Thinking Out Loud

December 1, 2013

Great Christian Sitcom Idea

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:05 am
Jamie Wright

Jamie Wright

Jenna Elfman

Jenna Elfman

So…if anyone from Cornerstone Television, or even TBN is listening, I have a great idea for a Christian weekly half-hour sitcom, and the script ideas already exist online.  Here it is:

Jamie The Very Worst Missionary

Jamie Wright, now living in the U.S., has built a huge blog following on being inept at various things; and yet behind the self-deprecating humor, there is a great deal of both insight and heart. I was thinking we could get Jenna Elfman (Dharma and Greg; 1600 Penn) to play Jamie.  And Jamie Wright could have some kind of creative control, thus adding Jamie The Very Worst Scriptwriter to her list of ‘worsts.’  And how about a nice 1960′s style opening theme song, “She’s Jamie, the very worst miss-ion-aa-ree…”

September 18, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Glasbergen - preaching

My pappy said,”Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop readin’ that Wednesday Linkin’” *

With that* we begin another round. To read this week’s list with the actual links, you must click over to Out of Ur.

  • Where are the frogs?  For Glen Eyrie, a Christian conference center in Colorado operated by The Navigators, last year it was fire, this year it’s flooding.
  • The latest story of a child’s death alleging a connection to a controversial parenting book has international repercussions. (I’ve been tracking the book’s story for four years now.)
  • Sermon of the Week: Steve Carter at Willow finds a common thread between postsecrets.com and the life of Moses.
  • Testimony of the Week: Jessica Kelley shares an intense story of suffering and loss with the congregation at Greg Boyd’s church. 44 powerful minutes.
  • Essay of the Week: Andy Hall finds himself in the middle of the same type of story as Jessica, and connects what happened at Eden to the suffering we experience in a fallen world.
  • Saeed Abedini appeals to the new President of Iran to release him from prison; while his wife speaks at Liberty University.
  • Is there a difference between women preachers and women bloggers? Much depends on how the women bloggers view their role.
  • Jamie The Very Worst Photographer attempts to show us highlights of her trip to Guatemala.
  • At some point in 2014, Hillsong is planting a church in Southern California. Maybe some day Justin B. will visit that Hillsong church also.
  • Parents in Scotland want to be able to have a say in whether or not their children receive gay sex education.
  • Just weeks before classes started, Canada’s Trinity Western University canceled a filmmaking course because the teacher couldn’t sign on to TWU’s statement about the fate of unbelievers.
  • Got last minute company arriving tonight? Take the references for the top sixty most searched Bible verses at topverses.com and turn it into a trivia game.
  • While the Pope is suggesting the possibility of married priests, for some, the big story is his purchase of a 1984 Renault. (Bumper sticker: My other car is the Pope Mobile.)
  • Christena Cleveland is running a series of essays on the experience of African-American students at Christian universities.  Here’s  some  samples.
  • For I know the plans I have for who? A look at the context behind a much-quoted Bible promises.
  • Before he could burn nearly 3,000 copies of the Quran, Pastor Terry Jones and an associate are charged with firearms and vehicle registration issues. The story does raise the question of what happened to the kerosene-soaked copies of the Muslim holy book.
  • Equal Time Department: In a Reformed-theology-dominated blogosphere, someone dares to offer Ten Reasons Why I Am a Wesleyan. (Some Arminians may not be drawn to these particular reasons.)
  • Sigh! Another case of a church wanting to part company from their denomination, but wanting to keep the property.
  • In a world where unusual church names are the norm, it’s hard to distinguish yourself from the pack, which is why I like this one from the UK: Everyday Champions Church. (Do they have the breakfast cereal Wheaties there?)
  • If you’re going to read an apologetics book review, you want an apologetics website; hence this link to Apologetics 315′s review of God’s Not Dead, a primer on the subject by Rice Broocks.
  • If you’re planning your Christmas services and need design ideas, you can always hang Christmas trees upside down.
  • Len Wilson, who serves at an Atlanta church called Peachtree, has written an excellent series of articles about visual arts in the church.  (He ought to be easy to track down; how many things in Atlanta can possibly be named Peachtree?)
  • Jordan Michael Taylor gets downright preachy at a recent Blimey Cow video on the subject of loving your enemies. At the same time, only days in, his Kickstarter CD campaign has already doubled its goal.
  • For the Christian, when is a glass of wine, one glass of wine too many?
  • Double sigh! Another youth pastor crosses a line with teens. I won’t even include the summary for this one.
  • A pastor friend of mine said this article was guilty of stating the obvious, but here are ten reasons leading a church is tougher than running a business.
  • A Mormon dad goes to great lengths — or in this case, shorts — to show his daughter what immodesty looks like.
  • Unstoppable, Kirk Cameron’s lastest film will play one night only — next Tuesday — in selected U.S. theaters.
  • Not to be taken seriously, the blog Celebrity Pastor offers five essentials to look for in a worship leader.

