hear this carefully — that this is a particular faith culture that is very much about words. Books, articles, blogs, etc. matter and matter a great deal. (There are very few Salvation Army bloggers, because they’re all out doing what the rest of us only write about.) Your future in the New Calvinist movement depends much on being aware of the latest encyclicals from the movement’s leaders, and participants seem to go deep, past conversational familiarity with the works in question. 

Still, many of the books would be foreign even to mainstream Christian bookstore proprietors, which is why they are often sold through exclusive channels. I’ve written about this elsewhere, so we’ll move on.

The Superstars

I should say first that each denom has its own key people. Whether you attend a district conference, or a national one, there are certain people who, by whatever means, have risen to the top of the organizational hierarchy and are thereby held in high regard.

T4G is no different really. The composition of this year’s lineup — all male, by the way — is somewhat similar to the Venn diagram above, with a similar ratio of speakers and panelists representing different constituencies.  Still, it seems to run to extremes here, with key leaders held in dangerously high esteem, and members of the rank and file working hard to be able to quote chapter and verse from their latest pronouncements. In a Q & A, someone asked via video if Albert Mohler would consider running for President of the United States. Was that tongue in cheek? I might have said ‘yes,’ were it not for the context.

Other main speakers included Kevin DeYoung, Mark Dever, John Piper, David Platt, Matt Chandler, John MacArthur, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Ligon Duncan. (These messages are soon to be posted.)

(As an aside, there was some discussion about a particular high-profile speaker who had recused himself from the conference several months earlier, but was then spotted on the front row, and as to whether you can have it both ways.)

The Gospel

There was definitely some great preaching. I would watch/listen to Kevin DeYoung a second time when that message comes online, and I am always personally challenged by the passion of David Platt.

But I’m always somewhat mystified by the constant references to “the gospel.” It reminds me of the movie The Princess Bride where Vizzini is constantly saying, “Inconceivable;” and finally in a scene Inigo Montoya finally says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The New Calvinists are constantly talking about “the gospel” and dare I say are obsessed with getting it right. But what particular aspect of this is in view? In my world, the gospel is Jesus. If we speak more about the good news, but not so much about the content of that evangel, then I think we’re allowing ourselves to be party to a mammoth distraction. It would be interesting to know what the word-count was for “Jesus” versus “gospel” in remarks made from the platform. 

(One of their number once used the term “real friends of the gospel” to describe New Calvinist churches, implying that others are not.)

In fairness, some of the sessions did address things like the need to share our faith, but you have to remember that this is a community that has historically looked askance at the seeker-sensitive strategy, abhors topical preaching and has been openly critical of anything involving the word missional. I believe that such a verbal witness would be constrained to somewhat limited parameters of their choosing.

Conclusion

I am thankful for the opportunity to get more than a passing glimpse into this particular event. If the option exists, I would definitely try to clear more time to watch in 2016. I think that as the larger, capital “B” Body of Christ, we really don’t know each other. There was some great preaching, and I have better insight into the core values and central issues for the constituencies represented at T4G. There is much we can learn from people of different denominational stripes, and I can only hope my Reformed brothers and sisters would tune in equally for a Wesleyan or Anabaptist or Charismatic convention. 

As an outsider, I am always concerned if the passing of time is bringing us — in this case Calvinists and non-Calvinists — closer together or farther apart. My hope is the former, but reality suggests the latter. As the group represented by T4G grows, I see it becoming more entrenched; there is increasing tribe/brand loyalty, a type of religious jingoism, increasing isolation; and all this is a loss for people on both sides of the divide.


Lighter moments: Check out the Twitter feed Not the T4G

Image: Church-At-Our House Graphics

Related: Defining Calvinism versus Arminianism

 

January 10, 2014

Friendly Advice to Megachurch Pastors: Take the Show on the Road

Greg Laurie Crusade Evangelism

For the last few days, I’ve been enjoying AHA, a forthcoming book by Kyle Idleman1. Reading it reminds me of his unique style that I first discovered in the H20 series, and then in Not a Fan. I’d be willing to travel to Southeast Church just to see him preach in person, but I’d be more thrilled if Kyle could make it to a city near our hometown sometime, so more of our friends could experience his ministry in person.

And that’s when it hit me.

So…

I have a message for Kyle Idleman
I have a message for Perry Noble
I have a message for Andy Stanley
I have a message for Steven Furtick
I have a message for J.D. Greear
I have a message for Jeff Manion
I have a message for Pete Wilson 2

…and anyone else who wants to join the list:

Take the show on the road.