*I want to be really clear that the Commander Cody intro this week was my wife’s idea.

What Happens in Vegas

 

http://www.outofur.com/archives/2013/09/wednesday_link_11.html

March 22, 2013

Name Changes: The Artist Formerly Known as Anne Jackson

The first time I can recall anyone within the Christian world changing their name mid career was when Leslie Phillips became Sam Phillips. A newer generation might cite Katy Hudson becoming Kate Perry. Both of those examples however were exiting the Christian marketplace.

I’m sure there are some Christian author stories out there as well, but I can’t think of any.

However, on Monday, Zondervan and Thomas Nelson author Anne Jackson announced to the world that hereafter she will be writing under the name Anne Marie Miller, in a blog post entitled Anne Jackson Is Gone.

I still have another book to write. Half of it is due a month from tomorrow. As Tim, myself, and my publishing team at Thomas Nelson sat down in December, we discussed the pros and cons of changing my name from what it has always been known as online and on books – Anne Jackson – to my new name…

…But what about those people who only know “Anne Jackson”? How will they find out? Is it a bad career move?

My heart and gut say to go with it. Though “Anne Jackson” is the name some people know, it is just a name. It is time for me to shed the skin that held much love and heartache and enjoy wearing this new one which is full of new life and adventure. I am a different person now…hopefully one who is a little more mature in her faith and loving in her heart…

Read her entire article — complete with a picture of her new hubby — at this link.

March 16, 2013

To My Fellow Bloggers: What Your Amazon Links Support

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought -  Gay marriage donations?

This week we were asked by a Christian bookstore manager, “How many people know that the founder of Amazon is the largest single donor to the cause of gay marriage?” Honestly, I didn’t know myself, and the amount, $2.5 M (US) is staggering. He told me, “Tell your local churches that are buying from Amazon just to type ‘Jeff Bezos’ and ‘gay marriage’ into a search engine for themselves.”  A week later, I did this myself. There were many, many articles, but this one describes a behind-the-scenes look at the donation:

Thank Lesbian Jennifer Cast for Jeff Bezos’ Huge Gay Marriage Support

Like most of us, Jennifer Cast said she figured her former boss, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, was well aware of the threat to gay marriage in Washington State by the upcoming the ballot iniative and wrote to him, “I figured that if you felt the desire to support marriage equality, you would do it.” But, unlike many of us, this time she spoke up with a direct ask, and for the first time in twelve years working on the issue, Cast, 50, partners of 20+ years with Liffy Franklin, 63, emailed Bezos, “I beg you not to sit on the sidelines and hope the vote goes our way. Help us make it so.” She wrote, “We need help from straight people. To be very frank, we need help from wealthy straight people who care about us and who want to help us win.” She asked the billionaire for a contribution of $100,000 to $200,000. Within thirty-six hours he replied, “Jen, this is right for so many reasons. We’re in for $2.5 million. Jeff & MacKenzie”

This is the largest ever donation in support of marriage equality and it only happened because a lesbian spoke up and asked for it. Learn from her. The announcement also inspired other gifts, according to the Seattle Times, which reports, “Cast said she has received hundreds of emails since news of Bezos’ gift broke early Friday from well-wishers and those who suddenly wanted to give. One donor pledged $25,000.”

Jeff Bezos is worth $18.4 billion. Although William Lynch, the CEO of Barnes & Noble, isn’t a billionaire, his compensation last year was $10 million, going up to $15.3 million this year. He doesn’t have a connection to Washington State, but some of the Amazon haters need to ask Lynch for a significant donation. He can give to Maryland’s or to Maine’s campaign…

A link for this and what follows is available if you wish. The perspective below was actually from a gay website. The first line really sums up what’s happening even as you’re reading this.

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…gay marriage donations?: The founder of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, and his wife, MacKenzie, just donated 2.5 million to help pass Washington state’s Referendum 74, which would legalize gay marriage. The donation from Bezos, the 15th wealthiest man in America, has been called a “game changer” by Washington gay marriage campaigners.

I do not see how any Christian blogger or media outlet possessing this information can continue to remain an Amazon affiliate or referrer. To everyone else, if you or your church purchases from Amazon, I think you need to take a long, prayerful second look at that situation.

January 19, 2013

Weekend Link List

Weekend List Lynx

Weekend List Lynx

Lots of stuff that can’t wait until Wednesday!

  • This one is must reading. Matthew Paul Turner asks former Mars Hill Bible Church pastor Shane Hipps all the questions I would have asked about the church, hell, Love Wins and the man he succeeded at MHBC, Rob Bell.

    “This is one of the biggest misunderstandings.  Rob doesn’t have a position or a concept of hell, he is an artist exploring possibilities and making unexpected connections, not a theologian plotting out a system.  In other words there is nothing to agree or disagree with.  It’s like saying I disagree with that song or that painting.”

    Read more at MPT’s blog.

  • CT’s story of the week concerns gay students at Christian colleges. That’s not a typo.

    “Leaders at Christian colleges and universities around the country told Christianity Today their schools are rethinking the way they address the needs of [same sex attracted] students on campus.”

    Read more at Christianity Today.

  • If you’ve been around the church for any length of time, you might remember “visitation” by pastors and church elders. These days, you’re more likely to get a house call from your doctor.  David Fitch’s guest author Ty Grigg thinks you might not have anybody drop in these days:

    “It is not a cultural norm to have neighbors or even friends over to our homes for dinner.  If we want to be with people, we go out.  The restaurant has replaced the space that home once occupied in society.  Typically, for younger generations (40’s and under), a visit will be at a coffee shop or to grab lunch.  In our suburban isolation, the home is too much of an intimate, sacred space for most non-family members to enter.”

    Read more at Reclaiming the Mission.

Other links:

  • Canadian readers will remember a national pre-Christmas story involving the theft of $2M worth of toys from a Salvation Army warehouse in Toronto. Here’s a follow-up on how the organization is working to protect itself by having a solid ‘whistle-blower’ policy
  • Want a taste of that theological educational experience you missed? RegentRadio.com, the internet broadcasting arm of Regent College, frequently offers free lectures by its professors. Currently it’s wrapping up a twelve-part series with Gordon Fee on the Holy Spirit in Pauline Theology with a new lecture available each day.
  • We linked to this about six months ago, but it’s worth a revisit. Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed links to a 9-minute video where an orthodox priest explains various theories of atonement.
  • Sarnia is a Canadian city across the river from Port Huron, MI.  Pastor Kevin Rodgers blogs at Orphan Age and reminds us how a shared meal is a great way to build community.
  • USA Today religion editor Cathy Lynn Grossman looks at the larger religious issues in Monday’s Presidential inauguration ceremony.
  • A New Jersey substitute teacher is fired for giving a student his personal Bible as a gift after the student kept asking where the saying, “the last shall be first” came from.
  • New blogs we’re watching this week — okay new to us:
  • Talk about California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day: Our closing shot this week is from a Facebook page dedicated to books. The picture combines two of my favorite passions: a day at the beach and reading.