Seriously. We have the example of Billy Graham, but we also have the practical logistics available from Greg Laurie3, who is one of the few megachurch pastors who also does crusade-style evangelism.

Preaching a sermon series is something that we as Evangelicals have mastered. Rethinking a single message might mean some fine tuning. Adjusting for an audience that isn’t as intimately familiar with you might require some local research.

But this thing is so doable. Think about it:

(a) Preaching to crowds? No brainer.
(b) Your books and online presence assures that you are known beyond your own community.
(c) Your reputation guarantees the ability to find local churches to partner with you or your church on local logistics and finances.
(d) You already block out a number of weeks for conference speaking; this is a horse of a different color, a crusade-style meeting (or meetings) which won’t take you away from your home church any more than you have already allotted for and will reach a demographic which doesn’t do conferences.

Some people4 have done this already, either as individual dates or as a road trip.

As someone who enjoys celebrating the next generation of authors, pastors and teachers, I offer this challenge because deep in my heart, I want to be able to mention your ministry and resources and then be able to add, “Coming soon to an auditorium near you.”


1 A full review will appear here closer to the March release date
2 Pete already does Promise Keepers, which involves a similar communication style to what I’m proposing
3 http://www.harvest.org/crusades/general-information/home.html
4 James MacDonald, for example

January 1, 2014

Return of the Flight Fantasy

We ran this here a few years ago — more than once — and now that I have more realistic expectations when it comes to getting a huge volume of comments, I want to repeat it anyway, even if you only give it some thought without replying…

? Of the Week:

airline-seatsYou’re on a four-hour flight, up for conversation and you think the person in the next seat is also. You turn and find yourself sitting next to ________________!

What person in the “Christian world” would you most like to find yourself sitting next to for that flight? You can name up to three

  1. .
  2. .
  3. .

or just name one. But let us know some reasons, and if we don’t know this person, explain who they are.

And yes, I know it would be more productive if you were sitting next to a stranger who simply needed to hear about Jesus from you, but we’ll take that as a given, okay?

December 17, 2013

What Christian Publishers Want: It’s Not Great Writing

Christian publisher query form“I can say without reservation that the bigger the platform the less the author has to say…”
~Scot McKnight

At the blog Jesus Creed yesterday, Scot McKnight posted a sample form that one publishing imprint uses to respond to author queries. WARNING: It’s got nothing to do with anything the author may feel led to say in print. It’s not what you know, it’s who knows you. It’s all about trivialities like Facebook friends and Twitter followers. FURTHER WARNING: If you’re already disillusioned with the Christian publishing industry, this story won’t help. 

Scot McKnight is highly respected and widely read, so it’s not surprising some high profile people — some authors themselves — chimed in on this one:  

Skye Jethani: I had a conversation with a publisher recently about these problems. He shamefully admitted that in today’s Christian publishing world a Eugene Peterson would never get published. Another literary agent said it’s much easier to get talented writers published by non-Christian publishing houses–they’re less beholden to celebrity and platform. Arg! I suppose it’s not worth fighting. In a few years we’ll all be serving one master anyway–Amazon.

Karen Zacharias: We are a celebrity-driven culture which is why platforms matter. Not for content, but for economic value. It’s a business. Many of my author friends have quit the business in the past couple of years, as their work and merit has been devalued by the digital era. Not that being an author was ever a money-making venture, but it’s even less so for mid-list authors than ever before. There are days when I think I will quit and go get that job at Dairy Queen after all. 

Dan Kimball (tongue in cheek): When looking at this form, there is a very obvious mis-focused attention to the questions being asked. They should be including ones like: “If you were on a deserted island for a year and had to listen to only one kind of music the entire time, would you listen to rap (with clean lyrics) or contemporary country western?” “How many times have you seen the David Lynch movie Eraserhead?” “Please provide a list of concerts you have seen the past 18 months?” “What hair gel do you use and please provide a short paragraph listing the specific reasons why you choose that hair gel over another?” If they would only ask these questions, then it would show they are critically thinking about what they are publishing. I hope there is change, it can happen. 

Basically, with the release of this form, the Christian publishing establishment has been caught red-handed.

Click to read: Platform and Publishing

December 9, 2013

Currently Reading

I currently have four books on the go at once; one is already released, three are releasing in January.  I like to do full reviews only when I’ve completely finished each and only closer to the actual street date in stores. But I wanted to share some brief thoughts on each today.