Beach Library

January 14, 2013

What Motivates The Haters?

Watchdog ministries. Lighthouse ministries. Appraisal ministries. They go by many names. They are full-time Christian snipers. Let me back up. There are certain ministries that exist to find and expose false teaching. I have no problem with exposing false teaching. Indeed, it is part of what we are to do as teachers…correct false doctrine. However, it is very rare to find a ministry or a person who does this well. Most of the ministries and people who do this are arrogant, ungracious, and counter-productive and themselves need to be exposed. I have worked for one of these ministries (a long time ago). After a while, the ministry becomes obsessed, concerning itself with nothing else other than beating someone up in the name of the Lord. When there is no controversy, like a drug addict in withdrawals, they begin to create controversy ex nihilo or go back to dead horses and kick them. Their goal soon loses the priority of truth, learning, and understanding. I think that many people would have nothing to talk about if there was not someone to kick.  ~C. Michael Patton, Parchment and Pen.

I’m continuing the thread of posts here on Friday and yesterday.

After listening to the sermon of a popular pastor, speaker and author on the weekend, I decided to see what else by him YouTube had to offer.  I quickly noticed a dissenting one-hour piece by the proprietor of a self-styled “discernment ministry,” but decided to pass. I didn’t need that. But then curiosity got the better of me.

The upload was the audio-only of a podcast in which the perpetrator in question plays brief snippets of copied sermon or conference material and then frequently stops the playback in order to insert their criticisms.

There ought to be law.  Specifically: There ought to be a law preventing this kind of misuse, but in the U.S. it would never fly given free speech, etc. That constitution keeps coming back to bite us, doesn’t it?  In an ideal world, a pastor’s sermon audio would be treated with a bit more respect, if not out of respect for the man, out of respect for the office he holds.

Try this yourself. After church next Sunday, buy the CD of your pastor’s sermon, put it in the machine and each time he makes a significant point, pause it and say, “That’s a complete perversion of scripture.”  Do it enough times and you might even convince yourself. You’ll certainly sound like an authority as you interrupt the pastor each time.

Then again, don’t try that.

Browsing this podcaster’s blog, the thing that immediately strikes you is his hair-trigger reaction to anyone who feels that God spoke to them or that God has been impressing something on them. This type of extreme cessationist view has the effect of greatly elevating the printed, Biblical text, while at the same time ignoring some of what it teaches; not unlike the Biblical scholars in Jesus’ day who “searched the scriptures” diligently, but failed to see that they pointed to Him.  (Ref: John 5:39)

So I gave the guy nine minutes. Just as the Bible college address by the pastor in question had resonated with me so well, the podcaster’s critiques were slowly raising my blood pressure. I realized that this type of thing is toxic, and when I finally shut it off, my wife basically asked, “What took you so long?”

For the rest of the weekend, I contemplated the question, “What motivates a person to dedicate all their energies to tearing down the ministry of others?” I’m not talking here about ministry watch organizations that report items about clergy that appear in mainstream media. Somewhere, someplace, the family of faith needs to make notation of these moral failures or financial scandals. This is about self-styled watchdogs who feel it necessary to do their own doctrinal investigative reporting; who go looking for problems where there are none. 

Why would a person get up in the morning and start downloading the sermon content from major authors and megachurch pastors with the aim of looking for doctrinal nits to pick? Who does this?

The answer came last night when I was brushing my teeth. While the subjects of this essay would quickly dismiss this type of revelation, I have no problem putting forward the main motivational factor:

Jealousy.

This is ministry envy in its highest form. ‘I didn’t get my books published by a company with a major distributor, and I never got to be a pastor of a major church, therefore I will tear down those who did and those who do.’ Or, ‘I never had that measure of platform at that early an age, nor did we have that type of media proliferation.’

The question you can’t ask is, “Who called you to do this?” Or, “Who trained you to do this?” Or, “To whom are you accountable?” Because in each case the individual in question would have to concede that they felt that God was leading them into this type of ‘ministry’ and in so doing, they fall into the very pattern they accuse others of: Having received a call or revelation directly from God.

The thing I would fear the most would be waking up one morning and realizing you don’t know how to do anything else. And today, with the internet, the discernment crowd has access to a never-ending world of sermon audio and video.

They aren’t going away. But you can stay away. Keep your distance. This sort of thing is toxic. If you start to hear multiple reports about the ministry integrity of an individual or organization, that’s one thing; you should take that seriously.  But don’t let a discernment ministry undo the good that God is doing in your life through a particular Bible teacher.

I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho, heave, ho and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and a wall fell.

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled?
Like the men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He laughed as he replied, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.

I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken years to do.”
I asked myself as I went away
Which of these roles have I tried to play?

Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by rule and square?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?

Oh Lord, let my life and labors be
That which build for eternity.

January 2, 2013

Wednesday Link List

II Cor 10_13--15  Online Translation

And you thought I would take the day off, didn’t you? Well, the link list crew worked all New Year’s Day to bring this to you.

  • Russell D. Moore has a unique observation post from which to consider the decision by the Russian government to suspend adoptions of Russian children by Americans. I think his two Russian born children would agree with his summary.
  • Hi readers. Meet Matt Rawlings. Matt read 134 books last year. How did you do? 
  • And here’s another Matt. Matt Appling has put together an amazing essay on why the concept of shame is ripe for a comeback.
  • David Murrow has an interesting idea in which popular TV pastors are a brand that is a type of new denomination. He also has other ideas about what the church will look like in 50 years. (Or read the Todd Rhoades summary.)
  • Some readers here also blog, and if that’s you, perhaps you do the “top posts” thing. (I don’t.) But if you had a post-of-the-year, I can almost guarantee it weren’t nothin’ like this must-read one.
  • “This is the most egregious violation of religious liberty that I have ever seen.” Denny Burk on what is largely a U.S.-based story, but with justice issues anyone can appreciate: The case of Hobby Lobby.
  • Can some of you see yourself in this story? “It’s really hard for me to read God’s word without dissecting it. I like to have commentaries and cross references. I like to take notes. I like to circle, underline, rewrite. And then my time with God turns into another homework assignment.” I can. More at Reflect blog.
  • This one may be sobering for a few of you. David Fitch offers three signs that you are not a leader, at least where the Kingdom of God is concerned.
  • “We put people into leadership roles too early, on purpose. We operate under the assumption that adults learn on a need-to-know basis. The sooner they discover what they don’t know, the sooner they will be interested in learning what they need to know…At times, it creates problems. We like those kinds of problems…” Read a sample of Andy Stanley’s new book, Deep and Wide, at Catalyst blog.
  • So for some of you, 2013 represents getting back on the horse again, even though you feel you failed so many times last year. Jon Acuff seems to understand what you’re going through.
  • Dan Gilgoff leaves the editor’s desk at CNN Belief Blog after three years and notes five things he learned in the process.
  • More detail on the Westboro petition(s) at the blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars; along with our get well wishes to blog proprietor Ed Brayton, recovering from open heart surgery.
  • Rachel Held Evans mentioned this one yesterday: The How To Talk Evangelical Project.  Sample: “If Christianese was a language, evangelical was our own special dialect. A cadence. A rhythm…” Click the banner at the top for recent posts.
  • Not sure how long this has been available, but for all you Bible study types,  here’s the ultimate list for academically-inclined people who want to own the best Bible commentary for each Bible book. (And support your local bookstore if you still have one!)
  • Bob Kauflin salutes the average worship leader, working with the average team at the average church. Which despite what you see online is mostly people like us.
  • Flashback all the way to September for this one: Gary Molander notes that the primary work of a pastor is somewhat in direct conflict with the calling they feel they are to pursue. He calls it, Why is it So Stinkin’ Hard to Work for a Church?
  • Nearly three years ago, we linked to this one and it’s still running: CreationSwap.com where media shared for videos, photos, logos, church bulletins, is sold or given away by thousands of Christian artists.