Currently Reading 1

Futureville by Skye Jethani — Just as his first book, The Divine Conspiracy used the art of Vincent Van Gogh as a motif, this time around the Leadership Today editor looks at the anticipation for the future which American’s experienced at the outset of the 1939 World’s Fair, and shows that whatever we believe about the future is rooted in and shaped by the present. I’ll admit to some bias, but I believe Skye Jethani is one of the most important voices in the church today; a writer with a prophetic gift for telling it like it is. I’ve already read part of this book twice.

The Noticer Returns by Andy Andrews — This author has a gift for propelling the reader from chapter to chapter. The character known as Jones returns from the first book in the series, and Andy Andrews portrays himself in the story. So is this fiction or non-fiction? You decide. Either way, you’ll wish you had a ‘noticer’ speaking into your life. This title released in October.

How to Be Rich by Andy Stanley — This book summarizes material from different sermons the North Point Community Church pastor has used in introducing the church’s annual “Be Rich” campaign, which this year gave away over $4M U.S. to area service organizations. Unfortunately, the title is going to confuse some — it already has in my family — and lead to the impression this is a book on prosperity doctrine, when it fact it is all about being generous with the riches you’ve already been given.

Clout by Jennie Catron — The executive pastor of Cross Point Community Church was on the fast track to success in the Nashville music business until a merger and downsizing ended her dream. The book deals with seven things that can destroy ambition and dreams, and four things that can strengthen you as you reach toward personal objectives. Jennie Catron is a key writer on leadership issues for both women and men; there’s much similarity between her writing and that of Michael Hyatt. The book is published under the Nelson (business books) imprint.

April 26, 2013

Theology Lite: Max Lucado on Pretzels

Filed under: media — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

So there I was driving home and listening to one of six Christian radio stations I can now get in my car, when Max Lucado’s Upwords radio minute came on.  This is essentially a sponsorship opportunity for radio stations; a vehicle for them to sell additional advertising.

Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for all the books Max has written and the contribution he’s made to Christian literature, in fact I’ve given a few favorable reviews here.  Furthermore, I especially like Max on video. I think the warmth and tenor of his personality comes through the camera better than through the printed page, though, I must confess, I now read his material hearing his voice in my head.

But as I listened to Upwords, I thought, “As fluffy content goes, this is more fluffy than usual.”  So I looked to see if the text was available online to share here, and it was:

Max Lucado UpWordsYears ago I was traveling with my daughter, Jenna.  When I realized she and I weren’t seated together,  I asked the fellow sitting next to her to swap seats with me.  Surely he’ll understand, I thought.  He didn’t.  I was left separated from my 12 year old on a long transatlantic flight.

I began plotting how I’d trip him if he dared walk to the restroom during the flight. I turned to intimidate him with a snarl and saw, much to my surprise, Jenna offering him a pretzel. What?  My daughter was fraternizing with the enemy! As if the pretzel were an olive branch, he accepted her gift and they both leaned their seats back and dozed off.

I learned the lesson God had used my daughter to teach me. All of us are here by grace and, at some point, all of us have to share some grace. So the next time you find yourself next to a questionable character, don’t give him a hard time—give him a pretzel!

That’s the full text.

Now my goal here is not to take this apart letter-by-letter, punctuation-mark by punctuation-mark. (We’ll leave that to discernment ministry bloggers.) I did make note — especially if I’m ever near him on an airplane — that Max was considering tripping this stranger, and that even in the final paragraph, he still ranks as a “questionable character.”  Of course this is the same man who recently, in his book Grace, confessed to a week of drinking beer out of a paper bag in a convenience store parking lot, and an attempt to bribe an airline official.  Truly, I’m not making that up.

No, I was just concerned that the whole broadcast was a tad light, as in lite. No Biblical text, though I suppose that’s not the goal of Upwords. No deep theology. Not even a teaser for an upcoming book.  (This story is in fact from an older book, The Great House of God.)

I guess I have no major complaint other than perhaps I’d like my sixty-seconds back.  I do think the radio airtime could be better used. I think that Max himself could use it better. Especially in view of the program’s mandate as outlined on his website:

In 1991, Max Lucado was presented the idea of developing a radio broadcast that focused solely on Jesus Christ.

Perhaps there’s a philosophy to this radio vignette; possibly Max builds a listener following and then hits the spiritual home run on Fridays, or at the end of the month.

I just think people are tuning in for something more substantive than pretzels.

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