Christian books I hope you never see

August 22, 2012

Wednesday Link List

  • He didn’t originate it, but the above graphic was found at Tony Jones’ blog who discusses the topic-we-haven’t-done-here involving a fast food restaurant we-haven’t-named-here.  Tony has another link here, too. 
  • Our top link today is to one of the blogs by Camille who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and writes on how to be a blessing to friends with chronic illnesses.
  • No link on this one, but there’s a guy who comments on several blogs I read under the name Eagle, who came down with a mystery illness a few weeks back. It was so good to see how the blog community came together to encourage him and pray for him and keep one another updated.
  • We took a week off from the link list last week only to have Clark Bunch encourage his readers to visit the link list that wasn’t here. So from our Returning-The-Favor Department, here’s a link to The Read and Share file at The Master’s Table.
  • My wife and I find so many church-based ‘friendships’ are really task-based and disappear when the project ends or people change churches. So I liked this quote: “People frequently think they have friends at work—or church or the tennis club or any location where like-minded people gather—when in fact what they have are ‘work neighbors.’” The rest of the article is more for women and those middle-aged, but I liked that ‘work neighbors’ concept.
  • Worship leaders not only articulate theology but in a real way they also shape theology. So they really need to know of what they sing. Zac Hicks explores this with advice for both musicians and pastors.
  • Jim Henderson talks about the thesis of his book The Resignation of Eve in the light of a new report from Barna Research about the role of women in ministry.
  • Bring your church bulletin to a restaurant on Sunday and get a discount. Seems like a fairly typical promotion, right? Well, a complaint has been filed with the Pennyslvania Human Rights Commission for just that special offer.
  • In other protest news, the man who symbolically burned a box of cereal on the front lawn of General Foods died a few days later.
  • The replacement for the “Touchdown Jesus” statue on Interstate 75 is just about ready to be put into place; and this time it’s fireproof.
  • Did I mention Phil Vischer’s podcast lately? Seriously, you need to listen to one of these; you’ll be hooked on the series. Here’s the one where his guest was his brother Rob Vischer though honestly, Episode 13 is much funnier. So you have a choice: serious or silly.
  • Cross Point’s Jenni Catron guests at Outreach Magazine suggesting that in church leadership, red tape was made to be cut.
  • How small is our God? Richard Beck counterpoints the ‘Your God is Too Small’ rhetoric with a piece about finding the small-ness of God.
  • There are definitely more than five things belonging to the realm of mystery in theology, but for C. Michael Patton, these are the major ones. (We might use this at C201 today, too!) 
  • Twenty years after his death, Christianity Today provides a lengthy tribute to the influence of Christian musician Mark Heard.
  • Meanwhile, at a venue quite familiar to Mark Heard, The Choir performs a final song on the final night of the Cornerstone Festival.
  • And here’s a 5-minute recap of the whole event
  • If you find yourself in remote parts of Africa, James Brett wants you to know how to build a rocket stove.
  • Oops!-I-Said-It-Again Department: Pat Robertson stands by guys who won’t date a woman with three adopted international children because in Pat’s view they might grow up weird or have brain damage. Russell D. Moore goes appropriately ballistic in response. “This is not just a statement we ought to disagree with. This is of the devil.” (I think his co-host would be wise to quit after this incident.)(Pat’s not Russell’s; Russel doesn’t have a co-host.)
  • The oft-cynical Naked Pastor, aka David Hayward pledges his new blog will be the up-side to his popular blog’s rants.  And the blog Pastor Jeff’s Ramblings announces that he is shutting down the blog, and then, a day later announces the start of Pastor Jeff’s Reviews.
  • Below, one of several new panels at Sacred Sandwich:

June 5, 2012

“I Don’t Like It, But I Need a Theological Reason”

The comments section was fairly quiet yesterday, but off the blog it was a different story…

…anyway, I decided as promised to reprint the further foray into yesterday’s topic that actually appeared in the comments section…

It began with this comment, which I did not approve:

I’ve read more informative commentary on the place mats at Burger King.

I wasn’t trying to restate the story of Tim Challies blog review of Ann Voskamp’s book because I thought the article at her.meneutics spelled out everything so clearly. Did you click through? Out of hundreds of page views early yesterday, only a handful of people actually clicked through to read the story.

I wasn’t originally trying to provide a lot of commentary , I just wanted to share the story; I think Ann’s response was very Christ-like and very consistent with what I saw of her on the interviews at 100 Huntley Street. (Linked in my ‘overview’ of the book which is linked here.)

But since you asked so nicely…

Mark 9:38-41 — Common English Bible (CEB)

Recognize your allies

38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.”

39 Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him. No one who does powerful acts in my name can quickly turn around and curse me. 40 Whoever isn’t against us is for us. 41 I assure you that whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will certainly be rewarded.

I think the type of person who is going to have great issues with this book is probably the same type of person who has issues with The Shack. I can be more objective here because while I was — once the smoke cleared and I’d settled my own position –  very supportive of Paul Young’s book; I saw Ann’s as more of a women’s book and I’m sure the sales figures bear that out to the point where I think only a woman can provide a really thorough review of it.

But we tend to shy away from anything that’s not produced from within “our group.” (See Mark 9, above.) My own research has shown that in any particular community, no matter how much media and marketing is given to a particular book title; it will sell so much a better if a local pastor endorses the book from the pulpit; more so if it quotes a particular translation or appears under the imprint of a particular publisher.

The church has long resisted change and innovation, and Ann Voskamp’s book, her blog, her style of public speaking is very unique; very much who she is.

I find that frequently the church is awakened by the sound of a different voice; I also find that even those whose message may have some rough meters and uneven cadences causes us to think more than those with a skillfully crafted prose that is the same as every other speaker and writer. (Though I am not at all saying that Ann Voskamp’s writing is not beautifully structured; but it is unlike everything else currently on offer.)

Tim Challies writes,

She either quotes or is influenced by authors like Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Annie Dillard, and Dallas Willard. This brings to the book a deep-rooted mysticism that at times seems even to border on the view that the divine exists within and extends to all parts of nature (a teaching known as panentheism). At heart, mysticism promotes the view that God can be experienced, and perhaps even best experienced, outside of Scripture.

Tim Challies cited as problematic Ann’s having been influenced by ‘mystics’ like Henri Nouwen and Dallas Willard. Again, I’m not a fan of Willard; we did one of his curriculum DVD series on Sunday nights and it just didn’t connect with me. But I have to allow some respect for the pastor who thought this would be good for our people, and the publishing company that vetted his material. I am simply not automatically predisposed to dismiss certain writers out of hand if other people I know draw great value from their perspective.

And is the revelation we have of God absolutely limited to the revelation in scripture? Do we know things (that are truth) about God extra-Biblically? That’s been debated for centuries. I would argue that all things taught must line up with scripture, but beyond that I am cautiously open.

So I have no built-in bias toward Ann, the book, or the writers who have influenced her; and that said, I still defend her right to have a place at the conversation table for Christian women; and I also place a certain degree of confidence in her publisher, Zondervan, who are ironically the publisher of one of Tim Challies’ books.

…A couple of weeks ago, Jack, a guy in our community passed away. Jack attended a “King James Only” church his whole life, but he seemed a little too “open” and too intelligent to buy into the so-called doctrinal reasons for clinging to that translation. So I asked him. He just smiled and looked me straight in the eye and said, “It’s just preferences. That’s all it is; preferences.”

And that’s really all it is in this case.

Referring to a chapter where Ann compares intimacy with God to sexual ecstasy, Challies says,

Sometimes it is best to allow God to define the parameters of our metaphors rather than taking them to a much greater extent. Voskamp would have done well to limit herself here.

If this is true, what do we do with the “not safe but good” Aslan in Narnia? That was a stretch, to say the least.

He goes on,

Why should she have to travel to a Roman Catholic cathedral in a foreign land in order to truly experience the Lord?

If travel is an issue, what are to do with summer camp ministries, where we remove children from familiar influences in order for them to see themselves and see God in a different environment? What are we to do with the testimonies of those who have truly “found” God in the middle of a brothel, or a casino, or even in the midst of a truly false cult? The Psalmist said, “If I make my bed in hell, you are there.” Is the problem that it was a Catholic cathedral? In fact, are not our greatest experiences of worship and understanding often while we’re away from our routines and comfortable surroundings?

He concluded,

I fear that some will see that Voskamp subtly promotes a higher order of holiness, a higher order of relationship with God, and be dissatisfied that they do not have this for themselves.

Is that not true on some level of each and every Christian book we read? Every church service we attend? Every sermon podcast we listen to? Yes, there is always that “Monday morning letdown;” that return to reality that happens after the spiritual high from Sunday’s service. But 167 hours later, we go back; we go on retreat weekends; we buy another Christian book, because we want to be inspired.

One Thousand Gifts is probably not my kind of book. But as my friend Jack would say, “That’s just preferences;” and if you’re going to let your personal preferences get in the way, then don’t consider yourself in any way an objective book reviewer of Henri Nouwen or Brennan Manning or The Shack. or One Thousand Gifts.

The principle of noblesse oblige also applies to people who have been given a huge platform, either in their books, their pastorate or their blog. You must conduct yourself and know that your words will be judged by a higher standard. The very first response, the default response to those outside “our group” must be a gracious one; especially when we propose to judge the entire tenor of someone else’s ministry.

Placing too much in one particular blogger’s approval or disapproval of something, “in its own subtle way I believe that it can and will prove dangerous, at least to some.”

Or as the scriptures say, “Not many of you should presume to write book reviews.” It’s there. Just check your concordance.

June 4, 2012

The Christian Blogosphere: East is East and West is West…

Ann Voskamp, Tim Challies: Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree

For those out of the loop, you might want to begin need to start with the excellent summary (and links) from Micha Boyette at Her.meneutics. For those who are familiar with this story, I get into much greater detail in the comments section.

While on the one hand I rather hate to draw attention to last week’s tension between Canadian blogger and Zondervan author Tim Challies and Canadian blogger and Zondervan author Ann Voskamp, it really highlights the spectrum of opinion that we find in the world of Christian blogging.

Though they live a very short distance apart, they are probably light years apart theologically.  For some inexplicable reason, Tim took to reviewing the book a year and a half after publication.  Presumably some among his tribe were concerned and John Piper was not available to deliver a ruling on it.  (Having typed that tongue-in-cheek statement, it is an interesting situation considering Ann is a fan of Piper.)

Tim could not condone the book, to the point of calling it “dangerous.” For some of the more cynical, this might constitute the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. But when über-blogger Challies can’t endorse you’re writing, the weaker among us would be tempted to pack up the team and head home before the first inning.

Not Ann Voskamp.  She took the high road.  She invited him to come for dinner.

Seriously.

You remember that verse, “When your enemy curses and reviles you, invite them to your farm for a delicious feast.”  Yes.  That verse is there.  Just check your concordance.

I mentioned Ann’s book here shortly after it started to take off.  Although I hadn’t read it, I provided an overview focusing on the poetic language she uses, a rarity in Christian publishing.  The book, to some, has been a breath of fresh air, a cup of refreshing water.

But dinner at Ann’s farm would be an awesome experience. I would gladly have trashed the book in this space if I knew it would earn such a prestigious invitation.

So, if you’re reading this, Ann, I just live an hour on the other side of Toronto.

Here’s the link again to the story at CT’s women’s blog, her.meneutics.  Be sure to click all the links, so you can see all of Ann’s pictures.

Read Ann’s blog: A Holy Experience, and Tim’s Challies.com

Learn more about 1,000 Gifts at Zondevan.com (also available in November as a DVD study)

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